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Monday, March 27, 2017

Kevin Kelley: City Council Won't Be Impediment to Passage of Q Deal

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge City Council President Kevin Kelley - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • City Council President Kevin Kelley
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley told reporters Monday morning that he expected City Council to pass the Quicken Loans Arena renovation deal.

In a gathering at his City Hall office, billed as the first in a series of "office hours"-styled press sessions, Kelley confirmed that he personally supports the Q deal, given the information he has available to him.

He said he and his council colleagues have been meeting to discuss questions and concerns and that he has been forthcoming with information and sources, including the favorable recommendation of City Finance Director Sharon Dumas.

The issue will be first heard Tuesday morning at the Development, Planning & Sustainability Committee hearing, chaired by Anthony Brancatelli. Kelley said he expected it to be heavy on formal presentations.

"My one request," Kelley said, referencing his colleagues, "is that if you're against [the deal], that you be against it for the right reasons. Don't be against it because it might be politically distasteful to a certain outside group."

He said that while he understands philosophical objections to corporate subsidies, he doesn't think that that argument alone is sufficient to vote against this particular deal, which he refers to in the language of the Cavs: "The Q Transformation." For Kelley, the argument is one of simple math: It's a good deal for Cleveland citizens because the facility generates more money than it costs.

The city's financial contribution will come from the admissions tax. The same portion of the tax that currently goes to pay down debt on 90s-era Gateway bonds (5/8 for Cavs games, 2/8 for non-Cavs events) would go toward the arena upgrades beginning in 2023. Total admissions tax contributions are estimated at $88.5 million. For Kelley, it's cut-and-dry, merely a continuation of an existing financial arrangement.

"Tell me how Cleveland loses by doing this," Kelley said, paraphrasing what he would tell his colleagues who oppose the deal. "Make a better case than 'We shouldn't be giving money to billionaires."

Kelley objected, in even harsher terms, to the argument that investment in the Q was equivalent to disinvestment in Cleveland's neighborhoods. He characterized that argument as a go-to political talking point, (in what's shaping up to be a contentious campaign summer), but an inaccurate one.

"It's a disingenuous argument," Kelley said. "Investing in neighborhoods is all we do. Look at 90 percent of our budget." He rattled off a list of city investments in his own Ward 13 (Old Brooklyn): $8 million for a Pearl Road streetscape project, the renovation of a historic bank building at Pearl and Broadview, $1.5 million for Loew Park, $375,000 for Goudreau Park, etc.

Kelley said he called the press session to calibrate information in the media and to provide a regular opportunity to clarify council activities — to provide, he said, a "different and more complete perspective."

"Often what's covered in the media is something said on the floor Monday night," Kelley said. "But I would remind you that by then, the votes have already been taken... It's important that I provide as much access as possible. I have nothing to hide."

Kelley presented highlights from the the 2017 budget, scheduled to be passed tonight — increased funds for public safety, parks and recreation, and public health — and called it the "best budget [he's] been a part of." He said that 2017 must be an "impact year," to show residents that the income tax increase passed in 2016 will yield visible improvements in city services.

But the recurring questions from the press corps focused on the Q deal. And though Kelly said he wanted to start with a blank slate and allow for ample presentations so his colleagues could make an informed decision, it looks like despite heated opposition from certain members, the votes are already more or less lined up. 

"Do you think City Council will be an impediment to getting this thing passed," a reporter asked.

Said Kelley, "I don't think so, as I sit here today."


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