Archive for August, 2007
Tuesday, July 24th, I received an invitation to attend a meeting at Gypsy Beans and Baking Company. I went. I think it may have changed my life. I thought I was through with my days of political activism. Turned out I was wrong. When I went, I did not know the reason for the meeting other than it had something to do with the last public hearing about the convention center/medical mart. Turned out PutItOnTheBallot.com was born that day.
A group of activists and others were concerned that the commissioners were bent on adding 1/4% local sales tax to our state sales tax without a vote. There were Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and community activists in the room. Four things weighed in heavily on gearing up for a referendum:
- The Republican Party at their Central Committee meeting was supposed to adopt a platform that would come out against a tax levy without a vote;
- Peter Lawson Jones would stand firm on his “no” vote for the automatic increase;
- 90,000 signatures would be needed to make the 45,254 signatures needed to put it on the ballot
- Funding would probably be necessary to reach our goals.
Everyone felt funding was our weak suit since all of the business leaders and moneyed people in town believed that a convention center was the next best thing since sliced bread. Personally, I enjoy slicing my own bread, but then that is just me. A tired, old, overused idea as a loss leader was what we were getting with an untested, unproven Medical Mart idea thrown in for good measure. My take on it was it might work, but how would it work and what would be the benefits for the taxpayers? Too many unanswered questions for my taste. I hadn’t attended the first public hearing but no way was I missing the second, and I was extremely uncomfortable with the voting public being left out of the decision. I wanted some answers. So that was my take, but there were as many other takes on the issue as there were people in the room–some wanted no tax increase under any circumstances, others wanted the choice of a vote, others thought the med mart was a good idea but the convention center wasn’t, others debated that without the convention center the medical mart made no sense. The only consensus in the room was “the people’s right to vote on tax issues”.
Someone suggested that we needed a very narrow focus. Someone else suggested that a web presence could overcome some of our shortcomings–we could use paypal for contributions, we could recruit volunteers, we could have a schedule of events where signers and circulators could meet, and on and on. And then, the room grew silent for a minute or two as we considered the pros and the cons. During that time, I decided that the overriding issue for me was “the right to vote,” and I would sign on to the effort if the group decided to go forward. I would put aside my questions about the Med Mart/Convention Center until September 1st.
When the room erupted into sound again, it was decided that a website would be formulated in anticipation of going forward with the referendum, a printer would be waiting in the wings, we would all attend the public hearing, and if we spoke, we would speak to the issue of the right to vote on tax issues, and we would make our final decision after the public hearing. And so it began.
“Rebuilt neighborhoods should be designed for people with a mix of incomes.” We have neighborhoods with people with a mix of incomes. I lifted this quote, from this article on Cleveland.Com. We do not need to be rebuilt. What we need is safety and education. Although the Put It On The Ballot Campaign was to do just that–put the sales tax issue before the voters–many people who signed thought we were opponents of the tax, thanks to the levelheaded reporting of the Plain Dealer constantly calling us opponents. Many of the people who signed the petition said that if the sales tax increase would be earmarked for safety and education they would not be signing it. I don’t agree with that statement because I think we should vote on any and all tax issues, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.
How is it that so many everyday people know what we need in this community, but so few “leaders” do. Is it because they are so disconnected from the people they “serve” that they haven’t a clue? Many people say that I have a myopic Jimmy Stewart view of the world but I think that every small community interconnects with the next small community and so on and so on kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. I believe I was proven right by comments and observations by others during the recent Put It On The Ballot campaign.
So here is my take from my perspective “one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city”. We don’t need to be rebuilt, we don’t need to be designed, and we already have a mix of incomes. If the assessment was truly one house at a time, why would we be talking about “rebuilt neighborhoods”? Sounds like there is a bit more implied than what is stated. Our neighborhood does have a design–the bulk of it was built at the turn of the century in 1906 with some structures much older. Why rearrange what makes us unique, what makes us sustainable, what makes us viable in the future?
