Archive for September, 2007
So the phrase is usually Spring Forward, Fall Back but down at the Ugly Broad Tavern things are moving forward. New items have been added to the menu and other upcoming events should mean a trip down Denison to join in the fun.
First of all, Dean has moved from behind the bar into the kitchen. Mussels on Monday and from what I hear there is plenty of garlic for all of you aficionados or if you just want to stock up on garlic for Halloween to keep the vampires away, you ought to try them. If mussels are not your kind of meal, Tuesdays are still reserved for Meatball Subs. And of course, who would mess with the eternally favorite Wednesday Taco nite-no one and no one did. Tim still says that Thursday’s Steak Nite is one of the best deals in the city for a great grilled steak, baked potato and salad. Friday’s Fish Fry has moved over and made room for some Pierogies.
If that isn’t enough, Monday is now Free Pool night and Saturday afternoons from 1-6 are reserved for Biker Discount Deals open to all who come riding in on their bike, on foot or by car. Saturday October 6th is reserved for the Sherry’s famous Clambake. Call 351-9826 to reserve your ticket now. Hurry because they usually sell out early. Prices are reasonable $20 for chicken and $23 for steak. Tim thinks the steaks are good but I LOVE that Clam Chowder.
September’s Karaoke night was such a hit that another one is scheduled for October 20th from 8 p.m. til closing. This is the same night that Sherry will be hosting a fundraiser to help Nick defray his medical costs due to his train accident and his miraculous survival. Great times with great people are always the case at 3908 Denison Avenue.
My next scheduled installment in the Put It On The Ballot series was to be about the concept of leadership and how it has become rather perverse here in Northeast Ohio but then over on Brewed Fresh Daily George posted a letter that Roldo received and the comments it has generated made me think that the time was right for this post.
During the Put It On The Ballot campaign you may or may not know that many of the venues where we circulated the petitions a member of some union would pass out slick printed literature touting the benefits to Cleveland of the Medical Mart and how we needed the Convention Center as well for jobs-union jobs. It amazed me that these union members could not see that a “right to vote” for those jobs for bricks and mortar was something that we should not be willing to give over to three county commissioners who had never really made a case for how this money poured into the general fund would be earmarked for this project. Unions have come a long way but somewhere they have wandered off the path that their founders envisioned.
My dad was a union guy- a stalwart union guy. He wasn’t, at first, but when he came back from the war he went to work with his dad in a foundry in Wooster. It wasn’t a union shop, but some of the older guys wanted to make it so. Dad was on the fence, and then. a big piece of machinery swung the wrong way and it broke his nose. I think Mom said they sent a ham and a fruit basket and told him to “get well soon.” When he went back to work, he was bounced back to the first job he had ever had at the foundry-patternmaker. He made much less money. Then, he worked his way back up to the job that broke his nose. Wouldn’t you know the damn machine swung the wrong way one more time and broke his nose one more time. This time he was told by management that he was “accident-prone” and that he needed to be more careful. Dad said the machinery was faulty and he was suspended for a week. Needless to say, my dad signed on with the union organizers and, within a year, the shop was unionized. My mother’s family and much of my father’s family was very chagrined that my mother and he had become a “union” family. Democrats, no less. I grew up in the heart of a Republican county.
Many years later, when I was in college I finally landed the coveted summer job wanted by all college students in my hometown–the job at Rubbermaid. All I could see were the big bucks in my future. I was going to make enough to pay for school and have a great summer besides with at least two trips to Virginia Beach. Three weeks into that job, we were called in for a special meeting by the management. The United Rubber Workers had threatened a strike and they were asking us college kids to sign on to work throughout the summer to keep the factory running. I don’t remember the details but we would be making more money than we were at that point. The only thing we needed to do was to sign up, to agree to be carted in by bus, and to realize that we might be asked to stay in the factory. Later, I was telling my mom all the details when my dad came home from work. He had left the foundry years before and now belonged to the Laborer’s Union in the construction trades. He no longer felt the need to be on the front lines of the union giving up his days as union steward and organizer, but he still believed strongly in “The Union Way” as he called it. He asked what was the reason for such serious faces. When I told him, I never expected his reaction. My mom was the disciplinarian in our family so very seldom had I ever seen my father the least bit upset with me. In fact, he was my pal. my buddy, the guy that knew what it was like to be a kid. I swear his blue eyes threw sparks at me and his deeply tanned face became a mottled red. Profanity spewed out of his mouth as he told me that no *@&#@ daughter of his was going to be a @%&$@* scab. WOW! Was I floored.
