Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Archive for June, 2007

Extra! Extra! This Just In!

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Turns out that there has been a lot of pressure behind the scenes on the Breuer issue.  The Cleveland Planning Commission meeting will take place in Room 217-the Council Committee meeting room.   This meeting is the special meeting that the members agreed to have so that  they could get as much information as possible before  making the decision about the building.  Hmmm!  Do  you really think that all of the pertinent information will now be available to the members so that they can make an informed decision?  Probably not, but do you think that there will be pressure from Demolition Joe Cimperman to take a vote and “trust” their partners?  Could he, again, be putting his fellow members in the awkward position of voting with scant little of what they have asked for at last week’s meeting?  Was I as many others under the mistaken impression that this would now be a  reasoned, deliberate decision? After tomorrow, will we know more than we know today concerning the questions the commission asked?

My sources say that the meeting being held in Room 217 could be a red flag, but of course, last week  Room 514 was packed. So maybe it is more of a comfort issue.  Could be couldn’t it? Word on the street has it that the commission may not be able to withstand the incredible pressure being applied behind the scenes. It will hardly be believable that in one week, they now have all the information to make the decision to destroy the Breuer Tower.  Let’s hope that they are determined to stick to the principles they expressed last week and that this planning meeting will be the first of SEVERAL meetings before another vote is taken. I am sending out this plea to all of you who believe in the democratic process to attend this crucial meeting and offer your support to the members of the commission who stated so eloquently last week that they wanted to do the right thing and make sure that we were getting something better.

I didn’t have time to verify this with Sally Levine but I understand that there has been quite an abundance of entries for the Ingenuity Architecture Competition.  In fact, there have been more entries than expected and there are local, national, and international submissions.  WOW!  Can’t wait to see this exhibit at Ingenuity 2007!

I know that many of you have attended meeting after meeting to make sure that the County Commissioners and the Planning Commission know that you are witnesses to what is happening here in Cleveland, but if you can please, please attend one more. And then another and another until they get that we are not going to go away.  That public citizens have the right to be part of the democratic process, and,  it is no longer business as usual in Cuyahoga County or Cleveland.

Written by Gloria Ferris

June 28th, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Posted in Cleveland,politics

Semantics, It’s Just Semantics–Or Is It?

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Again, today when reading my morning newspaper, I was faced with this quote from Commissioner Hagan–

“This is beyond anything I’ve confronted in my political life,” Hagan said. “An unelected group dictating to commissioners what kind of building should be built in a city where the mayor and City Council president support it. That’s exactly what’s wrong with the city.”

–in an article written by Steven Litt. It is certainly getting a bit of play in the Plain Dealer.  I find it interesting that Mr. Hagan used the term “unelected” when referring to the City Planning Commission, instead of the more appropriate term, “appointed,” as in “appointed by the Mayor of Cleveland.” The one “elected” person on the commission is Joe Cimperman.  My take on Mr. Hagan’s use of the term was to make it appear that the “unelected” board is not as committed or capable as the “elected” officials in our area.  I beg to differ.  However, the only people standing up and saying that the public deserves answers is this “appointed” board.

Let’s delve into this a little deeper.  Whether appointed or elected, officials should have the public’s interest in mind.  With recent events, I believe that the appointed board has taken the public’s interest to heart more than the officials we have elected.  It has been this appointed board that has demanded the public’s right to know detailed plans for the new county administration building; it has been the city planning commission’s assertion that costs should be shown, that hard numbers should be compared because this is a huge decision, and that this decision should be made based on the “Seven Principles of Planning”. All reasonable assertions I would contend.  On the other hand, the two county commissioners that voted to destroy the tower have accepted conceptual plans that say “the rotunda is central to the core of the complex”, but then we, the public with much less detail, are asked to take that leap of faith and simply “trust” that we will get something better. Kind of like the old saying of buying “a pig in a poke.”  We should be thankful that although this commission was largely appointed by Mayor Frank Jackson, who “trusts” the county, it still takes the vow to serve the public seriously and demands more information before making such a momentous decision. 

How very strange that the only “elected” member of this commission is presently looking for ways to circumvent the decisions made by the City Planning Commission by taking a vote in city council, using his council colleagues to try to do an “end around” that he was unable to achieve by his “they are our partners” speech.  These same colleagues, when asked by me prior to the commission meeting if Mr. Cimperman had asked for their input, said “no”.  Now, he needs you, and I am sure that there will be a lot of talk of “trust” and “best”, and so forth,  but understand this: Your colleague, Mr. Cimperman, has put his “trust” in the county and not in you, his fellow city officials.    

