RTA cuts? Who cares, it serves working people

by Roldo Bartimole

(Plain Press, February 2018)        The fact that there has been little public hysteria—as there usually is when something the corporate establishment values feels hurt—tells you all you need to know about our priorities here.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) faces a fiscal strangulation. It’s due to a change in the levy of the sales tax on Medicaid. RTA says it will cost some $20 million in revenue annually. The tax will disappear due to a Medicaid ruling.


That translates into the need to cut 1.8 million fewer trips for workers; 700,000 fewer trips to local schools and 300,000 fewer trips to health appointments. The figures are from a letter by George Dixon, RTA board president; Dennis Clough, board vice president, and Joe Calabrese, RTA general manager.

That’s the result too of an original sin—use of the regressive sales tax to fund this mass transit.

Do we pay for roads and streets with a sales tax? No, of course we don’t.

Mass transit sorely needs adequate state, county and even local financial help.

It is a crucial urban need, not a luxury or part-time service.

But Cleveland’s top legal and corporate leaders—so typically—in the early 1970s decided the regressive sales tax would be best. Of course, for them.

It certainly lets the state off the hook, the county off the hook and the city off the hook.

And, of course, it lets the people with the real money home free.

Penny sales taxes don’t hurt the wealthy.

I think most people don’t remember that the Regional Transit System was once Cleveland Transit System and the downtown establishment had a lot to do with how that transfer took place.

AND WHO PAID THE BILLS. Sales tax means not them.

It’s just the same old story.

I wrote in 1975: The original legislation that made it necessary for everyone to back a regressive sales tax rather than an equitable tax was written by Richard Desmond of Squire, Sander and Dempsey and shoved through the Legislature.

Who engineered this? James C. Davis, Desmond’s boss and managing partner then of Squire-Sanders. Also, he was head of Greater Cleveland Forward, another of those created entities that funneled money to lobby RTA and its funding method.

He was a heavy-weight. He was chairman also of two other corporate creations of the time: Cleveland Development Foundation and the Greater Cleveland Growth Association. Names no longer in use but replaced by Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

Davis wrote the famous, widely-distributed pamphlet “Cleveland’s White Problem.” It absolved corporate interests of racism and piled it on white ethnics alone.

Davis was derisive in his description of elderly people at one of the meetings, arguing for lower fares for the elderly. “They don’t even know what they’re cheering about,” he was overheard saying at one meeting.

The names change; the tasks don’t.

The city of Cleveland really got NOTHING for its transit system. Its inventory was at the time valued at $72 million. The always cooperative press at the time said the city got $10 million but that was to pay the city for a loan of $.8.8 million and $1.1 million for city-owned parking lots. It got nothing else.

Dennis Kucinich saved riders some $350,000 a year by nixing a deal that would have charged riders a dime extra during work travel time.

The Plain Dealer played its usual role. Its editorial said, “What little opposition has cropped up to the regional transit plan has been based on false and insufficient information.”

Of course, if the county lately hadn’t spent gobs of money on stadiums and arenas and phony medical marts and a fancy hotel, there might be some funds to give working people a ride to work.

And without an increased cost.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the blog: Have Coffee Will Write on January 11, 2018. For more articles by Roldo Bartimole, visit the blog at: havecoffeewillwrite.com and click the link Roldo.


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