Legislative Alert – Ohio Special Election

The AIA Columbus Board of Directors voted to oppose Issue 1.  The following was submitted to the Columbus Dispatch.

Vote No on August 8 for Public Works Viability

Having spent the last 20 plus years in the construction industry, and as an architect in the State of Ohio, I am hyper aware of the consequences of actions as they relate to the safety and welfare of the public.  It is with that in mind that when discussing this with the board of directors for the Columbus Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Columbus), we determined it would be appropriate to voice our opinion.

My firm primarily practices architecture related to public school construction – whether it’s new building or renovations to help bring an aging building up to current standards for things like ventilation and egress.  When participating in these types of projects, the funding is almost always influenced by some sort of state involvement, whether that’s by direct input of State funding or the potential future injection of State dollars.

Issue 1 would impact projects like schools, roads, and other publicly funded development because the funding is provided by an agency that would be in violation of the Constitution of the State of Ohio.  The State Constitution does not allow the state to take on more than $750,000 in debt for public construction.  Any debt above that amount is voted on by us, the citizens of Ohio, to provide constitutional authorization in the form of a bond levy.  Many of these debt authorizations in the past have not surpassed the 60% threshold that is being proposed by Issue 1, which would have systematically slowed Ohio’s development and prevented us from advancing the state to where it is today in terms of beauty and safety.  Some examples of these sorts of amendments are the ‘Clean Ohio Fund’ and the ‘Third Frontier Fund’.

Former Governor Bob Taft indicated that if Issue 1 had been in place when he was governor and his administration proposed the Clean Ohio Fund and the Third Frontier Fund, neither would have passed – saying “Any time someone wants to propose a new debt-financing initiative, it could be schools, it could be parks, it could be economic development, you’ve got to get approval from voters. That’s often difficult to get, especially at a 60% level.”  (Cleveland.com)

For the sake of our state’s development I, along with AIA Columbus, AIA Cincinnati, and AIA Ohio, encourage you to vote No on Issue 1 at the ballot box for the August 8th election.  We owe it to our fellow Ohioans to have the chance to continue to prosper and develop a beautiful and safe state

Michael Vala, AIA is a local architect and a member of the AIA Columbus Board of Directors. This letter is written on behalf of the AIA Columbus Board of Directors.

From AIA Ohio

On Tuesday, August 8th, Ohioans will have the opportunity to cast their vote on Issue 1, a proposal that seeks to require a 60% super-majority for passing any constitutional amendments in Ohio. This simple change could have a significant impact on the practice of architecture.

Ohio’s debt limit has been capped at $750,000 by its constitution since 1851. This has required constitutional amendments to increase funding for many programs and issues including construction bonds.  When bonds are needed for new infrastructure construction or capital improvements, Ohio’s constitution requires that citizens vote to approve the funding.

Ballot initiatives such as affordable housing loans and grants, Ohio’s Third Frontier Fund, and the Clean Ohio Fund are examples of programs that were approved by a majority of citizens of Ohio and have had positive impacts on the design and construction industry. However, none of these would have passed if the proposed 60% threshold had been required.

Construction funding initiatives are vital to the growth and development of our communities. They enable the improvement of infrastructure, schools, parks, and other essential public amenities. Historically, constitutional amendments seldom pass by a significant margin, and many times, by only a few percentage points.  Capital funding via constitutional amendments is critical to the success of the construction industry, architecture firms and their employees.

AIA Ohio urges members to vote no on Issue 1. If passed, this amendment will likely have a significant and devastating effect on the architecture profession by setting the threshold to approve project funding too high and making it too difficult to meet. We ask that when you vote on August 8, you vote in your best interest and in the best interest of the profession.

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