Now it's up to Cuyahoga County voters to decide whether or not to extend a tax on alcohol and cigarettes 20 more years
CLEVELAND -- The campaigns for and against the sin tax have had their say.
Now it's up to Cuyahoga County voters to decide whether or not to extend a tax on alcohol and cigarettes 20 more years to pay for lease-obligated repairs on Progressive Field, The Q and FirstEnergy Stadium.
On the day before the big vote, Channel 3 News collected opinions from stakeholders on both sides of the issue.
Dave Flowers owns Carney's Bar, a neighborhood tavern on the fringes of The Flats. It's not in downtown.
Unquestionably, sports facilities have brought business, life, customers and jobs to the heart of the city.
But even outside of downtown, Flowers believes the tax has benefits for his business and workers.
"I get a lot of foot traffic from games when the Cavs, Indians or Browns are playing. ... They spend money. That's my motivation," he said.
Mallory McMaster is a young health care professional who lives downtown. With that profile, you might think she'd favor the tax as a way to help keep downtown vibrant.
She enjoys an occasional drink of wine, but she's voting to sink the sin tax.
"issue 7 is a repressive tax that punishes poor people so rich people can have a playground," she said.
Construction worker unions are backing the tax, and laborer Tom Chambers thinks it's good for him and his future job prospects as well as the city.
"If it wasn't for the Gateway project in '92, we wouldn't have what's going on right now. ... There's going to be plenty more work not only for construction but for safety forces, cab drivers and everything. This town is going places," he said.
Bill Rochelle owns a Convenient Food Mart in North Olmsted. Signs on his door and inside and above his beer coolers proclaim his opposition to Issue 7. The signs are right next to logos for all three major league sports teams.
He says the tax unfairly puts a burden on small retailers. They must pay the tax on all the product they buy from wholesalers. They then must hope they sell it all and collect tax before products go out of date.
Now it's up to Cuyahoga County voters to decide whether or not to extend a tax on alcohol and cigarettes 20 more years.
He estimates he has paid $700 in tax for cigarettes, beer, wine and diluted liquor sitting on his shelves.
"It puts a lot of burden on the retailer. ... We are actually acting as the bank for the sin tax. It's been a bookkeeping nightmare," he said.
Another sore subject for Rochelle, some big chain stores absorb the sin tax, putting more competitive pressure on him.
Greater Cleveland's political, civic and business community are solidly behind Issue 7, and, of course, so are the teams.
Opponents believe the vote's outcome will attract nationwide attention, as many cities are wrestling with issues or their responsibilities and obligations toward their professional sports teams when their own budgets are under stress.