April 27th, 2017

We don’t pay attention to the past. So we repeat it. To our disgrace and heavy cost.

The latest Quicken Arena deal—$282 million in all—repeats the mistake of feeding the beast. Further, it opened a new source of tax revenue, ignoring the voted sin tax receipts. As of the end of March, the sin tax has produced $3,742,748.30 this year.

But finally, in this mayoral election year, there is push-back. Real resentment to this latest money grab.

And a political climate of despair fed by crime, unemployment and the usual array of social problems among so many here.

But there is push-back. Six, then five, Councilmen balked at new taxation after more than 27 years of the same old same of seeking more public revenue for private desires.

Citizen groups—the Greater Cleveland Congregation, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268—will have to collect more than 6,000 valid signatures to overcome what their representatives in Cleveland City Council and Cuyahoga County Council voted to give billionaire Dan Gilbert, a mortgage lender, a casino czar and a greedy pro sports owner.

This money snatch has been going on since 1990. Cleveland corporate and legal leaders have been pushing for extremely heavy public subsidies for wealthy sports owners. They make matters worse by exempting property taxes 100 percent in the hundreds of millions of dollars. First, they promised schools tens of millions of dollars annually yet it turned out they have been stealing tax revenue mainly from the Cleveland schools. See also below extra public costs since 1992 and going to 2023 for old bonds. The new take begins from the city and county in 2024.

These exploiters have been backed by a subservient, bought news media led by the Plain Dealer, which in the past actually used Gateway symbols on articles pushing these deals and now strongly supports the gifts with misleading editorials, news and weak columnists who deflect blame instead of dispensing shame.

It’s been going on a long, costly time and will continue unless the petition drive succeeds.

We have spent well beyond a billion scarce public dollars on the Gateway sports complex.

And I am not just quoting my figures but those cited by Cleveland Magazine. The Plain Dealer has never tried to assess the costs of the sports sponges. The weak new PD has poor leadership at the top.

Here’s what Cleveland Magazine wrote in April 2014 on the costs at Gateway:

Our calculation of $1.2 billion in public stadium costs if the sin tax passes (it did)—not reported elsewhere in town—will probably give the tax’s opponents a new argument. Enough! They’ll say.

Not their elected officials.

But we knew the heavy subsidies long before.

The past is present. We keep forgetting it.

Here is a piece I wrote in the Cleveland Edition in January, 1990. More than two-and-a-half decades ago! It could be written today. Only the names change:

County Commissioner Tim Hagan came over to City Hall a week or so ago to share the podium with Mayor Michael White as the two announced the opening of a new battle against poverty.

Hagan took the opportunity to point out that in the previous decade—the Voinovich era—he had been called to City Hall for a number of mayoral announcements, but none that dealt with a fight against poverty—probably the city’s most severe problem.

It was a commendation to the new mayor for being quickly on the battle field on this problem and a backhand slap at former Mayor George Voinovich for never getting to the problem in 10 years. Voinovich’s fight against poverty rarely extended beyond urging city employees to bring in cans of food for the city’s hunger centers.

The poverty fight called by Hagan and White evolves from a study backed by the Rockefeller and Cleveland Foundations which now calls for more study and examination.

We all know that there are many demands upon government for the use of its taxes to meet the needs of the larger community.

Both White and Hagan have been fond of talking about the needs of those in the society who have serious problems and few resources to deal with the problems.

But in the next few months politicians—Hagan and White prominently—will be under severe pressure from the Cleveland Establishment to devise new taxes—not for the solutions to the dire problems that these two young politicians speak so eloquently about—but for a new stadium for Dick Jacobs and his Cleveland Indians.

The Establishment, now $24 million in debt for its vacant Central Market “domed” stadium site, wants a bailout of its embarrassment by the city and state government.

So we are hearing sales tax increases or a sin tax levy (the most regressive of taxes, robbing even more from the poor) on the sale of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages—that would be earmarked to help pay for a $160-million stadium. With interest, the cost will be closer to $350 to $500 million.

If there can be increases in sales or sin taxes, why should not the money for such dire needs as alcohol and drug treatment, relief of homelessness, health centers, prenatal and baby care, just to mention a few?

Why is it that the politicians who speak so eloquently about the needs of those in the society so deprived, can so easily be pressured to put ahead of those needs what the business community wants high on the public agenda?

Who needs public help more—those we say are suffering the ills associated with poverty—or sports team owners rated in the one-half billionaire set and their ballplayers who have become million-dollar-a-year .222 hitters?

Hagan and White are either going to have to tone down their rhetoric or face those embarrassing questions.

For an article recently I got statistics from the Council of Churches on the numbers receiving Aid to Dependent Children. The figures were shocking not only for the total numbers but even more for who those numbers represented.

They represented the city’s future, far more than a new stadium.

There are a shocking 90,000 children on ADC (receiving 41 percent of what Ohio under the liberal Gov. Dick Celeste, a big booster of a stadium pays for upkeep). But more devastatingly 30,000 of the 90,000 were babies 4-years old and under. And 90 percent of these babies were cared for by a single parent, female, who was 20 years old or younger.

That’s another entire generation we seem to be writing off to the ravages of poverty.

While many dismiss another poverty study, I won’t be so quick to condemn the move. Partly because in today’s world everyone needs to speak to the public through the news media.

And by generating information about poverty the news media may well pay some attention to those problems.

It’s easy for the sports establishment to command news media attention.

Can you imagine what we might learn if the news media turned its resources, money and power in examining the problems of poverty as it did in it saturation (and disgusting, I might add) treatment of The Game?

The pressure is on for finding taxes to build a massively publicly financed stadium for our sports millionaires.

That’s because of the embarrassing position of the Domed, now the New Stadium Corp, has put itself.
Cleveland banks—led by Ameritrust—have been rolling over debt owed by the Stadium Corp. for the land bought and cleared at the Central Market site.

Likewise the State Ohio, penurious with welfare clients, has been very reasonable with the stadium group, rolling over a $4-million, 5 percent loan, last May and again in December, with an additional $800,000 in interest). The commercial banks that have extended loans to the Stadium Corp. have agreed to a six month extension as a gesture of continuing good faith toward the project.” That means the new stadium group owes $24.1 million at least with interest accruing on both principal and interest. (Note: it ended up costing us $40 million as the site for Gateway).

As in the savings and loan scandal, apparently, the business establishment feels it can simply call upon the appropriate politicians to bail them out.

We won’t have to wait long to learn if White and Hagan talk a better game but are just as easy picking as Voinovich for the business establishment and its needs.

We learned that White and Hagan were even more lenient with the Cleveland corporates.

Below are some of the even more generous subsidy costs forced after Gateway added an arena to lure the Cavs here. The owners forced the politicians into heavier spending, for which will be paying until 2023 when we will pick up the costs in 2024 of this newest deal, or steal. You be the judge. Here are annual costs for bonds on arena overruns:

170427 roldo tax payments

In 2018 through 2023 the interest costs from this and succeeding years will be paid from the County general fund, the city’s admission taxes and bed taxes.

Cuyahoga County, a billion dollar in debt, facing losses at its new convention center and county-owned hotel next door, is shrinking in population, as is the city, with increasing poverty.

However, it has enough money to provide entertainment for the population of surrounding Ohio counties who don’t have to pay the cost of these facilities unless some directly use the premises.

It’s a good deal for those outsiders with enough discretionary income to enjoy what Cleveland and Cuyahoga County residents have provided.

By Roldo Bartimole…

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