Archive for July, 2007
What a show! The Drums drumming down Euclid Avenue led by Marcos Santos were incredible. Who knew that those drummers would exorcise the “rain demon” that plagued last year’s festival. A whirlwind flew down Euclid Avenue accompanied by its own drummers of pelting rain. Canopies flew and people ran but it was gone as quickly as it descended. Everyone ventured back out on to the street, quickly setting things right, and going on with the show. What an incredible group of people-the vendors, the volunteers, the restauraters and their staffs and even festivalgoers pitched in to straighten out the street so that the show could go on. Amazing!
But that was only a small part of it, the NASA Glenn Exhibits, the photos inserting my own face inside of the space suit of an astronaut standing on the moon, Sarah Morrisson’s Dance Troupe, The Audio TuTus, The Breuer Tower exhibit up at 12th Street, “The Fire Inside” the extended hours of the delis, coffeeshops, and restaurants along Euclid, the smell of the fried veggies, the fat, juicy sausages, the incredible gyros, the $4.00 GLB brews, the people dancing and drumming up Euclid, the spectators joing in the celebration, and then, and then…
There were the incredible smiles on the faces of the children who attended yesterday’s festival. To me, those smiles were the crown jewel of this festival. Family after family strolled past our Meet.The.Bloggers booth in the anteroom between the State and Palace Theatres. I engaged quite a few of them in conversation as they stopped to see what the spaceships on the table were all about and how did they work. Many of them lost their curiosity when told they were microphones and not spaceships, but I didn’t lose mine. Without hesitation, I would ask them what they had seen and what they like best. One little girl said dancing down the street with the drummers. A little boy who played chess with a man dressed like a robot. It was someone dressed like a robot, wasn’t it? I’ll never tell. The other young man who had decided that he wanted to go to the moon because he wouldn’t weigh anything at all. There was a little girl fascinated with the audio tutus. She wanted to know where she could buy a skirt just like it.
But maybe, the best thing about it was the thankful demeanor of the parents who could not believe their good luck. Each one of them paid $5 to see everything, and every child 12 and under was free. By far, the best deal for family entertainment in Cleveland for the summer. They all were amazed at how there was so much for everyone in the family. The little ones were as engrossed as the older ones. And there was plenty for them to do as well. And the kids weren’t bored.
I guess in a nutshell this festival appeals to the child in all of us. There is so much to learn, to experience, and to dream about right here in the middle of a construction zone. That it isn’t hard to believe in Cleveland! A big “hats off” to the Ingenuity Festival!
My apologies for not providing links to each and every one of the incredible contributors to this festival, but I am very slow at that and I would be here until midnight, only a slight exaggeration, and I would miss one whole incredible day of this festival, See you there!
This week’s CoolCleveland has a great wrap-up to the Cool Community Forum held last Thursday in the Louis Stokes Auditorium at the Cleveland Public Library. There are photos, there are comments, there are lists of issues and comments and questions. And, of course, there’s a link to the Meet.The.Bloggers podcast to give those of you unable to attend the chance to listen and comment even now.
Sometimes, I react quickly to a participatory event like this, and although I had an immediate reaction of accomplishment and satisfaction, I decided that since we wanted to know if this collaboration between Cool Cleveland, Brewed Fresh Daily, and Meet.The.Bloggers could add a dimension to the civic dialogue, I felt the need for reflection rather than reaction. In retrospect, I believe that we achieved what we wanted to accomplish. We added a dimension missing in the public discourse in our county.. I believe that this will become even more apparent with the advent of the first of two public hearings put on by the County Commissioners. We need what we did last week badly. Everyday people need to feel engaged with the public process. By everyday, I in no way mean ordinary.
The people who took time to attend the forum and offer their questions, comments, and suggestions for a more reasoned look at the Medical Mart/Convention Center were in no way ordinary. Rather, they were extraordinary in the reasoning they employed to come up with the questions they had on how the rush to slap a 1/4% sales tax without documentation and plans seemed like a equation for a train wreck. Dennis Roche, exective director of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau commented that he was encouraged that a convention center had not been dismissed out of hand, but rather people thought it could be a good idea, but the method of funding and how to get there needed more planning.
