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Cleveland City Council OKs Spending $2 million Annually for 15 Years Toward Browns Stadium Upgrades

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 12:04 AM

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Monday night Cleveland City Council approved a deal between the Browns and Mayor Frank Jackson pledging millions of dollars for a plan to upgrade the team’s stadium. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports the measure overcame a handful of no votes.

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Cleveland Councilwoman Dona Brady speaks against the stadium project funding proposal. (Photo: Nick Castele) Source: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns will be installing new escalators, a new audio system and two high definition scoreboards as part of a $120 million renovation plan.

Voting 13 to 5, Cleveland City Council passed a measure promising $2 million a year for 15 years. Because the measure only got one reading, Council needed a two-thirds majority to pass – if two people had voted no, the proposal would have gone down.

The money comes out of the city’s general fund – and as opponents and even the mayor himself pointed out, it’s money that could be spent on hiring more police officers or housing inspectors.

Councilman Jeff Johnson voted no, saying it made Browns CEO Joe Banner’s proposal for new scoreboards a higher priority than keeping Cleveland residents safe. 

“Don’t leave this room with the belief that the services in the city of Cleveland are so adequate that we can write a check to Mr. Banner for 15 years out of Ms. Jones’s pocket,” Johnson said.

The measure also puts $12 million toward stadium repairs – about half of what remains in a fund set aside for that purpose, paid for by a tax on alcohol and cigarettes. 

Defending the proposal was Councilman Kevin Kelley, who will take over as council president next year.

“When I started down this path, when it was initially raised to me, I had one guiding principle,” Kelley said. “I would not authorize any money that was not contemplated in the lease.”

That’s the 1996 agreement requiring the city to pay for repairs and some improvements on the stadium, which it owns. The mayor’s office argued the lease might require the city to pay more than it agreed to give for this latest project.

The lease also has the city paying the stadium’s property taxes, and footing the bill for construction – debt the city is still paying off.

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