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OUR VIEW: No public vote on ice arena necessary

We recently were asked: Why was there no public vote to decide whether the city should pursue its quest to add a second sheet of ice at the Mitchell Activity Center?

Really, there's a simple answer: Nobody came forward to make the effort to put the issue on a public ballot, for registered voters to decide.

According to state law, a referendum petition must be signed by at least 5 percent of the registered voters in a city to refer something to the public ballot. And not everything is referable. State law says only legislative, not administrative, actions of a government can be referred, and that of course is open to interpretation.

But none of that matters in this case, because we don't know of any referendum drive that ever arose against the ice arena project. Actually, we didn't hear that anyone was even considering making such an effort.

Too, we don't recall many people coming forward and speaking against the issue. The City Council discussed the issue several times, and it was one of Mayor Ken Tracy's top priorities shortly after he took office.

But nobody really came forward to put the brakes on the issue.

For the record, The Daily Republic backs the project. We have long said that the popularity of the sport and its great jump in numbers justifies an arena enlargement and improvement.

We feel that this addition, which will cost nearly $2.9 million, will be beneficial to the off-season visitor trade that this city craves.

Hotel owners have generally backed the idea to the point that many are agreeable to additional taxation to help make it become reality. And with the hockey boosters being responsible for coming up with at least $500,000 of the overall price tag, the group has shown it, too, is committed and not just asking for a public handout.

The ice expansion in Mitchell is a good idea, and one that probably is overdue.

We feel it will be equally beneficial to the growing number of hockey enthusiasts and those who seek more wintertime tourism.

And since there really was no sizable, open disagreement about the city's role in the expansion, we have never seen any reason to red-light the project.

The City Council and the mayor have done what we asked them to do. They showed us a project that could benefit the city and they followed through on it, with public discussion along the way.

No evidence has come to light to suggest this project should have come to a public vote.