Roldo - Gateway's Reidy & Cleveland's No. 1 poverty rank
Sep 01, 2004 05:41 PDT
[From: "Roldo" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Jim Miller" <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 16:10:57 -0400]
1 Sept. 2004
The Talented Mr. Reidy Or Will
Poverty Take Center Stage?
By Roldo Bartimole
While Mayor Jane Campbell quickly responded to the alarming
news that Cleveland now rates No. 1 in the nation in
poverty, the gears of government and corporate power are
busy seeking again a way to finance publicly a new
The attention of Cleveland politicians and private power
interests for the last two decades has been centered on
subsidizing not people with severe economic needs but owners
of sports teams, hotel, restaurant and other downtown
The result was the historic Plain Dealer headline:
"Cleveland No. 1 in big-city poverty."
In the past year or two, a convention center and funding of
the arts has taken the attention of public and private
officials more than the growing needs of low-income
residents now a significantly growing population. It's
nothing new. George Zeller, of the Greater Cleveland
Economic Opportunities agency, in his annual Poverty Reports
documented and reminded us repeatedly for years of
Cleveland's staggering poverty statistics.
Yet, the leadership in the last decade or so - headed by
former Mayor Michael White, Cleveland's second black mayor,
and returning County Commissioner-elect Tim Hagan, liberal
hero - has dedicated its public duties to the private needs
Someone noted to me recently that Tom Johnson, Cleveland's
progressive mayor, was born 150 years ago this year. I have
not noticed a celebration of the man who fought Privilege in
the city where leaders now serve Privilege on bended knees.
There is no will to fight poverty in the nation and there is
no real will to do so here. The pressure of strife and
riots, which spurred some concern for those suffering in our
society in the 1960s, was quelled. Thus, the needs of the
disadvantaged have been stricken from the priority list of
public and private officials for many years. The poor suffer
in relative silence.
Unfortunately, the only thing that seems to divert our
attention from our incapacitating self-absorption is
violence. We see that in the reaction to the terrorist
attacks of 9/11. We saw that in the riots of the 1960s.
Nevertheless, the time bomb still ticks. "(The number of
black men in prison) is actually a social catastrophe right
now. And, no one seems to be paying attention to it. Many of
the politicians turn away from it. Because to give it any
attention gives the impression that they're soft on crime,"
Salim Mawakkil, a senior editor of In These Times out of
Chicago, told Bill Moyers on his show last Friday.
Moyers in his public TV show revealed some startling
statistics. In 1950 there were some 252,000 Americans
imprisoned. By 2002, there were 2 million incarcerated and
6.6 million if you count parole, jail and prisons. Watching
the show, he had stats up quickly that showed, as best I can
remember, 84,000 blacks in jail in 1954 and more than
800,000 now. Those are devastating statistics.
As in the rest of the society, these problems have been left
to fester here in Cleveland.
Some can rate Cleveland a major league city in baseball,
basketball and football because of its new facilities. At
the same, Cleveland has become a basket case as a community.
The Census data show Cleveland tops the list with most
overall poverty, 31.3 percent and tops of the list with
children in poverty at 46.9 percent, leaving Newark, N.J.,
in an enviable position for them of not being the worst in
the nation. Cleveland is now has the dishonor.
Cleveland faces the dilemma of losing not only major-league
status as a city but of being a national symbol of has-been
Gateway chairman Bill Reidy, the Establishment's new fix-it
and go-to man, has been holding meetings as boss of a new
convention facilities authority to determine whether the
city needs a new convention center. Really, his job is to
provide a palatable story that we do need it.
Since the County Commissioners just gave some $400,000,
added to $50,000 previously, to his new study group that
means in their minds this must be the biggest city problem.
Reidy, as head of the authority, tried to indicate to me
that he was neutral on the subject and that his only task
was to find out if a convention center was truly necessary.
That's pure bullshit. The skids merely need to be greased in
a way that spending $600 million of scarce tax money to
subsidize more downtown hotels and other businesses can be
made appetizing enough to the paying public.
Reidy made his remarks following an infrequent Gateway
Economic Development Corp. board meeting last week.
Reidy, a favorite of Mayor Campbell and the County
Commissioners, retired from PriceWaterhouseCoopers a couple
of years ago. He has become a private figure who gets high
marks for competency. He's also a former finance director of
the City of Cleveland under George Voinovich.
