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Greater Cleveland Partnership Raises Standards For Supporting Tax Levies

Offices of the Greater Cleveland Partnership [Matt Richmond / ideastream]
Offices of the Greater Cleveland Partnership

The Greater Cleveland partnership, which serves as the Chamber of Commerce for the metro area, says it won't support tax increases that fail to demonstrate a unique compelling contribution to the regional economy.

President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Roman says the resolution was partly spurred by a tax competitiveness analysis.

"Cleveland, compared to its peer metro cities in the Midwest and definitely compared to our adjacent counties, is much higher for local tax burdens," Roman said.

While Cuyahoga County has lost population, Roman says, not much has changed in governmental structures.

"The same costs, the same duplications — we have various institutions owning airports," Roman said. "We have various institutions owning convention centers, all in the same county that now has a couple hundred thousand people less than it did two generations ago."

In looking at ways to address potentially significant costs in the future, Roman says he's encouraged by talks surrounding the troubled county jail.

"Maybe merging jail systems, maybe relocating a jail in not so expensive a place as a downtown site, maybe realizing some benefits from the sale of a downtown site," Roman said.

He considers the future of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, which needs to replace old rail cars, critical to the region. Roman says he'd like to see a redesign that leads people to work hubs and not just the downtown area. 

"I would argue that workers are as big of a part of our economy as anything, then those are things we will certainly consider and work with RTA on to see if new investments are necessary," Roman said. "We will create metrics that hold us all accountable for the outcome of those new investments."

Roman adds agencies may need to look at other investments that may be more costly upfront but will create revenue later as opposed to higher taxes.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership will not be antagonistic toward organizations asking for tax increases during election season, says Roman, but the group hopes to work with them on alternative solutions. 

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.