In Sports Deals, Pittsburgh is Bizarro Cleveland

Once again, I am completely jaw-to-floor awestruck at how much better managed Pittsburgh is than Cleveland.

The Post Gazette is reporting the city of Pittsburgh spent a year negotiating improvements to Heinz Field. The deal they worked out will add a $1 ticket fee to help pay for a $40 million expansion.

“I am pleased that this project at Heinz Field is being completed without any public dollars, which are increasingly scarce,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

That’s what can happen if city leaders are willing to negotiate with private entities on behalf of the people they represent.

We just witnessed the absolute complete opposite in Cleveland. On the latest $260 million public deal for Cleveland’s pro-sports stadiums, City leaders like Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council President Kevin Kelley busied themselves not with negotiating the terms of the deal. That was approved by County Council just weeks after it was introduced, with no major changes.

Kelley and Jackson joined the sports teams’ side, acting as spokesmen for the teams’ campaign. They argued that if the public didn’t fund 100 percent of the repairs through a sin tax, the teams would be free to just raid the city’s general fund of $260 million under the terms of the lease.

Raid the city’s general fund of $260 million. Can you imagine? The mayor and president of City Council went on television and the radio and suggested that was a real possibility. That they would allow that to happen, rather than go back to the table and try to broker a better deal. Admit they had that power.

Ultimately, a majority of CITY residents voted against the deal. But not a single elected city representative came out against the issue. A near total leadership vacuum. There was no negotiation on the public’s behalf. They rolled out a bad deal quickly, and then got to work convincing voters that they had no other choice.

What Pittsburgh did — that’s how it’s supposed to work. Once again, I am just completely floored. Something is terribly broken in Cleveland.

–Angie Schmitt

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