Safety and education is what will stabilize our neighborhood. The preception of being safe is huge in whether a neighborhood like mine can maintain its mix of incomes and attract others to buy into “the small town feel” of Brooklyn Centre. The other aspect of stabilitly that needs to be enhanced is education. Many people buy in our neighborhood, rehab an older home, have children, and move when those children reach school age.
I believe it is necessary to “read between the lines” of this article to try to determine just what is being said. After reading, ask this question “who will benefit more from the rebuilding of neighborhoods”?
As many of you may know by now through local media outlets, we did not make our goal and decided to handle it in the following manner.
Zack Reed and Ryan Demro personally thanked Auditor Frank Russo for making his
office available for us today. (see Jeff Buster’s posting at http://realneo.us/blog/jeff-buster/put-it-on-the-ballot-com-fails-to-garner-10-of-reg-voters-in-30-days)
We then stood on the steps of the County Administration building and publicly thanked Auditor Russo and thanked the citizens of Cuyahoga County who gave up hundreds of hours to stand outdoors in the heat of August on the pavement to collect signatures and the thousands of citizens who drove to the petitioning locations to sign a petition.
One of our patriots was there yesterday at the press conference, but in the confusion and heat of doing things quickly, we did not introduce Mr. Lynch although Zack recounted that Mr. Lynch, on his own time, went day after day to the libraries in Cuyahoga County and gathered signatures for this effort.
As Zack said, it was never about the Med Mart or the Convention Center, to us, it was about all of you who deserved the right to vote on tax issues.
Lakewood Councilman Ryan Demro seconded this sentiment and said that the spending of our tax dollars should be done transparently and openly with the public having a voice. He also said that the fact that we came close but did not make the goal in thirty days speaks for the need to change the law so that it is easier for a grass roots group like ours without access to $$$ to exercise our rights as citizens.
Since we did not have the number of signatures required to put this issue on the ballot, and we recognized that we should not squander the county’s resources counting and qualifying what will be an inadequate number due to need of many more beyond the 45,000 required, we made the decision to not submit the signatures.
This does not mean that the fight is finished. It does mean that it has changed course, and we will assess how and what we as citizens can do to make sure that we the public have the right to referendum that will give us the right to vote on tax issues and other issues as they may arise.
Again thanks, and this is not “goodbye,” but “until we meet again.” The party has just begun.
I plan to continue the party over the next few weeks, and months, right here. There are so many enlightening moments, funny moments, and just plain weird moments that I could be writing for a long time about one short thirty days that I believe changed the way we think and act here in Cuyahoga County.
As usual lately, Tim and I spent our weekend gathering signatures for the putitontheballot.com effort. We still have a few days left before we turn them into the County Auditor, so we could still use help. See Tim’s post about that here. As you can see even though the post is titled tourism my focus remains “Voters should decide tax issues.”
Back to my topic, everywhere we went this weekend it was important to make sure that the people were from Cuyahoga Count. Saint John Bosco’s Festival pulled them in from Summit County, Franklin County, Maryland and North Carolina.
The Feast was an exceptionally rich cross section of our state as well as Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, California. It turns out that a lot of people who have moved away target this weekend as the one to come home.
And then there was the Browns game, we arrived early so we caught all of the people walking back up the hill from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. None of those people were Cuyahoga County residents but they were from Taiwan, Montreal, Kentucky, Florida, Niagra Falls. The couple from Niagra Falls went up to one of those kiosks that are on every corner and were looking intently at the map. The man turned to me and asked “why there were no restaurants on this map?” i said, Oh surely there must be some, maybe they don’t have them separated correctly. Sure enough, there were none. I noticed that the United Technology Center was a Landmark of interest as were the 3 TV Stations. All three sound like just can’t wait to see landmarks to me. Anyway, no restaurants. Susan asked them where they were staying. They said, the Marriott. Then told them that along St. Clair and West. 9th street there were quite a few restaurants. Wouldn’t you think that those kiosks promote the local businesses? Where is this Omni Media and what is the cost/benefit ratio? If our local businesses aren’t being promoted on these kiosks. why not?
