Court gives go-ahead to Cleveland arena referendum, will now take place sometime or other

The lawsuit over whether the city of Cleveland could reject legally gathered petition signatures to overturn its $70 million Cavaliers arena upgrade subsidy deal — on the basis that the deal was “an already executed and binding contract” — was resolved on Thursday by the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled “Ha ha ha, yeah, that’s a good one.” Cleveland now has to put the issue up for a public vote, which is problematic since the city has now stalled so long with this legal battle that it may have missed the deadline for a November vote:

The deadline for filing issues with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for the Nov. 7 ballot passed on Wednesday, according to the board’s election calendar.

But a lawyer for the Cleveland taxpayers who sued to force the city to move on the issue said it’s now up to the city to make it happen.

“This is now administrative details. They should be able to do this quickly,” attorney Subodh Chandra said. If the city drags its feet, he may take them back to court, Chandra said.

And in the best quote of this whole sad saga:

“Someone just needs to call the Board of Elections and say, ‘How quickly can we restore the rule of law in Cleveland?’,” Chandra said.

What happens once the vote is scheduled remains unclear — Greater Cleveland Congregations, the coalition that is behind the petition effort, seems mostly out for a “community benefits agreement” to add some sweeteners for local community groups, not to scuttle the entire subsidy deal. But even if Cavs owner Dan Gilbert negotiates and a CBA comes to pass, if GCC switches sides to endorse the deal, does that mean Cleveland voters will follow suit? This is all shaping up to be a big-ass mess, but I guess you can’t get $70 million in public money to build a giant glass wall without a few bumps along the way.


5 comments on “Court gives go-ahead to Cleveland arena referendum, will now take place sometime or other

  1. It will be interesting to see how much support for the Cavs has evaporated if this doesn’t happen until next year and LBJ is gone.

  2. One of the Plain Dealer’s reporters is now saying “the issue likely won’t go before voters until a special election early next year.” No reason given, of course. Presumably since it would be too honest to report that “the local political establishment wants this kept as distant from Mayor Frank Jackson’s reelection bid as possible.

    And of course, nothing said about the expense of holding a special election—of which I can guarantee much would be said if a special election were seen as favorable to the deal’s opponents.

  3. If only some intrepid journalist would write an exposé of activist groups’ use of sympathetic politicians to shake down big business for “community benefits agreements” and the like (at the expense of working class taxpayers, naturally)…

  4. I can’t even tell if this comment is serious or sarcasm.

    There aren’t many Cleveland or Cuyahoga County politicians sympathetic to activists like GCC, and as has been seen time and again, those politicians don’t really wield power right now. I don’t know how they or activists could “shake down” anyone, therefore. Let alone how working class taxpayers are slighted by a suggestion that big business, which already benefits from endless subsidies and sweetheart deals, underwrite one or two programs which would deliver benefits outside of downtown Cleveland’s tourist theme-park.

    I really don’t know how anyone looks at this—and then looks at a secretive, public-hostile project to divert millions more in tax dollars to buy new toys for an obnoxious billionaire—and decides that the cause for outrage is activists engaging in a “shake down.”

    Despite which, I have seen this charge issued in apparently complete sincerity multiple times. Thus, absurd as that is, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in this instance.

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