Blundering Mayor Jackson and City Council

Submitted by Roldo on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 09:26.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and all but one Cleveland City Council member (Mike Polensek) thoughtlessly voted to give $1 million cash to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for its induction dinner.

Now that’s what I call absolutely disgusting. The poor feed the rich.

This is business as usual in Cleveland. Mayor Jackson should break from the give-away policies of former mayors, George Voinovich and Michael White. Those mayors favored corporate interests to the severe detriment of city people. Jackson knows better.

Why does Cleveland have to pay a cent for what they’ve already bought with city taxes?

Let me get this right, we have a multi-billion dollar a year music industry unable to pay for its own induction ceremonies and dinner. However, the down-and-out city of Cleveland can fork over $1 million. How disgusting is that.

Are these the same Council people who decry the vultures who have wreaked havoc on the city with foreclosures? So they turn around and give away one million bucks to music moguls? To say nothing of the elites of Cleveland who will be attending these bashes.

They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Of course, this gets the Council members invitations to the posh parties.

Where would that $1 million do some good? Rescuing people from foreclosures in Cleveland, maybe? Is that too difficult to have been considered? You mean a fund for the $1-million and more couldn’t be put to such use?

Do these public officials know how much they have already indebted Clevelanders for the Rock Hall? Apparently not. I’ll tell these delinquent Council members that some 60 per of the money funding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame comes from the Cleveland school system.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority in 1993 took $38,995,000 in bonds for the Rock Hall. Cuyahoga County taxpayers again have been paying off this corporate-demanded attraction.


Taxes on properties owned by Forest City Enterprises at the Tower City complex - instead of going to the county, city, schools and city libraries -goes to pay off those 25-year Port Authority bonds.

This year exactly $2,375,121 in property taxes was diverted from the aforementioned governmental recipients to pay for the Rock Hall bonds. This tax diversion is called a TIF (Tax Incremental Financing), a form of abatement. Nearly $1.5 million of the $2.3 million was diverted from the Cleveland schools.

This has been going on since 1996 so that means about $30 million in tax revenues already have been diverted to pay bondholders. Bond debt payments continue until December 2015.

The Rock Hall originally was estimated to cost $28 million. But the costs, as usual, jumped significantly to $48 million and then to $93.3-million.

The city also increased the city admission taxes (some of the tax increase was given to the Cleveland schools) and the county diverts hotel-motel bed taxes to help pay Rock Hall debt.

This continues to be a heavy burden on County and City taxpayers.

And that’s not all the public had to shell out.

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) paid more than $60 million from operating revenues to build the nearly useless Waterfront Line. It was built entirely with local funds because the powers that be – people like Voinovich and Dick Pogue of Jones-Day in particular – wanted the transit line constructed for the Rock Hall opening. We had to impress those New Yorkers.

RTA, because of the rush, had to build the line without the usual 80 percent federal support. It also has run with deep deficits. Now we know, as was clear then, that the Waterfront Line has been a drain on RTA for years. RTA, under fiscal pressure, now has halted the Waterfront Line except for very limited use. Talk about waste.

So let’s give them another Million Dollars for their party! Please, tell me why?

I just love the fact that officials predict that the induction events will bring $28 million to Cleveland. I assume that the same guy who predicted 28,000 “good paying jobs for the jobless” from Gateway provided the Rock promoters the $28 million data. (If the induction will bring in $28 million why don’t the businesses that reap these rewards pay rather than the taxpayers? Oh, what a novel idea.)

The Rock Hall is financially productive for more than bondholders. Terry Stewart, president and CEO, is paid $305,710 annually, according to the Rock Hall’s IRS statement for 2006. Plus, Stewart is rewarded with benefits and deferred compensation of another $149,501, or $445,211 in total pay for 2006. Second in command, Brian Kenyon, VP of finance, received $174,464 plus other compensation of $34,312, or $208,776 as a 2006 annual pay.

