A PAGE ONE LAKEFRONT FANTASY

Did you see the pretty “picture” on the front page of the Plain Dealer this morning? In color. Were you excited? Please take a deep breath.

It’s a rendering of Fantasy No. 7,654 of wished-for development on the Lake Erie lakefront, this one supposedly by the Cleveland Browns, the biggest welfare client the city now subsidizes.

The PD does public relations for our chief cheaters.

When my family and I were coming to Cleveland in 1965 we thought (how foolish) that we were simply exchanging beaches of Bridgeport, Connecticut for Lake Erie beaches in Cleveland, Ohio. And water fun. What a disappointment. See the site here:

http://cozybeach.com/ct-bridgeport-beach.shtml

P. T. Barnum, the old humbug, left a huge expanse of beachfront land to the city of Bridgeport a hundred or so years ago. It became – and thankfully remains – an open beach to the residents of Bridgeport – so many so poor as so many Cleveland residents are – on Long Island Sound.

No fancy condos. No sleazy bars. No parking garages.

Only open space to be enjoyed by regular people with their families and friends. You don’t have to have money. Five bucks a year gets you in.

THERE IS NO DEVELOPMENT THERE! THERE ARE BALLFIELDS, OPEN GREEN SPACES, LONG SANDY BEACHES, AND FISHING.

I blame the Plain Dealer for its lack of discrimination for the Page One propaganda picture and stories of development by hustlers that would make even Barnum vomit.

As expected, the usual suspects are doing business to be quoted by the PD. It gives them some authority. The business is using public land for private purposes and private profit. So what’s to worry about? Isn’t this normal?

It’s amazing how little social consciousness is left in Cleveland, the most progressive city of the early 20th Century. There is no thought to public domain. No vision for what people really need. There is really no thought given to the people who occupy the city. No wonder they leave if they can.

This Page One propaganda is rank speculation advanced by the same people – Joe Roman of the Greater Cleveland Partnership; Chris Warren, former neighborhood guy now pimping for any speculator who comes along; Fred Nance -who gave away a few hundred million public dollars as Mayor Michael White’s stadium lawyer to the billionaire Lerner family - and who now, of course, works for Lerner and the Browns; Steve Litt, the PD’s architecture critic, calling again for vision, blindly ignoring reality.

All these people have a hell of a nerve, having helped take lakefront property the public owns and bestowing whatever potential the lakefront had for the families of Cleveland to rank profiteers.

Please take the time to read the reprint below of what the residents of Cleveland already have done for these rank takers. It’s shameful that the poorest subsidize the richest. It’s a June, 2010, reprint of what the city has already given to the Browns and their owner:

CAN YOU SPARE A DIME FOR RANDY LERNER?

By Roldo Bartimole

The City of Cleveland has refinanced Browns Stadium bonds to the tune of $183,856,270.35 in two refinancing deals.

Did Randy Lerner say thanks? I don’t think so.

And because I know no one will report this: The City of Cleveland from its deflated general fund also had to pay $850,000 into the Browns Stadium capital fund this year. And it has to do the same next year. And the next year. And the next year.

Not to bore you, the draining city will do the same until 2020.

You might think the city then is off the hook. No, no.
In 2021 the city’s contribution rises to $5.9 million; in 2022 it will be $6.3 million; in 2023 it will be $6.7 million; in 2024 it will be $7.1 million; in 2025 it will be $7.5 million.

In case you don’t have your calculator handy those general fund payments total up to $42.8 million rounded off. It actually was more because in earlier years the city had put away $710,909 in the capital repair fund.

Would you like a beer, Mr. Lerner?

But then from 2026 through 2028, the city pays zero. Isn’t that great.

It is unless you know how the game works. That’s when there will be a crisis. The stadium isn’t up to date. It looks so shabby. WE NEED A NEW STADIUM OR WE’LL LOSE THE BROWNS. Heavens, no!

If you look to a recent posting of mine you’ll find that the taxpayers of Cuyahoga County via the extended (an added 10-years after a voted 15 years) “sin” tax already paid $66.2 million since August 2005.

This amount helps pay for Browns Stadium bonds. The tax continues to go to pay for Lerner’s stadium until it reaches $116 million. Although $29 million of the $116 million could go to help the city’s need to pay off its capital fund. Anything above the $116 million is supposed to go to Cuyahoga County. We wait with abated breath.

Could you use a taco, Mr. Lerner? Maybe an extra cushion?

