Coalition Against the Sin Tax (CAST) Announces Opposition Campaign to Issue 7

Grassroots organization begins to “Fight for a Fair Deal for County Taxpayers”

For Immediate Release

March 11, 2014

Contact: Peter Pattakos
330-285-2998, coalitionagainstthesintax@gmail.com

Cleveland, Ohio – A broad spectrum of citizens from across Greater Cleveland have come together to form the Coalition Against the Sin Tax (CAST).  The organization was formed out of growing public critique and questions about the proposed 20-year “Sin Tax” extension — on the Cuyahoga County ballot this May as Issue 7 — intended to collect between $260 – $320 million from taxpayers to be used to finance the costs of constructing, renovating, improving, or repairing pro-sports facilities. CAST is a grassroots, organized opposition campaign against the proposed Sin Tax extension.

Momentum to form opposition against the Sin Tax grew in the weeks following the unanimous vote of Cuyahoga County Council and the endorsement of County Executive Ed FitzGerald to submit the issue to the voters.  The Council’s unanimous approval came only two weeks after the issue was introduced.

The energy of CAST was ignited by Alan Glazen, a local entrepreneur and former advertising executive who previously served as a media consultant to the initial Sin Tax campaign in the 1990’s.  Glazen’s social media posts and Facebook page quickly attracted public attention and grew to more than 1,200 members. Regarding the formal opposition announcement, Glazen said:

“Voters of Cuyahoga County deserve better, we deserve a fairer deal. This issue was rushed to be placed on the ballot with a lot of unanswered questions that demand answers.  We call on all local elected officials, as well as all political, community, social justice organizations and individuals, to contact CAST and stand with us.  Demand accountability, transparency and a better deal. Vote NO on Issue 7.”

As opposition to the Sin Tax continues to mount, the many questions that remain include:

  1. Why have proponents of the Sin Tax been consistently unable to explain exactly what the public’s “obligations” are to finance the pro sports facilities, or how Sin Tax revenues would serve to satisfy those “obligations”? How do Sin Tax revenues serve as anything but a bottomless pit of public funding for the pro sports owners?
  2. Why are the citizens of Cuyahoga County being shouldered with the burden of paying this tax, when over 50% of the visitors to the facilities are from outside of the County?
  3. Why do voters have to vote on a 20-year tax when none of the three sports teams have more than 15 years left on their lease?
  4. Why do proponents of the Sin Tax continually refer to it as a “pennies on the dollar tax” when in reality the Tax will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of public money that could be spent on anything else?
  5. Why are we pursuing stadium funding through the sin tax, which has been proven to be a regressive tax that disproportionately impacts the poor?

The Coalition will embark on an ambitious education campaign to educate the public on the hidden economic cost of the Sin Tax.  Additionally, CAST leaders will appear at any function that is in need of an opposing view as to why the Sin Tax should not be extended.  The website for the Coalition is being launched today at www.noclevelandsintax.com. People can also follow CAST on Twitter at @NoCLESinTax.  On March 19th, the anti-sin Tax campaign will be hosting a kickoff meet-up at the Market Garden Brewery’s Ohio City Room beginning at 6:00 pm.

The Chair of the Coalition is Peter Pattakos, an attorney with the Cleveland law firm of Cohen Rosenthal & Kramer, writer, and publisher of the popular blog www.ClevelandFrowns.com. On the opposition to the Sin Tax, Peter said:

“We can and must do a lot better than the deal that the Sin Tax proponents are pushing. The current leases were made more than 20 years ago in a much different economic climate.  Unemployment was 5%. Now it’s over 8%.  Inequality has skyrocketed.  With the Parking Tax, the Admissions Tax, the Bed Tax, the Video Game tax, the Car Rental Tax, the 8.0% Sales Tax, the $102 Million naming rights that went directly to the Browns, the property/building tax exemptions received by the pro sports teams and the many levies that fall upon the County’s citizens, the public subsidies for these hugely profitable private businesses cannot continue at their current levels.  Other cities across the country have pro sports facilities deals that are far more favorable to taxpayers.  For the economic health of our City and County, our current funding system for the stadiums is not sustainable,” said Pattakos.  “If the Chamber wants to promote regionalism, let’s start on this issue.”

Angie Schmitt, a community organizer and public transit advocate offered her thoughts, “The Sin Tax is a regressive tax that unfairly targets the low-income citizens of the County.  I’m proud that this Coalition is bringing up the unfairness associated with this issue.  We may have different reasons why we oppose it, but we all are unified in our opposition.”

“The teams and their corporate sponsors will outspend us by hundreds of thousands of dollars in their rushed grab for this public cash,” Pattakos said. “So it’s especially important that the public becomes engaged on this issue and shows up at the ballot box on May 6 to vote no on Issue 7.”

For more information and to sign on as a supporter of the Coalition, please email CoalitionAgainsttheSixTax@gmail.com, visit www.noclevelandsintax.com, and attend the Coalition’s introductory press conference and kickoff meet-up event at the Market Garden Brewery’s Ohio City Room beginning at 6:00 pm on March 19th (1947 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113).