ROLDO: Bad Movement to Metroparks

By Roldo Bartimole

Plain Dealer columnist Mark Naymik did us a great service in alerting us to the damage being done to our parks. The city of Cleveland unloaded a number of parks to the state in the late 1970s.

I fear the paper may be going in the wrong direction now. Toward a quick solution. The wrong one.

The task should be to force the State of Ohio to do the job it promised to do when it took the parkland from the city. And that was to operate them efficiently and to the benefit of citizens of northeast Ohio. No more, no less.

There should be no excuses as to why Ohio cannot do the job.

The administration of Gov. John Kasich is fluffing off too many tasks that are the state responsibilities at the same time diverting revenue from local communities. This is a plan for disaster. Ask Californians.

The state has more access to money than the city or Cuyahoga County.

The parks can be used by all Ohioans. They are a state asset.

They should be a treasure for the state.

No excuse should be allowed to alter the fact that the State of Ohio has an obligation to keep these park and recreation areas absolutely clean and functional.

Here’s in part what I said a couple of weeks ago:

(Former Cleveland city planner Norman) Krumholz now says that the same reason he wanted the state to take over from the city (in 1978) is the basis of his belief that the state should maintain responsibility for care of the parks…

That reason is bigger pockets.

The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources has a program budget of $71.5 million last year with $29.8 million devoted to state park operations and $36 million to the division of parks and recreation. The state also simply has more ability to raise funds. More equitably since it has the entire state population.

The last property tax for 2011 brought Metroparks $54-million for all its operations. Its funding rests primarily with the residents of Cuyahoga County via the property tax.

Just as Krumholz didn’t think the taxpayers of Cleveland should be responsible for cost of the parks he doesn’t believe the taxpayers of Cuyahoga County should be responsible for their care now. The cost is too high.

Further, the board is made up of three unelected members appointed by a judge. Voters have no say in membership. Indeed, can anyone name the three Metroparks board members? Metroparks gets almost no critical news coverage.

This shouldn’t be a crusade for the paper to win a prize. So the PD shouldn’t look at this issue for its own aggrandizement with thoughts of leading us to give the parks to Metroparks, essentially a county entity. An editorial push is out of place.

The Metroparks has its obligations. It should maintain what it has now without trying to piggy-back on Naymik’s exposes to win a levy from Cuyahoga County voters. That appears to be the option Metro leaders want to use to place a levy on the November ballot.

It would be a bad deal for taxpayers to take on this obligation.

Once again, by the way, Mayor Frank Jackson is missing in action, as are most of the area’s politicians.

We have too many tired politicians playing possum to collect salaries and doing little to nothing.


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Can We Remember What We Did Now That It Hurts

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory,” said the economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

This seems so appropriate for Cleveland this week.

The city levies taxes without really knowing the consequences. Or caring.

They levy taxes without a vote. For hundreds of millions of dollars.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

The brouhaha over the city’s admission tax that damages small entertainment outlets is a good example. It’s a small tax. With penalties and interest it can add up – in at least one instance – to $400,000. Mayor Jackson’s administration came up with that figure for the Beachland Ballroom, a hand-to-mouth small business.

Jackson needs the money to help another business – the Browns and billionaire owner Randy Lerner. Sounds unfair to me.

Back when the city wanted to build a stadium for the Cleveland Browns it seemed an easy tax to pass for City Council. Who could it hurt? Isn’t it just a matter of pennies?

No. Big dollars, it turns out.

The Council passed a two cent increase on an already high tax of 6 percent admissions tax. For the Browns.

The added tax goes to pay for bonds on the money-losing stadium.

How much? $1.2 million a year was the estimate. A total of $36 million over the term legislated. To insure bondholders of the city’s responsibility the legislation also called for ALL the city’s admission tax to be available if needed. Or $159 million total. Nothing too good for bondholders.

In other words, a subsidy of big business from the smallest businesses in this case.

I read also that the Cleveland Indians are troubled by the lack of paying fans. Attendance is down.

And some of the potential fans are complaining about parking costs. It cost too much to park downtown, they say.

Another need to look back.

The city legislated a new 8 percent tax on all parking to satisfy the Browns Stadium bondholders. Figured it would bring in $7.1 million a year. Total for the stadium: $213 million over the 30-year lease. That’s $213 million out of the pockets of parkers. Now a hardship for some downtown.

So these taxes are seemingly small and not much to worry about. But they keep adding up. And after a while, they hurt. Hurt in ways never dreamed about by our politicians eager to help those who should help themselves.

Whatever happened to self help? Only for small fry.


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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4 Responses to “ROLDO: Bad Movement to Metroparks”

  1. IndyCA35

    Maybe the County should own the parks in question. We don’t seem to have this problem with the Metropark system.

  2. IndyCA35

    Regarding subsidizing sports, the problem isn’t subsidizing millionaires. The problem is how goo-gah people get over sports. How else to account for Cleveland spending $1 billion to have three mediocre sports teams? Think of how much better off we’d have been using that money codevelop the lake front,fight crime, or fixing the failing p;public schools.

  3. Richard

    Clevelander’s LOVE take’n a beat’n, while bleating.

    May I have another,Sir?

  4. Roldo Bartimole

    Indy: I don’t think it’s a matter of fans.

    Fans can be “goo gah” whether the sports facilities are tax subsidized
    or the teams pay their costs themselves.

    It’s a matter of a combination of media, business and politicians
    providing these massive subsidies to what are private businesses.
    We shouldn’t be doing it.

    On the parks I believe there is more tax money at the state level
    than the city or county level and the state should see to parks
    that are open to everyone and they have signed on to do that job.

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