CALLS FOR MORE FUNDS TO BE DEVOTED TO A COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT
(Plain Press, May 2017) Since January when the Quicken Loans Arena deal was first announced, Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) has been vocal and active in its support for equity and fairness to bring prosperity to downtown and our neighborhoods. GCC acknowledges the important first steps laid out in today’s (4/24/17) announcement of improvements to the deal before the Cleveland City Council. Furthermore, GCC recognizes Dan Gilbert and Rock Ventures’ track record on minority hiring and inclusion.
However, in 2017, high levels of inclusion of minorities and women should be a universal standard applied across an industry, not an exception to an all-to-often discriminatory practice. Furthermore, the cited additional elements of this deal are inadequate “perks” to a city that is in a de facto state of emergency in street violence, poverty, environmental health hazards and epidemic levels of overdose and addiction.
This deal continues to remain well short of what is the national trend in community benefits agreements related to the use of public money in its scope, scale, and substance. Today’s announcement flies in the face of the Community Benefits Agreements happening in cities across the country, where faith communities, labor unions, civic groups and civil rights organizations have worked diligently and cooperatively with the public and private sector to create these agreements.
Greater Cleveland Congregations cites the following articles about Community Benefit Agreements resulting from public money given to a stadium, an arena, and a development project in other cities.
An article in For Working Families by Ben Beach notes that $320 Million in public financing in 2009 for the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh resulted in the following community benefits: $8.3 million in neighborhood improvements; $2 million toward a new neighborhood grocery ($1 million in URA grants/ $1 million from the Pittsburgh Penguins); $500,000 for 6-12 years for Economic Development, Youth Services, Mental Health Support and Green Space Expansion; and creation of a multi-purpose Neighborhood Community Center.
An article by Carla Caldwell in the Atlanta Business Chronical on November 26, 2013 is titled “New Falcons Stadium community benefits plan approved.” In exchange for $200 million in public financing for Falcons Stadium the Atlanta Economic Development Authority promised $15 million for distressed neighborhoods. That amount was matched with another $15 million from team owner Arthur Blanks’ Family Foundation.
An article by Luke Broadwater in the Baltimore Sun titled “Baltimore officials approve $100 million community benefits deal with Port Covington developers” notes the community benefit deal negotiated when $660 million in public bonds were used for a Baltimore development project. The community benefits agreement included $35 million for recreational facilities, summer youth jobs and scholarships, $25 million commitment to train new workers, and $10 million in no-interest loans for minority and women startups.
Editor’s Note: The above is a statement issued by Greater Cleveland Congregations on April 24th, 2017 upon hearing about some “perks” Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert offered in pursuing public money to expand the Q. That evening, April 24, 2017 Cleveland City Council voted 12-5 to commit $88 million for expansion of the Quicken Loans Arena. Other public monies from Cuyahoga County and Destination are already going toward financing the $283 million project. According to an article by Robert Higgs in the April 25th Plain Dealer, “Council Approves $88 million for arena”, the Cavs ownership agreed to contribute dollars to debt service that exceeds what the City of Cleveland takes in admission tax for any given year; they agreed to refurbish more than 20 gym floors in City of Cleveland recreation centers and some floors in Cleveland high school gyms. In addition, the Cavaliers agreed to donate funds from road game watch parties to Habitat for Humanity to renovate 100 homes over three years (the money was previously donated to other charities). Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins who previously had voted against the project going forward, voted with the majority on April 24th. This allowed the project to have the needed 12 votes to be fast tracked as an emergency measure and take effect immediately. The five City Council members voting against the legislation were: Zack Reed, TJ Dow, Mike Polensek, Kevin Conwell and Jeff Johnson.
On April 26th, Greater Cleveland Congregations announced they will be joining in a coalition that is circulation petitions to bring the issue before Cleveland voters.