OHIO ANNEXATION REFORM Cities pay to put law on ballot

A suburb of Columbus contributed the most of any city, $149,500.
COLUMBUS -- Cities and villages throughout Ohio contributed nearly three quarters of the $461,678 raised by opponents of an annexation-reform law who want to put the measure on the statewide ballot.
According to documents filed with the state this week, municipalities contributed at least $335,278 to the effort by a group calling itself "No on State Control of Property Rights." The group opposes the annexation-reform law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Bob Taft earlier this year. The group has filed a referendum petition to place the law on the statewide ballot in November 2002. Elections officials are checking the petition's validity.
"No on State Control of Property Rights" believes the new law, which generally gives townships more say in annexation proceedings, will "stifle economic development and the expansion of the tax base," said Donald J. McTigue, a lawyer for the anti-annexation reform group.
Meanwhile, another group, Ohioans for Fair Annexation, which supports the new annexation-reform law, says it's outraged by the amount of public money spent to get the issue on the ballot.
"The precious resources of cities should be spent on necessary services not on bureaucrats' political whims," said Jack Gregg Haught, a lawyer for a pro-annexation reform group.
Contributors: According to the disclosure statements by the "No on State Control of Property Rights," the Columbus suburb of Pickerington contributed $149,500 to efforts to get the issue on the ballot, the most of any municipality.
The city of Columbus contributed $20,000. Several cities in suburban Columbus also contributed several thousand dollars toward the effort, records filed with the state show.
Canton in Stark County contributed $6,403 to the effort while Kent in Portage County contributed $6,500. Massillon, also in Stark County, contributed $5,000, while Rittman in Wayne County contributed $4,000, according to financial disclosure statements.
The Northwest Ohio Mayors and Managers Association contributed $1,500.
Other cities have also lent other nonfinancial support, the anti-annexation reform group has said.
According to financial disclosure statements, "No on State Control of Property Rights" spent $281,110.75 on petition circulators.
Signatures: The anti-annexation reform group gathered the money and 225,824 signatures to place the item on the statewide ballot next year. They need 201,253 valid signatures, which is 6 percent of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election.
Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, said county elections officials were checking signatures for validity. LoParo said he expected the process to be concluded this week.
The new annexation law, sponsored by state Sen. Lynn R. Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, remains on hold until elections officials determine whether the matter will advance to the statewide ballot. If the matter makes it to the ballot, the law would be on hold until after the voters have their say.
Taft signed the annexation-reform bill into law in July, and it was to have taken effect on Oct. 26, but anti-annexation reform forces filed their referendum petition with the secretary of state's office.

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