Issue 7 debate on Sound of Ideas: “Here’s one minute of dialogue that encapsulates the real sin tax debate perfectly”

by Cleveland Frowns on May 1, 2014

Yesterday I appeared on WCPN’s Sound of Ideas for a discussion of the sin tax/Issue 7 with Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and guest phone appearances by Cleveland Journalism Hall of Famer Roldo Bartimole, and Kent Whitley who was nominally representing the NAACP. We covered a lot of ground over the course of what was a 48-minute discussion, and the bankruptcy of the pro-sin tax “Keep Cleveland Strong” campaign’s position was effectively revealed. Video and audio of the program is available here, both to stream, and download via mp3. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, I recommend at least listening to the opening statements on both sides of the issue delivered by Councilman Kelley and me in the first few minutes of the program.

I also recommend checking out this short piece by Eric Sandy at Scene, featuring a 59-second excerpt of the discussion, titled “Here’s One Minute of Dialogue That Encapsulates the Real Sin Tax Debate Perfectly.”

“There have been plenty of news stories from all sorts of sources in the Cleveland area (most of whom are on record as openly supporting Issue 7),” Sandy writes, “though few reports home in on the argument brought to light here.”

What I didn’t have a chance to address on the program that I’d like to address here are the comments of Mr. Whitley, nominally on behalf of the NAACP in support of Issue 7. Had I been given some time to do so on the air, I would have pointed out that the membership of the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP did not have a chance to vote on whether to endorse the Issue, but that the endorsement was decided upon behind closed doors by a small group of executives. I might have also pointed out that Mr. Whitley is the only NAACP member who has put his name anywhere near this endorsement, with Cleveland NAACP President Reverend Hilton Smith remaining conspicuously silent on the issue. Mr. Whitley is the owner of an architecture firm based in Cleveland that has solicited contracts for sports arenas in the past, including Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. Several members of the Coalition Against the Sin Tax are also members of the NAACP, and have expressed in no uncertain terms their belief that Cleveland NAACP leadership has failed to represent its members on this issue. This view is well represented by a letter to Reverend Smith by Cleveland NAACP member James Hammons, the text of which is available here.


Here’s another good read on the subject by Sandy at Medium.


The Coalition Against the Sin Tax need volunteers to put boots on the ground over the next few days for the final push through election day. Please call or email Erin McCardle at (216) 450-7574 and if you can help. Thanks.

  • bupalos

    Great job. And it was really 2 on 1. Even though they posed it as left right and center with the impartial journalist there in the center, seems he kind of tipped a hand with the way he phrased the likelihood of passage there at the end.

    The way these pro sin tax guys are setting it up makes me more excited. They are openly saying (threatening) that the only two possibilities are this tax or the general fund…basically pass this or 911 won’t come to pick up granny. It sets us up for a huge win, because the odds that 50 million really does come out of the general fund for fancy scoreboards is practically 0. The teams will either pay or somehow squeak by with their existing multimillion dollar scoreboards, and the nature of the scam become a little clearer. On the bad side, they are running this a year early so maybe if it fails they just come back next year and claim it’s a huge emergency.

    Fantastic job. Maybe just work on the jujitsu for the Gateway bankruptcy/renegotiation issue. I think they scored some confusion there, whereas in reality that was just re-calibrating how hard to squeeze the golden goose so it didn’t die. It’s actually further evidence that they will take every dime they can get, and that if you remove all the dimes they will make other shift. And if they are threatening that if this doesn’t pass it comes from the general fund, well, then how about we pass it but earmark it for the general fund. Then we can meet our “obligations” as it becomes more clear what those obligations are, and spend the rest on schools.

  • Joe Bialek

    This issue is the absurdity of absurdities. Let me get this straight: the purpose of the Sin Tax is to gouge those who purchase alcohol and cigarettes not because anyone is trying to discourage consumption but rather so the County can use that money to pay for sports stadiums that do not produce anything but a fleeting moment witnessing the passing of a football, the dribbling of a basketball and …the throwing of a baseball so that such a minute tidbit of diversion can be enjoyed by all. The stupidity of this proposition is enough to make your head spin even though the spin doctors advocating passage of this nonsense are already doing a pretty good job of hypnotizing the voters to actually consider supporting it. At least the Robber Barons of the previous centuries provided something tangible such as oil, steel, railroads etcetera. These team owners do not even provide one tangible thing that could ever be considered with the term “value added.” Almost everyone discusses this “enterprise” as though it is the same thing as industry {which it is not}. The price of admission is essentially a voluntary tax paid by those who can afford it to pay those who don’t need it. If this isn’t a transfer of wealth I don’t know what is.

