May 26th, 2009 By | News | Posted In: City Council, Public Policy, Courts

City: COAST Squanders Taxpayer Money


Cincinnati’s solicitor says an anti-tax group is wasting taxpayer money by filing a federal lawsuit against the city without first contacting its Law Department to resolve the alleged violations outside of court.

In an e-mail sent to Chris Finney, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), City Solicitor John Curp wrote that the lawsuit probably could’ve been avoided with a simple telephone call.

And here we thought conservative groups like COAST hated “frivolous lawsuits” and always pushed for tort reform.

COAST filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court late last week alleging its constitutional rights were violated when supporters were prohibited from collecting signatures at public spaces like downtown’s Fountain Square and on sidewalks in Mount Lookout and near Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. The suit states that petitioners are consistently threatened at such spaces when they gather signatures for causes opposed by city officials.

COAST is working with other groups to collect enough signatures to place a charter amendment on the fall ballot that, if approved, would require a public vote before the city spends any money on a proposed streetcar system or any other rail-based project.

In his e-mail, Curp states the lawsuit was filed without COAST ever attempting to discuss the matter with city officials.

“Of course, you know that a phone call anytime during the days you spent preparing your motion would have cleared all of this up without wasting taxpayer resources,” Curp wrote to Finney.

“As always, you and the Citizens Organized Against Spending and Taxes (sic) are welcome and encouraged to contact me directly before filing lawsuits so that we can avoid unnecessary litigation,” Curp added. “I believe that we owe the taxpayers that respect before engaging in litigation.”

The lawsuit involves signature-gathering efforts that were interrupted at Fountain Square on April 15 during a “Tea Party” protest, on a sidewalk in front of Millions Café in Mount Lookout on April 19, and at Findlay Market on May 2.

COAST’s lawsuit was filed against the city; the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), which manages Fountain Square; and the Corporation for Findlay Market, a non-profit group that manages the market.

Finney submitted a 40-page legal brief seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a permanent injunction to stop such interruptions, as well as attorneys’ fees. COAST filed the suit in conjunction with the Buckeye Institute, a right-wing think tank in Columbus.

The lawsuit comes at a time when City Hall is facing a $40 million deficit by year’s end due to stagnant tax revenues.

City attorneys successfully opposed the TRO request Friday; a hearing on the suit’s merits hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Generally, signature-gathering is permitted in dedicated public rights-of-way unless it can be proven the activity is causing a disturbance. In an e-mail sent Friday to City Council, Curp implied that police were told to allow petitioners to do their work at the Taste of Cincinnati festival without interference.

“The Police Department has been advised regarding how to handle COAST representatives for this weekend’s events,” Curp wrote.

Petition circulators must collect 6,150 valid signatures by Sept. 3 to place the issue on the November ballot.

05.26.2009 at 08:02 Reply
Here's the complaint (h/t The Dean): http://www.scribd.com/doc/15731071/Final-Verified-Complaint Small detail, but notice that throughout most of the document, the streetcar is called the "trolley." That childish, self-serving touch struck me as emblematic of the COAST little boys' club mentality. Can't you imagine, Finney, Gloyd, and Miller poking one another and giggling when they decided to include it? Same goes for COAST's fetchit pet, Chris Smitherman, who calls it the "choo-choo train." These children tie up everyone time and energy, which appears to be the point. If, as some suspect, the Cato Institute and/or the Reason Foundation is paying for these clowns, the high-rollers aren't getting their money's worth.


05.27.2009 at 12:18
The term streetcar and trolley are pretty much interchangeable. Why do streetcar advocates get so bent out of shape when people call it a trolley? That is such a non-issue.


05.26.2009 at 09:25 Reply
The Nazi run City of Cinnati must be stopped! They have persucuted me for years by claiming that I was a slumlord, but I fought them and i urge everyone else to fight them as well!


05.26.2009 at 10:39 Reply
All of COASTs ballot initiatives tend to cost the city money, too. The PR voting scam would have cost more to implement. The red light camera ban means we have to pay expensive police in expensive cars to do what cheap (hell, free) cameras could have done. The anti rail charter amendment means the city will have to waste time and money politicizing every possible inch of rail development. They need to change their name to COAT.


05.27.2009 at 12:29
The term streetcar and trolley are pretty much interchangeable. Why do streetcar advocates get so bent out of shape when people call it a trolley? That is such a non-issue. Proportional Representation is not a scam. It is a much more Democratic system that is still used in many places. Cambridge Massachusetts still uses the exact same system that the city of Cincinnati used to use. Cincinnati-like most cities that got rid of it-changed the system to keep blacks from being elected. It might have cost a little bit of money to implement, but good government is worth a small investment. Under PR our city was credited with being the best governed city in the nation. You certainly can’t say that now. Red light cameras are simply scams that are a waste of money. The company that council was looking to use has a horrible record. http://www.cincinnatibeacon.com/index.php/contents/comments/red_light_camera_scams_fugazi_fines_and_people_fighting_back/ As far as the recent ballot initiative goes, council should have put the streetcar on the ballot in the first place. Given our current financial woes I don’t think there is any chance that a majority of Cincinnatians think it should be a priority.


05.27.2009 at 10:01
"The term streetcar and trolley are pretty much interchangeable." No surprise that Cincinnati Beacon owner Justin (Jeffre) places little importance on words. He and his slavish partner went pedal to the metal on the COAST-NAACP streetcar petition when they didn't even comprehend it!


05.27.2009 at 03:04 Reply
Proportional Representation ain't gonna help JJ get elected. No chance. Not now. Not ever.


05.27.2009 at 08:34 Reply
As one of the petitioners who was interfered with I can tell you that I personally contacted 3CDC to complain about the blatant attempt to stop me from collecting petitions which involved bringing a law enforcement agent over to stop me and intimidate me. 3CDC in their response would not confirm that I had a right to petition on Fountain Square which is what I asked them to tell me in writing. This is four times that I have been interfered with while collecting petitions and it has impacted my willingness to gather further signatures. This chilling effect is my guess of exactly what they hope to do... This behaviour simply must stop as intimidation of petitioners is clearly against Ohio law.. The City's reaction to the lawsuit is PR crap and really not accurate of what we have been forced to do. Your blog entry is not a correct reflection of events that have transpired. Kevin suggest you give me a call on this...