September 13th, 2016

roldo bartimole squareLast time I wrote here I reported on a document that noted Cuyahoga County was more than $1 billion in debt ($1,082,395,000). ¶That’s a lot of money. A scary figure. ¶The Plain Dealer followed quickly with the same story, based on William Tater’s Community Solutions report on the County debt. ¶But it got short shrift coverage. ¶In the old days such a large figure would have been shocking news. The story would have rated an alarming banner headline. These days only sports seem to merit that kind of attention.

Taxes, which the PD almost automatically supports, don’t merit too much close attention. The PD follows the Greater Cleveland Partnership almost religiously. Chris Quinn, vice president of content at the PD, noted recently on a radio program that he attended the GCP’s annual meet up. Hobnobbing with the big boys.

Now it is time to report on some of the spending causing these daunting debt figures and tax income that has already or will be required to be collected to meet those bonded debts.

The quarter percent sales tax hike since January 2015 has brought in $36.2 million to August this year from county taxpayers. In 2015 the tax raised $51,434,292. That’s some $87 million total thus far.

Those pennies at the grocer’s add up.

Total expenses and debt service for both years was $81 million.

Debt service on the convention center and med mart totaled $32.1 million. Debt service on the new hotel was $3.7 million, starting only in March of this year. It will take decades to pay it down.

And we can assuredly predict the hotel will cost further need for county subsidy as it loses money as it operates.

The latest report also noted that some $4.4 million has been expended on “tunnel construction” to connect the new facilities to parking at a $4.4 million price tag.

Two other debt burdens paid by Cuyahoga County residents are the sin tax and the arts tax, both voted by residents. Naturally, with strong support of the GCP and PD.

As of the end of August taxpayers dropped $9,012,666 for the sin tax that funds debt and other costs of the baseball and basketball facilities. And its deadbeat users.

The arts and culture tax, which goes back to Feb. 2007, has cost county taxpayers (really smokers alone) $25.9 million.

And now to the city’s subsidies to First Energy stadium. These figures took months to get from the city.

In 2016 thus far, the city has made its $2 million annual payment, plus $196,701 for “caulking;” $18,834 for ADA ramps; $70,524 for “sanitary lift replacements;” $215,696 for “concrete repairs and related professional services;” and $346,866 for “LED light replacement.”

That’s a total subsidy thus far of $2,848,701 for 2016.

Meanwhile, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam pays $250,000 annually for near exclusive use of the stadium. You can’t get deals that cheap.

The deal struck by Mayor Michael White and his lawyer Fred Nance of Squire Sanders should be examined for self-dealing or more serious malfeasance.

While Mayor Frank Jackson pushes his income (payroll) tax increase, the Cleveland school system also asks for renewal of its levy.

It’s good to remember that former Mayor White pushed the state legislature to relieve all three sports facilities—First Energy, Progressive Field and Quicken Arena—to pay zero property taxes in perpetuity—and ALL that revenue is diverted from the Cleveland school system. How’s that for support of the schools.

We have shoddy governments at the city and county level.

The daily newspaper doesn’t attend to what’s important and a lame PD editorial board won’t address corporate corruption here.

And abound in sleepy citizens. Is it any wonder?

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Garry Kanter says:

    Sad but true.

  2. Carolyn says:

    This is so redundant! It’s the same old Cleveland/Cuyahoga County. Unless there is a change in the administration/government, it’s the same old cry. If there is no change….there will be no change. It’s a beautiful location but it’s not used to it’s best advantage i.e. the lakefront. Sad

  3. Roldo Bartimole says:

    Thanks for commenting Gary and Carolyn.

    We lack civic leadership and have too much corporate leadership with a docile, becoming
    right wing, daily newspaper.

    How will the PD avoid of endorsing Trump or will the paper once again take the cowardly way out and not endorse.

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