A Superior Court judge struck down two Irwindale ballot initiatives Tuesday that could have opened the way for card clubs in the city.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Diane Wayne, upholding her tentative May 2 ruling, agreed with the Irwindale City Council that one of the measures would conflict with the city's rightful power to set and change zoning and issue permits. The judge struck down the other measure on the grounds that the two were inextricably linked.
More than 190 registered voters signed petitions supporting both gambling measures. In Irwindale, with a population of 1,075, only 100 valid signatures were required to have the council set a date for an election to decide the two initiatives.
Measure A asked voters whether they wanted to legalize gambling in the city. Measure B would have allowed a specific card club to build in the city. In addition, Measure B would have set up a special zoning designation for the club as well as rules on the hours of operation and the issuance of gaming permits.
If either measure failed, the other measure also would have failed.
"The court cannot sever the invalid portions of the proposed initiatives as they are not grammatically, functionally or volitionally separable," Wayne wrote.
City officials argued they would have no control over such an operation if approved by voters. Attorneys for the city also argued that casino proponents were trying to establish a gambling monopoly by asking voters to create a special zone where only casinos could operate. If another, more attractive casino proposal came along, city officials would then have to go back to the voters and ask for another special zone change for wherever that club wanted to operate.
"There can be no other conclusion that the proponents of the measure intended to prevent other competition in the city," Wayne wrote.
But R. Zaiden Corrado, attorney for card club promoters Frank Santin and Michael Meczka, said people knew what the two ballot measures were for when they signed the petitions.
"We haven't deceived the electorate," Corrado insisted. "There would be one zone for this casino in Irwindale and that would be it. There isn't any fraud or deception on the part of anyone."
Over the past few years gambling has divided many San Gabriel Valley communities, including Irwindale, where three recall drives, all prompted by council members' positions on Measures A and B, are currently under way. Proponents say gambling will bring in up to $3.5 million in tax revenue. Opponents say gaming attracts crime.
Irwindale city attorneys Andrew V. Arczynski and Graham Ritchie said the council was within its rights to stop the two measures from going before the voters.
"No one is arguing you can't do it. But there's a proper way to do it," Arczynski said.