Remember the phrase “the rotunda is central to the complex”? Do this: Replace “rotunda” with “city” and change “complex” to “region.”  “The city is central to the region.”  Everyone would agree with this statement, I believe, but then, this is where the struggle for power begins at the core in the central city.  Stay with me because I am going to move  quickly, folks.  In early spring,  Sam Miller spoke at Landerhaven giving his “new leaders needed, regionalism is the way to go” speech. Now, was this really his intent, or was he simply telling the “old” leaders to get in line?

Fast forward, to the Breuer Tower.  County wants to demolish it so that they can build a new county administration building.  Is this the “real” reason, or is there a reason behind the reason?  Earlier in the year, the City Planning Commission was considering a refurbish of the Convention Center and the use of the Burnham plan.  Could this have anything to do with the need to neutralize the second oldest planning commission in the nation? 

Obviously, the county and the developers thought it would be an easy task.  But this is not so, given recent events.  Now, bring in the latest tax increase, and bring it in just under the cap that needs to be approved by the voting public.  Do you find it interesting that this tax increase will fund a new convention center attached to a Medical Mart to be placed in the Higbee complex of Tower City, a Forest City Enterprise property? Although, at times, we hear that “other sites are also in consideration, those “other” sites are seldom mentioned.  Obviously, this project would also go before the CLEVELAND City Planning Commission for approval–a body that is already looking into the possibility of refurbishing the Convention Center and revitalizing the Burnham Plan.  Does anyone find it ironic that again the Terminal Tower is central to a fight concerning CITY PLANNING.  It is my understanding that the Union Terminal originally was to be at the north side of the Burnham Plan, back before the Van Sweringens entered the conversation.

Now so many years later, the core city is at the center of another struggle for power, although the stakes appear much higher to me.  Could it be because the quality of  MY life in MY city could be compromised? If this is not a struggle for power, why the need to make the City Planning Commission insignificant?  If it simply is just a matter of being “partners,” why not include those “partners” in the planning?  Why the need for Mr. Hagan’s posturing that elected officials and their motives should not be questioned? Is there something much larger at stake here?  I would say YES.  As I see it, this is what is at stake: The county has no intention of considering the city of Cleveland as its partner, they simply want to do what they want, when they want, with “the core city central to the region” because, after all, who knows better what we need–elected officials and developers, or the public, who are US?  I am counting on us, because although Mr. Hagan says that the public is “too dumb to understand,” I beg to differ.  The public knows very well what is at stake here, and I doubt very much that they believe that regionalism means that the voters are not necessary in the overall picture.

And, to Mr. Cimperman’s colleagues, I know that many of you have been very apprehensive at all of the talk considering “regionalism” because you feel that city council will fade into obscurity and lose its credibility.  You should be afraid, very afraid because I believe that Mr. Cimperman and his partners expect to do just that. First item on their agenda: Make sure that the City Planning Commission is neutralized. So then, this would be the new tower of power: the Developers,  the County, the city of Cleveland, and finally the city neighborhoods.  Is this what is truly meant by “regionalism”?  Is this what is meant by a private-public partnership?  And where are the voters? Don’t worry about them–according to our elected officials, they are “too dumb to understand”.  Are we?      

     

Written by Gloria Ferris

June 25th, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Thank Yew very Much!!

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I have another post to write about the arrogance of supposed power and who do “they” think they are.  But first, I wanted to put out some “thank yous” to some VERY important people who are demanding that the decision about the Breuer Tower takes a reasoned appproach to a very thorny issue.  A decision of such magnitude should never be made behind the scenes if we are truly going to be a democratic society. Vague assertions by elected county officials attesting to the fact that architects and engineers are on board with our decision are not enough.  We the public need to know who these individuals are.  Let them come forth and speak.  Have they? No!  We have heard of “concepts” and refutations that say others’ figures are incorrect and too high or too low, but we have never seen the actual costs of what the county’s proposal will be.  The county architect has never weighed in on this issue.  The Cuyahoga County Commission was never consulted.  Who made these decisions that Commissioners Dimora and Hagan are pushing so vehemently?  Where are these people who stand behind the decision of these two?