Jim Henke, VP and curator, got $182,161 plus $30,789 in benefits for a total pay of $212,950 for 2006.

These guys should have to smarts to get their corporate cheerleaders to provide the party money, shouldn’t they?

The Rock Hall also pays Suzan Evans, with the New York Hall of Fame Foundation $150,000 a year. The space provided by the IRS for the description of her job is blank. Presumably, she does nothing for the $150,000 a year.

No scrimping for these folks. But we, the taxpayers, have to feed these people and provide entertainment with dollars that should go to help Clevelanders, especially the city’s school children.

Cleveland corporate leaders were agog – even delirious – about bringing the Rock Hall to Cleveland. The thinking was, of course, that it would make Cleveland a “hot city.” It turned out more a “sucker city,” paying the bills while the inductions were generally in New York City.

The Corporate leaders, however, were smart enough to avoid the cost of their Rock Hall. They got the politicians to shift the costs to the taxpayers. Nothing new there.

Though corporate leaders used public funds to bring the Rock Hall here, they have failed to support it.

The 2006 tax return notes that in 2000 corporate sponsors paid a measly $74,269 to help the Rock Hall. Then in 2001, 2002 and 2003 they gave exactly nothing. Zip. Zero.

Finally, you might ask where the strapped City got this spare $1 million. It comes from UDAG repayments. That’s money that was lent primarily to people like Dick Jacobs and Sam Miller at zero or very low interest and has been repaid after 20 years. It now was supposed to be used for neighborhoods and economic development.

This is even richer in irony. As mayor, Voinovich asked the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a $10-million UDAG expressly for the Rock Hall. HUD turned him down. A HUD official wisely responded: “Why is it that the (Rock Hall) Foundation in New York isn’t paying for more of this project?”

I can answer that. Because Cleveland corporate officials have the key to the city’s coffers.

“Alright, I’m calling the cops, you fucker.”... David Byrne

While reflecting on the values of Cleveland, rock and roll and the Hall of Fame, for good and bad, consider how poorly we treat the musicians who come to Cleveland... and neglect much of the musical genius we have here. Read on co-founder of Talking Heads and astounding genius David Byrne's web journal about his horrible and wonderful and really disturbing visit to perform in Cleveland recently... he gave us a chance and concluded... "Only in Cleveland". 

Disrupt IT

How did I get here?

First read...the Only in Cleveland link above and then re-listen to Once in a Lifetime.

Wall of Shame

I am mad, too, but expletives don't help.  These people have no shame. 

Also, no one seems to care that the school system is also being run by a pack of hyenas out to benefit contractors, not the kids.  And, how about Strickland and Fisher who just gave Eaton Corp 71 million dollars? 

Cleveland needs a real public art project.  We need a wall of SHAME.   Let's keep track of their names and post them here starting with the council members who went along with this latest sucker punch to the working poor:


Ward 1
Nina Turner
Council Phone: (216) 664-4944
ward01 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org

Ward 2
Robert J. White, III
Council Phone: (216) 664-4237
Ward Office: (216) 883-9646
Home: (216) 883-9646
ward02 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org
Ward 12ward13 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org">
Anthony Brancatelli
Council Phone: (216) 664-4233
Home: (216) 641-8265
ward12 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org
Ward 3
Zachary Reed
Council Phone: (216) 664-4945
Ward Office: (216) 921-9399
Home: (216) 921-5117
ward03 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org
Ward 13ward14 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org">
Joe Cimperman
Council Phone: (216) 664-2691
Home: (216) 687-6772

Ward 4
Kenneth L. Johnson
Council Phone: (216) 664-4941
Ward Office: (216) 421-8639
Home: (216) 421-8639
ward04 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org
Ward 14ward15 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org">
Joe Santiago
Council Phone: (216) 664-3706
Ward Office: (216) 458-1493
ward14 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org
Ward 5
Phyllis Cleveland
Council Phone: (216) 664-2309
Home: (216) 431-3349
ward05 [at] clevelandcitycouncil [dot] org