SAD STORY OF LOCAL SPORTS CORRUPTION

December 6th, 2016

Why do we offer significant welfare to an industry—sports—worth billions of dollars: NFL—$76 billion; NBA $54 billion; MLB $38 billion?

That’s a lot of dollar value. Yet our revenue-struggling city/county pick up the tab. We get extorted in public.

Three sports businesses are worth a total of $168 billion. And always growing. The NFL, best in sharing TV revenue, recently added $27 million to $131 million per team, according to Sports Business Journal.

City after city extorted.

Yet they continue to grab more government revenue. Welfare for the rich.

I don’t see professional ball players complaining, as they do about other civil matters. They are major kleptomaniac takers. They remain hypocritical to their own benefit.

The value figures here are from Forbes magazine for 2016.

These are industries on the take. Corrupt and corrupting our politics. It will only get worse. Because we allow it.

Our media, which act ONLY as promoters of the pilferage, bestow constant positive coverage. The Plain Dealer, the Sunday after the World Series, ran five newspaper sections of 44 pages, all on the sports.

What does that say?

This is pandering in the extreme. The newspaper fails miserable to tell the story of what these teams cost the city and county. Chris Quinn did a mea coup on the PD‘s poor coverage of the Presidential race and asks us to tell them what to do. “… Leave out the polemics and personal attacks,” he writes. Chris, you fail so wretchedly on so many important local issues that telling you—nice or mean—is totally useless.

We need an independent press—newspaper and television—and that’s why people have no trust in the media. A sad and dangerous condition for a democracy. You ignore the truth.

Our hapless Cleveland Browns paid its players $182 million for 2016. How could they pay so much for so little? Easy. We subsidize them with a $300 million stadium that they pay a pittance ($250,000 annually never to increase over 30 years) in rent and NO property taxes. That’s why.

The Browns, heading apparently to a winless season, had revenue of $347 million and operating income of $53 million but couldn’t pay property taxes on their relatively new stadium. Most of the lost money would have gone to the Cleveland schools. Or a Clevelander would have paid pay in property taxes.

Peter Pattakos, at a recent panel on sports facilities, asked the CAVs CEO Len Komoroski, to reveal the team’s profits. Likely chance.

Billionaire incompetents Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Browns owners, had gate receipts of $54 million and each fan spent an average of $58 at a game. With 67,000 fans that should work out to $3,886,000 in beer and food per game. Plus $54 million in gate receipts for how many home games? I count nine with a couple to go. Who knows how much from TV revenues and league dollar sharing?

With packed houses in-stadium sale at $58 a head would indicate another $35 million in addition to the gate receipts of $54 million. Or some $89 million a year in revenue flow.

Why can’t they pay their own bills? Only because we Cleveland suckers, led by the nose by pols as Mayor Frank Jackson and his buddy Fred Nance of Squire-Sanders, pay for them.

Major League Baseball, also at the teat of Cleveland taxpayers, has a total value of $38 billion. Why can’t they pay their own bills as every business is expected to do? Because we – our pols, our media, ourselves—allow them to be rich beggars.

Dumb Larry Dolan paid some $323 million to Dick Jacobs for the Cleveland Indians. Now we have to bail him out apparently. Despite lower than expected attendance for a team that almost won the World Series, gate receipts were $30 million. Revenue per fan for goodies at the game was $56 each.

In 2016 attendance was 1,591,667, or more than $89 million in revenue. Total gate receipts and in-stadium purchases would be $129 million or so.

We built them a $5.1 million restaurant, fully-equipped, largest in downtown Cleveland within the stadium. It’s open year round for even charities to hold annual events overlooking the lighted baseball field.

Want anything else, boys?

The Dolans don’t pay property taxes on the stadium either. And they have taken over the naming rights of Progressive Insurance, over $1 million a year.

Now to our biggest rip-off artist of all in Cleveland – Dan “Casino” Gilbert and his NBA’s Cavaliers.

The NBA is a $54 billion business (all team value) but it leans on cities to pay its bills.

The Cavs value is $1.1 billion as of January 2016. It has operating income of $24.8 million, revenue of $191 million. Gilbert purchased the team for $375, so he’s (with our help) has about tripled the value. Gate receipts were $52 million and revenue per attendee $69. With attendance of more than 20,000 a game and 41 regular season games that $69 a head, it adds up to $1.39 million per game or $56.5 million for 41 games. That doesn’t count post season or arena filled for away games.

The money just keeps rolling in. And we keep giving them more.

Not enough, however. Why pay your own bills? Just beg for more.

Thank you Mayor Jackson. Thank you County Executive Budish.

Presently, the Cavs are asking for some $60 million from Cuyahoga County for the Quicken Arena, which bears the name of Gilbert’s Quicken Loan Company. However, the public, which provides the arena and much of the fix-up money, isn’t told what the cost of the naming rights might be.

Gilbert also gets use our entire arena all of the time. Cavs CEO Len Komoroski gave a hint to how much MORE revenue Gilbert takes from the arena by bragging at a panel that these robber barons hold 200 more ticketed events. They take the revenue, but not before complaining about the city’s admission tax. They take a chunk of that too.

The city and county—people like Mike White, Tim Hagan, Tom Chema, Fred Nance, Frank Jackson and a host of city and county council members—bestow these gifts. On our behalf, of course.

Maybe naming rights dollars don’t matter either. Because those dollars go from one Gilbert pocket to another Gilbert pocket. One million dollars, two million dollars, who cares?

It doesn’t go into the public revenue stream because Gilbert takes all he can, when he can, how he can.

And like the Haslams and the Dolans, Gilbert practices civic banditry. They have hijacked our city and county governments.

