Sin Tax Passes, but Opposition is Just Getting Started

click to enlarge "Mr. Business as Usual," a CAST puppet outside Progressive Field at the Cleveland Indians' home opener. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
"Mr. Business as Usual," a CAST puppet outside Progressive Field at the Cleveland Indians' home opener.
Voters in Cuyahoga County approved the twenty-year extension of the Sin Tax yesterday by a margin of roughly 56 to 44 percent. The Issue 7 opposition released a statement Wednesday morning which characterized the race as a David vs. Goliath battle in which Sin Tax backers (led by the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the sports teams themselves) outspent opponents by millions of dollars.

"We challenged our elected officials, civic organizations and leaders of our business community to think differently," the CAST statement read. "We wanted a better way of approaching our obligations to the owners, and recognition that the status quo in Cleveland isn’t good enough.

"In a city with more than half its children living in poverty, one of the worst public school systems in the nation, third-world infant mortality rates, a rapidly shrinking population, and a vanishing job market and middle class, it could hardly have been a worse time to have rubber stamped the Sin Tax on terms from the 1990's with no questions asked."   

Peter Pattakos, one of the CAST co-chairs, said that despite the outcome, there was reason for hope. 

"As much as anything, this campaign has shown how important it is for people to stand up for themselves in a cash-soaked political landscape in which elected officials and the mainstream press have proven unable to fulfill their intended roles," Pattakos said. "We’re optimistic that this is an early phase of a broader and highly beneficial public awakening to this reality.”

In a conversation this morning with Scene, Pattakos confirmed that though opponents certainly weren't pleased with the outcome, he sensed that a "movement" is taking shape.  

"People are energized," Pattakos said. "It's invigorating to see this many people opposed to the status quo in Cleveland." He noted that not a single "prominent elected official" supported the efforts of CAST.  

Ultimately, though, Pattakos said that a grassroots effort like CAST, even with an active social media presence, was no match for the big spending of the Issue 7 backers.   

"There's no substitute for actual engagement and actual conversation," said Pattakos, "but it has still proven unable to combat a multi-million dollar campaign in which people were constantly bombarded by misleading, threat-based advertising. Social media has helped, but I think it's somewhat naive to think that it could be a total answer in an environment where one side is outspending the other 30 to 1."  

Pattakos said that he will definitely be involved in the opposition moving forward, and that for now, he's pleased that CAST elevated the conversation. From the CAST press release:

"If we were able to raise awareness of critical issues relating to public priorities, inequality, fairness, and transparency in making such large-scale public investments, then we consider our effort a success."