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Group Wants To Limit City Of Columbus Arena Payments
A local coalition is taking aim at the 18-month old deal that led to a publically owned Nationwide Arena.
The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government wants to put the issue on the ballot. It said it submitted 17,000 signatures to the city clerk Thursday.
Coalition leader Jonathan Beard wants voters to decide whether the city should continue to make lease payments on the arena.
â€œLetâ€™s just confirm whether the people of Columbus want this to continue. Itâ€™s a ton of money,” Beard said.
Voters five times rejected a publically-financed arena.
“City council side-stepped the intent of the voters by finding a way to provide public financing for an area that did not need voter approval,” Beard said.
“The payments under the lease agreement are subject to an annual appropriation of council,” he said. “What weâ€™ve said is that take a couple of years, whatever you need to get on the ballot, but come to the voters and let us authorize the payments because thatâ€™s typically how itâ€™s done for publically financed sports facilities.â€
In 2012, the city and county agreed to use casino tax money to pay buy the arena from Nationwide Insurance. In return, the Blue Jackets get free rent to use the facility. The Jackets say the deal allows the team to remain solvent.
The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority runs the arena. Its director Bill Jennison said contracts are not easily canceled.
A spokesman for Mayor Michael Coleman declined comment.
The Coalition for Responsive Governent successfully led the campaign to defeat the Columbus School levy and itâ€™s pushing for publically funded city council and mayoral campaigns.