We are currently being bombarded by advertisements about one of the issues up for vote this coming week. It's endorsed by a small army of political leaders and local athletes. Its selling points are that it's not a tax increase but a renewal, and that if it's not passed we won't be able to keep up on our responsibilities. The question that should be raised is why is this effort being put into a tax renewal that theoretically is no big deal. Also, why is Issue 7 up during the primary elections now, which normally has a lower turnout, when the current tax doesn't run out till the middle of 2015? The answer is so that we don't question it or have time to even talk about it.
What is the purpose of this tax? It was created to build a downtown home for the Cavaliers. When the tax was renewed, the purpose was building a new home for the new Browns. This time, there are no new stadiums or arenas needed, but it seems they have fallen into such disrepair that we require a stadium's worth of money just to fix them. What the actual repairs are remains vague. Our money will, however, go into putting up a new electronic billboard at the Brown's stadium to allow the team, not the city, to raise more money through advertising.
Where should the money for these renovations come from if not from the general public? By raising the price of stadium event tickets around $3, the cost of repairing and adding quality marketing improvements would be taken care of. Instead, those behind Keep Cleveland Strong say that our small businesses should pick up the bill. All the bars in Lakewood must absorb these costs while they already have to survive under tight margins in a competitive environment. They tell us that this is building our service economy while relying on its back to hold it up. Is it really keeping our city strong to put its financial troubles on the backs of its small businesses instead of on its large multimillion dollar sports businesses.
They say that its our responsibility to take care of these teams. Teams that make millions in profits without the requirement of paying taxes back. They say that this is our responsibility as the landlords of these facilities. The Indians haven't paid rent since 2008 and the Browns only pay 1% of what the 49ers pay. They say this isn't a tax increase but the previous two sin taxes were for building stadiums. This tax is the same amount but for a different purpose. This isn't even the only money we are spending on our teams'.playing fields. We are also paying extra taxes on parking, event admissions (even small locals like the Winchester and Mahall's), and car rentals to pay for our stadium debts (we still owe $162 million). Since the original sin tax we, the tax payers, have spent $947 million to house “our” teams.
Instead of forcing an issue down our throats, shouldn't we be having discussions on how to best deal with our city's sport team debts. Shouldn't our teams be showing that they are willing to earn their place. How does taking the money out of small businesses' pockets to take care of millionaires, already being given big financial breaks, help keep our city strong? The stadium and arena's revenues should be priced appropriately to pay for its costs. It's time our sports teams pay their bills, so that we can too.