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Ohio Supreme Court rules in favor of public vote on Quicken Loans Arena subsidy

On August, 10, 2017, The Ohio Supreme Court, issued a 4-3 decision granting petitioners’ request for a writ of mandamus requiring Cleveland City Council to process a referendum petition on a controversial subsidy to pay for renovations to Quicken Loans Arena. The Court held that, “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.” None of the seven justices disagreed that “the clerk violated the Cleveland City Charter when she refused to carry out her ministerial duty.” The three dissenting justices, rather, would have dismissed the case (initially brought by the law director in response to petitioners’ taxpayer demand letter) for failing to present an actual controversy, which is what petitioners first argued when the law director sued the council clerk.

“This is a big win for democracy and the rule of law and a rebuke to the corporate interests that lined up to convince the Court to disregard both,” said Peter Pattakos, lead attorney for the petitioners. “As the Court stated, ‘one may reasonably be in favor of both the arena renovation and providing citizens the opportunity to vote on the renovation.’”

The petitioners were part of a coalition of citizens led by members of Greater Cleveland Congregations, SEIU Local 1199, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268.

The Court’s decision is here.

This is an edited version of a press release originally issued on August 10, 2017, posted at this website on September 26, 2017.