Before the forum, there was a discussion on Brewed Fresh Daily concerning community forums vs. mob rule. I am proud to say that what transpired in that auditorium in the Public Library was anything but mob rule. Thomas Mulready questioned whether people would feel that they had had their say when it appeared that the flow of the conversation was pretty mellow, and not fevered at all. I think the ebb and flow of the get together shows the seriousness of the issue for those who attended, the tone of the voices were measured and deliberate so that the “powers that be” can see that the public is determined to know the path. No longer will the voters of Cuyahoga County be led down the yellow brick road with the promise of “OZ” at the end. We want to know where we are going, why we are going and when we will get there.
Of course, it is a bit Pollyannaish to believe that we can predict the future. I know we can’t, but I believe in Winston Churchhill’s words Plans are useless, but planning is essential. That appears to be the problem with this latest Jimmy and Timmy scheme, where is the planning? Where is thoughtful consideration to many possibilities? Certainly it is not being done in an open and transparent way. It has all the appearance of backroom shenanigans again.
And when we walked away from the forum last week, this is what we knew. Two of the County Commissioners want to raise our sales tax 1/4% without a vote because they surmise that it would not pass if it was taken to the people for a vote. How do they know this? Do they have a crystal ball? Or is it easier and faster to get a $42 million “slush” fund per year for 10 years this way rather than selling it to the people as Councilman Zack Reed said so eloquently. So, now we have half of the $42 million slotted for the medical mart/convention center and the other $21 million for “other” projects. What projects? There has been no discussion of what these other projects would be? So here is what we have–the taxpayers will be in for $420 million. How do we know this is the amount? Where are the projections? Where is the research? And then, where is the business plan for the medical mart/convention center? Where is the guarantee that this will even happen? Oh wait, if it doesn’t happen the tax will be rescinded. When has that ever happened? Remember the other projects will still be waiting in the wings.
Not an investor or a banker in their right mind wouuld sign on as a proponent of this idea There would be a demand for figures, plans, projections, alternatives, but we the county taxpayers are simply to “trust” in our elected officials to do what is in our best interest. We are not as clueless as our elected officials would have us believe. We have much more knowledge than we are given credit for knowing. Or maybe they do know we know, they just don’t want to hear it because then they would have to deal with it. i am looking forward to tomorrow’s public hearing to see and hear what we will be told.
I believe that a shift is happening. That the public does want to know what is happening with their tax dollars. That the public is interested in the future of our county and our region. In fact, I think the public believes in our region more than our elected officials and businesspeople do. The appearance of what is happening at the hands of these people right now would support the supposition that our region is on a downward spiral that cannot be reversed and that those in power are working feverishly to amass as much as possible as quickly as possible at the expense of the many.
I for one believe “we ain’t down yet” to quote the Unsinkable Molly Brown. There is a lot of life left here in Northeast Ohio, and in fact, a lot of new life is being injected into our region. The Cool Community Forum is a product of that life. Our task is to take it beyond the internet and to the many rather than the few. If we truly are to change the paradigm, we need to grow these forums and continue to add to the community that attend them reaching more and more people as we circle throughout Northeast Ohio. The beauty of these forums is the ability to live long after the hour and a half face to face meeting when people can meet and discuss, download and listen, write and discuss. If each and every one of us believes that we can be the change that we want to see in the world we can do this. The collective wisdom theory can work to our advantage and make us a global leader in the new knowledge economy. We can no longer look to others for leadership. We need to lead in our own individual way to change the thought processes in our region. I so often paraphrase Margaret Mead’s words “make no mistake about it, a few committed individuals can change the world, indeed it is all that ever has” that I feel that they are my own. I hope that she would be pleased and not offended because after all, imitation is the best form of flattery.
While waiting to make one more attempt at working with upcoming.org, I came across this CNN Money article about Wal-Mart reaching into name brand electronic sales. The article cites that Best Buy, Circuit City and Target must be watching this collaboration closely since Wal-mart is known as a category killer. My first thought was much closer to home. What does this mean for Steelyard Commons. Wal-mart has yet to arrive on the scene but Best Buy and Target are already open and selling their wares. Will they be able to sustain themselves when the Super Center arrives on the scene? My restaurant owner friends say that competition in their business is a good thing because NOBODY eats at the same place every day and night. BORING! But in the world of big box stores, is that the case or is it more survival of the fittest–the last one standing as it were?
