Submitted by Roldo on Sat, 06/27/2009 - 08:39.

Hypocrisy - thy name is Sam Miller.

Forest City Enterprises co-chairman and Treasurer Sam Miller says he’s willing to donate to the Cleveland libraries if budget cuts are made by the State of Ohio. Sam says that he will donate to keep libraries in poor areas open if the cuts are made.


Generous Sam.


He made that statement to the Plain Dealer as reported in its piece on protests against state budget cuts at the downtown public library.


The Plain Dealer the same day also reported on its front page about citizens attempting to lower their property taxes by lowering the value of the property as homes lose value.


Lowering the value of property hurts schools and libraries. It also takes from Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland by lowering revenue from property taxes.


Guess who is a champion of seeking (and getting) property tax reductions?


Well, of course, Sam Miller.


In other words, Sam takes dollars away from libraries and schools but in a pinch he’s willing to donate. Pennies, that is.


City libraries get 7.96 percent of collected property taxes. Cleveland schools get 55.13 of property taxes.


So every time Sam gets a reduction in taxes, revenues fall by those above percentages for the libraries and schools.


Does he really care?


No, he doesn’t. Sam has been a major downtown property owner who consistently applied to lower the taxable value of his properties. That’s good ole Sam. Not so generous.


Back in 1994 – and other times through the years – I’ve written that Forest City Enterprises - of which Sam is a top executive and shareholder - has sought large decreases in property taxes.


I reported tax reductions given for Tower City in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993. Tower City is owned by Forest City.


They were hefty reductions, too.


In 1990, tax reductions awarded to Sam and his boys were as follows:  Reductions in 1990 of 21 percent; in 1991 of 20 percent, 1993 of 17.3 percent; 1993 of 12.4 percent. It’s a wonder they paid any taxes.


The reductions in value for those years totaled $160 million. Assessed value would be 35 percent of market value. The money value of the taxes was $56 million, 35 percent of $160 million. I guess Sam could have been a bit generous but he wasn’t.


Indeed, the Cleveland Teachers Union at the time asked Tower City, Gateway, National City Bank and Dick Jacobs at Key Center to forgo their tax abatements for one year because of the funding crisis of that time. One year!


Neither Sam nor any of the others found a charitable bone for the Cleveland schools. The answer was “NO.” Generosity can go just so far. And that ain’t very far for these guys.


At the time, of course, our civic cheerleaders were pounding home the message that downtown Cleveland was booming. Comeback City, they claimed.


The only boom – aside from publicly funded and non-taxed private ventures as Gateway – was the noise out of Sam’s office asking for tax reductions.


Generous Sam. He knows how to do PR and the PD knows how to report it without context. Context isn’t taught at the PD.


At the time Sam was asking for these reductions, the PD reported some balderdash under this headline:  “Tower City Could Add Two Anchors to Complex.” The paper quoted Al Ratner, Forest City chairman, saying that “… he hopes to add two department stores to the Tower City Complex soon.” Yeah, empty ones. Such amusing claims of progress. And at the same time asking for tax reductions because business was bad.


I’ll say one thing about Sam and the Ratners. They sure know how to juggle.


The Pee Dee added that Ratner said, “Gateway has been a very big impetus for this project.”


Should we all laugh loudly now?


Miller at the time said the real estate industry in Cleveland was “well on its way back to once again becoming the darling of the investment community.”


My response at the time was: “Ho, ho, ho.” It hasn’t changed.


Miller and the Ratners also arm-twisted City Council (not hard) to give a tax abatement of 100 percent for 20 years for the Ritz-Carlton hotel at Tower City. The hotel had already been planned but they saw that Council gave Dick Jacobs $120-million tax abatement for the Society Center (now Key) and Marriott hotel.

So they wanted to escape paying property taxes, too. Generosity? No. Rapacity?  Yes.


It’s a game these guys play. Let’s shift our taxes to others. It adds to our profits.


I wonder how much tax abatement for housing downtown has played in foreclosure issue as the city’s neighborhoods empty out. Those with more money, however, can get new housing without having to pay taxes. The revenue resources of the city decline.


