Cleveland council prez says ad that calls giving tax money to teams a gift is “far from honest”

The Cuyahoga County vote on a sin tax extension to fund venue improvements for the Cleveland Indians, Cavs, and Browns isn’t until next Tuesday, but we already have supporters of the measure accusing opponents of dirty pool:

The Coalition for Greater Cleveland’s Future says in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Ohio Elections Commission that an ad paid for by the Citizens Against Unfair Taxes (CAUT) makes several false claims about the proposed countywide tax on alcohol and tobacco sales. Among them is the assertion that Issue 7 will give the owners of Cleveland’s professional sports teams “$260 million more.”…

“CAUT has been caught misleading the public,” Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, the chief spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement. “Their commercial inaccurately gives the impression that money from extending the tax on alcohol and cigarettes would go to the team owners. That is false. Honest argument is always welcome. This is far from honest.”

The rhetorical pin head that everyone is dancing on here is this: The sin tax will raise an estimated $260 million over 20 years, which would be used to pay renovation and upgrade costs of the teams at their publicly owned buildings. But according to Kelley, the county would have to pay those costs anyway, according to the crappy leases that public officials agreed to with the teams. So it’s not that “money from extending the tax on alcohol and cigarettes would go to the team owners,” it’s that money from extending the tax on alcohol on cigarettes would go to replenish the county’s general fund, and that would be given to the team owners.

Kelley has made this kind of “we have to spend it either way, so we might as well have a way to pay for it” assertion before, but to my knowledge has never actually come out and said that if the sin tax extension is defeated, he and the council will just allocate the money anyway and take it out of other county spending. For that matter, the team owners have never said what they’ll do if the county just up and refuses to pay for venue improvements, even when asked point blank. These issues — as well as whether funding mechanisms that would hit the teams’ bottom line instead of the public’s, such as ticket taxes, are allowable under the lease — would seem to be worthy of discussion in the days leading up to the sin tax vote, but instead we just get each side trying to bash each other public. Ah, democracy.

3 comments on “Cleveland council prez says ad that calls giving tax money to teams a gift is “far from honest”

  1. Just so you know where the money is coming from, CAUT is a group of alcohol retailers and distributors. One of the citizen groups campaigning against the sin tax renewal ( is proposing just such a usage fee as an alternative to the sin tax, and want to put it on the November ballot if the renewal fails next week.

    It’s hard to get a feel for how this issue is playing with the public. All of the local mainstream media outlets are doing everything they can to support the sin tax, so it’s not like they’re publishing any polling data. I get the feeling that public support isn’t as positive as they were expecting due to the increasing amounts of money being dumped into advertising the pro-sin tax message. I hope I’m right.

  2. Whenever I read about a group called ” Coalition for Greater Cleveland’s Future” I am forced to wonder if there is an opposition group called the ‘association for Lesser Cleveland’s Past’?

    But maybe that’s just me.

    As for the issue of one party’s lack of honesty, perhaps Mr. Kelley speaks as he knows… anyone who’s first inclination is to attack the honesty of his opponent rather than the speak to the issue at hand may have only a passing relationship with the truth himself. Certainly the pinhead he appears to be dancing on would indicate something to that effect.

  3. The issue here is whether the county wants to stick to the largely extortionist contract signed in the 90’s and renegotiated by the teams in ’04, re-calibrating so as to keep the golden goose alive after the original terms bankrupted Gateway. A no vote is seen as a way to bring the teams back to the table. Here’s hoping Cleveland can add it’s name to cities starting to balk at the scam.