Well, time to try to get upcoming.org to cooperate so that I can get our Meet.The.Bloggers schedule up and running. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not liking this takeover from google to yahoo. I have a lot more endless spinning and hangs when I try to post things. Frustrating to say the least, and it messes with my mellow demeanor.
Update: See it has already messed with my mind. I just reread this post and realized that not once did I mention Vlasic Pickles. I was referring to the incident a few years ago when Wal Mart worked out this amazing deal for themselves on a gallon jar of Vlasic’s Kosher dills. Everybody bought them at Walmart even though there were many more huge pickles in the jar than one family could eat causing a spoilage factor that Vlasic could not overcome. Also their other products suffered because so much went in to the production of the Kosher Dill Gallon Jars for Walmart. Vlasic admits that this story alone did not cause the eventual bankruptcy of the company, but it certainly didn’t help. My dad always said that a bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t need what is being sold. So, how many Kosher Dill Pickles should one family need or want? Are those things even good for us? And now, they have moved on to name brand electronics. Dell should be very careful.
Recent events in Cleveland regarding the arrogance of two County Commissioners is disturbing to say the least, and it is time the voters of Cleveland and the County send a message that they are no longer going to accept “business as usual”. When elected officials believe that they know better and that they no longer have a need to consult or inform the people who elected them we have a real problem. And, it is time for change. Again and again, we see evidence of elected officials no longer remembering that they are elected to serve the public. They see no reason to inform and include the very people they serve in the dialogue. They need to be reminded they are not monarchs who are selected by birth but rather elected by the electorate who decide their fate. When I hear comments like the “public would not understand” or “we can do what we want”, something has changed and it has not changed for the better. Today, I begin a chronicle of examples of Arrogance by not only elected officials but by developers and others who believe “they know better”.
Jimmy Dimora About six weeks ago, I heard a disturbing story concerning the Democratic Party Executive Committee Meeting. County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who also serves as the Cuyahoga Democratic Party Chairman as well, informed the community leaders that the only speakers allowed at Ward Club meetings would be endorsed candidates. Previously, all Democratic Party candidates were allowed to speak at our ward club meetings. Now, the edict from on high has come down to let us know that only endorsed candidates and/or incumbents are allowed podium time because we need to show a united front to the opposition. This is not the democratic way. Essentially, Mr. Dimora told the precinct committeepeople we will not allow the electorate to make the decision we will make it for them. Probably, because the “public would not understand” and how could people who don’t understand ever make a decision without US telling them what to do. How insulting!
Tim Hagan Rumor has it, that when he delivers the Medical Mart/Convention Center plans on a platter to Christopher Kennedy and company and Forest City Enterprises he is out of here. He has a wife who lives in New York that wants him there and not here. Sure sounds like a plan to me, deliver another tax supported entity to downtown Cleveland and then, leave the scene long before we know the outcome of the decision. I am sure that part of the rush to get this thing on the table is so that he can leave before the 2008 election. Leaving before the election will allow Jimmy Dimora and company to APPOINT the next county commissioner. Essentially, allowing that person to run as an incumbent. Tim Hagan for years has considered himself “Mr. Liberal” , but I am having a hard time believing his label for himself. His comments in the press saying that the public is uninformed and that he knows best because the public can’t make decisions flies in the face of that characterization. Actions speak louder than words and looking back on the history of Mr. Hagan’s stint as commissioner shows that he has been a friend to business more often than the public. Look at his history of backing regressive taxes as a way to raise revenues.
Al Ratner Recently, Roldo Bartomole related a conversation he had with Mr. Ratner that essentially verifies that Forest City Enterprises has fine tuned the ability of using the federal government as their own “risk’free” bank for projects across the nation. Development shifting the risk to the public sector and not to the business community where it should be. Why not bring a Medical Mart/Convention Center to town when the business leaders will reap the profits and the public will bear the risk? If 50 trade shows don’t come to Cleveland and it becomes a failed experiment, the public will bear the brunt of the ramifications. Make no mistake it will be our fault-no skilled workforce, not safe, not cosmopolitan enough. You name it and the reason will appear and it won’t be anyone’s fault but the public’s.