    The real outrage here is the fact that taxes on alcohol and cigarettes will not be used to aid in the reduction of addiction {hence the reference to “sin”} but rather to stuff the pockets of all three teams who could easily afford to pay for the repairs themselves. The vote was rammed through the last time {under somewhat suspicious circumstances} and hear we go again. But this time…not so fast!!! We the voters of Cuyahoga County are going to fight the proponents on this one and we don’t care if the teams up and go somewhere else {please see my views on entertainment below} because quite frankly there are simply more important things than sports and the unearned money that comes with it. Those in public office who are too stupid and lazy to find other ways to grow a major American city need to resign and leave their self-seeking political ambitions on the scrapheap of history. Don’t ever let it be said that this was time when the tide ran out on Cuyahoga County but rather was the time when the voters rose up to welcome the rising tide of change and rebuked this pathetic paradigm our previous elected leaders embraced. Let the battle be joined.

    And now to the real underlying issue at hand:

    One of the most disturbing facts about our capitalist nation is the misappropriation of funds directed to the salaries of entertainers. Everyone should agree that the value an athlete, movie star, talk-show host, team-owner, etcetera brings to the average citizen is very small. Granted, they do offer a minuscule of diversion from our daily trials and tribulations as did the jesters in the king’s court during the middle ages. But to allow these entertainers to horde such great amounts of wealth at the expense of more benevolent societal programs is unacceptable. They do not provide a product or a service so why are they rewarded as such?

    Our society is also subjected to the “profound wisdom” of these people because it equates wealth with influence. Perhaps a solution to this problem and a alternative to defeated school levies, crumbling infrastructures, as well as all the programs established to help feed, clothe and shelter those who cannot help themselves would be to tax this undeserved wealth. Entertainers could keep 1% of the gross earnings reaped from their endeavor and 99% could be deposited into the public coffers.

    The old ideas of the redistribution of wealth have failed, and it is time to adapt to modern-day preferences. People put their money into entertainment above everything else; isn’t it time to tap that wealth? Does anyone think this will reduce the quality of entertainment? It seems to me that when entertainers received less income, the quality was much higher.

  • PML
    • bupalos

      That is really good

  • actovegin1armstrong

    Why did Sammy “Suit Does Not Match His Tie” Syntax/Sintax bring up the draft party?

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Also Peter, you did a terrific job. When people are saying something that they are uncomfortable about, or with which they know the opposition has a decided stronghold, they move more, focus less, and look to gauge the reaction of anyone available. Sammy Syntax could not shake this simple public speaking faux pas, while at the same time Peter, you were a slave to your convictions and that bespeaks the utmost in sincerity.

      Congratulations Peter, you are doing a terrific job for your community, every time I see or read your edicts I feel guilty that I am a self absorbed idiot, satisfied in my meager actions to help our society and what I do to help others pales in comparison to your efforts.

      You know I love you Peter!

    • bupalos

      i half expected Frownie to bump Map Room there. The restraint was impressive.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        If I leave Thursday morning, then catch the red eye Thursday night….

  • nj0

    Ralph Nader is on board!

  • Guest

    Seems like someone should check into the finances behind the TWO “Vote Yes” messages seen behind the batter’s box on Indian baseball broadcasts.

    Unless they’ve been paid for at market rates same as United Airlines, Lumber Liquidators, and all the other sponsors with a behind the plate message contract, methinks that would be illegal. I won’t even get into FCC Equal Time rules.

  • beeej

    I just heard a KCS ad that said, “If you vote down Issue 7, then Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco will pocket $100s of millions… Cleveland will be losing money… money normally used to maintain our publicly owned stadiums. Vote Yes…”

    “Disgusted,” is an understatement.

    Joe Roman is now being interviewed by Hammy. Talking about all this “misinformation.” Hey Pete. Now you are full of it for being “Out of town… from Columbus.”

    They sound like they have practiced their script.

    • beeej

      Hammy sounds like he sold his soul.

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