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Amid more opposition Union members support Q Arena plan

This rendering of the proposed Quicken Loans Arena renovation shows what the upgraded arena would look like if the controversial plan is approved.

Amid a growing controversy between African American clergy and community leaders, the powerful 14,000 Cleveland Building & Construction Trades Council – which has members in 17 unions held a press conference to announce their support for Quicken Loans Arena plan on Monday Feb. 20.

They say the $160 million in tax dollars renovation to expand 23-year old Quicken Loans Arena will bring jobs to local laborers and therefore are backing the plan.

"We own the project so we should fund it," said Dave Wondolowski, executive secretary of the organization. "From our perspective this is first and foremost about jobs for our members, but more importantly it's about keeping the ball rolling in Cleveland, keeping our foot on the pedal and continuing growth

The Cleveland Cavaliers want to upgrade the fan experience at the Q, with work that would cost $282 million over 18 years. The Cavs would pay $122 million through increased rent.

Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and Destination Cleveland would all chip in for the public portion.

Meanwhile the growing opposition to the Q Arena deal has grew to include the organization Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) headed by Reverend Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, member of the GCC Strategy team and pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

The GCC is opposed to the deal as presently constituted and vow that there is a clear sign that there will not be business as usual in Cleveland this year.

GCC, activist organizations, residents of some of Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods, and now the father of Alianna DeFreeze, the murdered 14 year- old girl whose body was found in a vacant house in Cleveland, oppose an agreement that only supports increased downtown development without equivalent investment in our neighborhoods, it said in a statement.

GCC leaders met with representatives of the Cleveland Cavaliers, including Cavs CEO Len Komoroski. GCC presented the Cavs a letter addressed to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert requesting: 1) a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Gilbert in the coming weeks to discuss the Q deal; 2) his support for the establishment of a Community Equity Fund, which would provide a dollar- for-dollar match of any public funds for the Q deal towards neighborhood priorities; and 3) an investment of $35 million from Mr. Gilbert personally to initially capitalize the Equity Fund and for start- up costs for the building of two community Mental Health Crisis Centers on Cleveland’s east and west side.

GCC’s belief is that the financial benefit Mr. Gilbert and the Cavaliers accrue from the Q far outweighs what Cleveland-area residents receive in return, therefore there must be equity built into the deal in the form of the Community Equity Fund. Examples of these benefits include not paying property tax on the Q building, extracting exclusive value of the building’s naming rights, and a Cavaliers franchise now valued at $1.2 billion, up from $375 million when Mr. Gilbert first purchased the Cavs, which the public helps subsidize through the current Q arrangement.

“If this deal goes through as-is on the heels of a renewal of the Sin Tax in 2014 and another election in 2016, without a pivot in the direction of the community’s call for greater investment into our neighborhoods it is a clear indication that in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County your vote is more valuable than your voice!”

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