by Chuck Hoven
What should local politicians do when billionaires come calling for a handout?
A recent post on a social media site featured a photo of Star Trek’s Spock, a character dedicated to logic. Underneath the photo is a comment about billionaires who claim they need a public contribution to make a project possible. Roughly paraphrased, the logical Spock comment is “When a billionaire tells you he/or she needs your money to do a project, either A) They are not a billionaire, or B) They are a liar.”
Local politicians should not be so ready to believe the local billionaire owners of our major league sports teams when they say they need public dollars for their grandiose plans for the lakefront and the riverfront. Cleveland Browns owners James and Susan Haslam are pushing a lakefront development plan, while Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert (Rock Holdings) is pushing a riverfront development plan.
Doesn’t Cleveland, with the highest child poverty rate of any big city in the country, have other more important priorities?
With local politicians lining up to support these billionaires’ plans rather than addressing Cleveland’s longstanding child poverty crisis, one wonders how much have the politicians received in campaign contributions? Have the Haslams and Gilberts been priming the pump to get support for their projects?
Just a quick look at some Ohio Secretary of State campaign contribution forms from some local politicians would make one conclude the answer is “yes.”
The Council Leadership Fund, controlled by Cleveland City Council’s leadership, received a donation of $13,704.41 from Rock Holdings PAC of Lansing, Michigan on 10/15/2021. A few days later, on 10/19/2021, the Council Leadership Fund recorded a donation of $13,700 from Susan Haslam of Knoxville, TN.
Newly elected Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne is also a recipient of campaign donations. On December 20, 2021, the Committee to Elect Chris Ronayne received a check from Susan Haslam for $5,000 and another check from James Haslam for $5,000.
Ward 3 City Council Representative Kerry McCormack, whose ward includes the downtown area is also a recipient of donations from the Haslams. A Friends of Kerry McCormack campaign finance report to the Office of the Ohio Secretary of State reports that on August 16, 2021, Susan Haslam and James Haslam of Knoxville, TN each donated $1,500 to the campaign for a total contribution of $3,000.
Rock Holdings State PAC-OH, which has a Lansing, Michigan address donated $3,000 to Friends of Blaine Griffin on 9/29/2021.
Feasibility Study Funded
Cleveland City Council has already agreed to spend $5 million for a study to determine the feasibility of building a land bridge called the North Coast Connector to go across the Shoreway and the railroad tracks connecting Mall C and the lawn next to City Hall to the lakefront. The State of Ohio Department of Transportation’s Office of Jobs and Commerce is chipping in another $5 million to pay for half of the feasibility study. The North Coast Connector is to be another option, besides E. 9th and W. 3rd, for pedestrians or cyclists to go to the lakefront.
Several community meetings, most likely funded as part of the feasibility study, are scheduled for public participation in the feasibility study. The meetings called Community Visioning Workshops are as follows: Saturday, May 6 from 2-4 p.m. at Inlet Dance Theatre, The Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression, 2937 W. 25th Street; Tuesday, May 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m., EJ Kovacic Recreation Center, Second Floor, 6250 St. Clair Ave.; and on May 11, a Virtual Meeting on Zoom. For more information and a link to sign up to attend one of the meetings visit www.clevelandnorthcoast.com/get-involved.
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