Years ago Robert Reich, then Secretary of Labor, said, “Bidding wars that are initiated and conducted by companies, or joined in by states or localities, can have a pernicious effect with regard to undermining the abilities of states and locales to use their resources to educate and develop the human capital of their workforces.”


He went on to say, “These tax abatement, these subsides, can be the most insidious form or corporate welfare… (that) put competitors at a competitive disadvantage if they do not get the same largess, because they rob local jurisdictions and states of the resources that they otherwise might have to invest in people, in infrastructure, and because they are often, in the classic sense of the term, zero-sum games in which jobs are simply moved from one place to another, and there is not a net improvement in job growth or the quality of jobs.”


He could make the speech in Cleveland and talk about Sam any day for the last 40 years or more.


The truth is Sam Miller isn’t a philanthropist. He’s a greedy businessman.


Sam, we don’t need your stink’n donations. Just pay your rightful taxes.




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the opportunity cost

It would be great to see the figures - those "rightful taxes", what we've lost. I bet it is a whopping number - a patch bigger than what is needed to cover shortfalls. Let's include in that the opportunity amount an estimate for what PILOTS paid by local large nonprofits (like CCF and UH) would add, too. Oh, I forgot, folks who are in need of medical services are funding all that growth at CCF and UH via "facilities costs" even though the buildings sport the names Miller and Ratner, et al in the guise of generosity.

Joining the Country Club

Today, Connie Schultz decries how aggregators "steal" the hard work of REAL reporters like Mark Puente.  Yes--Mark is doing the leg work, but don't cry foul Connie, when the PD does much of the same surface grazing for information and only looks in one direction for the "real" story.

There are two corrupt schemes going on in Cuyahoga County--the largest scheme involves a complex network of cronyism, contracts and kickbacks for club members, but it is the unreported story, the second shadow scheme, that is more complex and more sinister.  It is the real estate game played using public dollars in the form of HUD funding and CDCs all cleverly camouflaged and packaged as the noblesse oblige serving the "poor" for the greater good of all.  The PD has a problem reporting or even acknowledging this scheme, because it involves their own club members, including some nominal "democrats" and  "republicans."

Connie, we ALL know something is rotten here in the state of Denmark.  The question is not which part of the body.  It's the whole body, including the head.  So, stop pretending that the PD is applying an across the board fair method of researching and presenting the news.  The PD is still operating under some country club pretense of a society made up of first and second class citizens, with a "WASP" majority, and "WASP-wannabes," still firmly calling the shots and deciding who is part of the "country club."

Connie, it's time to acknowledge that the only distinction separating human beings from one another is the quality of being dead or alive.  And, right now--the balance is not in favor of the living.  To move forward and to survive, we are all going to have to "come together," literally and figuratively,  and "Get on the sustainability bus."

Start looking harder PD folks, while you still have a job that puts food on the table and a roof over your head.  Stop worrying about folks stealing your "news."  We have a lot of fixing to do here in NEO and we should not concern ourselves with who gets credit for actually doing the job at hand.

Quite a statement McShane

Quite a statement McShane and well put.

Part of the reason that newspapers are in trouble is as Connie Schultz says. People are using their original work and often adding to it.

But long before the bloggers and aggregators, newspapers were selling out the public wholesale. I don't say people stopped buying newspapers because of that. They didn't.

However, when something else came along it was easy for the public to lose interest.


Ben Bagdikian, 89, long considered one of our top media critics, wrote about the concentration of news media by fewer and fewer corporate owners. He wrote in "the Media Monopoly" that objectivity - often the major criteria of the news media - gives the stage to authorities.


"In fact, American news, under that doctrine (of objectivity) has become increasingly conservative, not truly neutral, and too often devoid of meaning."

He also wrote that "The initial possessor of news and ideas has political power - the power to disclose or conceal, to announce some parts and not others, to hold back until opportunistic moments, to  predetermine the interpretation of what is revealed."

They are losing some of that power.

Does that strike one as  true and revealing in kind of coverage we are getting from the Plain Dealer. The paper is doing a good job in many instances of uncovering some malfeasance and of reporting what official probes are revealing.

