February 24th, 2016

Inequality is more than a paycheck matter.

The financially troubled in Cleveland are cheated in more ways than meager pay and higher regressive taxes. Hard to count how many.

The major force in this defrauding of the citizens is the Greater Cleveland Partnership. GCP is the leading corporate and legal interests in the city. They set Cleveland’s agenda. What to do. But also what not to do. It will be explained as we go along.

I have tried for some time to spotlight how the established forces take – really steal – from the economically deficient. They’re takers.

The one that’s bothering me now is the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s intention to raise fares and cut services.

This damages transit-dependent people, especially working people who MUST use public transportation. Hurting the least of us.

It’s not totally RTA’s fault. In fact, little of it is since the area’s major transportation facility receives small public investment. Primarily, RTA receives one percent of the 8 percent in sales tax you pay in Cuyahoga County.

Here is where the public interest’s attention should be directed.

Have you seen Joe Roman of GPC talking about the necessity to relieve RTA of burdening its riders with an added 25 cents atop $2.25 ride or more than a 10 percent increase? Say you’re a worker who rides RTA to and from work. That’s 50 cents a day or $2.50 a week for a 5-day week.

That’s a meaningful sum for many people, especially if two people in the family work at a minimum wage job.

You don’t see Cleveland’s civic, business or political people seeking a solution. Pushing to find a better answer. Why?

Now I have outlined over and over the hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone to sports owners, all three very wealth men.

Indeed, recently the Cuyahoga County Council, which voted itself a 15.5 percent pay raise, was planning to let bonds of $65 million more to further fix-up Progressive Field. Tim Offtermatt, who is Gateway’s chairman and also the County’s bond advisor (cozy), said the bonds would be paid off in 10 years.

Hey, no problem. We’ll find the money somewhere.

We know the County will spend $256 million for a hotel where its offices once stood. A big loser. But the big bosses want it. So it shall be.

Hey, no problem. We found the money. A quarter percent sales tax added by the old County Commissioners. Expected revenue: $800 million.

We need to spruce up Public Square. $50 million or is it more. No problem. We’ll scrounge around and find the money. (Oh, it may cost RTA some financial cost since its busses always used that area so changes will be required.)

A bridge. Oh, sorry Steve, an “iconic” lakefront bridge. Cost $33 million, already $8 million, or already near 25 percent above estimate.

Even RTA gets caught in this game. It spent $69 million for that workhorse Waterfront Line. Why? Because the same people wanted the line built quickly no federal funds were even sought. It could have been 85 percent federally funded. Be quick, they said.

Don’t forget the unnecessary $300-million plus Corridor road through the depressed east side from E. 55th to the doorstep of the Cleveland Clinic and University Circle. Oh, we just have to have it.

It was a must despite the $200-million plus RTA Healthline. I’d like to see the cost figures of running that up and down Euclid Ave. compared to the old bus method.

I haven’t even scraped the top of the subsidy heap.

Why do these things get attention? How do the tens and hundreds of millions appear for these “needs?” It’s greased.

But funding to keep transit-dependent people—some who might even lose their jobs with RTA cuts and higher rates—just doesn’t seem to appear as these other huge amounts do. Be realistic. Can’t afford everything!

GCP has all the big law firms—Squire Sanders Boggs, Jones Day, Baker Hostetler, Calfee—on its board. These big bats swing Cleveland and Cuyahoga’s agenda.

The Indians, the Cavs, the Browns have members on the elite board, too. They have so much to gain.

Eaton Corp.’s Sandy Cutler, who moved Eaton out of Cleveland (with heavy, heavy subsidies) and moved Eaton out of the United States to avoid paying taxes, is on the board. Likely he’s the biggest welfare client in Cuyahoga County. And a chiseler at that.

Big cheeses of Sherwin-Williams, Cleveland Clinic, Key Corp. American Greetings, Lubrizol, PNC bank, Northeast Ohio Media Group (you know them, PD), Forest City, AT&T Ohio, Dominion East Ohio Gas.

Yes, they’re all represented. All the big eaters.

The 1 percenters. The takers. The grabbers. The piggies.

And they run these parts. Not Joe Roman. Not puppets like Armond Budish or Frank Jackson. Those behind the curtain.

The people have to wait on a bus in the rain, in the cold. Who cares about them? Raise the fare. Take another slice of their slim earnings. Why not, we can do it.

Who’s going to find a solution to this problem? Sorry, Bernie.

No one is.

There is no movement. There isn’t even knowledge of the Game being played by the GPCs of our nation’s cities.

The game is fixed, as Bernie says.

Inequality, in all respects, is soaked into our system.

The goodies go to those who pay to have their names on buildings and walls. The good robbers of our city.

Now Reggie Rucker has been a bad boy. No doubt about it.

But the Big Boys were buying something with Reggie. (The Cleveland Foundation didn’t know he was stealing? Or didn’t want to know.)

They don’t want any trouble. Racial especially.

It’s an old game of how to divert any whiff of real angry opposition.

In the second issue of a newsletter I started back in 1968 tells how this Rucker game is played and surely Reggie knew the rules. He was being used, too. As the Browns used him. But he wasn’t playing straight.

It was a lot cheaper to buy off people in 1968. Yet the game remains the same.
History repeats itself.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Arnie Berger says:

    I was going to comment on RTA’s consistency. When fuel costs were rising it raised fares. Now, with fuel costs plummeting, it again raises fares.

    To learn more I visited It’s latest financial report (2014) is only a narrative. There are no operating statements. They brag about hedging to control energy costs. Here’s the text: “….. through strategic fiscal management, RTA has been able to offset additional operating expenses. A primary root to this success stems from RTA’s Energy Price Risk Management Program, which was implemented in 2010 to focus on fuel hedging and electricity consumption. To date, current five-year savings total over $13.5 million in savings relative to curbed electricity consumption and over $16 million related to fuel costs. And with diesel fuel and natural gas completely hedged through 2015, the majority of 2016, and a portion of 2017, RTA has ensured the reduction of anticipated fuel costs for the next three years.”

    My guess is that they made long-term commitments to avoid paying peak energy prices. But that may mean that they are paying far above today’s low rates. That may explain why they are asking for a raise despite today’s very low energy costs.

  2. Hoi polloi says:

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but don’t think you’ve illustrated exactly how GCP is the main culprit.

    Another point, simple and more obvious – RTA busing is cost effective and most useful to people who need it. But the pols and GCP-tyoes love other transit initiatives have all been boondoggles that ultimately increase fares and reduce total service.

  3. I think that’s a hedge that governments make in trying to guard against rising fuel rates. Hard to say they made the wrong decision this time when they may have saved on fuel costs in the past.

  4. Arnie: Added info. RTA buys diesel and they’re 90% natural gas. The boss says they will save $2.5 million in 2016 with locked-in prices.
    I tend to think RTA under Calabrese is well-managed.

    HP: I thought it was clear that I felt strongly that GCP set the local agenda, gave good examples of that, and that it doesn’t care one bit about issues as RTA’s money problems, which will force a rate increase. If it did care, GCP would be fighting for investment by the state and county to provide funding, which it doesn’t. Maybe this helps.

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