The Franklin County prosecutor must determine if
should be pursued against a 1999 campaign committee
funded by the Richard E. Jacobs Group.
EDITORIAL from THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Tuesday, November 2, 1999
"... Cast a vote for truth and city's integrity
A vote against Issue 33 is not only a vote to uphold the integrity and trustworthiness of Columbus, it is a vote against the kind of campaigning that will use any tool to win, including baldfaced lies.
That's the kind of campaigning that promoters of Issue 33 have stooped to, says the Ohio Elections Commission.
The panel ruled that two ads by Issue 33 supporters, Citizens to Save Northland, are built on lies. The matter now passes to the Franklin Country prosecutor's office, which could press charges.
Issue 33 seeks to repeal a 1996 city ordinance creating a tax-increment financing district on the Far North Side around the Polaris interchange of I-71.
The TIF uses property taxes paid by business-owners at Polaris to pay for road and other public improvements intended to promote economic development of the area. A number of office buildings, corporate headquarters and other businesses have moved in.
For three years, the TIF has worked as intended, provoking little debate.
That changed when developer Herb Glimcher announced his intention to build a mall at Polaris. He said three anchor stores would relocate from the Northland Mall to Polaris.
Fearing the loss of three major stores would doom the Morse Road mall, Northland's owner, Richard Jacobs, bankrolled a campaign to repeal the TIF, in hopes of preventing Glimcher's project.
Jacobs' effort is just plain wrong, and poses a serious threat to the future of Columbus.
The TIF is a binding promise made by the city of Columbus to those who have invested money in the Polaris area.
If Columbus voters approve Issue 33, they will force the city to renege on that promise. This not only would harm Polaris, it would instantly brand the city as an untrustworthy, even deceitful, business partner. The potential damage to the city's economic prospects is incalculable.
But Issue 33 proponents are not concerned about the city's reputation or its economic future. Nor are they concerned about the truth.
Their ads assert that the $22 million to be raised by the TIF will go into Glimcher's pocket.
Glimcher gets none of the money. It would be used to build roads and make other public improvements that would benefit all of Polaris, not just the part where Glimcher proposes to build a mall.
The elections commission correctly concluded that Jacobs' assertion is false. Likewise, the commission found no grounds for the claim by Issue 33 proponents that the city schools will lose $640,000 a year in tax revenue if the new mall is built.
Residents should vote against Issue 33, and not just to preserve the city's trustworthiness. Defeating Issue 33 would send a message to those who would subvert the democratic process with lies ..."
Editorial from THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Saturday, October 30, 1999
Ad nauseum -- Truth is casualty of Issue 33 campaign
As almost anyone in business knows, remaining competitive can be costly. Upgrading buildings and keeping them safe and attractive to shoppers take big bucks.
At Northland Mall, owner Richard Jacobs knows such an upgrade is needed. He's talked about a new entrance facing Morse Road and a renovated interior featuring skylights, a stone floor and a generally open, brighter appearance.
But these changes would not come cheap. The overhaul he has pledged for this 35-year-old mall would cost about $70 million.
Potentially easier and cheaper is to fight ruthlessly to keep any competitors out. And so Jacobs has turned his attention away from making Northland better to making a mall at Polaris Centers of Commerce nonexistent. Unfortunately, he's resorting to lies in his effort to kill this mall, and he threatens to drag all of Columbus down with him in this selfish effort.
So far, Jacobs has put more than $800,000 into a campaign to pass Issue 33 on Tuesday's ballot, which would revoke a tax- increment financing district established by the Columbus City Council three years ago. The district would use a portion of property- tax money at Polaris to support $20 million in road improvements.
Jacobs has spent a pretty penny, no doubt. But $800,000 is a drop in the bucket compared with the many millions of dollars that would have to be spent to make Northland into a competitive shopping center.
Misleading advertising is a much cheaper way to beat the competition ...
In opposing a 3-year-old financing plan that was configured and approved long before the proposed mall was discussed at Polaris, JACOBS WANTS TO SACRIFICE THE CITY'S WORD -- the bond upon which it must rely in negotiations to attract business to the city -- for his own benefit. An absentee landlord acting in self-interest shouldn't be allowed to compromise a city's future.