Many hours later when I felt it was safe to approach him, I asked him “What’s the big deal? I will be able to pay for my year at college. I’ll have some extra money. I won’t have to work the cafeteria job unless I want to do it. ” He then told me that “I” “I” “I” was not the point in the discussion the point was that Union brothers and sisters felt the need to strike and that all unions and union families needed to support them. It is in the numbers where unions make it better for the common good. When unions gain benefits and safe working conditions all workers benefit-unionized or not. If they can split us back into factions and have us thinking only of ourselves, we will lose. It turned out that summer that the Teamsters Union backed the URW and said that they would not cross the picket lines. If Rubbermaid couldn’t move the goods they were producing, it would hurt the bottom line. Everyone went back to the table and the strike was averted.
I think my dad was right, but I think what he talked about standing united and working together is even more necessary today and much more farreaching and relevant than it was when we had that conversation in the early 70’s. Unions are a big part of the reason for our quality of life here in America, but I think that many unions have been overtaken by college graduates that are closer to corporate types than they are to the ordinary people who organized and made those unions great. Somewhere along the way, they have lost their way.
When a newspaper can obscure a grassroots effort from being what it was-putting it on the ballot and giving the public the right to vote and make it about the Medical Mart/Convention Center which it never was because such an issue would have HAD to be put on the ballot and in front of the voters, we are losing. We are losing something very basic to democracy. We are losing because we are being split into factions constantly. As long as we allow ourselves to be pitted one community against another we will not move forward and we will not prosper. I was amazed that union members would not think of their brothers and sisters who would be paying increased taxes it was only about the promise of a job. Not the reality of a job, but the promise of a job. That these union members would not know or did not care that a sales tax is one of the most regressive taxes known and that those least able to afford it would be paying the most is troubling.
Unions have come a long way since the beginning but maybe they need to go back to their roots to begin the transformation that so many people feel they need. I believe this quote from the letter to the NY Times by the former UAW Regional Directors speaks directly to this issue “Our role as a union, in behalf of our members and the community at large, is not to help them escape their responsibility to their past commitments but to help them convert those commitments to the common good.” There is a lot of discussion about what is the common good and who or what decides that definition, but I think that that is just an intellectual cop out. To me, these words of Hubert Humphrey exemplify”common good” –It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped. I believe that the noun government in this quote can be changed to many other words-society, individual, union member, business leader, county commissioner and the list could continue. Place your own noun there, and see if it works for you. How do we stack up here in NEO?
These words demand action not intellectual conversation. And it is imperative that Unions look back along the path they came when transforming themselves now so that they remain a part of our future because their role should be oh so much more than it has become.
Last time I posted about the public hearing, I covered–the pony show, Christopher Kennedy’s presentation and the barking dogs-the public show. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the three act road show of Jimmy, Pete, and Timmy. Thanks to the commenter on the previous post for clarifying that Chris Kennedy did indeed enter the auditorium again and sat through the rest of the show. After the public comment portion of the hearing, each commissioner spoke to the issue. Peter Lawson Jones in his usual senatorial tones spoke eloquently to the alternatives that could pay for a new convention center, how the public at large should not pay for a facility that would benefit private enterprise but those benefiting should shoulder the cost.