See how easily it is to be taken off point.  This post was about thank yous.  And, here they  are. The first thank you goes to my fellow bloggers who linked to my post that said we needed to be there to witness the meeting. Obviously, the word spread wider than my small blog. The second thank you goes to the number of regular citizens who took time to attend the City Planning Commission Meeting to hear for themselves Chairman Coyne’s impassioned speech comparing Cleveland to Chicago and how we in Cleveland “don’t get it, we just don’t get it!  But he did, as well as three of his colleagues when they voted to deny Joe Cimperman’s long, convoluted motion with more caveats than Carter’s  has little liver pills. 

 in all my years, I have never heard such a motion put before a board.  What a sham!  The motion essentially agreed to demolition IF the County showed a master plan, IF the County showed that public access from Euclid and Ninth would be a priority, IF it was shown that the rotunda would be an integral part of the plan, and I think there were two or three other IFS that I don’t even remember.  And then,  Larry Lumpkin seconded this sorry excuse for a motion and proceeded to again parrot Cimperman’s ‘these are our partners and we must have faith’ speech’.  But then, Lillian Kuri questioned the use of partners when talking about the county.  She cited that her June 8th packet from the county was missing pieces, she also waved a sheet of blue paper containing the summary that she said she still had not received by 6 p.m. Thursday the 14th.  She didn’t buy the partner speech and she demanded to see real numbers and real statistics so that she and the other members of the City Planning Commission could make a reasoned decision.  David Bowen again reiterated his contention that there was not enough information to make a decision.  Jean Pinkney just shook her head in disbelief at what she was hearing and witnessing during this meeting.  She too voted against the motion on the floor. If Norm Krumholz had been in attendance, he would have been proud of his colleagues.

So a big thank you goes out to the second oldest planning commission in the nation–our own  Cleveland Planning Commission.  They stepped up to the plate, refused to be bullied into making an uninformed decision, and did what they were appointed to do.  They truly were the check and balance to a shoddy piece of work presented by the County.  And as Chairman Coyne said, his commission is charged with making Cleveland and the County a ”Better Place” and, he just isn’t convinced.  

And my last but very important thank you goes to those of you who have had the courage to phone me and email me with insight and added information that was freely given in a spirit of civic pride and concern.

Thanks to all of you.           

Written by Gloria Ferris

June 18th, 2007 at 10:51 am

Posted in Cleveland,politics

The World Is Watching…

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and so are we.  The City Planning Commission decision concerning the Breuer Tower is being watched worldwide by architects, preservationists, historians, and artists.  But will the most important segment of society “US” be watching and sitting in those chairs tomorrow when the City Planning Commission decides  whether the Breuer Tower lives or dies?  As sad as it may be to see that building die through demolition, sadder still will it be if the Cleveland Planning Commission allows itself to slip into obscurity.  Something that will be inevitable if they allow a demolition permit to slide through without the seven step process that Hunter Morrison so eloquently and succinctly outlined June 8. 

When a “partner” doesn’t feel you are worthy of consideration or consultation or for that matter does not think that the guidelines you have put in place are even worth addressing, is that “partner” truly a “partner”?  When that same “partner” doesn’t think it important to consult with their own planning commission, where do you stand in the order of what they find important?  How insulting to have someone come before you with “concepts” and the latest “buzz words” and expect you to hand what they want to them on a silver platter with no questions!

The waste of taxpayers’ money and of our asset “The Euclid Heritage Corridor”  is unexplainable to me.  What are the goals in this endeavor?  Is it to bail out a rich developer-the purchase of the building from The Jacobs conglomerate?  Is it to award contracts to friends and contributors?  Is it to have a building named after one’s self?  Is it to be used as a stepping stone to higher office?  Is it to cover the street with slick oil so that the next demolition permit will be oh so much  easier to obtain because the credibility and the integrity of the city planning commission  will already be compromised from this decision?

I don’t know if the reasons behind this request for demolition are this sleazy and self-serving, but when you listen to Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones’ reasoned and thoughtful pondering of his decision, it makes you wonder. I do know that  this is a tipping point for our community, and therefore, it is incumbent on as many of as possible to be in Room 514 in City Hall tomorrow at 9 a.m. to watch the execution order come down.

I have had phone calls and conversations with people–many who have said that the decision to demolish this building was made long before the first planning commission meeting. Don’t let them do this without witnesses. Be there with me the modern day Madame LaFarge watching and listening and recording.  Another call I had said that there is much consternation and nervousness on the amount of  publicity and questions that have arisen over this decision.  This person said that there is hope if we can just make them see that this decision is critical to the future of our community.  At the very least, a decision of this magnitude that involves the city and the county needs to have full disclosure, full investigation, and reasoned deliberation before a vote is taken.  Make sure that happens.  Be there!

