I was, but I shouldn’t have been, surprised to see Michael Nelson, leader of the local Cleveland NAACP, appearing before City Council today as a cheerleader for the newest huge subsidy for Dan Gilbert and the Cavs.
The NAACP, I thought, was supposed to represent primarily those who have needs, not a white billionaire. A billionaire looking to take money from the people he’s supposed to represent.
Yet, it should be no surprise, especially when you understand that the NAACP chapter here will soon be honoring Jimmy Haslam, another billionaire and sports team owner. Seem to love billionaires. Wonder why.
It’s the way goes these days.
It’s sad for me. I remember when one of the powerful political voices for Cleveland blacks and others who needed representation was the 21st District Caucus. The late Carl Stokes’ creation.
I remember speaking at a meeting of the caucus to oppose the first flood of public money for sports back in the early 1990s. The sin tax vote. It lost in Cleveland (with some help from Rep. Mary Rose Oakar on the west side.) When are west side taxpayers going to wake up to the con? (I had to laugh to hear some unctuous comments in favor of the latest give-away by newly elected president of the National League of Cities Matt Zone. Says something about all cities doesn’t it?
The 21st Caucus was chaired by Rep. Louis Stokes then. But it was Carl’s show. You see Carl was the one who propelled the caucus as a political power for blacks here. But he had become a judge. Judges don’t do public political fights. So Lou had to chair the meeting. But it was definitely a Carl parade on the Establishment.
Boy, do we need a Carl Stokes now.
Nelson was actually testifying before City Council’s finance committee, one of the last places to tie a bow on a $282-million EXPANSION (not dress-up) of Quicken Arena. This is a phony give-the-rich-man more deal.
Nelson’s testimony was as if Cesar Chavez testified against farm workers or Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., told garbage collectors in Memphis shut up and be satisfied.
Council will vote tonight to pass the gift to Gilbert. The County Council already took the dive. And Mayor Frank Jackson and County Executive Armond Budish were in the tub waiting. All floating for Gilbert.
At the same time, and on his own, William Tarter, third veep of the local NAACP, was sending out a study that concludes that “Without new revenues, [Cuyahoga] County may face athletic facilities maintenance shortfall.” He’s the same guy that produced a study showing Cuyahoga County already $1 billion in a hole.
Jackson’s people tried.
Silliman suggested to Polensek that the real cost was not $282 million, using as an example the purchase of a house. Say, the house costs $75,000 but you’re paying for 30 years. You say it cost $75,000, right? Ignore that huge interest cost piled up for years.
Silliman, explainer away of what Jackson needs rationalized, insists the cost is not $282-million but something far, far less. Like the cost of the house.
Polensek wasn’t buying it. And he reminded Council president and finance chairman, Kevin Kelley, nervously trying to cap the meeting and move along (nothing happening here) that taxpayers have already indebted themselves by $615-million with debt of more than $1 billion in taxes. At the same time, he says, we were losing 200,000 population, experiencing child poverty of 40 percent, double-digit unemployment, not to mention, he said, the homicide rate and the city again at No. 1 in poverty rates among U.S. cities.
Polensek, a burr on any Council president’s seat, reminded the rather quiet finance members of a bit more. We have a President Donald Trump and a Governor John Kasich, both aiming more firepower upon American cities than Syria. What will happen to the city budget? Polensek, as did others, suggested waiting on this vote.
Kelley was nervously awaiting Polensek would tire. But no.
He remembered that those attending Cavalier games were 90 percent plus from outside the city. And he landed another one: The County, which is pulling the city along on this deal, contributed NOTHING to the construction of the Browns stadium. All expenses on the city.
Then a final zinger, “People with cups on Public Square have more credibility with me.” Ouch! Mayor Jackson thought he solved that one.
It will pass. And it won’t be the last gold cup in the hands of Gilbert, Haslam and Larry Dolan.