After the 2016 Democratic Primary, local Bernie Sanders organizations all over America transformed. In Cleveland, we became the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus (CCPC). Today, CCPC sent predatory lender billionaire Trump supporter Dan Gilbert, also owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, into yet another petulant tantrum (this time not in Comic Sans font). CCPC’s grassroots drive to deny a Trump billionaire yet more public subsidy is likely the greatest achievement of ANY Bernie Sanders successor organization in America to date.
Faced with a citizen driven referendum to repeal a Democratic Party spawned oligarch public subsidy deal to renovate the arena where the Cavs play (Quicken Loans Arena), Gilbert instead today issued a press release pulling out. Putting scare quotes around “referendum”, Gilbert’s rage comes through loud and clear. Now we know how Lebron James feels.
For months, every single Democratic Party leader in Cuyahoga County has contorted themselves to hand Gilbert ever more taxpayer money. Just 3 years ago, Cuyahoga County’s elected Democrats unanimously gave Gilbert, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, and Indians owner Larry Dolan, hundreds of millions from a sin tax on cigarettes sold in Cuyahoga County. Taking money from the poor to hand to the rich is Cleveland’s Democratic Party go-to move.
Since Gilbert’s sweetheart deal boiled down to an ordinance passed in Cleveland City Council, this summer CCPC joined a coalition of labour and clergy to collect 20,000 signatures, 13,000 of which were valid, more than twice the required 6,000, to repeal the deal’s ordinance on the November ballot in the city of Cleveland. Months more of contortions later, in desperation to keep the referendum off Gilbert stooge Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s re-election ballot (and every Gilbert suckling incumbent city council person’s ballot), Gilbert now begs for the referendum to go away in his statement.
The Cavaliers organization will no longer participate in the partnership formed for The Q Transformation project and the need for a referendum no longer exists.
Alas, the signatures are valid, the ordinance still on the books, and the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled the referendum must go forward. So now, in addition to a Trump billionaire begging for mercy, Cleveland Democrats have to crawl into the council chamber to repeal their own ordinance just to avoid the referendum when next they convene in September. Delicious. That’s gonna be a fun rally.
This is not the first time Dan Gilbert has reneged on a deal for a pretty building. In 2009, Gilbert was given a clause in the Ohio Constitution (by statewide referendum Gilbert himself funded – irony) in which Gilbert promised to build a shiny new building for Phase 2 of his Jack Casino across the street from the arena. You’ll notice a similarity in the graphics pimping the pretty buildings. Gilbert has never turned a single shovel of dirt on his glorious Phase 2, and his Jack Casino rots as a redheaded stepchild appearing designed to fail as it sucks more money from the poor into his pockets.
However, this is the first time citizens have stepped to Dan Gilbert and told him we have a democracy in America, no matter how desperately bought and paid for Democrats try to hijack it. Those same Democrats must now do the people’s work for once in their lives, instead of a billionaire’s. Bernie Sanders’ successor organization locally has given the rest of the country an example. The crybaby Trump billionaire comes with that territory.