Council Rejects Public Vote On Arena Purchase
Columbus City Council last night voted to reject the enactment of a proposal to end the city's purchase payments for Nationwide Arena. Council voted to send the proposal to the Franklin County Board of Elections to determine whether the proposal's language meets the necessary requirements to go before voters in the spring. In 2011, the city and Franklin County agreed to spend an estimated 250 million dollars in casino tax revenue to purchase, operate and maintain the arena through 2039. The purchase was designed to bail out the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were losing money in part because its lease did not provide the revenue other teams get from their home facilities. The purchase allows the team to keep all concession and parking revenue from hockey-related events. The proposal by the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government would end the city’s purchase contract, and would allow payments to resume if voters approved them in a second election. Council President Andy Ginther spoke for the panel.
Ginther says in addition to those concerns, City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer found several legal problems with the proposal. Pfeiffer notes the problems are the same ones he found in the coalition's proposal last month to use casino tax revenue to fund city council and mayoral campaigns.
Pfeiffer also says the proposal is invalid because voters cannot overturn the ordinance that set up the terms of the arena's purchase.
City Auditor Hugh Dorrian told Council if casino tax revenue declines, the city's taxpayers would not be impacted.
No one showed up at last night's meeting to speak in favor of the proposal, though the coalition has said the deal should have been subject to a vote of the people. The public speakers last night were owners of or representatives of businesses operating in or near the arena district who have benefited or will benefit from arena operations.