The Ohio State Supreme Court has issued a ruling that will force the issue of whether the Cleveland Cavaliers will get a huge government subsidy to be put to a public vote.
A legal maneuver that looked like it was trying to setup a sham trial that could have handed the Cleveland Cavaliers $70 million in public funds has failed, as the issue will be decided by a public referendum of the city’s voters in November.
The Cleveland city council’s attempt to give the Cavaliers $70 million to pay for renovations to Quicken Loans Arena had a twinge of shadiness to it from the start. Back in April, the council enacted an emergency measure authorizing the re-allocation of tax dollars to be paid to the Cavaliers to reimburse them for renovations performed on “The Q.”
Less than a month later, an activist group presented the city council with a petition that under Ohio state law, triggered a public referendum on the diversion of funds. The council refused to certify the petition, and in response the activist group that presented the petition filed suit against the city council to force them to certify the petition.
The city responded by filing its own lawsuit against itself, in a move to appear like it was concerned with public demand for a referendum all the while being able to essentially throw the suit and end up with the result it wanted anyway, which was being able to avoid the referendum.
That plan backfired on Thursday, when the Ohio state supreme court found in the plaintiffs’ favor.
It’s still possible that the Cavaliers will get the money, as the measure requires a simple majority to pass. Given the results of recent similar ballot measures in other parts of the United States, the likelihood of that could be seen as diminishing. The strength of the petition suggests that a large portion of the voting population in Cleveland could be more likely to vote against the measure than to vote for it.
The city and the Cavaliers will now have about three months to try to sway public opinion toward their cause. If they fail, the Cavaliers may have to eat that $70 million.