Columbus kicks arena bond default vote off May ballot, lawsuits likely

Fire up a fresh batch of lawyers: The Franklin County Board of Elections has voted unanimously to kick off the May ballot a vote on allowing the public to cut off debt payments for the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ arena, on the grounds that petitions contained “misleading language.” The issue appears to be mostly over language saying that approving the petition would save the city $131 million in future bond payments, which either 1) is a speculative number or 2) unfairly assumes that voters would vote to default on the bonds (there would have to be a second vote on that in November), depending on which elections board member you ask.

You can read the petition (PDF here) for yourself and decide whether it’s fair: The actual problematic language appears to be the line that says:

FISCAL IMPACT: This amendment will result in savings for the City of Columbus in amounts ranging from $3.9 to $7.9 million per year, and totaling approximately $131,165,157 over the then-remaining period of the lease.

This does skip over the second-vote thing, but then, if voters didn’t explicitly approve funding of the arena payments, the payments wouldn’t be made, saving the city “approximately” that much. It’s poorly worded, but as to whether it’s poorly worded enough to kick it off a ballot … beats me, I’m not a lawyer.

What is clear and has been for a while is that local politicians, including those on the elections board, understandably hate hate hate the idea that voters could cut off checks to pay for things that local government has already decided to fund. No response from the petitioners yet that I can find (their website hasn’t been updated since November), but if we don’t see a big-ass lawsuit soon, I’ll be extremely surprised.

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