It will be the first real "debate" between supporters and opponents of Issue 7, extending the present sin tax for 20 more years

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It's a big week for sports nationally and in Greater Cleveland.

The end of March Madness is coming soon.

The Indians open their season Monday night and will once again play to a sellout crowd in the traditional home opener on Friday. It will be a celebration of baseball's return and hopes for a season that includes a World Series.

The Cavs still have a long shot chance of squeaking into the NBA playoffs, seemingly impossible a couple weeks back.

But there's another big sports-related event in Cleveland Tuesday.

It's a two-on-two battle of words, a tag team match that will not be played out at the Q, Progressive Field or FirstEnergy Stadium.

It will be the first real "debate" between supporters and opponents of Issue 7, extending the present sin tax for 20 more years.

The money from a tax on cigarettes and alcohol would pay for repairs at all three sports facilities.

Speaking for the tax will be City Council President Kevin Kelley and Cavs/Q President Len Komoroski.

Opposing it will be lawyer Peter Pattakos, of the Coalition Against the Sin Tax, and Neil deMause, Editor of fieldofschemes.com.

He's a national critic of taxpayer-financed stadiums, arguing wealthy teams and owners should not tap the public.

It's billed as a panel "discussion." But it's a good bet there will be both light and heat.

Kelley and Komoroski will argue the tax would continue to keep downtown busy and "strong" and eliminate or reduce the need to spend money from city and county budgets for repairs obligated by lease.

Pattakos and deMause will claim the public has already been to generous to the teams.

Pattakos thinks the city and county need to cut a better deal for taxpayers, maybe getting money from advertising on new scoreboards or directing some revenue to youth or community purposes.

Issue 7 supporters say continuing an existing tax of pennies per pack of smokes or beer is not that big a deal, almost painless.

Opponents say $260 to $290 million is serious money in a still slack economy, where local governments have suffered deep budget cuts from the state.

And critics say the tax is not "fair" because it keeps tapping one group of citizens in one county, when fans from all over Northeast Ohio patronize the facilities.

If the issue fails May 6, there will not be immediate budget cuts.

The present tax runs through July 2015. So there could be another election in November or, less likely , a special election next May.

The money will not go directly into owners' pockets but opponents still say it would save them costs they could easily afford.

The tax works out to an estimated $4 million per year, per facility.

In the megabucks world of professional sports, albeit in bigger markets where players salaries are reaching astronomical numbers, $4 million would pay for one second-tier player.

Will there be clear winners and losers Tuesday? City Club formats don't always deliver those.

But in a week of sports galore, this should be a worthwhile 60 minutes. It's an important community decision. And teams will no doubt take it as a referendum on how much they are valued.

Cleveland's one of just 15 cities with these major sport teams.

So in a week full of sports, try to squeeze in this discussion.

You should be able to watch live on wkyc.com at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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