Oh, again I have gotten a bit of topic. The Browns games had people from Pennsylvania, Indiana, a lot of folks from Columbus, Allen County, Van Wert, Wayne, Summit, Strak, Portage. I would be willing to bet all 88 counties in Ohio were in attendance as well as many more states than I have mentioned.
Tourism was alive and well in Cleveland this weekend. There were two vendors selling things for the fans. We wondered why Willard Park wasn’t filled with vendors. It sure would have made for a real party atmosphere. The people were there but the atmosphere wasn’t.
We did quite well even though the crowd was quite overwhelming out of towners. Mainly, because people were aware of the issue and wanted to sign the petition.
Anyway, there are a lot of people who venture to Cleveland for specific events. I wonder what is being done to capitalize on that fact.
The following does make me pause. I received the following email a few days ago. I asked if I could share it since I considered someone in the medical business as more informed than many of us on this issue. Today, I received an email telling me to put this out there any way I could because the Plain Dealer still hadn’t called or printed his op-ed piece.
I’m in the medical device business and per the following I don’t think the Medical Mart is a good idea. I submitted this to the PD Forum section last Friday but I do not know if it will ever see the light of day. I thought you might have some use for it.
The Plain Dealer contends that a Medical Mart proposal from New York validates the concept. Unless you think Field of Dreams was a documentary the only credible validation is commitments by device manufacturers to exhibit. Here is an evaluation of the Medical Mart concept from a manufacturer’s perspective.
The Medical Mart will have permanent and temporary exhibit space. The permanent space is supposed to draw shoppers, but medical device customers are used to a higher level of service. Products are brought to them for evaluation, not the other way around. Institutions like the Cleveland Clinic have an office whose sole purpose is to control the army of vendors who are in its facility on a daily basis. Customers have no incentive to invest time and money in a trip to Cleveland when they see company reps daily or can pick up the phone in the morning and have four reps in their office that afternoon.
Medtronic claims to have a representative in the operating room every time one of its devices is used. Often the presence of a rep is required to answer questions about use of instrumentation or to provide assistance if
unusual complications develop. The manufacturer uses this one-on-one customer contact to explain the benefits and advantages of its new products without the distraction of a competitor doing the same thing. Manufacturers have no reason to incur the additional cost of showing their products in a medical device bazaar.
What about large capital equipment? A company plane will fly customers to the manufacturer’s facility for a plant tour, a meeting with technical specialists, product demonstration, and a sales pitch. Large companies like Medtronic also have tractor trailers outfitted with their products so they can take capital equipment on the road. Smith & Nephew has the MOBILAB that can accommodate 24 surgeons and includes a conference room with plasma televisions.
In regard to the temporary space, foot traffic is always an issue on the exhibit floor. It would be even more of a problem at an off-site location no matter how close. If forced to choose between the main conference center meeting hall and Medical Mart space, no exhibitor would choose the Medical Mart, nor could they justify the expense of placing an additional exhibit off-site in Medical Mart space.
The potential number of meetings that could be drawn to Cleveland appears grossly inflated. Downtown Cleveland only has 4,000 hotel rooms. The numberof convention attendees alone routinely exceeds that number. Many meetings draw 15,000 to 50,000 attendees and exhibitors. A primary draw of many
conferences is that they are always held in warm locations during winter months. Some conventions are held in the same city every year. There are reasons certain medical meetings are not being held in Cleveland already, and the presence of a Medical Mart is not going to address any of those reasons.
