Cincinnati Following Cleveland's Embarrassing Example in Abuse of 'Emergency' Legislation for Stadium Financing

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Cincinnati Following Cleveland's Embarrassing Example in Abuse of 'Emergency' Legislation for Stadium Financing
Courtesy: Cleveland Cavaliers
We needn't rehash the logical gymnastics that Cleveland City Council and other leaders donned matching leotards to perform in the service of defending a rotten deal, repeatedly and shamefully promoted as an irrefutable public good, to renovate and expand the Quicken Loans Arena last year. Construction on the facility's Huron Road facade is ongoing  — pardon our dust! — as the Cavs prepare for their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

But one of the ugliest aspects of the 2017 controversy in Cleveland was the extent to which local leaders debased themselves to ensure that the public would have no say.

Not only did Cleveland's and the Cavaliers' leaders enlist business and civic celebs, to say nothing of the mainstream media, to energetically promote their cause. When opposition emerged, they silenced it. Council President Kevin Kelley refused to accept more than 20,000 signatures for a petition seeking referendum on the city legislation that devoted tax dollars to the arena project.

That legislation was passed as an "emergency," only after intense lobbying and the last-minute flip-flop of councilman Brian Cummins on what he argued were pragmatic grounds. Cummins' reversal, some say, was one of the most significant factors in his failed city council re-election bid last year.

The "emergency" designation, triggered by a 2/3 majority in council, was pivotal because it guaranteed passage in only 30 days and complicated a voter-led referendum. It was the leaders' hope that the emergency designation would completely eliminate the possibility of referendum. Hence the intense lobbying.

As you may recall, virtually every aspect of the Cavs' and the city's legal and logical maneuvering failed. They tried so many embarrassing tricks — up to and including the costly and ridiculous charade of the city suing itself — only to fall flat on their faces.  The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the city could not reject petitions on its bogus constitutional claims — the referendum supposedly impaired an "existing contract," i.e., the financial underpinnings of the Q Deal itself, lol — and that the referendum could go forward.

Only it didn't. The opposition, led by the Greater Cleveland Congregations, compromised at the last minute and voluntarily withdrew the petitions for nothing more than a wispy guarantee from County Executive Armond Budish, that he'd explore best practices on a couple of mental health facilities. Hardly a golden opportunity.

In any case, a similar process is now afoot in Cincy. The city council down there has passed an emergency piece of legislation to authorize funding for a new MLS stadium with the hopes of a securing an expansion franchise.

Leaders have gone so far as to equate "the preservation of the public peace, health, safety and general welfare,” (necessary for emergency ordinances), with "the construction of the stadium, the creation of jobs, and the stimulation of economic growth in the area at the earliest possible date.”

It's remarkable! Just like in Cleveland, evidently, the prospect that local millionaires and billionaires might not get every last dollar potentially available is the direst emergency of all. And ensuring that the public keeps its nose out of the leaders' business is the chief prerogative of governance. 

But an opposition group has formed, just like in Cleveland, with the participation of two former city councilpeople.

"We believe the people of Cincinnati should have the opportunity to democratically vote on whether the City should provide support, financial and otherwise to FC Cincinnati’s proposed stadium," that coalition said in a news release.

Cleveland did too.

Here's some reading material for the folks in Cincinnati who can't believe that their leaders are actually trying to pull this shit. 

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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