Crain's Cleveland Business reports today on how Positively Cleveland's funding may be slashed to pay for the Medical Mart. You need a subscription to read it online. (For my reporting on the issue, click here and here.)
Like last week's Plain Dealer story, Jay Miller's piece reports that $4 million a year could be cut from the convention and visitor's bureau's budget to give the Med Mart deal a second funding stream.
On the surface, that'd be a 50% cut -- but it'd actually be deeper than that. Officially, Positively Cleveland gets $8 million a year from the county tax on hotel rooms. But it has to immediately turn over about $1.4 million of that to pay off the debt from building Quicken Loans Arena. Another $1 million goes to other groups that promote Cleveland. Positively Cleveland really spends $5.6 million on its own work. So a $4 million cut would be a 71% cut.
County commissioner Tim Hagan tells Crain's no decision has been made about the size of the cut:
Hagan said it isn’t yet known how much of the bed tax would be diverted to the convention center operator. The amount won’t be known until bonds to build the complex are priced and sold and matched up with sales tax revenue projections, Mr. Hagan said.
That suggests that the county will take whatever it needs from tourism and meeting promotion to pay for the Med Mart deal. In other words, the county has committed to the Med Mart project without knowing how much it will drain Greater Cleveland's other strategies for attracting visitors.
Hagan and colleague Peter Lawson Jones seem to justify cuts to Positively Cleveland by saying (here and here) that the organization promotes the current convention center, and that MMPI will take over that job when a new one is built. However, says Crain's:
Dennis Roche, the group’s president, said the size of the cut under discussion would cripple his organization’s ability to market the region and all its attractions beside the convention center. ... Mr. Roche said his organization spends about 10% of its budget marketing the existing Cleveland Convention Center, which is outmoded. ... The rest is spent pursuing leisure travelers and meeting planners ...