Treat this like any other business proposal. What unmet need does this address? There is already a sales network that presents products to the customer in the customer’s own office. Permanent display space duplicates one of the main draws of the national meetings; a chance to see all of the latest technology in one place. What is the financial benefit? It actually costs companies money to set up and staff an exhibit that duplicates existing capabilities. What is your competitive advantage? Minneapolis would be a better location than Cleveland. They have a larger medical device manufacturing base, the Mayo Clinic, and less snow. How do you protect your position? There is no way to protect it – any city could duplicate the concept any time they want.
Do not buy into a false sense of urgency; there is no way for Cleveland to lock up a Medical Mart. Sign a petition to put the sales tax to a vote. Demand details from your elected officials and make an informed decision on Election Day.
Even if Cleveland isn’t destined to be a medical convention Mecca, if the same money were used to make it the cleanest, safest city in America, people might actually move here instead of just visiting to attend conventions.”
Does it make you wonder, too, why is there such a sense of urgency? Is the plan really what it seems? I don’t have time to think about it now because we are in the home stretch of the petition campaign to PUT IT ON THE BALLOT. At the very least, the taxpayers of Cuyahoga County have the right to be informed by a media outlet that will tell both sides of the story. I am hoping that one of the television stations steps up to the plate and gives us a balanced approach to this issue. The Plain Dealer hasn’t, the City Club, the citadel of free speech certainly hasn’t, who will? People have the right to decide to raise their taxes or not. Many of them are indignant that some many think that they do not have the ability to form well thought out decisions. I am too.
Tim and I just arrived home from The Indians Game where we collected signatures before heading out to our stint at the fair.
As we walked down Bolivar, we looked up and there was a plane dragging a banner ad “DON’T SIGN THE PETITION! WE NEED MEDMART!” Truth in advertising would have been, “DON”T SIGN THE PETITION! PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE!”
I wanted to say “DON’T SIGN THE PETITION! TIMMY AND JIMMY NEED $880 MIL TO DO WHAT THEY WILL!” but then I focused and got back on message. See how easy it is for them to get everyone off topic? Two people voted to raise our taxes. TWO! JUST TWO! I don’t believe that is right. I wonder who paid for that plane. It won’t be cited in any public record will it?
So, one of us said, “Somebody must be nervous to spend all that money on little old us”. And then, we proceeded on to the park between the Q and Jacobs Field where Zack said that Jeff and he collected signature after signature on Friday night. Well, no such luck for our side today. We weren’t there ten minutes when we were told that we would have to move along by a security guard. I asked where we could stand, and he said I will get my supervisor if you want. I said no don’t bother I will ask that Cleveland Policeman over there. The security guard very politely kept insisting that I should speak to head of security at Jacobs Field. Probably because the police officer said he didn’t know what was public or private.
By that time, someone else in our group had talked to the head security guy who told him that three feet from the street in was public and everything else on Ontario, East Ninth and Carnegie was private property and we were not allowed to stand anywhere inside it. Of course, the cop told us that the three foot stretch would be too dangerous for people so our best bet was to be on the other side of the street. These locations were simply feeders into the main area and were not efficient for gaining large amounts of signatures.
I came home just to let everyone know that we must be touching some nerves here when my neighbor came over to tell me she wished I could have seen Tom Beres’ “Between The Lines” this morning. She said that Dennis Eckart and Mary Someone who is a communications consultant were talking about our effort. She said that they had very good things to say about our organization and our effort so we need to fall back, regroup and get around these roadblocks they are setting in our way.
Does it make you wonder like it makes me wonder? Why are they so afraid of allowing people to vote? Why should giving people the right to vote be such a scary prospect? And could you remember that this sales tax increase is not earmarked for the Convention Center as they promised in the Public Hearing, it goes to the general fund. There I go again getting off topic. No, maybe that is the topic–if this is put to a vote, there will need to be a lot more specific information. I agree–putting a sales tax increase that would simply say “into the general fund” probably wouldn’t pass, but why are they so sure that if they specifically TOLD us what it was for it would not pass? I don’t care what their reasoning is for DENYING us the right to vote. We HAVE the right to vote, and I intend to do everything I possibly can to see that we get that right.
