AURORA | An Aurora man’s case challenging the City Council’s decision in 2021 to overturn a voter-backed ban on pit bulls is headed back to district court.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Matt Snider has standing to challenge the council’s actions, sending the case back to the Arapahoe County District Court, which previously said Snider failed to prove he was harmed by the decision to strike down the pit bull ban.
Snider said the lawsuit “is not about dogs,” though he said he often thinks about an Aurora boy who was attacked and injured by a pit bull shortly after the ban was repealed.
“This is about the sanctity of votes, and the rule of law, and respecting the charter of the City of Aurora,” Snider said. “The people spoke on this, and they didn’t want these large breeds here.”
Aurora’s ban on residents owning pit bulls was introduced in 2005. The ban survived a referendum in 2014, when roughly two-thirds of Aurora voters answered “no” to the question of whether it should be repealed.
Regardless, in 2021, council members voted 7-3 to set the ban aside, with supporters saying it unfairly focused on breeds of dogs rather than the behavior of individual animals. Opponents argued that pit bulls were uniquely prone to violence and warned that the council was disregarding the opinions expressed by voters in 2014.
Aurora’s City Charter specifies that a “proposed ordinance adopted or rejected by electoral vote under either the initiative or referendum cannot be revived, repealed, amended, or passed except by electoral vote.”
Since the council failed to send the matter of repealing the ban to voters after they rejected it the first time, Snider sued the city in 2021, arguing that the council violated the charter and deprived him and others of their right to vote on the matter. He said he initially sent a letter to the council but was ignored.
The city argued that, since Snider also had the ability to file a petition to trigger an election on the issue himself, his complaints were invalid. Appellate judges countered that whether Snider could have filed a petition was “of no moment.”
“(Snider) argues that he suffered an injury-in-fact to his right to vote when the Council adopted the Repealing Ordinance without referring the issue to the registered electors and obtaining a favorable vote in a municipal referendum,” appellate judge Craig Welling wrote in his opinion, which was endorsed by fellow judge Rebecca Freyre.
“He maintains that this injury-in-fact wasn’t negated or remedied by his opportunity to trigger a subsequent referendum pursuant to … the (City) Charter. We agree with both contentions.”
In his dissent, judge David Furman agreed with the district court that Snider did not have standing to bring the case.
City spokesman Michael Brannen wrote in an email that the city was aware of the ruling. However, he wrote that “there has yet to be a (discussion) on the merits of the challenge,” and said pit bulls remain legal to own in Aurora for now.
Attorney and former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is representing Snider in his lawsuit. While Snider said he will be seeking attorney’s fees from the city, he said that his “preference would be that the City Council doesn’t waste any more time or money on this.”
“The ball is proverbially in their court,” Snider said. “We have another election coming up. Just put it on the ballot and stop issuing permits for these dogs until then.”
I guess this is what it now takes for city council to start and pay attention to what the voters are trying to tell them.For whatever reason, after these folks get voted in and become politicians a good number of them feel they know better. And this is because the city legal dept says sorry no standing Matt, move along. I’m going out on a limb here, but would guess this legal opinion was an outsourced opinion.And the city ran with it.
Since the reporter doesn’t feel it’s relevant to include, a quick search shows that–of the current council up for re-election–Coombs, Marcano, Gardner, and Lawson overturned the wishes of the voters and re-allow pit bulls.
So here we are with more legal fees and a potential judgment against the city.
While Gardner and Lawson show glimpses of reason, Coombs and Marcano are total disasters. Comrade Coombs is so reviled by her ward that she is now trying for an at-large seat where she can find new voters to fool. Comrade Marcano is vying for mayor.
The only current council member with a reasonable head was Bergan. Vote wisely.
We do not need to have pit bulls in our city. They are very dangerous killers.
It always seemed to me that the City Council did not have the right to overturn a vote of the citizens of Aurora.
I couldn’t be more pleased that a private citizen took this task on. If he states that it wasn’t about the pit bulls but the Council making a decision that they shouldn’t have been able to make, I say alright.
The bigger picture is that pit bulls are a very dangerous genetic breed and should not be allowed as pets in any civilized community. There will be more about this to follow and I’ll be a strong supporter to eliminate them once again.
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