If we are going to bear the risk, shouldn’t we have the data needed to make an informed decision? Shouldn’t we walk into this agreement with eyes wide open? Don’t we have the right to make the decision? When did this all go so wrong, and why?
The Plain Dealer How hard is it to report who does something? It’s great that there is an article mentioning today’s forum at the library sponsored by “CoolCleveland.com and a group of bloggers” but it’s Meet.The.Bloggers. What is so hard about putting that in the article? It’s less words.
I stopped in to see Sherry Perry at The Ugly Broad yesterday, and she gave me a menu for a new restaurant over on Memphis Avenue. She told me that two of her friends had opened the Memphis Eatery in the old Taco Bell at 6212 Memphis Avenue. After Taco Bell moved up the street, a “Dogs & Taters” place went in there, but it didn’t make it. Then “83 Degrees” moved in and although it was different and had a good menu it didn’t make it either. The restaurant business is tough to say the least.
But, Michelle and Tina have decided to take the plunge. Both worked for Nick at the “Expressway Diner” so they certainly have some good experience under their belts. And as any good restaurateur will tell you “competition is a good thing in the restaurant business because no one eats at the same place EVERY day!” So here’s hoping that the third time will be the charm for this location and the gals are successful. Patrons will help that happen so here is my take on it.
I looked at the menu and saw that it was my kind of place. For breakfast, there is a country section that has Biscuits and Gravy, Eggs Benedict and an “everything omelet” plus a whole lot more, but this is MY blog and I am talking about MY favorites here. On the lunch side, the gals have open faced sandwiches including the usual roast beef and turkey but also meatloaf and sirloin steak. All the sandwiches are served WITH french fries. It isn’t totally a la carte which adds to the price so it is affordable. Nothing is over $7.00 and the average price seems to run between $4 and $5.
Sherry tells me that Tina is the chef and Sherry runs the front so it appears they have decided on division of labor which is a good thing. Now, Tim and I need to try it out and see if the food is as good as it looks on paper. Our only argument will be that I won’t want to get there right at 6:30 a.m. when they open. Tim loves 24 hour places and early in the morning venues. Me I am more of a late lunch person. We will work it out though, and try out this new place in the neighborhood.
Here are the vitals if you want to try it out too.
6212 Memphis Avenue
Hours: 6:30 a..m. to 2:30 p.m.
I have tried to stay focused on the Cool Community Forum at the Louis Stokes Auditorium scheduled for noon on Thursday. It is now less than two days away, but Bill Callahan has been focusing on the foreclosure problem over on his blog. As I read his entry for July 8th, I remembered that Ray Pianka had given me a copy of his testimony that he gave in Washington DC at the Committeee on Oversight and Government Reform Domestic Policy subcommittee hearing that Congressman Dennis Kucinich held the night he sat down with Meet.The.Bloggers. I believe the addenda he attached to that testimony dovetails nicely with Bill’s expose.
The first addendum is Cleveland Housing Court Bank/Lender Warrant Capias List. Both banks-Deutsche(twice) and Wells Fargo (once) show on this list . The significance of this list pretains to Judge Pianka’s “Clean Hands’ doctrine. If a bank/lender is on the Warrant Capias list which means that there is a court case pending for code violations the Judge will not issue evictions until the lender or a representative shows in court to address the charges against the bank/lender.
Then there was the list that shows the City of Cleveland Special Assessment Certification List-Vacant Lot Maintenance Liens (Corporations List). Deutsche Bank appears fourteen times for a total owed of $5094.82. Wells Fargo appears ten times for a total of 3320.32. The alarming thing about this list was the number of community development corporations listed on this addendum for assessments. Remember this list pertains to vacant lot maintenance. For instance, Cleveland Housing Network shows up 82 times! The State of Ohio shows up 16 times and HUD shows up 20 times. The Cleve land Board of Education shows up. The Clinic Foundation shows up there as does First Energy.
And then the final list deals with the board up charges for vacant and abandoned housing. Deutsche bank appears 22 times for a total of $12,244 and Wells Fargo appears 13 times for $6172. These were the figures through May 9th, 2007. So I am sure that Bill can use his statistical knowledge to calculate how many more of the foreclosures that Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank continue to file will add to the $$$ owed to Cleveland.
