Thursday, May 1, 2014

Comments on Cuyahoga County Issue #7 and the Lack of Public Discourse

Image by Jim Ptacek, Cleveland Artist.
In anticipation of Tuesday's election and vote on Issue #7, I want constituents and friends know that although I've been outspoken in calling for more information and facts regarding our pro-sports agreements, the City and County's obligations and more, that I ultimately made the decision to not actively oppose nor support the issue.

I have assisted in obtaining agreements and documents, confirming questions, developing an FAQ and sharing information with the public. But, ultimately made the decision to not actively oppose the issue because of the underlying legal and financial obligations the City has relative to capital maintenance and improvements under the existing agreements and the fact that I want to maintain relationships with all parties.

Unfortunately, due by design, complacency or lack of action from elected leadership from the City and County, very little public information was released or initiated prior to the issue being placed on the ballot. I made efforts in January 2013 to bring light to the issue and begin debate, but it wasn't until December 2013 that the City hurried through the $30 million agreement with the Browns, and then several months later the County rushed the issue to the ballot in two weeks.

I applaud the efforts of the Coalition Against the Sin Tax, the longstanding work of Roldo Bartimole to bring light to the details and levels of corporate welfare in the City and region, the thoughtful commentary of Pastor R. Mark Giuliano and the national attention this issue has spurred from the likes of David Cay Johnston (Newsweek) and Ralph Nader. (See links to their pieces below in the comment section).

There are serious questions that are being asked that deserve to be discussed. Questions regarding corporate welfare and ultimately how the obligations of the City and County are being met (or not) by taxpayers, businesses and those that benefit financially from public investments.

It's difficult, but individuals also need to speak out and question and support efforts in demanding the space and time needed to have fuller public discourse. It's a small/big town/region and many people are afraid to speak out, in fear of their career ladders being blocked or their reputations being marred.

Public discourse and ultimately strong political leadership is needed to ensure Cleveland and the region's success. Adversaries need to be able to agree to disagree and public inclusion and consensus should be our goal. But, when discourse is stifled, information is limited and decision's rushed, it deepens the public's mistrust of government and ultimately hopes for the community's future.

Our residents and local small businesses need more of our attention. Our region must be more united in developing effective community and economic development strategies that do more than re-parcel the existing benefits from our economy or provide gross subsidies to large corporations while providing very little to the economic engine of small businesses.

There are a lot of great initiatives and parts of our historic legacy that we should be proud of. There are also some very dis-functional old habits we have as a City and Region and very few seem to like change. But, change it must be. Are you or will you become a part of that change?


Stopping Cleveland’s Corporate Freeloaders
The Nader Page, 5/1/2014

Writings of Roldo Bartimole at the Cleveland Leader.

Wealthy Sports Team Owners Want Taxbreaks to Go on Forever
By David Cay Johnston, NEWSWEEK, 4/23/14

Love the sin, hate the sin tax
R. Mark Giuliano, Guest Columnist,, 4/21/2014

FAQ - Proposed extension of alcohol and cigarette taxes for sports facilities - Cuyahoga County
Brian Cummins, 3/16/2014

Cleveland Browns Stadium gets new name as old sin tax expires in 2015
Brian Cummins, 1/18/2013

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