CLEVELAND -- Supporters and opponents of a 20-year extension of a sin tax on Cuyahoga County smokers and drinkers to pay for repairs and upgrades of homes of the Indians, the Cavs and the Browns both got to weigh in in front of Cuyahoga County Council.
Opponents got to tee off first.
County Executive Candidate Tim Russo asked, "Why is it every time a billionaire wants to save a nickel, the little guy has to cough it up?"
South Euclid City Council member Marty Gelfand said, "People are tapped out. This is not the right time to ask for more handouts for people that really don't need them."
Roldo Baltimore, a crusading journalist who has been against the sin tax all along brought detailed numbers of what it has cost taxpayers so far.
But the teams and business community supporters presented a wealth of facts and figures why they believe this makes good economic sense.
The sports facilities are no longer new and state-of-the-art and are in need of basic repair.
The teams have all spent tens of millions of dollars on repairs and improvements they were not obligated to pay for under their leases.
The tax on alcohol and cigarettes is an extension of an existing tax, not a new tax. And the original tax brings in much less money than it originally did because of inflation.
But what supporters hope will be their most compelling arguments involve the role quality stadiums play in helping attract fans and visitors and create business, jobs, tax revenue and a more vibrant downtown.
The Greater Cleveland Partnership's Joe Roman said, " We have a chance to keep doing what we're doing and preserve these assets for another generation."
Dennis Lehman, of the Cleveland Indians, presented a study that claimed the team is responsible for $4.2 billion of benefits in the Gateway era through 2012.
The Cavaliers Len Komoroski said the sports stadiums provide Cleveland's connection to the nation and the world through coverage of sports events.
The Browns made a less detailed presentation, affirming City of Cleveland arguments and actually taking exception to a report about the costs of their possible future needs.
The teams' leases make the city, county and Gateway responsible for many future repair costs. If the levy is defeated, it could mean other program cuts.
Eight of 11 County Council members must vote to put the issue on the May ballot before Feb. 5.
There are two more public meetings to discuss the issue.