The last time I looked, the three teams combined were avoiding property taxes of $16 million a year. With the outlook of 30 year of operations that would mean the loss of $480 million total. More than half of the sum would go to the Cleveland schools. Not Shaker Heights, Beachwood, Parma, Rocky River, but Cleveland schools alone.

A kick in the ass by Mayor Frank Jackson, supporter of the Cleveland schools, he says. He says.

Think they might miss that $240 million or so.

Where is the outcry of the Cleveland teachers union? Or any city Council member or the NAACP, or the Call & Post, or PD, or Chs. 3, 5, 8, or Brent Larkin, who promised back in the early 1990s that he would ride herd on Gateway. He’s done nothing.

The County now has a $1 billion debt weighing upon it and no legitimate path to meet these continuing costs.

It continues to become difficult for a city and a county losing population. Cuyahoga County lost some 24,000 population since 2010. Why live here if you don’t have to. You know you’re being ripped off.

The political answer thus far has been to raise or extend taxes. The latest extension of the hotel tax, which is paid most likely by visitors, for 40 years, suggests the difficulty. A forty year extension!

Why so long, County Commissioners? Easy answer.

We are running out of taxes—mostly are seriously regressive—to fund our supposed resurgence. Surprisingly to me for city councilman, now County Councilman Dale Miller, ordinarily conservative at least in thought (he votes for these things in the final analysis), is the one pushing a tax 40 years into the future.

Why? Because the County, as County Executive Budish is finding, has bitten off more than it can chew. Debt has become a problem with few alternatives left, especially as government keeps giving away tax sources. A 40-year extension at $15 a year will mean another $600 million in public funds. Budish wants to use the first infusion for the Cavs arena.

Let me remind you, these are Democrats. It doesn’t matter. The REAL decision-makers reside quietly and anonymously at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, formerly Cleveland Tomorrow, and formerly the Growth Association. The names change. The game remains the same. These are all Republicans. And they RULE.

No dollars for public transpiration, which badly needs resuscitation. Instead, it gets short-shrift from local government, especially Mayor Jackson, who wants to close off Superior Ave. for Public Square purposes. One purpose for Public Square, conveniently redone with $50 million in front of Dan Gilbert’s casino, is to keep blacks from the front of Terminal Tower and the casino. Mayor Jackson is considered African-American.

Chema, the propagandist, tried to argue at a recent panel that the sports facilities, primarily subsidized by taxes, were merely necessary infrastructure, the same as roads, sewers, etc., normal city infrastructure, that serves grocery stores and other shops or any business on the street. No difference.

What sophistry!

Chema failed to distinguish is that the private business of baseball, football and basketball facilities enjoy the same public investments. Normal businesses, however, don’t get their structures built for them. The sports facilities actually get much, much more. Indeed, even the normal city infrastructure all deserve, they get much more. If you walk or ride the Gateway area you will notice all kinds of free signage, street paving and curbing of thick granite that you won’t find in any neighborhoods. Not crumbly cheap cement.

And protection. I checked last year and found that the sports facilities used 34,000 hours of city police time. The city, hampered by serious crime, provided 7,788 hours of it, overtime for the facilities. Do neighborhoods get special treatment?

Where are our priorities?

So the team owners get AND MORE infrastructure, physical and labor than the Chema grocery store and other ordinary business.

And those businesses unlike the three Cleveland-based sports facilities, paid for by hundreds of millions of tax dollars, have to pay property taxes. The team owners HAVE ARRANGED WITH POLITICAL FRIENDS AND THEIR LAWYERS—TO PAY NO PROPERTY TAXES ON THEIR BUSINESS STRUCTURES.

The city and county – people like Mike White, Tim Hagan, Tom Chema, Fred Nance, Frank Jackson and a host of city and county council members – bestowed these gifts.

I’d like to know what they got in return.

Where is the politician who will demand the Santa Claus leases given these rich owners get renegotiated?

By Roldo Bartimole…

4 Responses to “SAD STORY OF LOCAL SPORTS CORRUPTION”

  1. Michael Fiala says:

    I am grateful for your detailed and prophetic voice, calling out the false shepherds/leaders.

    Would that we practiced the things that make for justice and peace in our city!

    Rather, we have followed a disastrous road, pandering to the corporate powers.

    Dan Kerr, in his book Derelict Paradise, has thoroughly detailed this history of pandering from 1877 to 2007. So, it is nothing new.

    But still it cries out for justice.

    The opposition by all the powers, corporate and political, in Cleveland against the ‘Fight for $15’ is the other side of this pandering to those w excess resources.

    Those who have way more than they need have built Cleveland’s barely bubbling ‘urban renaissance’ on the backs of the working poor.

    Elected officials that we expect to be their advocates have indicated their true allegiance.

    • Thanks again Michael.

      We have a serious lack of political leadership here as elsewhere but particularly discouraging with Mayor Jackson proving such a patsy for corporate dominance here.

      I don’t see much change yet in the picture. And we are entering a mayoral election year.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good morning Michael,

      I’m not sure why I haven’t done this previously, but this morning I went back an linked all of your mentions of Daniel Kerr’s Derelict Paradise to Roldo’s original review back in 2012.

      You’re right. The book is a must for anyone who wants to understand corporatists agendas in general and Cleveland’s history in particular.

      Now, if I could just convince Roldo to write his book…

      Cheers,
      Jeff

    • Agreed on Kerr’s book, overlooked too easily here where it should be required reading in high schools, not to mention colleges. And reporters!

      As for me, don’t think I have the book in me.

      Maybe someone else can do it for me.

      Thanks Jeff.

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