The Q Deal is Alive and Well — How GCC Compromised to Resuscitate It

click to enlarge The Q Deal is Alive and Well — How GCC Compromised to Resuscitate It
Sam Allard / Scene
The Greater Cleveland Congregations, a regional faith-based coalition, is now scrambling to put an adequate spin on the latest news: that they intend to withdraw their petitions seeking a referendum on the Q Deal; that in doing so, Dan Gilbert will return to the negotiating table; and that the renovation will now resume exactly as planned, without the intervention of voters. (This the current assumption anyway.)

The death of the deal, announced Monday — which marked the first time nationwide that activist groups had triumphed over a sports owner seeking public subsidies — was fleeting. It now seems almost fake.

Shortly after the Cavs issued their statement declaring the deal dead, County representatives got in touch with GCC, advising that a window still existed. They thought they could get the Cavs back to the table and still get construction underway before a Sep. 15 deadline imposed by the NBA. Construction on the arena upgrades had to start by that date, the NBA said, if Cleveland were to remain in contention as a host city for an All-Star Game in 2020 or 2021.

Armond Budish's "intermediaries" negotiated with GCC and affirmed their commitment to mental health crisis centers. The crisis centers — one on the west side, one on the east —  had been central to GCC's proposed community equity fund from the beginning. GCC also sought workforce training pipelines and capital investments in neighborhoods.

GCC told Scene Thursday that the commitment from the county was as of yet not a concrete financial commitment. But the county had expressed interest in them. GCC said they intend to hold the County to their commitments, even though nothing firm is in place. These commitments are from the county exclusively, not from the city; nor, indeed from Dan Gilbert himself. (GCC initially wanted Gilbert to contribute millions of dollars personally toward the Community Equity Fund).

GCC called the Cavs' declaration on Monday a "power move" which undercut their leverage. But who needs leverage? Scene asked. Hadn't this chess game just been won?

Evidently not. GCC maintained that they didn't want the deal to implode. They never did. Their intent had always been to find a better deal, to attain community benefits for Cleveland's neighborhoods and to make sure that citizens voices are part of the equation in processes like these. GCC said the activist effort in this deal has changed the status quo, especially in the context of big development projects.

To some degree, GCC may be correct. The Cleveland corporate community is surely on notice that they won't be able to get sweetheart deals without an aggressive response from the community.

But in other ways, the calculation was a divisive one. GCC had been vilified as scheming extortionists by the pro-deal side and will now be vilified as sell-outs by their opposition allies. Members of other opposition groups, like the SEIU and the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, are dismayed, if not furious. Some feel betrayed, sold out.

One activist told Scene that they spent hours collecting signatures for the referendum in order to "kill the deal, not help GCC make a deal." The county's commitment to investigating the costs of crisis centers — itself a tiny fraction of what GCC initially hoped to attain — is in any event considered to be vastly less important than the victory for democracy that has been short-circuited.

Steve Holecko, political director for CCPC, said he had no comment, but would be releasing a statement soon. He did say that he had not been a part of any negotiations and had only received news that petitions would be withdrawn this afternoon.

A Cuyahoga County spokesperson said the County had no comment at this time.

The behind-the-scenes negotiating casts Dan Gilbert's Thursday tweet in a new light. Gilbert said he would never take the Cavs from Cleveland. He called threats to the contrary "silly rumors."

But it appears, a few hours removed, that the tweet was composed with full knowledge that the deal was coming back, that his Transformation will indeed happen, and that now there won't be anyone to stop it.

(Here's The Essential Q Deal Reading List.)

And here's GCC Statement:

Contact Senior Writer Sam Allard: sallard at clevescene dot com / (216) 802-7282 / @SceneSallard
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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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