Gateway voted last week to refinance two bond issues for
Jacobs Stadium. One set of bonds will enable savings of $3.5
million via lower interest rates.
The catch is that Gateway - heavily and mostly paid for by
the public - will not get the savings. In fact, a second
savings of $800,000 will go to the Indians, said a
consultant, by lowering the payments made from luxury loges
and seating, part of the team's portion of paying for Jacobs
The savings by refinancing, by rights, should go to Cuyahoga
County. A County official said that the County is owed some
$80 to $90 million that excess sin taxes funds are supposed
to help pay.
The $3.5 million will be used for the new scoreboard at the
Stadium. In other words, it will be a further subsidization
of the stadium renters - Larry Dolan and family. This
subsidy comes despite the original announcement by the
Indians and Dolan that the team itself would pay to replace
the fancy new scoreboard at its expense.
Some promises are just for public consumption. Who checks
At the same time, figures released on the latest cost of
Gateway via the sin tax (other tax revenue finances the
stadium and arena) has hit the $225 million mark. Smokers,
who cannot in the stadium, have contributed $76 million;
drinkers (alcohol beer, wine and mixed drinks) have
contributed nearly $150 million.
Of course, Gateway pays no property taxes on either the Jake
or Gund. I asked Reidy, the public servant, whether Gateway
would pay at least the amount of increase on the facilities
should the new school tax levy pass. "We don't have the
money," he said.
Well, you just gave it away.
The $225 million in sin taxes over 14 years now also could
have gone into other consumer spending rather than line the
pockets of Dick Jacobs, Larry Dolan and the Lerner family,
all very, very rich people. (As the original sin tax sunset
nears next year, remember it was extended 10 years to pay
for Brown Stadium. So we will be paying for 25 years.)
To be fair, Reidy and Gateway did make a deal with the two
teams to save Gateway from bankruptcy, a situation that
would have been embarrassing to both the teams and Gateway.
The baseball team now pays some $1.79 million a year and the
basketball team owners, the Gund brothers, pay some $1.1
million a year. That essentially covers Gateway's operating
budget. However, the Indians no longer pay any rent,
formerly based on attendance, and are looking for a 10 year
extension of its lease as part of the deal. Gateway pays to
maintain and operate the facilities. The Gunds never have
paid any rent for Gund Arena.
The present three County Commissioners - Tim McCormack,
Peter Lawson Jones and Jimmy Dimora - are being led around
by the nose by those interests that want a new convention
center. Read: the business community and Sam Miller and the
Ratner family. The latter need a boost for their sinking
Avenue at Tower City, a failing retail venture.
Hagan already has been talking out of that other side -
corporate - of his mouth about the need for new convention
Another mark of Cleveland politics shows up in the selection
of legal counsel for the Gateway bond refinancing. The law
firm, Climaco, Leftkowitz, Peca, Wilcox and Garofoli,
represents Gateway as disclosure counsel. The firm helped
write the atrocious lease that has given both teams free
reign for years. The firm, Hagan-buddies, has taken well
more than $1-million in fees from Gateway.
In addition, George Forbes' law firm represents Gateway as
underwriter and placement agent counsel. I asked Reidy how
Forbes was chosen. He hemmed, hawed, and said, "I can't tell
you." He referred the question to Tim Offtermatt, managing
director of A. G. Edwards, the bond underwriter.
Offtermatt said Forbes was chosen by "informal consultation
with city and county officials," but that he had made the
choice. Oh, yeah we're sure the commissioners and Mayor
Campbell - both with members on the five-member Gateway
board - simply allowed Offtermatt to choose at random.
The truth is that Forbes, kept out of the public patronage
line by White for 12 years, is now significantly back in
line under Mayor Jane Campbell. She's thrown other bond
business his way.
Campbell didn't really need to know but the same Census
material that revealed Cleveland to be saturated with
poverty also noted that the white population of Cleveland
now stands at 41 percent, a significant minority. Blacks
make up 54 percent of the population.
Forbes would be significant ally for Campbell in the mayoral
election next year. Any black candidate should know that
Forbes has his hooks in Campbell and thus some dependence
upon her re-election. That's where George's friendship could
come in handy if a black runs against Campbell.
Cleveland's leadership must come to the realization that the
city no longer is a major American city and bring its
community desires into balance with its resource capacity.
Time to think small and take care of those who live here.
Roldo can be contacted at Roldo @ Adelphia.net