To add insult to injury, Jacobs is relying upon outright lies to make his case. You only have to look to the Ohio Elections Commission to see that.
The commission found reason enough to find probable cause to review two of the Jacobs-paid ads urging repeal of the TIF. The Polaris Owners Association said the ads are false because they claim money from the TIF will go to a "wealthy developer'' unless voters repeal the measure. The money will not go to the developer, they rightly say; it will go to build roads.
This week, the group asked the commission to examine a third ad paid for by Jacobs, urging repeal of the TIF, claiming that it, too, is untrue.
Jacobs apparently doesn't want to spend money to correct problems at Northland; better to sell Columbus' trustworthiness down the river and obfuscate important public-policy decisions.
If the commission finds that the Jacobs- funded Citizens to Save Northland misled voters, it could issue a reprimand or send the case to the Franklin County prosecutor's office for a charge of intentionally making false statements during an election campaign.
More difficult to correct will be the city's reputation if Issue 33 is approved. No court or penalty in the world can repair the damage done when a city breaks its promise."
Editorial from THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Our choices -- Endorsements summarized for voters
Sunday, October 31, 1999
"... A vote against Issue 33 would send the proper message that Columbus is a city that keeps its word. This issue proposes to repeal a tax-increment financing district established in 1996 for the Polaris Centers of Commerce.
The TIF provides for a portion of a development's property-tax money that isn't required for school taxes to be placed in a fund to pay for specific improvements, such as roads and sewer lines, within the district. If the TIF is repealed, all taxpayers would have to pick up the tab for any such work related to growth in the Polaris area.
The campaign for this issue, pushed by Northland Mall owner Richard E. Jacobs, has distorted the facts about this TIF."
Letters to the editor, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Sunday, October 31, 1999
"Issue 33 ad money could have been spent on mall
I find it comical that Richard E. Jacobs has spent close to $1 million on advertising campaigns to defeat the Polaris tax-increment-financing agreement (Dispatch, Oct. 23).
It is a shame the money wasn't used to improve his "prized'' Northland Mall. Or his Westland and Eastland malls. He really has conned the residents of the Northeast Side.
The Polaris Fashion Place will be built, with or without a TIF, and without it, the citizens of Columbus will end up financing the road improvements at the expense of other improvements, such as parks and street lighting ..."
Cherise Metzger, Lewis Center, Ohio
Editorial From THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Sunday, October 24, 1999
"No on Issue 33 -- Repealing TIF would hurt all of Columbus
As if Issue 33 on the November ballot were not confusing enough, the spinmeisters charged with persuading voters to pass this measure have contorted the facts so much that figuring out how to vote is like working a jigsaw puzzle.
Don't be fooled by slick campaign commercials funded by out-of-town interests [Jacobs] to protect their own backsides by deflecting competition for Northland Mall.
If Issue 33 passes, all of Columbus would suffer. And make no mistake: The TIF, or tax-increment financing district, will not give "a wealthy developer 22 million of our tax dollars to help him . . . build a mall in Delaware County,'' as the pro-Issue 33 ads contend ...
The pro-Issue 33 ads ... have been misleading enough to spur an Ohio Elections Commission hearing next week on a complaint against them. If the commission finds that the Issue 33 campaign violated state elections laws, it can issue a public reprimand or refer the matter to the Franklin County prosecutor ...
If the TIF is repealed, improvements in the Polaris region still would have to be built as population and infrastructure use grows, but the money to pay for them would come from the pot of city money earmarked for neighborhood improvements instead of from Polaris-area property owners' pockets ...
And to add insult to injury, the city would be out the jobs, income and sales taxes and economic activity that would have been brought by businesses attracted to the TIF district ...
If Columbus breaches its TIF commitment ... commercial and industrial interests might well be reluctant to trust Columbus' willingness to honor its commitments. Other cities might capitalize on this reluctance by luring businesses away.
Northland Mall owner Dick Jacobs, who is behind the effort to repeal the Polaris TIF, does indeed have good reason to be worried. His mall has seen competition for shoppers' dollars rise, while Northland has remained stagnant.
A new mall at Polaris could cut into Northland's business, but complacency and a failure to offer shoppers an attractive, safe and competitive shopping venue have done worse damage.
