by Sam Allard
From the bottom of my heart, PLEASE VOTE *NO* ON ISSUE 7 TODAY. This is extremely important. If you're already opposed — maybe because you don't feel that residents of the nation's second-poorest major city should continue bankrolling facilities operated by billionaires; maybe because you feel that alternatives to the Sin Tax haven't been meaningfully considered; maybe because the complete lack of transparency from Cleveland's corporate elite has left you suspicious of a "deal" in which citizens will be obliged to pay millions of dollars far longer than these teams are committed to staying in town — great. Just remember to vote today, and remind your friends and family to do the same.
If you're on the fence, know that I sympathize with your skepticism. I know that the sin tax doesn't affect people like you or me in recognizable ways. The tax is *easy.* I know I certainly don't notice the $15-20 a year taken piecemeal from my weekly six-packs and the occasional Bulleit Bourbon.The tax, frankly, seems like a reasonable contribution for fans of professional sports. Not to mention the fact that the threat of losing our teams has, at times, felt urgently real (esp. given Cleveland's history of abandonment, and what often feels like mass exportation of those we hold dear). Most importantly, I sympathize with people who interpret a yes vote as a favor to the city; who think that by voting yes, funds won’t be taken from critical services.
BUT HAVING SPOKEN EXTENSIVELY WITH PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE, let me say publicly and confidently that a NO VOTE constitutes an actual commitment to Cleveland. A NO vote is an essential early step not in “keeping” Cleveland strong, but MAKING her strong. I know this sounds dramatic, but as a reporter on this I’ve been in the weeds, and the people in power (at the GCP, at the Cavs, at the Indians, at the Browns, at — regrettably — City Hall) aren’t even aware how deeply entrenched they are in their ways. They don’t even recognize this as greed. They are confused by the opposition, unwilling to engage in constructive discussions (farming out their legwork to strategy groups and PR firms), and so distantly out-of-touch with actual residents in Cleveland’s urban neighborhoods that they literally put “poor people” in quotation marks.
The publicity campaigns? The “tourism sector”? The non-stop assertions that by financing facilities and services for upper middle class folks and visitors we are creating an atmosphere of vibrancy and strength? The evidence is quite to the contrary. These "leaders" are Keeping Cleveland Weak, and the cognitive disconnects are so baffling and Orwellian it’s enough to make a journalist throw up his hands.
Look: A NO vote does not mean the teams we love will desert us. A NO vote does not mean our schools and roads will crumble. A NO vote does not mean you hate Cleveland or intend to cripple it. Nor does a NO vote, in practical terms, mean you want to personally save 1.5 cents on a can of beer. What a NO vote does is signal a call for change in this town. It means we’ve got a year to have discussions so let’s not waste it. Let’s have those discussions and make our voices heard. A NO vote must be the FIRST step along a path at the end of which our leadership MUST BE MADE TO UNDERSTAND that to make a city strong, its residents and its neighborhoods and its schools and its roads must be strong before its billionaires. PLEASE VOTE NO ON ISSUE 7 TODAY. MAKE CLEVELAND STRONG.