Columbus declares “no backsies” on Blue Jackets arena bonds, kicks ballot measure back to elections board

The city of Columbus has finally figured out how to respond to that campaign for a public vote on undoing the Blue Jackets arena bailout deal from 2011, and it’s to just declare the whole thing illegal and let the county board of elections sort things out:

At its first meeting of the year, the city council voted to send petitions to put the issue on the spring ballot back to the Franklin County Board of Elections, to determine whether the petition language meets requirements to get it on the ballot.

It’s unclear when the elections board would decide that issue…

City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said yesterday that the proposal is invalid because voters cannot overturn the contract, which is to purchase the arena and operate it through 2039.

“The lease documents have been executed roughly two years ago, and this ordinance passed by council made it through the 30-day referendum period without a challenge,” Pfeiffer said. “The proposal would have no legal effect if approved.”

That’s what the initial response was to the plan for a vote on defaulting on the arena bond payments (including from me), but plenty of Ohio legal experts have since said that the initiative is totally legit. Whatever the board of elections decides, expect to see lawsuits challenging its ruling from the losing side, which means this could drag on for quite a while. What happens if a court case is still ongoing when it’s time to vote in May, I have no idea — anybody have an Ohio legal expert handy?

2 comments on “Columbus declares “no backsies” on Blue Jackets arena bonds, kicks ballot measure back to elections board

  1. I guess that’s one pitfall to the referendum process. Once the original measure was passed and acted upon there are real contracts created by that. If the whole thing is later referred to the voters via the referendum, then can they really void already created government contracts ?

    I think this might well end up on the ballots, because that’s legally required, but actually changing anything if the vote goes against the bailout might need to be treated as a separate issue.

    Of course, I’m also coming from a state where we did this “advisory ballot” measure and the powers that be declared the 57′ diameter tunnel was the winner.

  2. Gah,
    it’s an initiative.

    It’s adding a new blurb saying you can’t make payments without a vote by the people (and crossing out the existing blurb of payment structure).

    My armchair legal reading of this would be it can be voted on and, if passed, would not undo any currently existing contracts but would stop any new ones from being created until a vote on those payments was performed. If the bonds are already issued, I guess it would do nothing but be symbolic.