Hagan Ploy Gives MMPI Privatized Convention Center

Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 13:22.

County Commissioner Tim Hagan – the supposed friend of labor – is moving to privatize the the construction and operation of the proposed convention center. Little - if anything - is being said about this Republican-style move that damages unionized labor.

Tax money will finance a privatized business that now operated by city employees at the city-owned Convention Center. Hagan provided the taxes by voting - without public input - a quarter percent increase in the County sales tax, jumping it to 7.75 percent, the highest in the state.

The move to put the public facility into private hands has had little public discussion. No surprise there.

The privatization of the convention center business has built-in conflicts of interests that could enrich political friends and contributors but the scheme is being ignored by the public and the Plain Dealer. Of course, of course.

The first incident of built-in conflict in the deal between Cuyahoga County and MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties) to operate the Medical Mart and Convention center already took place when a high county official moved from the County payroll to MMPI’s payroll.

Dennis Madden moved from the Cuyahoga County Administrator post to MMPI, not yet even contracted to run the county’s proposed new facility.

Madden faced sexual harassment charges at the County. The move engineered with that issue pending, apparently to save the Commissioners having to do what they should have done.

MMPI has a memo of understanding with Cuyahoga County to build and operate the new facilities. A contract, however, hasn’t been signed. Nor have details been presented to the public.

The memo promises to pay MMPI $103 million over 17 years to operate the County’s facility. In addition, the sale tax increase was expected to bring in $40 million a year for 20 years, or $800 million over its 20-year duration. Officials have already said that the tax is bringing in more than expected and have added $90 million to that figure. As prices increase over the years, the figure is likely to grow even more. That’s all available to MMPI in this non-bid deal.

This gives MMPI, headed by Christopher Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, an incredible pot of public money, close to, if not exceeding, $1 billion. Hagan, as most people know, is a sycophant of the Kennedy Family. He should have recused himself from the vote because of his close relationship with the Kennedys.

Instead, he has led in bestowing a no-bid deal to his friends.

What this also sets up, as evidenced in the Madden shift, is a place where the County Commissioners, particularly Hagan, could place family, friends, supporters and contributors on a payroll that isn’t public. It could thereby avoid public scrutiny that goes with a public payroll that is open to inspection.

It also provides a private business, MMPI, the ability to provide contracts to its friends and family members or those politicians in power.

You would think that the PD, which has done a good job in finally examining County officials, would be interested in the potential dangers of this kind of deal. However, the PD is very selective in its pursuit of some rascals.

In his new and excellent book, Thomas Frank, gives examples of how privatization works. Frank wrote the perceptive “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” It told how so many working people vote against their true economic interests and how Republicans take advantage of this by pushing social issues.

He notes in his new book how the Department of Defense and Homeland Security was set-up to use many private companies. It was so “ill-crafted,” he writes that its work “seems to have been designed more as a way to sluice billions into contractors’ pockets than as a device for getting something done.”

He continues: “And, being private, the contractors are largely shielded from oversight and accountability.” He notes it also is used by conservatives who don’t like government “to bring the federal workforce to heel.” He writes similarly that the privatization works to “weaken public-sector unions,” which are pro-Democratic.

The problem here is that there seem to be no active (community organizers) forces which are putting any pressure on any politicians – Democrat or Republican – to support the working stiff.

The privatization issue provides another drawback to going forward with this convention deal that seems all about providing public subsidies to Forest City Enterprises and doing nothing for the paying public.

Yes, labor will get jobs to build the facility but they will go away in very short time.

MMPI will then have full control and can hire at wages that certainly won’t be union wages and can use part-time workers as it pleases and contract out services to companies that will pay the lowest possible wages they can.

Mark my words. That’s the deal and how it is being structured by the Greater Cleveland Partnership and Squire, Sanders & Dempsey’s Fred Nance with the special help of Tim Hagan.

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And so America is insolvent

Well put factual assessment of the sorry state of the American economy, and our economy, unfortunately. No matter who is President, the next four years will be very poor, in many respects, as we change everything about this pathetic model and system, from top to bottom. Hopefully we may start at the top and bottom at the same time... this is war.

Disrupt IT

rescind, reallocate, revive

Is it possible to take last fall's sales tax hike to a vote and rescind it now, or can we reallocate it to mission-critical things like public transit, which would really, properly run and priced, revive the economics around here?

One of the most stupid things said by Sutherland at the debate

I'll write up the debate between Lawson Jones and Sutherland shortly, but will comment here that Sutherland literally said that she does not want to cancel the 0.25% sales tax she supported for the MedCon, as has been reported... in her closing comments she clarified she is 100% behind that tax... she wants  to eliminate a different 0.25% of the sales tax... she literally said that. And things more stupid than that... to be continued. 

Disrupt IT

Tim: I don't know the

Tim: I don't know the answer to that. It would have to be researched.

Podcasts?

Can we watch these debates online?...you know for those of us feminine/masculine types chained to our desks :)

Thank you Norm (BTW) for this important coverage--I went to a 2nd District neighborhood meeting last night to support Colleen Reali, who is one superwoman crimefighter! (Yes--Darren, I actually go to meetings, when I can).