Cincinnati voters reject Issue 3 and the many changes it would have made at City Hall

Critics said the amendment would have created more problems than it solved.
A process server from the Ohio Auditor of State waits outside of the city council chambers...
A process server from the Ohio Auditor of State waits outside of the city council chambers before a meeting at Cincinnati City Hall in downtown Cincinnati on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. The server left the building shortly after it was announced that council member Tamaya Dennard would not be attending.(Sam Greene | Cincinnati Enquirer)
Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 10:31 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - Cincinnati voters rejected a charter amendment Tuesday that promised to bring some of the most sweeping changes in years to city government, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

The amendment, known as Issue 3, was losing 56% to 44% late Tuesday with almost all of the vote in Cincinnati counted.

Issue 3 was touted by supporters as an anti-corruption measure that would help end the kind of scandals that have rattled City Hall for the past two years. Opponents, however, said it was a muddled mess that would bring more chaos to local government.

Unlike most charter amendments, which historically have changed only one part of the city’s charter, Issue 3 was a series of amendments that asked voters to make an all-or-nothing choice: Accept or reject every proposed.

The amendment would have:

  • Required Cincinnati City Council to sign off on all lawsuits filed by the city;
  • Lowered the pay of city council members; required one-year residency in the city to serve as mayor or a council member;
  • Changed how replacement council members are selected;
  • Ensured all proposed legislation gets to the council floor even if the mayor objects;
  • Allowed individual liability of city employees for some violations of open meetings and public records law violations; and
  • Allowed for the mayor to be recalled.

Tom Brinkman, a Republican state legislator and city council candidate, led a petition drive to get Issue 3 on the ballot. Brinkman said he pushed for the amendment after federal prosecutors charged three city council members with attempting to trade votes on development deals for money or campaign contributions.

He said Issue 3 would create more accountability for city council members and would discourage the pay-for-play scandals that have recently plagued it.

Critics of Issue 3 said the amendment would have created problems, not solved them. They argued that provisions like the mayoral recall and the requirement for council to approve all lawsuits would bog down city business and worsen political infighting.

They also said Issue 3 would have done nothing to stop the kind of scandals that arose in the past year, because nothing in the amendment changes the way development deals are handled or council campaigns are financed.

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