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Columbus City Council Takes On Major Proposals To Close Out Year

Jay LaPrete
Associated Press

Columbus City Council's Monday meeting will be its last of the year, and members will have to make their way through an agenda crammed full of significant proposals before they adjourn for the holidays.

New Crew Stadium Complex

The Haslam and Edwards families announced a plan for purchasing the Columbus Crew and building a new stadium complex west of the Arena District.  The project’s $645 million price tag includes $150 million to purchase the Major League Soccer franchise. The remainder will pay for a new stadium as well as commercial and residential developments in the area. 

The city and Franklin County have agreed to put up $50 million each for the project over the next 30 years. Local leaders insist the public dollars will be focused on developing the stadium site, and none of the city’s money will go toward the stadium.

“Where the public money is going is for infrastructure, for parks and the new community recreation center,” says Alex Fischer of the Columbus Partnership. “So the majority of all the development is from private sector sources."

But some local critics still argue it's too much public money to be spent on such a project.

Ticket Tax

The council will also take up a revised ticket tax proposal. Instead of the 7 percent fee originally proposed by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, members will consider a 5 percent surcharge.

The tax will apply to most events in the city, but there are exemptions for college sports, tickets costing less than $10 and venues allowing fewer than 400 attendees.

Another change will affect how the revenue is administered. The program will create two funds: one from Nationwide Arena tickets, and one from everything else. The Nationwide Arena fund will support the building’s upkeep and help pay for other facilities around the city. The other fund will go toward grants for arts programs.

All told, Council expects the idea will raise about $9 million. But Advocates for Responsible Taxation chief Michael Gonidakis says that money would be better spent elsewhere.

“At the end of the day, we have an opioid crisis, we have an infant mortality crisis, the murder rate is extremely high in this city,” he says. “If we’re going to raise taxes, it should go for things to help people.”

Gonidakis also notes the shift to two funds means two different ordinances. His organization is promising to challenge the tax at the ballot if it passes, but under the current proposals they’d have to launch two referendums to overturn the tax.

Campaign Finance

The council will consider Mayor Andrew Ginther’s campaign finance reform proposals. Columbus is one of the largest cities in the country without any campaign finance limits.

In addition to disclosure requirements, the proposal places a cap of roughly $12,700 on political contributions, the same as the state limit.

But the measure has been met with criticism from organizations like Yes We Can Columbus. The annual contribution cap is the highest of any city in Ohio, and more than $10,000 greater than the individual limits in federal House and Senate races.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.