May 3rd, 2017

For the first time since I moved to Cleveland back in November of 1984, Cuyahoga County’s corporate elites may actually get their hands slapped for digging down to the bottom of the cookie jar and I think we have to thank President Donald John Trump because he created this toxic political climate that has progressives in Cleveland, the nation and, indeed, the rest of the world rising up in protest.

Sam Allard, writing in Toward Undercurrents: On Regional Leaders, the Media and the Rotten Deal they Cherry-picked Facts to Propagate for Scene, ledes:

During the riveting April 21st edition of WCPN’s Reporter’s Roundtable, Editor Chris Quinn remarked upon Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s State of the County address.

“What was striking about the speech was that [Budish] took a real hard line, as firm as you ever hear from him, on the critics of the proposed Q deal,” Quinn said.

“He basically called a lot of the information out there ‘alt-facts.’ There’s been an undercurrent that somehow the Cavs aren’t paying for half of this, which they are. And he also talked about the idea that you would take the money that would go into this and spend it elsewhere as being wholly improper because the money largely comes from the Q taxes and from the hotel bed tax which has to go to tourism… The firmness of his statement was a bit of a shock.”

Indeed it was.

But Budish’s crusade against ‘alt-facts’ has failed to deter the coalition of citizen groups purportedly propagating them. That coalition, comprised of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268, is now collecting signatures for a referendum on the deal. The petition must be filed within 30 days of the legislation’s passage. (CCPC Political Director Steve Holecko managed to get a bankable quote from Bernie Sanders in a Q&A after the Senator’s City Club remarks Monday morning: “I don’t like that idea,” Sanders said, speaking of public subsidies for arenas generally. “That smacks to me of corporate welfare. I think billionaires can fund their own endeavors, and when you talk about a city which has blight, which has educational problems, I think what government should be doing is investing in the needs of working people and low-income people.”)

Those are ideas that regional leaders would surely get behind in the abstract, or in other American cities. But in the event, our elected crop has sounded a great deal more like Donald Trump, preaching about jobs and trickle-down economics as they decry fake news and mock or ostracize legitimate dissent.

In examining Mayor Frank Jackson’s explainer in Sunday’s Plain Dealer, Allard writes:

Mayor explains why The Q Deal is ‘a forward-thinking investment, the headline read. It appeared in Forum, the PD’s opinion section, so regular readers should have known what to expect, but why not “the Mayor argues that…” or “believes that…” or even “explains why he thinks that…”?

One reason might be: this is not an issue that traditionally needs to be argued around here at all. It’s supposed to be self-evident that the sports teams are soulful community partners, and that the (publicly owned!) facilities they inhabit are massive economic [auto parts] in need of occasional public lubing if we want to Keep Cleveland Strong. One can see the epileptic fits into which elected leaders have lately descended, and it’s a good bet that they’re annoyed because they’re not accustomed to having to defend this sort of thing. They often resort to a patronizing posture, (one that the PD framing bolsters): that we would all agree with them if we were only more educated on the issue.

No one has worked tirelessly to educate Clevelanders on this topic than Roldo Bartimole. After 30-plus years of constant lessons on how Cuyahoga County’s corporate elites have built their own palaces on the backs of the 99.9 percent, Roldo, and the rest of us, may get to see real change.

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