Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Dave Ebersole


Between September 2011 and March 2012 multiple public institutions unanimously approved the public purchase of Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, to save Columbus' National Hockey League franchise, the Blue Jackets, from moving to another locality.

Blue Jackets, from moving to another locality. As a result of public officials' unanimous support for the transaction and disregard for issues of democracy, public debt, economic development, and the transaction's legality under the Ohio Constitution, this matter demonstrates that nonelectoral fiscal restraints are needed in constitutions.

This article argues first that the transaction violates Ohio's constitutional fiscal restraints. Second, Ohio's debt limits, including Ohio Constitution Article VIII §13 authorizing debt for a public purpose, should be separated from its restrictions on lending government credit to the private sector. Furthermore, Columbus' experience demonstrates the difficulty of enforcing constitutional fiscal restraints that are exacerbated by are nontransparent and complicated financial arrangements designed to circumvent constitutional purposes. This article specifically contends that as a check on issues that arise in public finance due to collective decision making through elected representatives, courts should honor the purposes behind constitutional fiscal provisions, which are ratified directly by the people.