By Roldo Bartimole
I had to chuckle reading Steve Litt’s lead on his umpteenth piece ballyhooing a revamp of Public Square.
“Cleveland’s drab and gray Public Square…” Litt starts the latest propaganda push for more downtown public dollars. Public Square is an essential property for the city. Is that why we put a gambling joint at its doorstep? To dress up the place. Good thinking.
Litt didn’t mention that the present configuration of Public Square was the lady bountiful project of Iris Vail, the wife of former Plain Dealer Publisher Tom Vail. It gave me my chuckle.
Of course, helping to lead the latest grab ($40 million to start) for public monies for Public Square is Plain Dealer Publisher and CEO Terrance Egger. Was it ever so! Change is sooo hard.
They just never do stop. They can’t help themselves.
You’d think there was nothing else in town that really needed attention.
Watching a TV news clip of neighbors protesting the rape and murder of two women and another almost victim in a small east side area I noticed film of the desolate surroundings. People decried the poor conditions of the streets and surroundings. They know the score.
They said rightly it gave evidence to them that nobody cares if rape and murder happens where they live. The city’s clear confirmation by neglect tells residents what they are worth. Nothing.
In contrast, a recent letter in Crain’s Cleveland by the chairman of the Warehouse District Development Corp. bragged that his small downtown area was getting $2 million in street paving improvements and $650,000 in streetscape updating. Meanwhile, a short distance away in the Flats some tens of millions in public investments flow. And we’re going to keep the riff-raff out this time.
The PD business page last Friday had a four column, 5-3/4 inch photo of Mayor Frank Jackson and Downtown Councilman Joe Cimperman smiling at each other. Happy days are here again! The subject: “Downtown improvements.” What else? Among the goodies producing political smiles: $1 million for wider sidewalks, benches and bicycle racks downtown between St. Clair and Lakeside.
You want it. You got it. I remember that was the motto of Dennis Kucinich when he ran for mayor. However, he was talking to Cleveland residents, not its business leaders.
Now bike riders have more pull at City Hall than the entire population of poverty neighborhoods. What’s new?
The poor have NO pull as a report on infant mortality shows.
“Within three miles surrounding the University Circle area, infant mortality exceeds some Third World countries,” said a doctor of neonatology at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital on a radio program, also reported in the PD. Don’t let Litt know.
“We found that two neighborhoods, Hough and Mt. Pleasant, had infant mortality rates above 27 per 1,000 – worse than in North Korea, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Samoa, Maldives or the Gaza Strip,” noted the PD article.
It was worse in areas bordering University Circle, inferior to Bangladesh, Haiti, Rwanda and Uganda among others, at 67 deaths per 1,000. It’s a small sample but the neighborhood is close to some of the best hospitals in the nation. Cleveland Clinic – and board member Egger – where are you? Same for University Hospitals. Both close neighbors. At the doorsteps.
We’re so fucked up that we don’t know how fucked up we are.
Not even any fight left in us.
Historic Building Bought on the Cheap
On another matter it was good to see three school board members voted against the fire sale of the Cleveland schools downtown administration building. But wait.
Unfortunately, the majority voted to sell the historic building to Drury Hotels of St. Louis. The deal: more than $4 million below the appraised price. Who’s counting the pennies?
No one – at least in reports I’ve seen – has said a word about the land that goes with the building, enough apparently to build a new hotel and use the revitalized historic building for upscale digs. That was the plan when years ago developer John Ferchill tried to get his greedy hands on the site.
I wonder what goodies Mayor Jackson will throw at the hotel developers. We must help downtown business, you know.
Ferchill was fought off by an elected school board, particularly its black members. Even Mike White, then a state senator, opposed the move. It was a political plus for him at that point. Black power.
Now we have a Mayoral school board, nearly invisible.
“We need to put the focus on education and put this issue aside,” said school board member Eric Wobser. He called it forward thinking. Wobser easily flipped off more than 80 years of history. As part of the historic Group plan Harper’s Weekly wrote in 1904, “Probably no city in the country, outside the Capitol, has undertaken the systematic development of public architecture and parks on so splendid a scale as has the city of Cleveland.” No more. Business rules.
Developers have been eager to get their hands on this property since 1983.
And how would Wobser use the money? Why, of course, the first words out of his mouth: for a new downtown school. You can bet who that will help. Not those most in need.
Wobser is a newcomer to the board. But his thinking is plain old give it away style.
Mayor “Out of the Box” Jackson played his usual role. Absent and silent.
It’s very discouraging to look at Cleveland, post the civil rights era. The forgotten era of forgotten people.
George Forbes, Mike White and now Frank Jackson. All strong public servants – for our corporate rulers. Heirs to the Civil Rights Movement. That doesn’t count. Profits. That’s what counts.
To hell with the people. That’s been the model here since Dennis Kucinich.
In 1991 he was awarded the Second Annual Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage in Washington, D.C. He received the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, Cleveland chapter, in 2002, and was named to the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame, 2004. [Photo by Todd Bartimole.]