But there's little coverage of the sweet deals that have been made for decades here among the city's leading developers, lawyers, business and civic leaders. These deals undermine people's trust just as the illegalities being reported.


Forty-one years ago I left conventional journalism because I knew I couldn't tell the truth as I saw it in that venue.

Nothing I can see has changed my feeling since.


Roldo, has the internet changed your sense of HOPE?

 Realneo has one of the more passionate groups of reporters here in NEO.   Are we wasting our time?

Four decades is a long time to wait for change.  

Should I continue with Realneo, or join the Monkey Wrench Gang?

Mentor us.



Thanks--and we can discuss "original" later

Dear Roldo--thanks, but please don't spare your scrutiny to the folks with big money and big power...the small time operators merely replace the big time operators around here, Roldo.  You should know that better than any one :) 

To Jeff: Nothing is ever

To Jeff: Nothing is ever finished. We need people to keep pushing for progress because without that we'd have regression.

I always say that if it were not for people trying to make improvements we'd still have young children working in factories or on the farm as indentured slaves. Maybe we still do but its not pervasive. And that's because someone has struggled against it.

We do make some progress. Not enough, I'll agree.


To McShane: Petty crimes are still petty. It's not the same as those who steal wholesale and usually corrupt the small fry. Not that I'm for petty crimes.

Someone else said it:

"The law locks up both man and woman who steals the goose from off the common.

But lets the greater felon loose.

Who steals the common from the goose."

And I'd add from all of us.


Stealing property

  I will have to disagree Roldo...when the PD attempted to address the colossal waste of tax dollars* in the Cuyahoga County administration, it was shot down, by the same folks...and although none of us ultimately "own" anything in life, stealing what little someone has managed to acquire in a lifetime and using tax payer dollars to do it does amount to a hypocrisy and crime worth reporting in my book. 

*Alright, I will agree with Dimora's assessment that party politics is at play here--as the PD did not use Summit County in their comparison. But the PD's coverage is shifting to a more bi-partisan expose, as today shows they are not sparing Republican Sinagra, and also with Gabriel Baird and Joe Wagner's recent B&H stories, the PD is starting to make the connection to fires, demolitions, CDCs and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank....

(FTR, Scene magazine...I think Dimora's eye color is brown, but I could be wrong...your illustration shows blue eyes...subtle, but an effective way to affect readers perceptions).

Highway robbery is not the

Highway robbery is not the same as car jacking…the media sells advertising for one and then sells sensations over the other. If you injected the media with truth serum they would be running articles about how 90% of the advertisers want to rip you off for as much as they can. That many of the adds are sold related to products or services that earn over 100% profit and bought by those that earn in the top ten percentile in income.

The truth is subjective, there is no such thing as objective truth.

The PD is all over the

The PD is all over the place, they are overly sensationalizing to sell papers. Then also using it to soften the status quo and to leverage a covert political change.

The alternative needs to be more comprehensive and less political and definitely not sensationalized.

A more compressive design and with a clear set of functional objectives. You cannot establish regionalism by force, it has to be done with great thoughtfulness.

To define districts that would seek to facilitate the consolidation of existing municipal government and services within. The State congressional districts will not do that, they are political and not functional. They do not represent any potential for a combined tax, school, police and fire districts.

Having defined districts that could eventually through careful analysis seek consolidation for greater economy of scale. Each district a subset of a single regional system.

The historic township boundaries work best for that, each district could operate with better economies. Merging services and public works, but all operating on one common process driven system.

This is about using Operations Management methodologies, methods of achieving efficiency. It is about bring all the knowledge into a more modern highly functional and adaptable format.

Separating the functional first, then seek eventually consolidation and standardized judicial systems, district courts would be combined municipal courts.

The biggest component and the real priority is comprehensive changes that can achieve global recognition. Doing something glorious and intelligent by design.

Master planning, Master budgeting, it is about regulating and monitoring the free market. Not haphazardly intelligently with defined expectations and greater responsiveness to failures and successes, in reality.



I needed a good laugh