Officials convened across from the Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the completion of structural steel work on the Q's expansive new Huron Road facade. The public subsidy for the construction project, now with a price tag of $185 million after Dan Gilbert announced earlier this year that he'd be chipping in $45 million on top of his original alleged $70 million contribution, was the subject of much political theater
and community opposition in 2017.
Familiar plaudits prevailed at the press event, which Scene did not attend. County Executive Armond Budish, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council President Kevin Kelley joined Cavs President Len Komoroski and others in their worship of the facility.
“I don’t think anything does more for this region than The Q," Armond Budish looks to have said
in prepared remarks. "People come and spend money at our bars, hotels, restaurants and shops.”
A press release announcing the event teased that it would conclude with some light "daytime pyrotechnics."
The tone of these officials — that is, the tone-deafness —
to say nothing of the fireworks, in light of recent county events, boggles the mind.
It's not surprising that two related newsworthy items went unmentioned in the (thankfully limited) coverage.
The first is that the steel beam event occurred on Jan. 16, one day after the county paid $8.7 million in debt service for original construction costs on the Gund Arena.
Thanks to significant overruns, the county will be paying that off until 2023. This annual payment has been in the $8-10 million range since 2014, and according to projections provided by a county spokeswoman this week, the debt service is likely to remain at about $8.7 million each year until the final year of the repayment schedule (2023), when it will drop to $6.6 million.
In July of that year, the regular season admissions tax on tickets for Q events will immediately shift to begin funding the debt service on bonds taken out for the Q's current renovation.
But the county is paying off investors every six months in the meantime. On Jan. 1, according to the 17-year repayment schedule provided by KeyBank, the county made its second installment payment on the three bonds that were used to fund the public portion of the Q Deal: $635,000 in interest on its Series A bonds; $600,000 in interest on Series B bonds; and $2.7 million, ($1.7 million in principal and $1 million in interest) on Series C bonds. The first installment occurred, coincidentally, on the day LeBron signed
a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
That the region is encumbered by so much overlapping debt on these sports facilities — to say nothing of the Sin Tax, which funds capital improvements and is bleeding out
; or the county parking tax, which ought to be funding public transit but instead funds First Energy stadium — must be noted repeatedly.
To demonstrate the cruelty of the region's fiscal priorities, and the miserable social and economic outcomes they generate. The other newsworthy element related to the press event was that it occurred only two hours before the latest suicide attempt at the Cuyahoga County Jail, which has become a grotesque scandal in recent months.
The inmate survived, according to Fox 8, and therefore did not become the facility's ninth death since June,
which would have given the County Jail the same number of prisoner deaths in seven months as Guantanamo Bay since it opened as a detention center in 2002.
Cleveland.com's Courtney Astolfi, who's been on the jail beat alongside reporter Adam Ferrise, reported yesterday
that guards at the county jail make the lowest starting wage ($15.31/hour) among guards in Ohio's largest counties.
The jail deaths, especially the suicide attempts by inmates with known mental health disorders, is directly related to the Q Deal because, if you recall, one of the issues that the deal's opponents emphasized in their efforts to incorporate community spending into the deal, was mental health crisis centers.
When the Greater Cleveland Congregations, one of the main opposition groups, ultimately caved to elite pressures, thereby sabotaging the enormously successful opposition coalition, they did so on the grounds that Armond Budish would make a good-faith effort to "explore best practices" related to the crisis centers. GCC had initially wanted two new crisis centers, one on the west side, one on the east, in addition to workforce training pipelines and capital investments in neighborhoods, as part of a community equity fund. They were content to settle for the county's vague and non-financial commitments.
It is superfluous to note that nothing ever came of these commitments, and GCC doesn't appear to have held the county to them, as they assured Scene they would
Meanwhile, people are dying in the facility. There were 56 suicide attempts in 2018 — 56! — the last of which resulted in the death of 27-year-old Brendan Kiekisz in December, a death described as "inconceivable"
by the family's lawyer in light of intense scrutiny after a scathing US Marshals report. Kiekisz had been arrested at a hospital after ODing on heroin — a judge ruled, obviously, that he should've been taken to a treatment facility instead of the jail — and Kiekisz had attempted suicide two days before the attempt which took his life. The jail, as usual, was understaffed at the time.
As a final note, the region appears to be hemorrhaging jobs this week. In addition to the grim news that 29 production positions at the Plain Dealer will be outsourced to various national facilities where Advance Local assembles templatized versions of the papers they own, we learned this week
that the Mayfield Heights-based Ferro Corporation, a chemical company, would be closing a Cleveland facility and relocating it to Mexico — an estimated 80 workers will be laid off. On top of that, the suit making company that replaced Hugo Boss in Brooklyn, Keystone Tailored Manufacturing, announced that it would be closing in March — an estimated 150 workers will be laid off. San Antonio looks to have just lured
a Cleveland-based investment company as well.
The Q's renovation, for which the public is encumbering itself dangerously and unnecessarily for 17 years, is projected to create 0 new permanent jobs.