Spinning syntax to renew the sin tax

Before we go any further in this conversation, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I enjoy reading and writing about the Browns, Indians and Cavs. There’s no question that if they all suddenly disappeared, there would be a psychological – as well as financial – impact on the area. No question, I would hate to see them leave.

But they won’t, at least anytime soon. Why? All three teams have team-friendly leases. Why? Let’s jump into the way-back machine and travel to the early '90s, when the Indians had been awful for the better part of four decades and were a legitimate threat to up and go elsewhere. Dick Jacobs, Tribe owner and a very shrewd businessman, leveraged that possibility into convincing the city of Cleveland to build them a new stadium with a favorable lease.

Art Modell, owner of the Browns, and one who had long complained to the city about the need for a new football stadium, was so irate that Jacobs had accomplished something he was unable to, that he eventually packed up the U-Haul with his football team and shuffled off to Baltimore.

The city of Cleveland, which had always dismissed Modell’s threats to leave as nothing more than a negotiating tool, had to bend over backwards with another sweetheart lease in hopes of convincing the NFL to return a new football franchise downtown.

The Cavs, meanwhile, had abandoned the good ship Cleveland in 1974 when Nick Mileti moved the team to Richfield. So, when it became clear the Indians would get new digs, it made sense to try and attract the Cavs back to the city as well. They succeeded, but in doing so, they had to make concessions in the form of another favorable lease for the Cavs, too.

That completed the “lease trifecta” and few people realized that these deals left a heavy burden on the city of Cleveland – actually all of Cuyahoga County – as the county is responsible for the upkeep of the sports facilities. The sad reality is that even if people vote down Issue 7, the so-called “sin tax,” the taxpayers will still be responsible for maintaining.

I can just imagine the local politicians huddled together two decades ago, after agreeing to place the burden of financing stadium upkeep on the shoulders of smokers and drinkers, while high-fiving each other. And when someone inquired as to how they would do when the tax expired in 2015, the predictable political response must have been something like, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Now, isn’t it funny, as election day draws near, how the Cavs, Browns and Indians produce all sorts of data suggesting that each franchise has brought “estimated billions” of dollars into the community, to get you to support Issue 7? Think about it: If those claims are true, don’t come to us for the sin tax, simply take a little bite out of all those billions which apparently someone around here is enjoying.

There’s something inherently wrong with the taxpayers having to foot the bill to maintain public structures so private business can generate private profit. To take that a step further, if any of these businesses enjoy any stretch of on-the-field success, they’ll say “thank you for your support” by doing the following:

Raising ticket prices!

However, something tells me we won’t get to vote on that issue.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

Read More on Sporting Views
Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 10:04 AM, 04.15.2014