A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday approved a request by city attorneys for an expeditious court hearing on whether the Nov. 6 election ballots should include a voter initiative requiring the District to provide overnight shelter for the homeless.
The action by Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio, who set a hearing on the issue for Thursday, represents a critical step for city officials, who are attempting to prevent a vote on the homeless measure, contending it is improper.
Initiative 17, which would give homeless people a right to "adequate" shelter at taxpayer expense, has been printed on the ballots. City officials have asked the court to declare the initiative invalid and to block release of election results.
Nunzio's ruling disappointed advocates of the homeless measure. Their attorney, Gregory Tucker, said, "It appears the city is going to be given a second chance to prevent a vote on Initiative 17 on Nov. 6."
The city filed its request for an expedited hearing late Wednesday. Earlier this week, Judge Richard S. Salzman refused to block the initiative, saying citizens would incur more harm than the city would if they were not allowed to vote on the measure.
Although Salzman refused to grant the city's request for a preliminary injunction to strike the initiative from the ballot, he said he believed the city eventually would prevail in its claim that the measure improperly interferes with the District's budget process.
Under normal circumstances, city officials would have to wait at least 10 days before filing a request for a further court hearing on the merits of their claim. Court rules also would have given the city's elections board and Tucker another week in which to reply to the city's request, thus precluding any court action until after the election.
Nunzio yesterday suspended those rules, clearing the way for a court decision before the election.
The city filed suit against the elections board, contending that Initiative 17 would require the City Council and the mayor to appropriate funds to shelter the homeless.
Proponents of the measure say it would not force the city to spend more than it does now.