This city's reputation should not be put on the line for the whims of an absentee landlord who is spending his advertising dollars in a misleading attempt to stamp out his competition ..."
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Wednesday, October 27, 1999
By Doug Caruso, Dispatch City Hall Reporter
"Third Issue 33 advertisement under fire
Commission hearing on first two ads will be Thursday
A group of business owners at the Polaris Centers of Commerce has asked the Ohio Elections Commission to scrutinize a third adver tisement that calls for the repeal of tax incentives at the development.
Earlier this month, the Polaris Owners Association charged that radio and television ads promoting Issue 33 were false. Yesterday, the group filed a third complaint, saying another pro-Issue 33 ad is untrue.
The most recent ad depicts a developer getting a check from a "prize patrol'' if the tax deal -- which sets aside property taxes from Polaris businesses to pay for roads and other public improvements at Polaris -- is not repealed.
"The text on this ad is almost the same as on the first one,'' said Franz Geiger, president of the owners association. "They continue to run the same ad. It dupes the public.''
Unlike the previous complaint, this one names Northland Mall owner and his namesake company, the Richard E. Jacobs Group, as defendants.
Donald Brey, attorney for the owners association, said yesterday that Don Jones, a Jacobs Group vice president , said in a deposition that he and Jacobs signed off on the latest ad.
The Elections Commission will determine whether there is reason to believe the ad is misleading at a 9:30 a.m. hearing Thursday. If probable cause is found, the matter would be referred to the commission for a full hearing.
The commission is scheduled to hold a full hearing on the first two ads at 10:30 a.m. Thursday [10-28-99], with probable cause already found on those ads.
The Polaris Owners Association said the ads are false because they say money from the tax-increment financing district will go to a "wealthy developer'' unless voters repeal the measure, which the Columbus City Council approved in 1996. The money will not go to the developer, they say, but is to build roads ...
If the commission finds that Citizens to Save Northland misled voters, it could issue a reprimand or send the case to the Franklin County prosecutor's office for a charge of intentionally making false statements during an election campaign.
That charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine."
NEWS ARTICLE from THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1-3-01, By Tim Doulin, Dispatch Staff Reporter
[The Franklin County prosecutor must determine if criminal charges should be pursued against a 1999 campaign committee funded by the Richard E. Jacobs Group.]
"A Franklin County judge upheld the Ohio Elections Commission's ruling that a TV ad campaign backed by Northland Mall owner Richard E. Jacobs contained false statements.
The decision means the matter will be referred to the Franklin County prosecutor's office to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued against Citizens To Save Northland, the committee funded by Jacobs.
Common Pleas Judge Lisa L. Sadler ruled that there was "ample evidence to support'' the commission's finding involving the 1999 ads, which sought to repeal a special tax district at Polaris Centers of Commerce.
The tax district is generating funds to construct roads near I-71 and Polaris Parkway, where developer Herbert Glimcher is building the Polaris Fashion Place, a Northland Mall competitor.
Although Issue 33 -- the referendum to repeal the district -- was defeated Nov. 2, 1999, that did not "negate the misdeeds which were committed,'' Sadler wrote in a 17-page ruling ...
Citizens To Save Northland, a political action committee, sponsored an effort to repeal a 1996 Columbus ordinance that created a so-called tax-increment financing district ...
In its ad, the group said that the district would help Glimcher build a new mall with taxpayer dollars. The ad showed a "cash patrol'' presenting a check for $22 million in taxpayer money to a "wealthy developer.''
The Elections Commission ruled that the ad was false because the property-tax money from the district would go to build public roads and make other improvements in the area -- not build a mall or go directly to any developer.
The commission referred to the county prosecutor's office the case against Citizens To Save Northland and the Richard E. Jacobs Group, which funded and directed the Issue 33 campaign. The Jacobs company also owns Northland Mall. The commission cleared Jacobs of any personal responsibility for the ad.
When an appeal was filed in June , County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien agreed to defer any action until Sadler's ruling was issued.
"Now that Judge Sadler's decision has been released, what we are doing is determining what the next appropriate step is,'' O'Brien said yesterday.
The groups could be charged with prohibited practices in advocating or opposing an election issue, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000.
An attorney representing the campaign committee declined to comment yesterday. An attorney representing Jacobs did not respond to a request for comment ..."