See you at the fair!
Yesterday I faced some troubling events that I feel should be shared because I do believe that all of these things point to our freedom of speech being assaulted. First of all, let me say these are my observations and my opinions on what is at risk not only here, but I am worried that this scenario may be taking place in other communities such as ours, and it is not pretty.
We began our day fresh and ready to start gathering signatures for the Put It On The Balloot campaign. And then, the stones began to fly. First, we heard that several people had recieved nasty emails about the initiative and that they should think twice about helping us. Then, we heard that a few people were told that they should stick to what their job was and to not worry about this issue of “the right to vote”. Then, we ventured on over to the Burning River Fest, and as we entered the park, we received a flyer telling people not to sign our petition and that we were not to be believed because it wasn’t about the right to vote, it was to ruin our chances for a medical mart. I didn’t read the rest of it because I was too angry from reading the first little bit.
And, this is why I was so angry. I can tell you for a fact that that is not a true statement because I was at the meeting where fourteen people debated the medical mart issue, the convention center, the use of the tax increase, corruption in government and many other topics before we settled on the one topic that had brought us to the table in the first place–THE RIGHT TO VOTE TO RAISE OUR TAXES. We are all ages, all sides of the county, all political parties, you name it and I can point you to someone who meets those criteria. We knew that we needed to focus on the one issue that we all agreed and that was http://putitontheballot.com. So, to the Tower City employee passing out the literature: You are all wet.
Now back to freedom of speech. Yesterday, we were met with phrases that disturb me greatly. “I don’t think I should sign because I am a County employee”. “I don’t sign anything like that because who knows who sees it”. “I don’t think that the voters of Cuyahoga County should have the right to vote on this issue.” “Yes, I believe in the right to vote but the medical mart is more important”. “I need to know more about the issue before I sign anything”. The issue is the Right to Vote to Raise Your Taxes. How much research is needed before we will have lost that freedom?
Where are we when people are afraid for their jobs if they sign a petition? Where are we when people are afraid if they sign it will jeopradize funding? Where are we when people believe that things shouldn’t be on the ballot because voters aren’t educated enough to make decisions? Where are we when people stand across a parking lot and take pictures of people holding petitions that contain language about a basic right–the right to vote? Where are we when legal teams debate whether or not you will be allowed to circulate petitions? I would say that we are on a slippery slope. No, scratch that, we are on a very steep precipice and if we fall down, I am afraid we won’t get back up.
We need to remember one thing. There are three more opportunities to raise our sales tax without a vote. If we do not block this money grab from the public for the general fund this time, they will be emboldened to try again. Again, raising an additional $880 million for building “things” and not investing in “assets”. Before, I venture out today to again gather signatures, I wanted to let you all know that there is something insidious going on here with the mindset of people in our midst. There is a definite feeling of fear by some and a feeling of superiority in others. Of course, I guess every society has those elements, but we sure don’t want them to reach a tipping point.
We still are at a 3-to-1 ratio on signatures and in some places it is even better, so victory is attainable. We need volunteers. We have the signers, but we need those people to hold those petitions so that they can sign. Yesterday, we were allowed to use our ironing board at the shuttle stop and when people weren’t racing to catch a shuttle they were signing and signing and signing. Today, we will be at Jacobs Field early in the day and for the afternoon we will be at the County Fair. Come sign our petition and Help the cause. Let’s Put it On The Ballot.
Just when you thought I had abandoned my blog for other interests, here I come again. I have longed to take the time to sit and write a few words, but for the last two weeks I have been engulfed by the refrendum initiative to take the 1/4% Sales Tax Increase to the voters. Some detractors say that it isn’t that much per person, that’s true, but if you read Bill Callahan’s blog post on that issue, the cumulative effect is huge, but that is not why I do it. Others say but the Convention Center/Medical Mart will be good for our region. Personally, I am not convinced, but could be if there were more documentation, a business plan or so on. But, that is not why I do it. Others say it is time to tell Tim Hagan and Jimmy Dimora that they have overstepped the boundaries on this one. But, that is not why I do it. Others say that a sales tax increase is regressive, it is, but that is not why I do it.