Written by Gloria Ferris

June 14th, 2007 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Cleveland,politics

Word on the Street vs. Fact

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June 1, I attended the City Planning Commission Committee Hearing  where Architect Doug Hoffman of Weber Murphy Fox used the above title for his powerpoint presentation.  It was informative and gave a good case for renovation and restoration of the Breuer Tower. A study paid for by the architectural firm itself was used as the fact to refute the “word on the street”.  It built a good case for adaptive reuse of the only skyscraper Marcel Breuer designed. Mr. Hoffman showed why his team chose adaptive  reuse of the existing building tying it to our heritage with the rotunda and bringing it into the 21st century by wrapping the Breuer Tower partially with glass.  Detailed architecural plans were submitted showing how the historic Cleveland Trust Rotunda would be used in the overall scheme of things.  It showed how public spaces would draw pedestrians and others into the building. It showed a space for a public garden.  It showed floor plans of how the infrastructure would change so that the floor space would be more efficient.  It showed how cables and other things needed for newer technologies would be hidden from view and that it would not hinder the aesthetics or the effficiency of the building.

And then, and then, he talked about the EMPLOYEES of the county and how their comfort level would be enhanced by temperature controls in the cubicles so that they controlled their own COMFORT level.  He talked about how DAYLIGHT reached almost to the core of the building.  He talked about privacy for employees but also work spaces where they could come together to collaborate. And I thought to myself now this is innovation-considering the employees-so that productivity and efficiency would be enhanced. I thought to myself why didn’t they choose this plan, but I left with an open mind and a heart filled with hope that next week on June 8th when Robert Madison International Inc. and his team presented their plan for the site, I would see an even better plan since this was the team chosen to tear down the Beuer Tower and build new.

Instead, I saw nothing that I could use to compare the two.  There were no numbers to stand side by side in comparison.  Instead this team refuted the numbers of the week before by saying the savings were too high and the costs were too low, but I didn’t see much of this team’s stand alone costs so that the public and the planning commission could be informed ensuring that a reasoned decision could be made. In fact, I said as much during my testimony.  I said I had come seeking answers to specific monetary questions, but I was left with aesthetics and “pie-in-the-sky” promises  that the rotunda was the core and central to the complex but when asked how it would be incorporated Mr. Madison replied that that had not been decided yet.  I came to see architectural plans of what the new complex would look like; I saw conceptual plans. Disclaimers abounded that these were concepts and were not meant to be considered as the actual plans.  Huh?  This firm and its partners just won a multi-million contract with the county and these were CONCEPTS. 

And the employee portion, I heard a lot about transformational workplaces, the need to guard against asbestos exposure, and a spokesman from a company indicted for kickbacks on a Lorain project, but more importantly, a company that has never demolished a building taller than thirteen stories.  The one time that we need a national expert not available here in Cleveland, we award the contract to an  intown boy and his crew.  And this use of transformational in regards to tearing down and building new really rubbed me the wrong way.  Tearing down and building new is simply replacement. Transformational means taking what is and changing it into something  brighter and better. 

All of this vague talk concerning a multi-million dollar expenditure of taxypayer’s money was disturbing, but the most disturbing thing to me was the way a meeting that began very organized and methodical turned into such a muddled mess at the end with people left scratching their heads and wondering what had just happened.  Well, folks, here is my theory and understand it is just that.  In fact, it is nothing more than word on the street, but I think it is worth pondering because of what happened at that meeting.  This is my prediction and I am sticking to it.  Joe Cimperman has his eyes set on a much bigger piece of the pie than being councilman of Ward 13.  And soon, I will tell you what position he is vying for and why.

Norm Krumholz moved that the City Planning Commission vote to deny the demolition permit.  Voting for this denial would have put a six month review process in place which would have answered many of the thoughtful and valid questions that the commision had. The motion was defeated by a four to three vote.  David Bowen said that he could not vote for denying the permit at this point in time because he needed a lot more information such as detailed plans, why the figures this week differed so greatly from last week, why the ceiling height this week was a foot and a half lower than what was told to the commission last week if renovation was used.  He shared Lillian Kuri’s concerns about public spaces and public access and the use of the rotunda. And this one was huge, but no one from the county had an answer.  How many downtown spaces would be empty when the county moves to the new location?  What exactly are the economic advantages of this ”complex”?  How did federal and state historic credits fit into this plan?  No one knew.  

 And then, and then, Joe opens his mouth and says how long are we going to hold up this project, these are our partners, are you saying we mistrust them, we have parking lots all over town because people came before this commission with no better plans than we have seen today. Huh?What’s up with that? And then, as far as I am concerned the whole meeting went up for grabs. Someone asked when was the county planning commission consulted on the project probably thinking if there were results from those meetings they would be very helpful and there would be less time needed.  But then, Lee Trotter looked at those sitting beside him, and he had to tell the commission that the COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION had NOT been involved in the decision making.  So, there we were, a county project in the making  for the last ten years has no architecural plan, did not consult its own planning commission, and said that they would need longer than one week to answer these questions.  But the planning commission decides to go ahead with a one week time frame anyway.

