Tim Hagan argued the Med Mart deal will benefit Clevelanders by reviving an ailing public property, the current convention center.
"We’re negotiating with the mayor in good faith to claim a public facility that’s not being used, a public building," he said at today's commissioners' meeting. "We’re giving the taxpayers of Cleveland an opportunity to use this facility to benefit Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Yeah, we've got a private partner involved in this, but we're not turning over public money [to them] to buy the land. It’s owned by the citizens." (In other words, the county will own the new center after the lease expires.)
Cleveland spends $7 million a year to maintain the current center, Hagan said. "Eight to nine million dollars is going to promote it over there. That's $17 million to promote an inadequate facility."
Hagan is referring to Positively Cleveland's budget, which the county may cut in order to switch its county bed tax funding to the Medical Mart. Actually, Positively Cleveland's president made the case to me this week that most of the group's work is not booking conventioneers. If Hagan doesn't think Positively Cleveland's work is doing much for the city, that probably won't bode well for the group's hopes of holding onto its funding.
After joking his invitation to Cavs playoff games might be revoked, Hagan ripped into Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Indians president Paul Dolan. He jabbed at the Plain Dealer too. "We’ve got a newspaper that can’t figure out a business agreement to keep itself going giving us business advice. We’ve got two owners of franchise[s] who are not interested in the public’s view." Sarcastically, he pretended to be Gilbert: "Oh, I’m concerned about the future of the community, I’m concerned about downtown. Oh, and coincidentally, just as an aside, my building the Cavs are in will be close to that" -- the alternative convention center site at Tower City -- "while I’m promoting the possibility of gambling in town."
After returning to a frequent theme of his in response to criticism, that we're a representative democracy, not a direct democracy, Hagan called the roll. The vote was 3-0.
Just before signing the deal, Hagan made a reference to his heart trouble last week. He was hospitalized and had two stents implanted, county administrator Jim McCafferty told reporters. "Some of you have read that I had a little problem over Easter weekend," Hagan told the audience. "I’m doing just fine."
As cameras gathered to watch the commissioners sign the deal, county administrator Jim McCafferty cracked an awkward joke about the possibility Hagan might have a heart attack as he signs. Hagan laughed it off. "Aarrh," he said, and faked falling down in his chair.