GOOD

Ohio Supreme Court Stops Cleveland Cavaliers Stadium

“This is a big win for democracy and the rule of law and a rebuke to the corporate interests.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Image by Erik Drost/Flickr.

For close to a year, Dan Gilbert, the Cleveland Cavaliers owner and subprime mortgage huckster, has been trying to snatch $70 million in tax breaks and other subsidies from the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County as part of a proposed $140-million upgrade to Quicken Loans Arena, including some very pretty glass walls. By the time the bonds are repaid in 2034, the final price tag is estimated to clock in at close to $280 billion, assuming there are no overages.


It seemed like this raiding of the public coffers was a done deal, but the Ohio Supreme Court may have put a serious dent in Gilbert’s plans to bilk a county that remains $1 billion in debt with a bond rating that’s only getting worse. By a 4-3 vote on Thursday, the court ruled that the funding ordinance would need to be put before a public referendum, a rare blow in favor of the forces of good over greed.

To briefly recap: In April, thanks to a bit of arm-twisting and backroom negotiations, Gilbert convinced the Cleveland City Council to vote in his favor. He also promised to throw a few trinkets Cleveland’s way, offering some unspecified upgrades to local basketball courts. In response, Greater Cleveland Congregations, a nondenominational advocacy group, teamed up with a slew of unions and Democrat-affiliated organizations to gather the necessary signatures and initiate a public referendum. Because maybe with 34% of Cleveland residents living below the federal poverty line, the citizenry should have a right to weigh in on whether this is the best use of public dollars.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images.

After delivering over 20,000 signatures to the city council in May, well over the required 6,000, things got weird. City Council President Kevin Kelley refused to accept the petition, claiming that as an “emergency” ballot measure, the ordinance could not be made subject to a vote, regardless of how many signatures the GCC amassed. Angry protesters screamed at city council members during public meetings, and GCC filed a taxpayer demand letter, claiming that by refusing the city council was in violation of the Ohio state constitution.

So, the Cleveland City Council, hoping to extract as much leverage as possible, sued itself. No, really. They elbowed the GCC’s lawyers right out of the paint, pitting Cleveland’s law director against the city council’s clerk of council and selecting the attorneys who would be representing both “parties.” When announcing the lawsuit, Kelley promised that the GCC’s interests would be adequately served, even if such a claim strained the bounds of credulity.

“I have been a litigator for more than two decades,” Subodh Chandra, one of the GCC attorneys, said at the time. “I thought I had seen everything. But I have never seen a party working to orchestrate a suit against himself, telling himself to do the right thing.”

And they still lost. All seven state supreme court justices determined the ordinance was not really an emergency measure, though three rejected the patently ludicrous scheme that allowed the city council to oppose itself in court, saying they never were adversarial parties at all.

"The clerk had a clear legal duty to perform the ministerial function of her office — verifying the sufficiency of the petition signatures — and relators have a clear legal right to compel the performance of that duty,” the court’s opinion stated.

Following the verdict, Peter Pattakos, another GCC attorney, wrote in a statement: "This is a big win for democracy and the rule of law and a rebuke to the corporate interests that lined up to convince the Court to disregard both."

Now, Gilbert’s stubbornness might cost Cleveland a shot at hosting an upcoming NBA All-Star game, as lawyers arguing against accepting the petition argued in court. (No, losing out on an NBA All-Star game has no bearing on the merit of any legal argument.) But the odds that voters will approve this scam aren’t good, meaning he might be forced to crack open his own wallet if he wants the NBA to approve the Cavs’ bid. That too seems unlikely.

Per Forbes, Dan Gilbert currently possesses a net worth of $6.1 billion, up from $4.8 billion in December 2016.

Sports
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics