Keep the Jail Downtown initiative likely sent to voters in special election

Keep the Jail Downtown initiative likely sent to voters in special election

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Lucas County Officials say they expect the Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo initiative to likely go before voters in a special election. It will not be on the ballot November 6.

Toledo City Council members approved the ordinance in a unanimous vote October 9. It sends the Keep the Jail Downtown initiative to the Lucas County Board of Elections to put before voters. It's a decision initiative organizers have fought hard for:

"Very excited. Very excited and very thankful that city council got behind the citizens and backed us. We're very appreciative of them," said Mary Dutkowski, treasurer of "Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo."

Council's decision comes on the heels of a state Supreme Court ruling October 4. That ruling denied efforts to get a charter amendment forcing a new jail to be built downtown on the November ballot. The court's reasoning was based on Ohio's state constitution.

Essentially, if a sufficient petition is submitted, a city's legislative body must pass an ordinance instructing the board of elections to place the proposed legislation on the ballot.

One city councilman said his vote on the issue became one of democracy and not the petition's nuts and bolts.

"The Supreme Court made a ruling more or less calling out our charter and what they see as maybe a failure of our charter to comply with the state constitution. And basically it was a direction for us to handle this situation, and I think it was our duty then to represent the citizens' wishes and put an ordinance out there so this gets on the ballot," said Councilman Chris Delaney.

But voters won't get to decide on the initiative any time soon. Issues on the November Ballot are already set with early voting starting Wednesdsay. The Lucas County Board of Elections said it could be as far out as February or May of next year before voters see a special election.

"There was an ordinance filed yesterday but of course nothing can go on the November ballot at this point. When it will go on the ballot, I do not know. I know that our attorney is looking into it to try to determine when there may have to be a special election for it and then of course the board will proceed as directed by our counsel," said LaVera Scott, Director of the Lucas County Board of Elections.

Lucas County Elections officials are checking the signatures of that petition now.

If voters did approve the Keep the Jail Downtown initiative in a special election, it would completely change the city's charter, requiring all jails stay or be built in a specific district downtown called the Downtown Overlay District.

WTOL will keep you updated as the story develops.

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