In a more recent post, Bill cites the 356 additional foreclosures in Cleveland on July 9th, but an additional 250 suburban homes were on that list as well bringing the grand total of the properties offered for sale on Monday to 606. No one is bidding on these properties, not even the banks. The numbers are dismal. The number of withdrawals due to bankruptcy is rising as well.
This is everybody’s problem and it does not bode well for America. We are at the epicenter of this hurricane, but the rest of the country is reeling as well. Economists will say it is the ebb and flow of supply and demand and that we need to leave the market correct itself, but why aren’t we talking about what this is doing to our country globally? The United States has always been known as a “safe harbor” for foreign investors with real estate being one of the more stable investments. Not any more. With the advent of derivatives and hedge funds brought to us by our own government with those two geniuses Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we are squandering our major export “TEA” worldwide–the kind of “tea” you get from our accountability, our integrity, our security. And Congress’s answer to this has been to hand the fixin’ over to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When Warren Buffett tells you that he can’t understand derivatives, maybe they are not to be understood and not used.
Only three days until the Cool Community Forum takes place at noon in the auditorium of the Louis Stokes Wing of the Main Library. i suggest public transportation or carpooling. Parking downtown is not easy or convenient at that time of day. The intention of this forum is to allow the public to air their questions and the issues they may have with the proposed 1/4% sales tax increase. I for one have many unanswered questions concerning the purpose of this tax, the use of this money generated by this tax, and the economic sense of another regressive tax to a struggling community. When revenues are down isn’t the prudent course of action to cut spending rather than increase spending.
There are two phrases that are often overused today “follow the money” and “connect the dots”, but in this case, they both seem very apropos. Mayor Jackson signs off on the sales tax increase which will benefit the county and Forest City Enterprises. Forest City Enterprises bankrolled a large portion of Mayor Jackson’s bid for his present position. The County considered Tower City as well as the East Ninth site for their new, “signature” county building. The East Ninth site won that bid helping the Jacobs Group out of a financial fiasco. Where do their contributions go? And now, enter the convention center/medical mart payback to Forest City Enterprises or another site somewhere close by owned by the Jacobs Group. Interestestly, we never hear the third option that the City Planning Commission is considering–the present site of the convention center with a beautiful view of the lake.
Now, none of this would mean a hill of beans to me, if we had a viable BUSINESS plan that shows economic impact, benefits and costs, but where is it? I have seen the sketchy thing that Merchandise Mart’s owners have placed on a few websites here in town, but there certainly seems to be a lot of statements without the accompanying backup statistics showing financial viability. And I don’t mean for the company shareholders. Where are the financial benefits to the city and the county? Where are the studies showing the best placement for this Medical Mart? I don’t know-I am just one of those “dumb” citizens- but it appears to me that placement nearer to University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic would be a better placement or what about placing it between Lutheran Hospital and MetroHealth Center?
And then, there is this tax increase thing. We all know that this is a regressive tax that will put a burden on those least able to afford it. If such a tax is levied by three commissioners and not by the voting public, we should have a good idea of what the long tail benefits will be for our region as a whole. The answer will be “jobs” but let’s talk about those “jobs. Day after day, we hear the lament that our “skilled” workforce is deficient, that our schools are in disarray and not ready for employment. How will this sales tax change these “facts”? Obviously, skilled workers will be imported from other areas to fill the new neighborhoods being built in and around downtown. Recently, the Plain Dealer reported that there had been a net loss of population in a four (?) county area. How are we going to market this area to a workforce that study after study shows trending toward picking a “place” and then, finding a job. This isn’t the fifties anymore when large workforces migrated north to fill manufacturing jobs, but sometimes, I think our government officials think it is.
Why do we have a government spending more money when revenues are down, population is down, and private citizens are tightening their belts? Shouldn’t they be leading the way with learning how to do “more with less”? And then, there is this troubling question in the back of my uninformed mind, if the medical mart is tied to the convention center, does this mean that both the East Ninth Complex and the Tower City complex will not pay real estate taxes? How much of the City of Cleveland proper is covered by the nonprofit sector that does not pay real estate taxes? Can we really afford this much more? Who will be responsible for the infrastructure? Who will be responsible for the safety of the visitors that attend the fifty conventions a year? In other words, whose services will be cut? And anyone who thinks this will not happen has not been listening to the continuing dialogue of shortages in the Cleveland Police Force and the cost of those forces.
