ROLDO: Why Won’t Plain Dealer Tell Truth of Sports Dollars?

By Roldo Bartimole

Why won’t a big city newspaper as the Plain Dealer total up what Cleveland and Cuyahoga County taxpayers have paid in taxes for the real demonstrable deadbeats (as Romney misidentifies them in his Lonesome Rhodes moment)?

Why is the Plain Dealer so reluctant to post what we have given a handful of sports owners in welfare? Why doesn’t Mark Naymik go the extra step in his columns about the financial dealings of the sports owners?

Why doesn’t Metro Editor Chris Quinn demand that his staff produce what is already readily available – the price we have paid?

What are they afraid of? What’s so dangerous about telling the truth?

Are they afraid that they might not be able to promote new taxes for sports facilities if they – in black and white – told what we have already given the billionaire owners? Is that their fear? Why? Why should they be afraid? Who do they fear hurting?

Where are Mayor Frank Jackson and Council President Martin Sweeney and County Executive Ed Fitzgerald hiding?

The true figures of the immense welfare given sports owners in this town are readily available. There is a spread sheet in the Cuyahoga County offices that provides all the data needed. The editors are always carping on public information. Then when it’s there, they ignore it. Why?

If they can’t find it I have it below in simply arithmetic.

Is there one single politician who will speak the truth about this massive welfare provided to our richest citizens – and non-citizens as Browns owner Jimmy (isn’t that cute) Haslam is – and say, “Enough!” Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps.

City Council is to entertain Haslam on Wednesday. Will there be one Council member who will tell Haslam, who paid nearly $1 billion for the Cleveland Browns, to pay for his own stadium?

Below is a list of how much money we Cleveland and Cuyahoga taxpayers have paid. It was compiled by county personnel in January 2012 and published by me in March 2012.

What year or when ever will the Plain Dealer provide this information.

Is it too much to ask a big city newspaper? Are they that weak they can’t tell the truth?

Here is the readily available information on how much we paid:

$240.5 Million (1st 15 years of sin tax)
$116.0 Million (County general fund payments for Gateway bonds)
$38.2 Million (City admission tax for Gateway Bonds)
$8.6 Million (County Bed Taxes for Gateway Bonds)
$8.8 Million (excess from sin taxes for Gateway Bonds)
$21.3 Million (labeled as “other” for County Gateway Bonds)
$3.75 Million (County to reimburse State Loan for Gateway)
$3.75 Million (City to reimburse State Loan for Gateway)
$5.8 Million (City advance to Browns for Capital Improvements)
$2.0 Million (Repay loan from Cleveland Foundation for Gateway)
$11.5 Million (County payment on Gateway overruns)

Yeah, that much.

Total Cost thus far: $460.2 Million. This is the most comprehensive accounting of the public cost of Cleveland’s sports venues anyone has produced.

(I wonder if the IRS ever thinks of totting all this free stuff for income tax purposes. They seem ready to do it for Jimmy Dimora.)

Let’s stop this madness.

It’s not over. Some payments continue to 2023. So it will be more than $460 million.

The tab is even still higher. We could add $37 million from State of Ohio; $3 million RTA; $2.24 million Cleveland Sewer Dept.; $1.2 million City Water Dept. That’s just for Browns stadium.

I don’t have current figures for what Clevelanders are paying on bonds for the football stadium. However, by May 2009 the city had paid $102,823,947 and still owed $160,367,109 for bonds. Payments extend to 2027.

In addition to the sin tax money, the city – to pay for Browns stadium – added an 8 percent tax on all parking in the city; raised the admission tax on all events by 2 per cent; and added a $2 a car rental fee. All dedicated to pay Lerner’s bills. (A full discussion of the Browns funding is here.)

All those added city taxes, plus the list above brings the total well more than a half billion dollars with many more years to pay. (Can you imagine what we are spending nationally on these sports parasites? In the billions of dollars.) And we blame teachers for our fiscal troubles?

The owners still want more. Why not if we give so easily.

The Browns and business community – Greater Cleveland Partnership leading the parade – are asking for more sin taxes at about $13-$14 million a year to be extended presumably for another 10 years. That’s another $130 to $140 million.

Isn’t it time we stopped this madness?

By the way, the second 10 years of sin tax has resulted in another $95 million, as of August, 2010 for Browns Stadium.

Tell the PD to begin to tell the truth. Paste this information in the comment section of every story or column the PD presents on more money for the sports venues.

My solution is simple: Sell each of these sports facilities to the team owners for $1. And let them start paying their own costs.


Roldo Bartimole has been reporting since 1959. He came to Cleveland in 1965 to report for the Plain Dealer where he worked twice in the 1960s, left for the Wall Street Journal in 1967. He started publishing his newsletter Point of View in 1968 and ended it in 2000.

In 1991 he was awarded the Second Annual Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage in Washington, D.C. He received the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, Cleveland chapter, in 2002, and was named to the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame, 2004. [Photo by Todd Bartimole.]


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2 Responses to “ROLDO: Why Won’t Plain Dealer Tell Truth of Sports Dollars?”

  1. As always, top notch stuff……Roldo is the best writer in town to have never (but should have) won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing.

  2. Roldo Bartimole

    Thanks Peanuts, it could never happen.

    Hope you and Bob saw the disgusting photo of the obsequious Council members with the new
    Browns owner. Here they are enjoying themselves with a billionaire that they are expected
    to now further subsidize. They bend over and ask, do whatever you want Mr. rich guy.

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