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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cuyahoga County -- The Big Tax Shock is Coming!

The below post from the Cleveland Leader is written by Roldo Bartimole. Roldo was a long time writer for Free Times magazine

Roldo may be left of Tea Party thinking -- but be it Republicans or Democrats, Roldo has always been an outspoken critic of the corporate cronyism and sweetheart deals given to the same corporate interests and non-profits that have been continually fleecing the residents of Cuyahoga County for many years. 

That being said -- when it comes to knowledge on the inside players, relationships and back room dealing in Cuyahoga County, by far, if Roldo writes it - you can be sure it is accurate.

While Cuyahoga County residents blindly supported a County Reform, we see the same business groups & non-profits that pushed the County Reform, are still fleecing the residents. But now, instead of it being through the County Commissioners - it is now through Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Cuyahoga County Council....

From The Cleveland Leader --

Our sleepy news media and non-existent citizen action will soon be costing residents of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County very Big Bucks. In the hundreds of millions. Almost all from our dispirited hard-pressed people.

As the Plain Dealer, WKYC, WEWS, WJW and WOIO feed us more sports, weather and crime, our real community decisions go unattended - bombs ready to explode. Our reformed County government quietly has set explosives of tax revenue no one wants to notice.


- We have now built a huge convention center with no guarantee that it will do anything but cost us tax revenue. Expect a big money loser despite the propaganda.

- We have built and must operate a medical mart (I don't care what new name it's given) that will cost us money to operate with no guarantee of paying its bills.

- Most disturbing, County Executive Ed Fitzgerald (who will be long gone) and his County Council have indebted County residents to build at taxpayer expense the largest hotel (600-650 rooms) in Cleveland at a public cost of $270,330,000. If only. The County will own this hotel and I guarantee it will LOSE MONEY. Year after year.

The city also has committed $8 million so far. The hotel will keep another $7,680,000 in our 8 percent sales tax for itself. And there will be more tax gifts. You can bet on it.

Of course, all this takes place with NO public vote.

The public? Screw them. Indeed. There has been little discussion. Why discuss what's already decided behind closed doors?

And who did the study for this hotel? Something called PFK Consulting. Who did PFK work for?

Positively Cleveland (PC). The convention bureau promoters. Who provides millions of dollars a year to Positively Cleveland? Cuyahoga County. Via bed taxes.

It's a totally fixed game.

The County provided this so-called non-profit PC $6,285,952 in 2011. It does similarly every year. Meanwhile, its private members, who benefit from the hefty tax gift, only contributed $532,206, or about 8 percent of PC's budget.

Positively Cleveland paid its 2011 boss Dennis Roche $359,692, latest IRS figure. Not too shabby, huh? Five others are paid more than $100,000 a year. David Gilbert is now the president and CEO.

To build the hotel, the County had to move its main offices and knock the building down at Lakeside & Ontario, an especially prime real estate spot.

At the same time, the County destructs its old offices, it give the land to the hotel project AND has to rent new space for a new County Headquarter until it gets new offices. New offices will be built on property the County once owned and lost millions of dollars purchasing from Dick Jacobs. Favor just never stop.

Such deals are made in heaven. For developers. Taxpayers pick up the costs.

The County will then rent from the new developer at $6.7 million a year, or $67 million for a 10 year period. No telling how much it will cost for this move or how much other space the County will require to rent or buy.

These are decisions no one really knows real the true costs will be over time.

We do know the public - you - will pay.

Another great scam is in the waiting. Before sticking the knife in, however, our public officials will wait until next year. Even they know they're asking voters for too much this year.

Our new, presumably honest County leaders will be ready to extend the sin tax another $200 million for at least 20 more years for our needy sports chiselers. I'll bet the Dolans, Haslams and Gilberts are privately upset they have to stand in line until next year.

Taxes are very easy to level. Especially when they are leveled on someone else.

That's you, in case you haven't picked up the gist of this.

We have already (as I've been telling year after year) now collected $240 million for the first sin tax for our sports entrepreneurs since 1990. We added another $110,424,933 (as of Sept. 30) for the second term of sin taxes for Browns Stadium.

The next bite will be for 20 years or some $220 million (likely much more as sales-taxed prices rise).

For a grand total of at least $570 million. Not counting free property taxes, free team parking privileges and other gifts along the way.

Is there anything left of the private sector in Cleveland? Do any big shots pay any of the freight? Ever? They only raise seat prices and cling to low wages for workers.

The party hardly stops there. We seem to be flush with give-away cash. Amid poverty and joblessness, too.

We will still be paying the medical mart/convention center one-quarter percent sales tax (thanks Tim Hagan) until 2028. Fifteen more years. Unless they extend, surely a well-worn habit. As of the end of this September it has cost Cuyahoga County taxpayers $242,148,943. See how a quarter-percent can add up. It is costing consumers more than the $40 million a year now.

And as prices of goods keep inflating, it's likely to flirt with the $1 billion mark.

Where do you think these dribs and drabs of hundreds of millions of dollars - with no end in sight - come from?

YOU! By the nickel and dime.

You know it comes most regressively from the least of us. You know the Romney 47 percent. The takers, he said.

Mitt told us just how these people think and operate:

“There are 47 percent of the people … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. … These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Personal responsibility? What a joke.

The 47 percent may not pay much or any income taxes since they have no or little income. But they pay all those sales taxes on all the products they need for themselves and their children.

And as Republican policies keep crushing the poor, Democrats essentially sit back and wring their hands. And give more subsidies to the wealthy.

Cuyahoga County politicians - the Ed Fitzgeralds and the Ellen Connollys and the rest of the County Council - are willing to look the other way.


These issues are grinding people down. This is a good part of the reason we have so many desperate people doing so many desperate acts.

Parts of the town remind me a book I just read, "The Last Man in Russia," which describes the disintegration of so much of the former Soviet Union where desperation led to dire population loss, heavy drunkenness and early deaths. The recent data on infant deaths in some areas of Cleveland have fallen below that of many Third World countries, to say nothing of the devastating conditions women in many parts of the city endure.

But we collected another $119,124,658 as of Sept. 30 (since February 2007) for arts and culture.

There is no special tax for needy infants.

Why are we not getting news of what is happening to people suffering in the economic vise? We certainly aren't at a loss for publicity (news?) about new beers or restaurants? Is that now the duty of journalists? To keep us alert to new beers?

Where is the fairness? Where are those leaders who speak for these needs?

Our priorities are sharply out of whack.

Aren't there enough people here who are tired of these top business and political leaders riding high? Are there reporters willing not to look the other way, willing not to give us ball scores and the weather reports instead of the brutal truth of everyday life here?

It's time to say, "NO!" to some of these politicians and their string-pullers at our foundations, at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, and on our top institutional boards. They are the problem, not the solution.

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