October 4th, 2017

Cuyahoga County has released its bond prospectus showing more than $140 million to be borrowed for the Quicken Arena expansion.

The issue that never got the vote it deserved. Politicians, corporate interests and even citizen action forces jilted citizens of a voice on a give-away to seven times billionaire Danny Gilbert, all around capitalist money-grabber.

The sordid deal was made after the city refused to examine for validity more than 20,000 gathered signatures (some 6,000 valid were needed) calling for a vote on the subsidy deal and after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the city must examine the signatures. City Council, under Mayor Frank Jackson’s pressure, had voted to provide some $88 million of city money to the expansion. Council then refused to validate signatures. Some 22,000 Clevelanders didn’t matter.

The Greater Cleveland Congregations, which helped gather the signatures, however, withdrew them, apparently under pressure from business, political and other church sell-outs.

The first glimmer of live civic action here in decades was aborted by those who had provided such hope. A sad spectacle.

The rich coerce the poor in Democratic Cleveland. And call it Progress. No wonder so few, less than 13 percent, bothered to vote in the primary. A waste of time, they conclude.

One of the three new County bond calls for annual payments of $850,000 in 2020 to annual payments in the one to three million dollars a year. These payments end in 2035 with a final disbursement of $3.1 million.

Money will flow out of county and city revenues to pay these costs.

Dribs and drabs to Cleveland politicians. It’s not their money but yours.

Another bond offer calls for annual payments through 2035, concluding with a payment of $4.1 million in that year. A third bond offering calls for payments to start next year and end in 2024 with a final $1.9 million payout.

The County and city of Cleveland would pay these obligations.

Cuyahoga County already has significant debt.

The Democratic dominated Cuyahoga County keeps nickel and diming us with regressive taxes and fees. Presently, the County wants to raise the car registration fee by $5 to $60 for another $5 million grab.

They’re running out of tax source.

Is another sales tax hike in County Executive Armond Budish’s plans?

The County, run by Democrats, continues to use highly regressive taxes to fund greatly subsidized developments, primarily in downtown Cleveland. (The developments usually come with measures that also cut property taxes from the subsidized projects. This makes them highly lucrative for the user.)

In the past decade downtown elite forces have pressured the county and city into heavily subsidizing projects, including a convention center, a so-called medical mart building and a hotel.

Former County Commissioner Tim Hagan, with the help of Mayor Frank Jackson pushed for the convention project. It took a long and tedious effort, powered primarily by the lure of a medical mart, which has become a laughable mirage.)

Hagan proposed and pushed a quarter percent sales tax of 20 year duration to get the projects rolling. A twenty-year tax that likely will hit $1 billion. Ouch.

So far since 2009 the quarter percent jump in the sales tax Hagan proposed has cost Cuyahoga County purchasers $463 million, as of September 2017.

The tax goes to pay bondholders for the convention center, the pretend medical mart and a county-owned Hilton Hotel.

Already this year it cost us $42,770,309. Last year’s total was $54,755,708. It has 10 more years to go, if it isn’t extended. It’s hard to give up that kind of money, all from regressive taxes, pushed by County Democrats. And they wonder why people are apathetic to their candidacies.

In the past week, Cuyahoga County has committed itself to three bond issues of $35,000,000, $35,265,000, and $70,530,000 each.

You have probably already guessed the $140,795,000 is for the Quicken Arena redo. The issue more than 20,000 signatures (13,000 valid) were collected but tossed away, essentially by the Greater Cleveland Congregations, an entity of religious and other groups aiming to help the less privileged. (The County and City are still paying on bonds let in the 1990s for the Quicken Arena and will continue until 2023.

The total presently amounts to some $150 million in county general fund and city admission tax money.

Before this new debt was taken on by the county, a report by William Tarter of the Center for Community Solutions showed Cuyahoga County more than $1 billion in debt.

I asked County Council finance committee chairman how he felt about the outlook of the county’s debt situation. He said with a slight pause, “Difficult. Things are difficult,” said the low-key Councilman Miller.

They’re more than difficult. They could be terrifying. Because these aren’t the only debts the county faces. And the outlook for higher taxes, likely to be tried, isn’t good. There’s so much you can squeeze from a district losing population. Especially when you give incentives to move out.

County Executive Armond Budish and Cleveland Mayor Jackson face some troubling times. And citizens are, unfortunately, condemned to ride with them.

With Jackson fighting for a fourth term in November I wouldn’t be surprised that he is looking for another term to dodge fiscal trouble from being revealed. (Ralph Perk did this in the late 1970s. Dennis Kucinich paid the price when Cleveland banks failed to roll over debt as they had done for Perk. The city ended in default.) If there’s a new mayor I’d suggest he call for an independent audit immediately.

Kucinich failed to do this. He paid the price.

The usual Cleveland suspects have their hands in this deal. Bond co-counsels are Fred Nance’s Squire, Patton & Boggs (formerly
Squire-Sanders) and Forbes, Field & Associates. Underwriters include entities of Key Banc, PNC and Fifth Federal. Trustee is Huntington Bank.

And finally, the “advisor” is Tim Offtermatt’s Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

Offtermatt, until the Q deal was announced, had been chairman of Gateway Economic Development Corp., the non-profit that runs the baseball and basketball facilities.

All tied up in a pretty bow. That’s Cleveland, folks.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Garry Kanter says:

    There’s not a single “Democrat” calling any shots within Cuyahoga County.
    The GCP – the local chapter of the US Chamber of Commerce – and all those law firms calls the shots, and the political party here is a monopoly that cynically and misleadingly uses the label “Democrat”.

  2. Thanks for comment Gary.

    Yes, the Gr. Cleveland Partnership is the instrument used by corporate Cleveland to lobby for its welfare deals.

    However, those voting the deals primarily carry a “D” to indicate Democratic Party, and they are failing those who vote for them by carrying GCP’s water.

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