Sam Allard / Scene
The Rev. Jawanza Colvin lays out the GCC's demands.
Outside the Quicken Loans Arena on this rainy Thursday morning, representatives from the Greater Cleveland Congregations announced their opposition to using public dollars on arena renovations without public input or benefit. The GCC, said several speakers, is "NOT all in."
The group decried the "fast-track" nature of the financing deal announced last month
, which will use multiple public revenue streams to supplement Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert's private investment in an exterior overhaul. The public portion was estimated to be $70 million, but could be more than double that cost due to interest.
The GCC demanded that elected officials — Mayor Frank Jackson, County Executive Armond Budish, both city and county councils — slow down the process so the public can meaningfully have its say.
In addition to full accountability and transparency, the GCC wants to create a community investment fund with matching dollars that would go toward "urgent and concrete" regional issues in communities of need: workforce development, youth programming, housing, mental health, others.
"We're asking for a dollar-for-dollar match," said the Rev. Jawanza Colvin, of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church and a member of GCC's strategy team. "We're talking about matching
dollars. It is amazing how we have the ingenuity and creativity to find the dollars to invest in a world-class arena. We are supposed to be 'cash-strapped.' The credit card is supposed to be 'maxed.' But yet, we can find, when we put our minds together, 160 million dollars [sic]. We want that same ingenuity, that same creativity, that same ability to look under the same rock that you found this money under."
Rev. Richard Gibson, co-chair of the GCC and pastor at Elizabeth Baptist Church, reiterated earlier comments that the opposition to the deal in no way represents opposition to the Cavs. In fact, the GCC held up the team as an example of civic unity and pride; and on the court, of what can be accomplished when a group of people work together to achieve a goal.
"Let me state unequivocally," said Gibson, when reminded by a reporter that the Q benefits the public a lot more regularly than FirstEnergy Stadium or Progressive Field, for example: "We are not anti-Cavs. We are not anti-Q. We believe that this facility is a tremendous community asset. But there are also assets in Collinwood, in Slavic Village, in Central. And all of those assets have to be valued. We can't value this
asset to the detriment of others."
When pressed about the details of the proposed Community Investment Fund, Gibson said the goal today was not to get mired in the details of policy. (It's unclear, for instance, what pot of money those dollars would come from. Destination Cleveland's budget, perhaps?
) He said, rather, that the goal was to urge leaders to slow down the process.
"We get that there's not an unlimited trough of money, we get that," Gibson said. "But details can be worked out later. The questions need to be answered after this deal is not
fast-tracked. These solutions cannot be developed on the fly. Nor do we believe that they could have been developed in the short term that was given. We all need to spend time, to come forward with the best possible solution."
The GCC was formed five years ago as a regional faith-based coalition focused on issues of social justice and equity. Its leadership and its members mobilized voters in the decisive primary election of Michael O'Malley as County Prosecutor and in support the recent schools levy.
"You can imagine how many people we can turn out to [knock on doors]", said Marcia Levine of Fairmount Temple, in a brief aside during prepared remarks, "when you see how many people come at 10 o'clock in the morning in the rain."