CLEVELAND - For the better part of the last two decades, smokers and drinkers in Cuyahoga County paid, through excise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, to build the city's three professional sports homes.
It's a tax that is set to expire next year and one that Cuyahoga County Council will soon debate whether it should be extended for another 20 years.
"The people need to realize these three facilities are owned by the city and the county," said Councilman Pernel Jones of Cleveland. "Those are our facilities and we have to preserve them. If these teams were to leave tomorrow those buildings would still belong to us," he said.
The debate to come will be first whether council will allow the voters of the county to decide on May 6 at the polls whether to extend the sin tax to handle future upgrades and repairs. To put it on the ballot would require a yes vote from 8 of the 11 members of council.
"It is not a given," said Jones. "We need to discuss this and talk to the community about the benefit of doing this or of not doing it."
Smokers in downtown Cleveland said Tuesday night enough. "Stop it, this is it, no more," said Daneen Harland of Mentor.
Bob Balata of Seven Hills said the responsibility shouldn't fall entirely on smokers and drinkers. "Make it equal so that everybody is paying for it and so that no one is paying as much."
Council sent the resolution to committee where public debate will be welcome in the coming weeks.
"From here on out it's going to be informational gathering as to what they're recommending, what they're going to spend the funds on," said Councilman Jack Schron. "Then will make our best decision as to whether it goes on the ballot or it doesn't go on the ballot."