The Cleveland city council voted yesterday to approve giving the Browns $2 million a year for the next 15 years to help pay off $120 million in planned stadium renovations. (The measure needed a 12-vote supermajority to win, and snuck by with 13 votes on the 19-member council.) Since the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported over the weekend that the city is currently losing $6 million and change per year on the Browns stadium lease, this will push Cleveland’s losses over the $8 million per year mark.
The anti-funding side may have lost, but at least it prompted a four-hour debate that I’m now sorry I didn’t try to find a webcast of:
At one point, Councilman Tony Brancatelli pulled a red flag from his pocket and threw it on the table, calling out Banner on his comments about how favorable the deal is for the city, compared to what other cities have paid into their athletics facilities. The truth is, Brancatelli said, all of those cities have been held hostage by their contracts with NFL teams.
“We’ve afforded the Browns a lot of luxuries that many businesses who come to this table don’t have,” Brancatelli said.
Much of the debate appears to be about whether the Browns’ renovation requests were for “repairs” (which the city is obligated to pay for) or “capital improvements” (which the city already provides a fund for, but the Browns will now be getting $2 million a year on top of). Which led to exchanges like this one:
“There’s a common sense part of this that if you’re four years past something’s useful life it’s time to replace the scoreboard,” [mayoral chief of staff Ken] Silliman said.
[Councilmember Jeffrey] Johnson snapped back: “Well, I’ve got a common sense approach, too, and it says that we’re about to spend $2 million of my community’s money, and I need you to prove to me me that the scoreboard needs to be fixed today. … Respect me enough to bring me something that proves it. Don’t play me for a dummy.”
From the sound of it, the Cleveland council just punted and said fine, let them have their damn money. Next up, in all likelihood: the Indians!