Jimmy the artful magician was up next. With one sentence, he made PLJ’s alternatives disappear. In essence, he said that all of those alternatives had been looked at, they were not available and that the state didn’t care about us, the federal government didn’t care about us, and if anyone was going to save us it had to be ourselves. “Poof!” All the alternatives gone in an instance. And then, he conjured up the usual education and jobs illusion and again, there was no substance. He ended with we need this convention center to get this deal. We need this money for this convention center to make this deal.
But we hadn’t seen anything yet. Taxin’ Tim Hagan, and he called himself that. not me, started throwing knives. The first knife he threw was about “Taxin’ Tim” and how he was proud of that title. That he had put Metroparks levies, arts and culture levies, and human service levies on the ballot and each time the people of Cuyahoga County had responded favorably. The man not only could throw knives but he too is a master illusionist. He simply erased the fact that he was talking about ballot issues that needed a public vote. And then, he began lobbing knives at those of us in the audience who felt that the public had a right to vote on this issue. I thought at one point he called us unAmerican, but others don’t remember it that way, so maybe it was an inference that I felt rather than heard. He then, reprimanded the three Cleveland Councilmen who had the courage to stand up and say that the tax was regressive and would probably hurt their constituents more than others. They also had the courage to say that there were rumblings of dissatisfaction in the city. His answer was how dare they not be a partner with the County on this very important project that would benefit their constituents more than anyone. He never got around to explaining just why or how that would be.
And then, there was the obligatory shell game. The resolution was read stating that the 1/4% sales tax would be deposited in the general fund. It is my understanding that the general fund covers operating expenses, so how was this additional revenue going into the coffers going to pay for the Convention Center that was the answer to getting the Medical Mart? Of course, now there was no public participation, so no one could ask the question except maybe Peter Lawson Jones, but wait why hadn’t he mentioned this general fund language in his remarks? And now, I understood the booming assertions of Jimmy Dimora we will use this money for the convention center. we will use this money for the convention center. It turns out that if the funds were earmarked, there would be no choice but to “put it on the ballot”.
Although we all suspected that the “public hearing” was only done because the commissioners felt they “had to”, they sure did pull the wool over my eyes. To me, a hearing has the converse word listening on the other side, but because of the “urgency” of the situation which never was fully explained these public hearings were back to back and a vote was taken immediately after the last hearing. No deliberation, no discussion among the three, just a vote. Someone told me that was the way it had to be but no one ever told me why. Obviously, no need to “listen” to the public, thecommissioners have heard it time and time again, and they simply don’t need the public input. After all, we elected them to represent us and therefore, we should let them do it. Exactly, represent us but I ask you how do you represent someone if you are not willing to sit down and discuss things with those very people you represent-hearing constitutes listening, and in this county that just isn’t part of the dialogue. And how do you represent people when you are so out of touch with the very people you are elected to represent-businesspeople and trade unions are only a part of your constituentcy and there certainly no indication in this sideshow that all sides had been looked at and weighed. If so, there would have been a lot more substance in all three commissioners’ remarks.
But then, to the finale, the vote was taken. Nothing breathtaking or unusual there. Although up to the last minute many felt that Jimmy and Timmy might do the “right” thing and put it to a vote, now wouldn’t that have been a showstopper? But no the ending was predictable except for one thing, Peter Lawson Jones voted “no” and then disappeared.
Disclaimer: Apologies to all of my friends who are professional magicians. Don’t worry these guys are strictly amateurs. There illusions are easily seen.
Before writing this post, I googled “define Public Hearing.” The definitions were varied, and some were specific to situations. This one probably fits my definition of what I thought a public hearing was better than the others, but parts of all of them would make a whole–“a formal meeting held pursuant to public notice by the governing body or planning agency, intended to inform and obtain public comment, prior to taking action in accordance with this act”. Let it suffice to say that I think the County’s public hearings often fall very short of transparent and effective government, but that is a post for another day. The purpose of this post is to show why, after the “public hearing,” I was more determined than ever that the “people’s right to vote” was essential to the public process.
