Fiscal Abuse of Cleveland & County Taxpayer

Fiscal Abuse of Cleveland & County Taxpayer

170324 roldo corruption

Between Progressive Field, First Energy Stadium and Quicken Arena, and the Republican National Convention at the Q, the city of Cleveland provided more than 100,000 hours of extra police protection downtown in 2016.

To be exact, 100,767.75 hours of police time were expended downtown through the last pay period of 2016, according to the city of Cleveland. From which neighborhoods did these police services come? The 100,000 hours means, at 40-hour weeks, more than 2,500 weeks of work by Cleveland police were expended downtown, a small part of the City of Cleveland. There are, we know, 52 weeks in a year. That suggests 48 years of service in one year were provided to downtown.

At least the RNC costs were supported by funding outside the city. And these figures don't count the normal police protection given downtown. The late Art Modell put it most succinctly when he admitted: "We are 32 fat-cat Republicans who vote socialist (on football)." Of course, our city and county government is dominated by Democrats, not Republicans. Democratic politicians, led by County Executive Budish and Mayor Jackson, service the richest in this poor, declining city and county. Figures showed this week that the county continues to lose population. These costs fall upon fewer and fewer citizens.

The city provided the numbers of police services as follows for extra police hours:

---RNC related: 76,970 hours. ---Cleveland Indians: 6,891.5 hours. ---Cleveland Browns: 4,960.75 hours. ---

Cavaliers & other related events at Quicken Arena: 11,945.5 hours. Last year the city provided more than 34,000 hours of extra police service to the three sports facilities. (I noted recently that the three sports facilities escaped paying $20 million of property taxes in the most recent year. They have been given the additional perk of paying no property taxes as the structures are totally tax exempted forever.) The cause of all this free police service dates back to the Mayor Michael White era when he promised (and Council legislated) a certain number of police officers assigned to the sports facilities based on the attendance at a particular game. The city said it was unable to provide figures as to how many of those hours were police officers on overtime, which would, of course, increase the cost. How much do we owe billionaire sports owner families? Apparently, the sky is the limit. But they don't only receive free money. They receive free services. Free financing of their police protection. I didn't ask for the help provided to these events by the fire department or EMS or other services. That would simply add to the costs. The pressure for the city and county to give tens of millions of dollars to the arena re-do is immense, according to council members, with threat and offers of favors. This is civic corruption at its highest. The Plain Dealer, information leader here, has gone beyond itself in selling this arena deal. The tone was set by Betsy Sullivan, head of the editorial department, with a bruising editorial against those who oppose the deal. The editorial started this way:

Leave aside the small-minded grousing. Forget the sideshows about how long ago the Cleveland Cavaliers started agitating for an upgrade to the Q or whether the bond counsel Cuyahoga County has picked for this complex is worth the money. (It is). The second guessing is intended to distract attention from the plain and obvious benefits of a $140 million deal Cuyahoga County stuck with the Cavs only after painstaking months-long negotiations. None of the 11th hour finger-pointing can devalue the facts - transparently shared with the public---of an arrangement that will pay dividends for decades without any increase in taxes and that will leave the public with a more valuable asset for half the cost it otherwise would entail...

In other words, SHUT UP. JUST DO IT. The PD continues to claim "no new taxes" as a big selling point. Yet the city and county will wait until 2024 to start reusing the city admission tax to pay for these new bonds for the arena. They don't tell the public that city admission taxes until 2023 are already being used to pay old arena bonds. Last year alone $3,856,963 in 2016 city admission taxes where used to pay old arena bonds. Cuyahoga County added $5.8 million from its general fund.

Those payments don't end until December 2023. If you then start using city admission taxes, which normally flow to the city's general fund to be used for many other costs, again in 2024, aren't they a new, diverted use of taxes. They end in 2023 but you start them again in 2024 for a new purpose. It does a disservice to the public, especially so since the lethargic Cleveland public has been somewhat awakened by civic groups trying to oppose the use of these public funds for private interests.

It continues contrivances long used, certainly since the 1990 sin tax push, by downtown and special interests to divert essentially hundreds of millions of public dollars to private use. This is why, unfortunately, the news media finds itself among the least trusted instruments of public concerns when it is given First Amendment rights, special freedoms, to tell the public the truth about public matters.

First published by Have Coffee Will Write on 26 March. Also by Roldo Bartimole...

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