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Sin Tax Renewal Campaign Launched With Cleveland’s Major Sports Teams In Mind

By T.J. ZUPPE, 92.3 The Fan
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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks at a press conference to launch the sin tax renewal campaign in Cleveland, Oh. (Photo by T.J. ZUPPE, CBS Cleveland)

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks at a press conference to launch the sin tax renewal campaign in Cleveland, Oh. (Photo by T.J. ZUPPE, CBS Cleveland)

TJ_300x300 T.J. Zuppe
T.J. Zuppe began his broadcasting career in 2008 and has covered major...
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CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Tuesday marked day number one of a campaign launched to renew Cuyahoga County’s sin tax on cigarettes and alcohol in order to focus on an increased urgency to keep Cleveland’s three professional sports venues in good condition.

A handful of business owners and civic leaders gathered at Pickwick and Frolic in downtown Cleveland to discuss the city’s rebirth spawned by the opening of Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena in 1994 and their importance in the continued growth of downtown. Many pointed to how far the city has come since the Gateway Project first became a reality in the early 1990’s.

Businesses have found their way back to downtown Cleveland. More and more young professionals are also making the city their home. Since the facilities opened in 1994 (and then Cleveland Browns Stadium in 1999), the economy has seen an economic impact of $4 billion and many more jobs.

The gathered crowd at Pickwick and Frolic indicated the belief that the increased downtown vibrancy was due to Cleveland’s major three franchises.

The group’s focus? Renewing the sin tax with the purpose of funding the publicly owned Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena and First Energy Stadium’s major capital repairs.

After all, 2014 marks the 20th year of operation for the venues the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers call home – and both continue to need repairs to remain in top-notch condition in comparison to other professional sports venues around the country.

Once announced renovations of Wrigley Field be completed in Chicago, Progressive Field will become the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball without some sort of major park renovation.

But those that stand behind the sin tax renewal believe the benefit goes beyond the obvious for all three sports teams.

“Having three major league sports teams in Cleveland adds to our vibrancy and draws more than four million people a year into the city for games and other events in those buildings,” Mayor Frank Jackson said in a statement. “These structures draw us together like few other things do. Cleveland is a major league city and we must keep these building in major league condition. Renewing this tax, with no tax increase, enables us to do that.”

The supporters of a renewal of the sin tax in May find many reasons for the public to vote yes. That includes pointing out the renewal would not be a tax increase. The tax would continue at roughly two cents for a beer, a penny for a glass of wine and 4.5 cents for a pack of cigarettes.

In addition, without a renewal of the tax, the responsibility to pay for needed repairs would become that of the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Backers caution that without a yes vote, paying for those repairs could force cuts to critical services including important public services.

“This is an important issue,” Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County Executive said. “And it’s an issue that I will support regardless of the political consequences because extending the sin tax means protecting critical human services that families in Cuyahoga County rely on every day.”

“It makes sense to preserve these building and extend their life and that means making repairs when needed,” Dave Wondolowski, Executive Secretary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades council said. “It’s just like owning a house. After 20 years, it’s often time for a new roof and a new furnace. For about two cents a beer, we can generate a revenue stream that will ensure that these structures are kept in major league condition. It’s a small but sound investment not only in the building but in the future of Cleveland and Cuyhogoa County.”

“The key to the campaign is demonstrating everyone is behind the issue,” Joe Roman, president of the Greater Cleveland Partnership said. “(We will be) using many voices and many faces.”

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