The Columbus Dispatch

Suit against city about road seems familiar

- Theodore Decker Columnist Columbus Dispatch USA TODAY NETWORK

Your Honor,

We appreciate the opportunit­y to address the court further in this matter, in which a number of residents of the Little Turtle subdivisio­n on the Northeast Side are suing the city, alleging that a road project in their neighborho­od was undertaken not to improve traffic safety but to accommodat­e the wishes of a developer of land in the area.

Their allegation­s unfairly and inaccurate­ly cast the city in the role of a manipulati­ve entity that schemed for years to subvert public governance and to fulfill the desire of a single private interest who, our adversarie­s like to point out although we fail to see the relevance, has been a donor to the campaigns of several key city officials.

It’s a good story as they tell it, full of subterfuge and shady machinatio­ns. We submit that this tale is complete fiction.

What the plaintiffs assert, Your Honor, is unseemly and would be unpreceden­ted behavior from the City of Columbus.

Imagine, if you can, such a scenario unfolding. You may not be able to, Your Honor, because the narrative would be so far-fetched as to challenge even the most active of imaginatio­ns.

To briefly sum up plaintiffs’ fallacious argument, the city set aside the interests of citizens to instead move an

existing public road out of the way of a developer who hopes to construct condominiu­ms there. This, they would have you believe, has been in the works for years.

Honestly, Your Honor, what city operates like that?

It is as ridiculous as someone coming to you with a cockamamie tale about the city of Columbus removing a busy highway ramp from Route 315, right under the noses of the public, to clear the way for the new headquarte­rs of some powerful entity in town such as, oh I don’t know, Ohiohealth.

What else would they have you believe? That the city would enlist a cadre of city and state officials who did everything in their power, and some things quite possibly not in their power, to demolish the ramp and donate the property to Ohiohealth, simply because it wanted to build something like an access road or a parking garage, or maybe both?

They would have you believe even more prepostero­usly that the city held a public meeting where officials promised to listen to citizen concerns, when in reality they previously had discussed among themselves that visual displays for that very meeting would “show as little detail as possible for the site.”

What sort of city government that repeatedly pledges openness and transparen­cy would do something as blatantly contrary as that?

No, Your Honor, rest assured that when the city assembled a fact sheet on the Little Turtle project in 2019, it was being sincere when it said the road there had deteriorat­ed and need to be rebuilt. It was being honest when it advised, “Additional­ly, there is a lack of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and low visibility at the intersecti­on of Longrifle Road and Little Turtle Way. This gives the city the opportunit­y to address all of these issues at the same time.”

Your Honor, this plan for Little Turtle Way is a public works project in the finest sense of the term, not a veiled gift to developer Mo Dioun, even if plaintiffs choose to read too much into Dioun’s hiring of former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman to lobby on his behalf. Honestly, why that hiring is viewed so suspicious­ly by some is beyond me.

Likewise, we believe it is untoward to question why a transporta­tion engineerin­g firm that employed the husband of Jennifer Gallagher, the city’s public service director, was hired to prepare a traffic study for the Little Turtle proposal.

To suggest that such a relationsh­ip might be a conflict of interest would be like implying that, to return to my 315 ramp scenario, such a project demanded scrutiny simply because Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s wife served as a longtime Ohiohealth executive.

There is so much more we could address here, Your Honor, but we trust in your wisdom and believe that you will side with the facts of this case, which clearly rest with us.

If you were to believe the fantasy concocted by the plaintiffs, well, all I might say in response is that we have a bridge to sell you.

Pardon me, Your Honor. My client wishes to advise me privately.

I apologize for that interrupti­on. A brief correction if I may, Your Honor.

It appears my reference to the city having a bridge to sell was out of line.

That particular bridge, I’ve just been told, already has been promised to a third party. @Theodore_decker

Imagine, if you can, such a scenario unfolding. You may not be able to, Your Honor, because the narrative would be so far-fetched as to challenge even the most active of imaginatio­ns.

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