The public hearing consisted of three parts: Christopher Kennedy’s 45-minute presentation on the Medical Mart although it appeared rather thin concerning specifics, but gave beautiful shots of the other Vornado Realty holdings that MMPI manages as well as some that they do not. There was a passing reference to education and jobs in relation to Medical Mart coming to Cleveland but not much substance. The investment of $2 million for architechural and site studies was stated, plus another $3 million investment as well. It was rather vague on which private entity would be providing the private investment for the project, but basically it worked out to $5 million.
Then Commissioner Hagan laid down the rules for the public portion of the hearing. No questions or comments were to be made concerning the Medical Mart presentation or directed to Mr. Kennedy–rather, all comments and questions needed to be addressed to the commissioners themselves. It would have been extremely difficult to ask a question of Mr. Kennedy since he left by a side door immediately following his presentation. I did not see him return. I found it quite odd that 45 minutes of everyone’s time was taken up with a presentation that we could not then address or question. My questions would have been these: On the issue of education, how would the Medical Mart collaborate with existing colleges and universities and medical institutions to strengthen our image as a health care industry leader–essentially making Cleveland the destination for students interested in the health care industry; the second part of that question would have been how far would the Medical Mart people reach into the schools here in Cuyahoga County–what would the opportunities be for high school students, and how would early childhood health education become a part of the collaboration. Dreaming, aren’t I? This is simply a private corporation whose only commitment will be to shareholders and not to strengthening our community. Given the investment that our county was being asked to commit to the project, I felt that we should have a return on investment and I believe that benefits in capital add more value.
Mr. Hagan also asked that county employees should shift their seating so that the public would have easy access to the microphones. It was interesting to note the number of people who shifted to make room for private citizens. Public comments and questions were limited to two minutes. The Put It On The Ballot people had decided earlier to limit our remarks to the “right to vote on tax issues” and we pretty much stayed on task, much to our credit since there were so many unanswered questions about the project, but since we weren’t allowed to question the presentation, our task was made easier. There were many speakers but I am going to limit myself to four. The first will be Mayor Georgine Welo who essentially said that she wanted to give the county commissioners their first 25 cents towards this wonderful project. I feel for the people of South Euclid when their mayor doesn’t realize that the actual tariff is $7.75 not the 25 cents that she stated in her “oh so cute” two minutes. Be glad she doesn’t handle the books. The second will be George Forbes who spoke as head of the NAACP. Although we had been told by Mr. Hagan to limit our comments to the matter at hand. Mr Forbes was allowed to address the fact that Christopher Kennedy’s “team” showed a “bunch of white people” and that Mr. Forbes was here to say that black people needed jobs and he was putting everyone on notice. I found it interesting that Mr. Forbes did not address the regressive nature of a sales tax as did his counterpart in Hamilton County.
Then a lady rose to speak who had taken her lunch hour to come to this hearing, used her weekly budget for lunch to pay for parking in the belief that she would find answers to her questions. She was disappointed that she was leaving without answers and that all she could do was still hope that the Medical Mart would do what was promised. The last speaker, was a gentleman that agreed that we needed jobs but that we needed skilled jobs and not transitional entry level jobs. He implored the County Commissioners to make sure that that was the type of jobs we would be getting.
During this proceeding, I felt extremely uncomfortable. There appeared to be a very antagonistic tension in the air between county employees, union workers, and private citizens who came looking for answers to some very pertinent issues. The tension was palpable, and it was oh so apparent from the body language and the looks on the commissioners’ faces that we were all there because they HAD to have a public hearing. It certainly was not because they were considering anything that anyone had to say-postively or in opposition to the project. Anyone can disagree with me, but when the public hearing closed, all three commissioners spoke and the vote was immediately taken. Consideration, deliberation, done long before any public hearing was held. I had the distinct impression if they could have had no public hearing that would have been the course of action.
Me, on the other hand, I am going to deliberate and consider my next post concerning the speeches, demeanor, and the arrogance of the county commissioners before writing the next installment.