Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Validates More Than 13,000 Q Deal Referendum Signatures

click to enlarge Councilman Zack Reed tries to explain Council's maneuvering to members of GCC, when referendum petitions were denied on 5/22/17. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Councilman Zack Reed tries to explain Council's maneuvering to members of GCC, when referendum petitions were denied on 5/22/17.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has validated 13,072 signatures submitted by groups seeking a referendum on the Quicken Loans Arena renovation deal. The groups submitted more than 20,000 signatures in May. Only 6,000 valid signatures from registered Cleveland voters were required

The signatures were initially rejected on constitutional grounds. Cleveland City Council Clerk Pat Britt, via a deputy, issued a memo on May 22 saying that a referendum would impair an existing contract (the Q Deal itself, signed less than 30 days prior.)

Earlier this month, though, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Pat Britt was wrong to deny the petitions.

"The clerk had a clear legal duty to perform the ministerial function of her office—verifying the sufficiency of the petition signatures—and relators have a clear legal right to compel the performance of that duty," the majority opinion read.

After the opinion, City Council turned over the petitions to the Board of Elections for certification. Now that a sufficient number of signatures has been validated, City Council may either repeal the ordinance or put it before voters.

Some councilmembers attempted to persuade Council President Kevin Kelley to move up their next scheduled meeting so the referendum might be placed on the November ballot. That seems improbable, given Kelley's, Mayor Jackson's and other incumbents' presumed fear of being booted from office after strenuously supporting a deal that a significant number of voters despise.

The Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, one of the groups opposed to the Deal issued a statement in response to the news. It read, in part:
This issue needs to be on the November ballot. It is a senseless waste of $760,000 of Cleveland taxpayer money to hold a special election when Cleveland City Council can simply schedule a meeting before the regularly scheduled September 18 meeting to get it on the November ballot.

We urge City Council to schedule this earlier meeting and not waste $760,000 that can be better spent in the neighborhoods that need help. We ask this question: If Mayor Jackson and the Cleveland City Council members who voted for the Q Renovations really feel that a majority of Cleveland citizens believe that this is an appropriate use of $88 million of taxpayer money, why would they not want it on the ballot as they campaign for re-election? What are they afraid of?

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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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