And another thing, have any of you when you attended a convention had the free time to walk the city streets and explore the city proper? The ones I have attended have been so chock full of things to do within the venue that very little free time is available. And, when I have asked others if they wanted to explore with me I never get many takers. Most attendees are willing to simply gather in the lobby of the hotel for coffee or retire to the bar for a few drinks and conversation.
And why am I so troubled by the feeling that this latest “plan” is nothing more than a few old men way past their prime having their last hurrah at our expense? Why can’t I see how this works into the big picture of a prosperous and wealthy region? Could it be because this “plan” appears just to “Old School” with no input from the “new” thought leaders that will be stuck with these decisions? It is time for the informed community to step up and demand that our government serve the community that they were elected to serve. If they don’t, then it is time to take matters into our own hands and elect servant leaders who will.
A friend of mine late last week sent this link to her brother’s website. This quote hit me right between the eyes.
Once the city’s fate was largely in its own hands. Today, we have allowed it to become leaderless and balkanized, divided into class-based enclaves that pretend to be cities themselves at the expense of the whole. As a result our communities are reduced to wards of an increasingly perverse national state, which drags them down while it empties their purses to finance its corruption and foreign adventures.
The material on this website is thought-provoking and worthwhile for anyone who struggles with the concept of public-private partnerships and how government should or should not be involved in economic development. The historic perspective on some of these issues is sobering to say the least.
This Thursday July 12th, will be the first Cool Community Forum sponsored by Meet.The.Bloggers, Brewed Fresh Daily, and Cool Cleveland. Personally, I am extremely excited about this forum because when George Nemeth of Brewed Fresh Daily asked me to team up with him and Meet.The.Bloggers, we talked a lot about broadening the dialogue on pertinent issues to the wider community. Now that we have partnered with Thomas Mulready of Cool Cleveland, this goal is about to become reality. It would be really great if you could join us for the forum. If not, please leave your questions and comments at Cool Cleveland, Brewed Fresh Daily, and Meet.The.Bloggers.
We will see that they are a part of the dialogue. The beauty of this interactive forum will be the continuation of conversations after the actual event. A podcast will be available so that those unable attend can participate at a later time. The topic will be the 1/4% sales tax increase.
There has been a discussion of community forums, mob rule, etc. Our intent is to bring back the concept of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. When elected officials talk disdainfully of the public’s need to know because the public are not intelligent enough to assimilate the information, I have a problem with that. It shows a government that is out of touch. It also shows a disdain for the democratic process.
There has also been a lot of discussion concerning a democracy vs. a republic. I am glad that our founding fathers realized that a republic was a better governmental entity than a democracy, but in no way does that mean that the public that the government serves should be left out of the dialogue. And, today, we are left out. Our government officials make decisions behind closed doors with contributors, businessmen and community employees. Sham public hearings are held to placate the critics and then the vote is taken. I refuse to call them leaders because a leader will do what is right for the whole not for the few, and right now, I need convincing that this sales tax increase will benefit the whole and not the few.
Please plan on attending the Cool Community Forum and add your voice to the dialogue. Registration is required, but free. Go here, to register. Plan to car pool or take public transportation. Parking is rather limited in the middle of the day. Parking at a rapid station and hopping on it is a great option.
And when you have some time, please do explore Mike’s site.
Tim has been doing a great job of keeping everyone posted on how our son-in-law Geri is doing at the Island Games this year, but he says that I should add my two cents with this tidbit. I of course googled Geri’s name and came up with this mention in his hometown newspaper Bermuda Sun. They were concerned that because Geri had won Gold at the Shetland Games that he might be marked as the guy to beat. He probably was, because the top four in his first race all had the same time. His second race he won the bronze which was the race he won the gold in in 2005. But then he came back to help his team win a bronze–something that they didn’t do in Shetland. Doesn’t surprise me. That is one of the things we love best about him. He pitches right in and will help with anything, do anything to make things better, and keep us all laughing heartily while we work together.
Gold, Silver, Bronze, all precious metals, but in our book, he is a “gem.”