August 21st, 2015

roldo 150821

Hey, Jimmy Haslam, can we wipe your butt for you?

Do you need anything else we can give you?

That’s the attitude of Mayor Frank “Neighborhood” Jackson and Council President Kevin “Go Along” Kelley. And other city leaders for decades.

The pair has just given another gift to the Cleveland Browns owner.


One of the most under-estimated downtown businesses is parking.

And now the Mayor and Council President sneakily have given Haslam almost exclusive use of the city’s Willard Park garage on game days. Willard attached to City Hall. Close to the stadium.

It follows the tradition of city government giving away assets to private interests.

Presently, the city rewards Haslam by allowing exclusive use of Willard garage, not far from the stadium the city gave Haslam.

And it’s for Browns loge and special seat fans. Screw the rest of you ordinary Browns fans. Find someplace else to park.

Further, it means those who ordinarily use Willard have to be out of the garage by 5 p.m. on game days. Private customers, screw you too.

“This legislation which came in by Department Request and was passed April 13, 2015 clearly ‘end runs’ the Council, to put it in football terms,” wrote Mike Polensek, dean of Council, to Kelley.

“I don’t believe for one moment that you, Councilman Ken Johnson or the Council as a whole, for that fact, envisioned the Administration leasing the entire Willard Park Garage to the Browns or anyone else,” wrote Polensek, who says he hasn’t had a response from Kelley.

Here’s the deal:

Willard Park Garage—Beginning this Thursday (exhibition game) at 8 p.m. and continuing throughout all Cleveland Browns home games in the 2015 season, the City of Cleveland’s Willard Parking Garage will reserve the majority of available spaces for Cleveland Browns season ticket holders and team employees on all game days. Approximately 400 spaces will be available for general purchase on game days and the remainder will be reserved. Additionally, these limited parking spaces for general purchase will not be made available until two hours before game time. The city identified 780 spaces at Burke Lakefront Airport as an alternative for these traditional Willard Garage customers.

In other words, regular customers—go someplace else. You’re on your own.

Polensek asked Ken Silliman, Jackson’s chief of staff: “… what about the die-hard fan who sits in the DAWG POUND with their family and has been parking in the garage since the Browns have come back?”

“Once again,” writes Polensek, “we are catering to the high end ticket holders just like the Capital improvements to the Stadium cater to the Loge and Premium Seat Holders.”

Councilman Brian Cummins also points out that the original lease with the Browns states: In no event shall the Lessee (Browns) take any action that would restrict Willard Park garage for the use by the general public.

An obvious contradiction.

Cummins notes that the fact this is specifically noted in the lease that this was a concern at the time the agreement was negotiated.

FBI tapes of Mayor White’s best man Nate Gray, now a long-time prisoner for corruption, was told by Sam Miller to treat Councilmen like a straight prostitute… the more you treat them like a trick… the better results you’ll get. Take that Polensek & Cummins.

A bit of history that makes this even more disgusting.

Willard Park Garage originally was built by the city as its contribution to the federally funding of the Erieview Urban Renewal Project. It goes that far back.

But when Gateway was built everyone knew there was another sports parking problem.

Willard was allowed to be degraded. White claimed it was unsafe and had to be rebuilt. Oh, yeah.

What a surprise!

Since we’re rebuilding Willard, why not let bonds for Gateway too, said White and his “advisors.”

So some $70 million plus in bonds (not including interest) were let by the city to fix Willard and build TWO garages for Gateway.

The Gateway garages, one tax exempted, became big money-losers, as our generous politicians gave the teams 450 free parking spaces every day, and a couple of thousand spaces for loge owners for event days, at a cost of many hundreds of thousands each year. (The Gunds, original Cavs owners, also got $1 million a year to compensate for its parking income loss from its former arena in Richfield.)

Nothing was enough for our sports billionaires.

As the late Fannie Lewis said at the time Council made that deal: “This ties up the city like you tie up a hog.” Yes, and to the slaughter.

I wish the editorial boss Chris Quinn would assign reporters to determine how much these sweetheart deals cost taxpayers. Instead we get pages of free game coverage. Really overdone.

Some time ago, I inquired of the city and found that from September 1996 through September 2008, the city alone paid some $30 million for the garages. It, as I noted, has to raid other city revenue streams—parking meter and city lot revenues – to pay bondholders. Money that could go for badly needed city repairs.

Mayor White admitted back then that no private interests would build parking garages because they “would lose money.” So he put the burden on taxpayers.

Former city finance director and later Greater Cleveland Partnership and Gateway board member sold the parking deal to Council for White as “a good investment on the part of the city.” Obedient Council President Jay Westbrook and Finance chair Jim Rokakis paved the way. They showed disdain to the few citizens who questioned the deal. Fannie Lewis caught them, telling them in her inimitable way, “Don’t play me cheap.”

And the real kicker: Gateway was given $3.1 million by the city to coordinate construction of the garages for the city. How’s that for paying the thieves.

I kid you not.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. […] city and citizens found funds to build a giant outdoor chandelier in the theater district, grant parking concessions to the nearly winless Cleveland Browns, renew a tax to support sports teams’ playgrounds, and donate money to attract the Republican […]

  2. As a city, as a state, as a nation we sink deeper and deeper into inequality, thoughtlessly and ignorantly.

    Thanks for writing.


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