Here is my theory.  Joe Cimperman is going to run for county commissioner.  Why else would he turn his back on the reasoned testimony of former City Planner Hunter Morrison who presented  a seven point plan used in the past when planning a major project like this one-Key Tower probably being the most  prominent one. Why would he turn his back on his own colleagues and push for unsupported claims of “better” ?  Why would he sacrifice the reputation of the second oldest planning commission in the nation if he were not only thinking of his own ambitions?  Why would he turn his back on the city that he vowed to serve if he was not ready to move on?  And let’s face it, he needs the County Democratic Chairman in his corner if he intends to replace Tim Hagan on the commission?  And, he needs to set the stage for the Medical Mart and the Convention Center votes which will also come before this august commission.  If this demolition permit is approved with as little oversight as it appears there is now, the case will be made for any other county project coming before the CITY Planning Commission to be rubber stamped just as Joe feels this one should be.

This Commission needs to stand firm and insist that they receive the information needed to make an informed decision.  We need an appointed board to stand up and represent the taxpayers of this city and this county.  We need them to make sure that the numbers make sense, and that we know what we will have at the end of the day when the County Complex is reality not “concept”. Listen to the urban planners in your midst-Norm Kruholz and Hunter Morrison and INSIST on the information needed to make a decision worthy of a Planning Commission that understands the word plan. Do not be swayed by the politicians in your midst-Mayor Frank Jackson, Council President Martin Sweeney.  If these men were true leaders, they would trust their judgment in appointing you and allow you to do your job.   And certainly, do not be swayed by the member in your midst guided by personal ambition.  Pleaase, please do something truly transformational and make a reasoned decision, not an expedient political one. 

 

Written by Gloria Ferris

June 14th, 2007 at 9:21 am

Posted in Cleveland,politics

just like downtown

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What do a librarian, a magician and a Broadway playwright have in common? They all lived in Cleveland and they’re all featured in this year’s Brooklyn Centre Garden Party—“Magic, Mystery, and Millionaires.” Come and see famous characters in Cleveland’s past portrayed by costumed narrators. Stroll through the grounds and see who’s who in our history. Enjoy musical entertainment in the Victorian Chapel, and relax in the shade with a glass of lemonade. Find out about Ohio’s native plants, make a mask with local artists, hear the latest about the Ohio and Erie Canal project, visit with our friends from the Zoo, and see what makes Riverside Cemetery one of Cleveland’s must-see places.

Ticket prices are as follows: Advance, $5 senior, $8 adult, $20 family of four; Day of Tour, $7 senior, $10 adult, $25 family of four. Call 216-351-0254 to reserve your tickets or for more information.

And here is another version as it appeared in CoolCleveland this week: Sunday, June 10th, 1:00-5:00 p.m., Brooklyn Centre Garden Party, Riverside  Cemetery, 3607 PearlRoad, at I-71.  Costumed narrators will tell the stories of famous “residents” of the cemetery. Musical entertainment, light refreshments, and kids’ activities. Learn the history of this beautiful resting place and stroll through the landscaped grounds.  Local organizations will have booths featuring various gardening techniques, plus adoptable animals.Call 216-351-0254 for details and advance tickets, or get tickets at the door.

A group of friends and neighbors have been working very diligently on this project since the cold winter months.  And now, this Sunday where it is predicted that we will have one of the beautiful late spring days that keep us all here, the show will be unveiled.  This project has taken on a character all its own.  We have received much free publicity, help from all kinds of sources, and a lot of good will.  We have had such a good time putting this event together that if those of you who attend have half the fun, it will have been well worth it. 

So it’s my phone number on the banner at the gates of the cemetery and everywhere else our advance publicity has appeared—the Plain Dealer, Cool Cleveland, The Sun News, doctor’s offices, websites, coffee shops and more places than I am aware. So if you haven’t made plans for the weekend or even if you have, consider doing something just a bit different and come to a garden party. Oh, did I tell you that kids are more than welcome. Art House will be there making masks with the kids, one of our Cleveland Public Library librarians will be there to read to the young ones, and there will be a virtual scavenger hunt that they can play alongside their parents while taking the tour.

And as I told someone on the phone yesterday, reserve your tickets now, and pick them up at will call just like downtown, at the Playhouse.