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Published: Tuesday, 8/12/2003

Ford confirms sports arena sin tax is nixed

A tax on cigarettes and beer won't be on the Nov. 4 ballot, Mayor Jack Ford confirmed yesterday, avoiding a possible clash with a possible referendum on the city's smoking ban.

More than six months after endorsing the concept of a tax on cigarettes and alcohol to finance a sports and concert arena in the Marina District, Mr. Ford admitted yesterday that the idea was dead for now.

With all the other issues on the ballot, “it probably is not doable,” Mr. Ford said.

Activists submitted petitions for a referendum on the smoking ban yesterday. They must be certified before it is put on the ballot.

Mr. Ford said he is awaiting results of a request for proposals, due at the end of August, before deciding how to replace the aging Toledo Sports Arena.

“I've always had the perspective that what would be developed on the east side would be big, appropriate, elegant, and not to be rushed,” Mr. Ford said.

The Marina District could include an arena, retail stores, apartments, and condominiums, a marina, offices, and other uses in a 125-acre waterfront site between the King and I-280 bridges. The city and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority are working on a $20 million cleanup of the site formerly used by Toledo Edison.

Mr. Ford said he found little enthusiasm for a tax from business and labor leaders.

“I talked with the groups that I thought would be necessary to support it, and there was a mixed response,” Mr. Ford said.

The deadline to place such an issue on the Nov. 4 ballot is Aug. 21, and would require action by both the Toledo City Council and the Lucas County Board of Commissioners.

A sin tax was proposed by Cleveland consultant Tom Chema in January to finance an arena in the Marina District. Mr. Ford initially endorsed the plan, but recently backed a new contract with Mr. Chema to recruit alternative proposals for financing an arena and the overall project.

The city has invited developers and architects to tour the site and to submit a proposal before Aug. 29.

State law allows counties to enact sin taxes that would add a dime to a six-pack of beer, 3.5 cents for a mixed drink, and up to 4.5 cents for a pack of cigarettes.

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