Sell Cleveland to Settle Ohio’s $4 Billion Deficit

Commentary by Brian Davis

        Ohioans have heard the projections for a $4 billion deficit by the end of the fiscal year next year, and we have not heard very many credible solutions. The Homeless Grapevine newspaper as a public service has come up with a solution: Sell Cuyahoga and surrounding counties to Michigan for $5 billion. We have recently sent a letter to the Michigan governor John Engler asking what steps we would need to take to initiate this change in the political boundaries.

        The reality is that we face declining tax revenue in Ohio because of years that the Ohio legislature gave money back in times of surplus instead of building the capital and infrastructure needed. The Ohio legislature is terrified of the word tax increase, and has a court mandated “I Owe You” to the schools. In 2002, Ohio solved the problem of a deficit by raiding one-time only pools of funds (tobacco settlement, rainy day fund, welfare surplus, etc.) This year when they go to the cupboard they will find it bare. We anticipate homeless people and all poor people will face greater hardship, with the state budget balanced on the backs of poor people.

        The truth is that those of us in Northeast Ohio have more in common with Michigan than we do with Ohio. We are much more socially responsible than our strip-mining friends of Southern Ohio. We are a union friendly environment, as is Michigan. We do not understand how the state house was hijacked by rural farmers and used car salesmen who don’t give a crap about poverty.

        We would move to a state that does not have the death penalty, treats its welfare recipients with a little more respect, and does not have the problem of routinely allowing federal dollars to bypass the state. We are proposing Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga, and Medina County become the lower peninsula of Michigan.

Michigan is the best state to buy Northeast Ohio because they are familiar with having a non-contiguous geography. Lake County has a couple of fine lighthouses, and Michigan is the state with the largest number of lighthouses. Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world and would only be augmented by Cuyahoga and Lake Counties. Michigan has some wonderful city names including Bad Axe, Eden, Hell, Paradise, Podunk, and Slap neck. Michigan has the first paved road, but best of all, it is illegal in Michigan to kill a dog using a decompression chamber.

        Ohio has a larger population, but only 68% of the population own a home while Michigan has a 73% homeownership rate. There is more space in Michigan for our homeless population with only 175 people per square mile while the overcrowded Ohio has 277 people per square mile. Michigan had more housing starts in 2000 compared to Ohio despite their smaller population, again benefiting our homeless population. Michigan is also more diverse than Ohio with a 14% African American population and 80% white population. Ohio is 85% white and only 11% African American according to the U.S. Census.

        We anticipate beginning a petition drive in September to put this on the ballot in March before the end of the Ohio fiscal year. The Ohio legislators tell us that we need to treat the Ohio budget more like our personal budgets and cut when times are tough. This is actually not how the real world works. When times are tough we not only cut our expenses, but we get second jobs and have a garage sale. Since it is unlikely our legislators will get second jobs to raise $4 billion, we will need to stage the largest garage sale in history—sell Cleveland.

        With the plan of selling four counties in Northeast Ohio, the state would finish the year with a surplus of $1 billion dollars that could build more housing, rebuild the schools, or construct a real economic stimulus plan to develop a high tech sector. For an extra billion, Ohio could throw Summit County into the deal.

Published in the August 2002 Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio.