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Friday, May 2, 2014

Reason #7,392 to Vote No on Issue 7: Cuyahoga County Council Admits They Do Not Know How Sin Tax Money Will Be Spent!


Confirming the elected officials on Cuyahoga County Council were derelict in duty regarding Issue 7 the Sin Tax extension - you will see below - even though they did not know how the funds for the Sin Tax extension would be spentthey voted to put it on the ballot anyway. 

If the “sin tax” for stadiums passes May 6, who decides how much will go to the city of Cleveland, and how much to Gateway?

Who’ll decide what gets replaced first — the Quicken Loans Arena roof or the ramps at Progressive Field or the seats at FirstEnergy Stadium? Can any of it go to pay off construction debt, or will it all go to repairs and new scoreboards?

We don’t know. No one does. The city and Cuyahoga County still have to negotiate how they’ll share the alcohol and cigarette tax money. The negotiations won’t be easy. And they don’t intend to hash it out until after voters approve the tax. 

“We do recognize that this is a gap in the legislation,” county councilman Dave Greenspan told me recently. “It is an issue we will need to deliberate on.” 

The “sin tax” on alcohol and cigarettes is a county tax. So if voters extend it, the Cuyahoga County Council gets to decide how it’s spent. But city, county and business leaders say the extension is meant for repairs at all three publicly-owned sports facilities. (You can see the Indians' and Cavs' wish lists and a report about the Browns' stadium here.)

The city owns the football stadium, while the public Gateway corporation owns the baseball stadium and basketball arena. How will the money be divided? 

“I think it will probably be even,” Mayor Frank Jackson said at the February press conference that kicked off the pro-sin tax campaign. Jackson wants the tax revenue, a projected $260 million over 20 years, to be split equally among baseball, football, and basketball. 

But at a January meeting, Greenspan and three other Cuyahoga County council members warned Jackson’s chief of staff, Ken Silliman, not to expect an even split. 

“A third, a third, a third is not something I am interested in,” Greenspan tells me. “I’m a big believer that the money follows the need. If in one year, Progressive Field has greater needs than the other two, that’s where money will go.” 

The city and county haven’t had to share stadium money like this before. The first stadium sin tax, from 1990 to 2005, was earmarked for Gateway, to build Progressive Field and the Q. When the tax was renewed for 2005 to 2015, the first $116 million was earmarked for building and repairing FirstEnergy Stadium. (The last year or so of the tax will go to the county.) 

But if the tax is extended to 2035, the city and county will have competing interests for the same pot of cash. The Jackson and FitzGerald administrations want to negotiate a cooperative agreement to figure out how to sort through those interests. 

It’ll be tough. The Browns’ lease is more complex and vague about what the public has to pay for than the Indians’ and Cavs’ leases. The football stadium is newer and is used less often, but it’s bigger, and it’s battered by lakeshore winds. Gateway already has a system for weighing Progressive Field’s repair needs versus the Q’s. But that doesn’t help any with the football stadium -- unless Gateway were to take it over too. 

The county will have the upper hand in negotiations with the city, because it levies the tax. But the cost of public stadium ownership is falling harder on the city right now. Cleveland is still paying off $13 million a year in construction debt on the football stadium, while the county is paying off $9 million a year in debt from the Q. 

Could any sin tax money go to those old debts? City councilmen Brian Cummins and Mike Polensek have asked that question, and Jackson has entertained the possibility. But it seems unlikely. The county council sounds unwilling to hand over a straight third of the tax money to the city, and the county seems entirely focused on future repairs, not past debt. 

Why wasn’t this all figured out before the tax went on the ballot? Greenspan asked that question at the January meeting. 

“Those discussions need to happen, in my opinion, before the vote in May,” he said then, “so that the voters understand the complexity and understand the fundamental decision-making process as to how these funds are going to be used.” 

He was ignored. Our elected officials would rather present a united front to get the tax passed, then argue about the messy details later.
And as we see - even though County Councilman Greenspan's concerns were ignored - all members of the County Council, including Greenspan - voted to put Issue 7 the Sin Tax extension on the ballot.

This is the same Cuyahoga County "take the money & run" attitude that has plagued this area for far too long!  So much for the County Reform as it looks more like the status quo of weak and spineless elected officials unwilling to stand up for the people in Cuyahoga County!

By Voting No on Issue 7 - you will simply be forcing the elected leaders of this area to do the job they were elected to do!

1 comment:

  1. This issue is the absurdity of absurdities. Let me get this straight: the purpose of the Sin Tax is to gouge those who purchase alcohol and cigarettes not because anyone is trying to discourage consumption but rather so the County can use that money to pay for sports stadiums that do not produce anything but a fleeting moment witnessing the passing of a football, the dribbling of a basketball and the throwing of a baseball so that such a minute tidbit of diversion can be enjoyed by all. The stupidity of this proposition is enough to make your head spin even though the spin doctors advocating passage of this nonsense are already doing a pretty good job of hypnotizing the voters to actually consider supporting it. At least the Robber Barons of the previous centuries provided something tangible such as oil, steel, railroads etcetera. These team owners do not even provide one tangible thing that could ever be considered with the term “value added.” Almost everyone discusses this “enterprise” as though it is the same thing as industry {which it is not}. The price of admission is essentially a voluntary tax paid by those who can afford it to pay those who don’t need it. If this isn’t a transfer of wealth I don’t know what is.

    The real outrage here is the fact that taxes on alcohol and cigarettes will not be used to aid in the reduction of addiction {hence the reference to “sin”} but rather to stuff the pockets of all three teams who could easily afford to pay for the repairs themselves. The vote was rammed through the last time {under somewhat suspicious circumstances} and hear we go again. But this time...not so fast!!! We the voters of Cuyahoga County are going to fight the proponents on this one and we don't care if the teams up and go somewhere else {please see my views on entertainment below} because quite frankly there are simply more important things than sports and the unearned money that comes with it. Those in public office who are too stupid and lazy to find other ways to grow a major American city need to resign and leave their self-seeking political ambitions on the scrapheap of history. Don’t ever let it be said that this was time when the tide ran out on Cuyahoga County but rather was the time when the voters rose up to welcome the rising tide of change and rebuked this pathetic paradigm our previous elected leaders embraced. Let the battle be joined.

    And now to the real underlying issue at hand:

    One of the most disturbing facts about our capitalist nation is the misappropriation of funds directed to the salaries of entertainers. Everyone should agree that the value an athlete, movie star, talk-show host, team-owner, etcetera brings to the average citizen is very small. Granted, they do offer a minuscule of diversion from our daily trials and tribulations as did the jesters in the king's court during the middle ages. But to allow these entertainers to horde such great amounts of wealth at the expense of more benevolent societal programs is unacceptable. They do not provide a product or a service so why are they rewarded as such?

    Our society is also subjected to the "profound wisdom" of these people because it equates wealth with influence. Perhaps a solution to this problem and a alternative to defeated school levies, crumbling infrastructures, as well as all the programs established to help feed, clothe and shelter those who cannot help themselves would be to tax this undeserved wealth. Entertainers could keep 1% of the gross earnings reaped from their endeavor and 99% could be deposited into the public coffers.

    The old ideas of the redistribution of wealth have failed, and it is time to adapt to modern-day preferences. People put their money into entertainment above everything else; isn't it time to tap that wealth? Does anyone think this will reduce the quality of entertainment? It seems to me that when entertainers received less income, the quality was much higher.


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