During the last two weeks of January, I spoke twice before a rigged, bought and paid for county council, which voted unanimously to place renewal of the sin tax on the May 6 ballot. I am the ONLY candidate, Democrat or Republican, who has spoken against the sin tax, and will vote NO on the same Democratic primary ballot as my name. Below are videos of each of my comments, with transcripts.
Public Comments to County Council
January 21, 2014 on Sin Tax Levy
Madame President and council members, I rise in opposition to today’s resolution. For purposes of full disclosure, I am a candidate for county executive, and ran for County Council District 7 in 2010.
First, I am a lifelong fan of the Browns, the Indians, and the Cavaliers. I remember Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, as if they happened yesterday. I watched the Indians lose Game 7 of the World Series on Armed Forces TV from my work in Armenia. I watched nearly every minute of Lebron James’ time in Cleveland, and I know why Mel Turpin was called Dinner Bell Mel.
I also watched the Browns come hat in hand to one of the poorest cities in America for $30 million. I watched Joe Banner refuse to tell City Council anything about the Browns’ finances. I then watched a sitting councilman vote to give the Browns that $30 million, despite getting no answer to his own questions about the Browns revenue, their profit/loss, even the amount of taxes the Browns pay.
If I came to this council to ask for one red cent, you would reasonably set a microscope to my bank account. When three billionaires came to this council to ask for hundreds of millions, did you do the same?
Why is it that every time a billionaire wants to save a nickel, the little guy has to cough up the nickel?
Twenty three years ago, I supported this tax. I dismissed the arguments of people like Roldo Bartimole, who said the promises were inflated, who warned us these billionaires would be back again, who documented the money trail billionaires use to purchase the power they need to line their own wallets.
It turns out Roldo was right 23 years ago.
I’m happy to admit my mistakes. It was a mistake to hand the finances of this county over to billionaires. It is a mistake now.
And by the way, when did funding billionaires become the duty of a Cleveland sports fan?
The Browns just flushed millions down the toilet to fire their coach after one year. At this moment, Joe Banner doesn’t even have a coaching staff. Does Jimmy Haslam even know how to earn a nickel without inheriting it, hijacking the taxpayer for it, or defrauding it from his customers?
Dan Gilbert has a license to print money from casinos, by name, written into the Ohio Constitution. Now he wants more corporate welfare? After he bought a team with Lebron James and now sits on a team without Lebron James?
The Dolans are one of the richest families in America. They trade Cy Young award winners away like I change underwear. Corporate welfare for them too?
This red herring implied threat that Cleveland will lose its sports teams if we don’t cough up more money from the poorest people in this county is blind to history. These billionaires need to visit Art Modell’s grave. It’s the one with the salt over it so he never springs up in Canton.
Our sports teams leave town when we say they leave. How dare these out of town billionaires pop up in Cleveland, take our teams, destroy them on a regular basis, and then stroll into our political processes holding the little guy hostage for taxpayer handouts.
If I were county executive, this would never see the ballot. Enough is enough.
Public Comment on Sin Tax, County Council,
January 28, 2014
My name is Tim Russo, I’m a candidate for county executive on the same ballot in May where this sin tax may appear.
I’ve listened to the debate with amazement. Who could have known Art Modell would rise from the grave in this council chamber?
Art Modell had a lease, may God have mercy on his soul. (mom made me say that)
Art Modell told us he needed renovations.
Art Modell even had a sin tax already on the ballot to give him his renovations, as he planned behind our backs, in secret, to leave.
Art Modell then broke his lease, left Cleveland with no team, in the middle of the campaign for the sin tax he begged for.
When billionaires sign a lease, they can break it whenever they feel like it. Money takes care of the rest.
When the county, the public, signs a lease, it’s holy. How dare we touch it.
Losses get socialized, profits get privatized. This game is rigged.
That’s why all these suits are here.
I used to be one of these suits. Jumping from one billionaire’s bidding to another. They’re here for one reason. To make sure the money that billionaires paying them gets their way, no matter what.
How big will that check have to be from one of these suits to make you forget Art Modell? I don’t have much, but for this Browns fan, there is no amount of money that will make me forget Art Modell.
Don’t play this rigged game and be the sharp end of the money behind those suits.
If a landlord can’t afford renovations to his property for his tenants, and his tenant is a billionaire, they sit down and work out a new deal. So do it.
Here’s the nickel from the smoker and beer drinker, the poorest people in Cuyahoga County, and there’s the 3 billionaires’ team of suits. Who do you think should bear the burden?
Or? Ask these billionaires to get creative. Why not join Colorado and Washington, legalize marijuana, and tax that for the three stadiums. Make everybody happy.
The next second, every suit in this room will start lining up for their first $10,000 a month marijuana lobbying gig with RJ Reynolds. Try anything at all.
But do NOT fall into the same old trap Art Modell set for us 18 years ago.
You are here to govern US. Not to be governed by money.
Just remember how you felt the day Art Modell showed up in a parking lot in Baltimore. And how you felt when we brought the Browns back.
Our teams leave Cleveland when we say they leave Cleveland. We don’t have to dance to their tune.
We are human beings, not human resources. We make the music. Not money.
I will use my voice as candidate for county executive to defeat this sin tax if it gets to the ballot I’m on May 6. It is unfair, immoral, and an unnecessary capitulation to whatever demand the biggest pile of money wants from the poorest among us.
But far worse, it is evidence that we may have forgotten Art Modell. For that reason alone, it needs to be defeated. Thank you.