I do it because I believe that the American Public has the right to raise their taxes or not. No one else. My thoughts on the state legislature allowing something so foreign to the American way of raising taxes is a post for another day and time. The bottom line is that our ancestors went to war because of “taxation without representation”, and I believe that that is where we are at now only now we have “taxation with poor representation”. I believe that we the people agree to tax ourselves and our representatives at the county then administer those funds in our best interests. That issue is again another post on another day.
Yesterday, I worked at the Booth at the Cuyahoga County Fair. One lady said, “I happen to believe that a new convention center would be a good thing.” As she walked away, I asked her this question, “Don’t you think that you have the right to decide to raise your taxes if you believe in it?” She stopped, turned around, and said, “You’re right, I do believe that. I should make the decision whether to raise my taxes or not to build or pay for anything.”
So there you have it. I believe that we the citizens of Cuyahoga County are capable of making decisions on how and why our public dollars are spent. The idea of a group of politicians and so-called business leaders using a short-fuse time frame that they contrived appalls me. Slow and steady wins the race. Unfortunately, we have less than 12 days to gather all of the signatures we need to get this on the ballot so that We the voters of Cuyahoga Counnnty can decide our destiny. A friend of mine, Councilman Brian Cummins says, “Does any one realize that this has the potential to change the next 80 years?” I say anything that crucial deserves consideration and delibration, not the type of hustle that has been apparent so far.
So I ask you to do what you can, sign a petition, volunteer to work somewhere gathering signatures for a few hours, circulate a petition, there are so many things we need done in these crucial dog days of summer. Visit http://www.putitontheballot.com and help us “do things the democratic way”.
When I walked in the door just now from gathering signatures for the referendum, this email from Lois Moss was in my inbox asking me to promote this Sunday’s Walk+Roll Cleveland event. It appears as an outreach to the community they are asking for musicians and artists and others to participate in this Sunday’s event. Tim and I were lucky enough to hear Counciwoman Sabra Pierce Scott who talked about the event last night at the Ward 20 Republican meeting where I talked about the referendum and handed out petitions. She is a great speaker. If you get the chance you should attend a meeting where she is the featured speaker. She had some common sense things to say where people can come together to agree. She has a way of talking about common ground. But, back to this weekend’s event.
Back by popular demand, Walk+Roll Cleveland is a go for Sunday Aug
5 and Sunday Aug 12. MLK Jr Dr will be closed to motorized vehicles
from 10am to 6pm so that people can walk, run, rollerblade, bicycle,
unicycle or wheelchair through Rockefeller Park and The Cultural
Gardens. With enough positive feedback from the community, Aug 19,
Aug 26 and Sept 23 may also become Walk+Roll Sundays.
The organizers are hoping that the community will come together and
share their talents to make the event even more special. If you know
of any community groups, artists, musicians, youth activity
coordinators or senior groups that could create free activities
during the upcoming Sunday events, please pass the word.
The project has received tremendous media coverage for this car-free
initiative, including a feature in Continental Airlines inflight
magazine. With 43,000 employees and over 5,000,000 passengers a
month, a large number of people will read about this Cleveland
project which promotes community connections, healthy living, and
vibrant public places.
For more information or to sign up as a performer or volunteer, see
Participate if you can. Make this the city event it should be showcasing one of Cleveland’s many gems-The Cultural Gardens in the comeback neighborhood of Glenville. Tim and I enjoy riding through the streets admiring all of the beautiful homes and gardens. East Boulevard, of course, is a gem, but some of the side streets are beautiful too. Sunday will be a great day to take a walk. Hope to see you there!