Separating Fact From Fiction With Issue 7
Author’s note: the following is a slighty-modified version of a column scheduled to appear in The Gavel, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s independent student newspaper, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Wahoo’s on First or its staff, Fansided or its partners, or anyone other than the author.
Every time I see propaganda from the Keep Cleveland Strong campaign, I laugh a little. After my laughter, I get angry.
I laugh because the name is a complete misnomer to what the campaign actually stands for: passing Issue 7, an extension of the Sin Tax on cigarettes and alcohol, which in theory, would reimburse Cuyahoga County for updates and repairs to the stadiums of the three professional sports teams in town (along with more tacked-on public subsidies, including the Parking Tax, Bed Tax, Video Game Tax and Property Tax exemption, though these are not on the ballot with Issue 7).
I get angry because an extension of the Sin Tax does anything but keep Cleveland strong. The marketing blitz (which you will see at any event in Quicken Loans Arena or Progressive Field until May 6; FirstEnergy Stadium does not appear to have any events until the NFL returns in August) feeds upon Clevelanders passion for their pro sports teams, and offers very little in terms of actual facts. Extending the Sin Tax will not keep Cleveland strong – if anything it will keep this city enslaved and committed to three professional sports teams more interested in their businesses’ bottom lines than having an economically healthy City of Cleveland.
Those who support the Sin Tax (often connected in some way with one of the teams) frequently cite the city’s obligations to finance the stadiums, yet there’s been no public record of how this money (an estimated $1 billion in taxpayer dollars since first enacted in 1994) has actually been used for the stadiums, or even what the obligations of the city actually are. These supporters ignore that no one – even those of us who oppose Issue 7 – is claiming the city should neglect these obligations completely, and also ignore how the owners continue to profit from stadiums supposedly owned by the public (such as Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s pocketing of a $100 million dollar sale of the naming rights to former-Cleveland Browns Stadium). There are other alternatives to fund these stadiums, ones that wouldn’t fall squarely on the already-burdened Cuyahoga County residents. I would encourage all voters to visit www.noclevelandsintax.com for a more in-depth look at a few of the alternatives.
One threat the Keep Cleveland Strong brass loves to insinuate is that if Issue 7 fails, Cleveland could lose one or more of its professional sports teams. This is an outright lie, at least as they spin it; voting “no” on Issue 7 will force the teams and the city back to the negotiating table to work on a fair deal for BOTH sides, and not use parameters from a lease hastily signed over 20 years ago. It’s also worth noting Issue 7 extends for 20 years – none of the sports teams’ leases go longer than 15 years. If one of the teams leaves Cleveland, it’s because the city leaders have failed to make Cleveland economically viable for all, not just the rich.
If you love Cleveland, please vote “no” on Issue 7 this May. If you love Cleveland sports, please vote “no” on Issue 7 this May. If you want to live, work and play in an economically-healthy and strong Cleveland, voting “no” on the Sin Tax is the BEST way to keep Cleveland strong.
[Editor's Note: Making any important voting decision comes down to having all the facts. While Ed has presented why you should vote "No" on Issue 7 and the link for the Coalition Against the Sin Tax, I feel it is important to provide you with the opportunity to review both sides. With that said, you can review Keep Cleveland Strong's information by visiting www.keepclevelandstrong.com.]