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Toledo council revives downtown jail ballot measure

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    Keep the Jail Downtown's Joyce Slusher, back, and Anita Reynolds, front, give each other a high five during the city council meeting at One Government Center in Toledo on Tuesday.

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    Cindy Matthews, right, stands in protest after members of the Lucas County Board of Elections voted to exclude two initiatives from the November ballot during a special meeting on Aug. 28 at the Early Voting Center in Toledo.

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    Keep the Jail Downtown's Joyce Slusher, left, and Mary Dutkowski, right, react during the city council meeting at One Government Center in Toledo.

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    Dale Emch, city law director, left, talks to Keep the Jail Downtown's Rebecca Maxcy, center, and Mary Dutkowski outside the council chamber during the city council meeting at One Government Center.

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SOC-BOE29-8

Cindy Matthews, right, stands in protest after members of the Lucas County Board of Elections voted to exclude two initiatives from the November ballot during a special meeting on Aug. 28 at the Early Voting Center in Toledo.

THE BLADE
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Toledo City Council on Tuesday approved sending a citizen-led jail initiative for Lucas County Board of Elections consideration, reviving a possible vote on the new jail’s location.

Council met in executive session for about an hour during its regular meeting. It returned and unanimously voted in favor of the ordinance.

The move recognizes that Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo collected a sufficient number of signatures for a proposed amendment to the city’s charter. Such an amendment would state that a future jail remain within downtown limits.

Several Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo members in attendance expressed relief at council’s vote. 

“I’m hoping that the board of elections can get us on the ballot for Nov. 6, but that’s yet to be seen,” Mary Dutkowski said. “We’ve crossed a hurdle. I’m thankful to every member of city council.”

WATCH: Mary Dutkowski is happy about the ruling

LaVera Scott, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said the effect of what council approved "would be a legal question, and I'm not going to speculate."

The Lucas County Prosecutor's Office will be asked to review the measure and offer a legal opinion.

Voting starts Wednesday for the Nov. 6 election, and Ms. Scott said the jail proposal is not on the ballot. The next scheduled board of elections meeting is Nov. 5.

County officials picked a jail site along the 5700 block of North Detroit Avenue to replace the aging downtown Toledo facility. The $180 million project would also bring a behavioral health solution center.

The November ballot will include a proposed property tax to fund the work. Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo leaders hope that ballot, or a special election, will include their question as well.

After volunteers collected a sufficient number of voter signatures, the board unanimously voted not to place the proposed amendment on the ballot. Officials said if enacted it would contain provisions beyond the city’s authority to enact.

The Ohio Supreme Court last week declined to force the board to place the measure on the ballot. It ruled that without a city council ordinance, the board did not have authority to do so.

It was always the city’s intention to honor the will of the petitioners and move this process forward to the board of elections, said Dale Emch, law director. The city has acted with past practice and its charter, he said.

“I think what council did was try to honor the will of the petitioners, and they didn’t weigh in as to the issue itself but wanted to have this go to the voters to consider,” Mr. Emch said.

Toledo Councilman Chris Delaney said he was pleased council acted quickly following the Ohio Supreme Court decision. Many citizens worked hard to ensure this matter reached voters.

“The issue is back with the board where it belongs,” Mr. Delaney said.

Contact Ryan Dunn at rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @RDunnBlade.

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