In addition, three other taxes passed by City Council help pay off the bonds: a 2 percent additional admission tax on events of sport, theater, concert and many other businesses; an 8 percent parking tax when you park in Cleveland; and a $2 fee for car rental. The taxes took effect in 1995-96. By 1998, taxpayers had contributed another $33 million via the three taxes. The stadium opened August 21 1999.

The taxes never stop. Tied up like a hog, as Fannie Lewis used to say.

I’ll repeat what I wrote in November 1998 when Fred Nance was at the Council table answering questions about these financial details. Nance, you might remember, also did the original negotiation on the Medical Mart deal. Oh, what ropes tie taxpayers on that one? Only Mr. Nance truly knows.

Nance said back in 1998, “This city as a whole – Council and administration – obligated ourselves (ha) to pay whatever it takes to finish this stadium…” I added in my newsletter Point of View: “He didn’t tell Council that he, as chief negotiator, was also the chief obligator.”

I wrote further: “Council also was reminded again and again by (Mayor Michael) White’s legal consultant Fred Nance of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, that City Council had authorized the city, by its passage of the legislation authorizing the stadium, to make these additional arrangements. ‘You signed off through the legislation you approved in 1996. I could show you the specific provision if you would like…’ He continued, ‘The answer is (ordinance) 303-96, specifically Section 12 B….’ Clever Mr. Nance. Doesn’t he work for the Cleveland Browns now? Oh, yes. He’s chief counsel.

Yes, all tied up in a pretty bow. As I wrote then, Nance used his best “Gotcha” tones to a hog-tied Council.

I summed it up: “In other words, Mike White can do what the hell he wants and Fred Nance will tell you so any time you want to hear about it. With a smile. Or is it a smirk.”

Now you know which face, don’t you?

And the city tells me it has another small refunding piece of debt of $13.7 million in addition to the refinanced $183 million in debt.

Oh, did I say that there are no property taxes on the stadium. It’s exempted by state law. That diverts some $7 to $8 million a year from the revenue of the Cleveland schools, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland and the city libraries. There are property taxes on the city land upon which the stadium sits. But the City of Cleveland pays those taxes and they are far higher than the rent Lerner pays for the use of the lakefront stadium. The city also obligated itself to provide casualty insurance for the stadium.

Can we get you any mustard, Mr. Lerner?

I’m sure you are interested in what Randy Lerner – made wealthy by MNBA and credit cards, pays to use this very expensive stadium. He pays a measly $250,000 a year. Never an increase, according to the lease. Yes, never over the 30 year lease. He also, however, is responsible for ordinary upkeep of the stadium. The stadium seems to be used, at least in part, maybe a bit over a week each year. The stadium sits on city land. Expensive lakefront land.

Can we get you a hot dog, Mr. Lerner?

Billionaire Lerner enjoys all the revenue from the 72,000 seat stadium. Seating includes 145 suites and 8,500 club seats. Approximately 100,000 square feet of the facility is committed to restaurants, food concessions and retail facilities. All to the benefit of renter Lerner.

Can we get you a martini, Mr. Lerner?

By the way, the city doesn’t even enjoy full income tax revenue from the Browns players and executives' salaries. The late Al Lerner, Randy’s dad, got suburban Berea to build him a practice facility for the team. The city income taxes are thus split between Cleveland and Berea.

What a deal Cleveland worked!

What a great use of public funds for our shrinking city of poverty.

The Plain Dealer and the rest of the media go a bit crazy about the criminal aspects of our rotten County government, now under FBI probes. Good that they do. Over and over again.

However, there’s no fuss at all about this legal corruption. It’s not on the radar for critical reporting or analysis. Indeed, just the opposite. Save LeBron. Forget the rest of the people.

And these “journalists” wonder why they are thought so little of by the general public. The real downfall of the so-called mainstream media took place long ago. People knew that they were not getting what they needed in a democracy dependent upon information. They knew that the corporate, civic, foundation, political string-pullers were stacking the deck against them. But what could they do? The news media’s foundation of credibility corroded long ago. I saw it as a young reporter. And got out.

I recently caught the end of the movie “Good Night and Good Luck” about Edward R. Morrow. It told about the death of just a half hour of real TV news. It enlightens very well of the corruption from within the news media.

So, Good Day and Good Luck. You aren’t getting anything even that from today’s corporate news providers.

Joseph Pulitzer once said, “A free press should…always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare.” Ha.

It happens so infrequently that you might as well admit it just doesn’t happen.

What do we do about it? We aren’t going to do anything about it.

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