Cleveland to sports teams : ‘Win games, get taxpayer money’

A few weeks ago, Cleveland-area voters approved an extension of a “sin tax” to provide handouts to upgrade three major venues — Progressive Field for the Indians, Quicken Arena for the Cavaliers, and FirstEnergy Stadium for the Browns.

Now the county executive has released his plan for distributing the $2.6 million per year: It will be based on whether a team wins games in the city which has gone longer without a championship than any other major-sports city in America.

“This is at least a small step, and I think it’s a real step, to say … we love these teams, we’re loyal to these teams and we’re committed to maintaining these facilities. But we can also try to demand to get something a little bit better than we’ve gotten over the past 50 years,” Ed FitzGerald said.

Fitzgerald is running for governor so there’s a fair chance the idea is lighter than air. It lacks any specifics, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Nate Kelly, FitzGerald’s special assistant for economic development, said FitzGerald’s proposal is no different than requiring companies that accept tax incentives to deliver on a certain number of jobs, as the county currently does.

“The executive has been consistent on this issue. The ‘win tax’ is no different,” Kelley said.

Asked about FitzGerald’s proposal, Peter Pattakos, a leader of the campaign that unsuccessfully attempted to defeat the sin tax last May, said in an email: “The only responsible use of the Sin Tax proceeds is to pay down the hundreds of millions in debt still outstanding on the sports facilities. If Mr. Fitzgerald wants to stand up for County taxpayers, he will focus on that objective.”

The idea is running into opposition on the talk-show circuit.

“I don’t want government interference in how my sports teams are run. You’ve hit on a perfect grandstand play for a political candidate, because everyone wants to say, well I’ll hold the teams accountable,” Bruce Hooley, a former-sportswriter-turned-talk-show- host said. “But you’re talking about telling billionaires how to run their business when you guys have enough stuff to do.”

(h/t: Deb Rankin-Moore)