Democracy can sometimes be messy, particularly at the grassroots level, as attested to by a community meeting held in Hough on Tuesday night March 21. Fortunately, things didn’t get ugly, but they did get wacky as disingenuous misrepresentations, half-truths and outright lies were bandied about with alacrity by our councilman TJ Dow.
The issue at hand, as I previously have written, has to do with the development of a corridor that runs from the parking lot of the legendary Gallucci’s on Euclid Avenue north along 66th Street to the fabled League Park, which was renovated a few years ago. The ballpark could serve as a tourist destination since it’s the oldest baseball field in continuous use in the country. It’s literally a shrine to “America’s Pastime” for some folks.
The problem is, a few residents are opposed to commercial development around League Park, in spite of the fact that the current zoning laws allow for such usage. The operator of the Baseball Heritage Museum (which is part of the League Park complex) wants to open an ice cream parlor across the street from League Park, which would spur further commercial development along the proposed commercial corridor. At the meeting roughly 75 percent of those in attendance were for the development, while 25 percent of the residents want to stay stuck in the past.
In democracies the majority rules, but since this is Hough under TJ Dow, nothing can be taken for granted.
As a matter of full disclosure, the Vineyards and Winery at Chateau Hough, which is run by Neighborhood Solutions Inc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that my wife and I run, sits on the 66th Street corridor, a short block from League Park, so we’d certainly hope to become part of what can become a tourist destination.
That’s why we selected the location seven years ago, and since our mission is “to use innovative educational and entrepreneurial strategies to encourage, prepare and assist at-risk youth, veterans and those returning — or who have returned — to neighborhoods after incarceration in creating greener, healthier and wealthier places,” we’ve been very upfront and honest about our intentions from day one.
This is more than I can say about our councilman, who signed on to the development of the 66th Street corridor five years ago, but for some reason has changed his mind. Perhaps there weren’t enough dollars on the table for him. Just sayin’.
Dow, as expected, ran the meeting … and did so badly I might add. When it became clear that the sentiment of the crowd of close to 100 people was against him, and folks weren’t buying what he and his toady followers were trying to sell, he began twisting the truth. And when that didn’t work he started flat-out lying.
He began by saying that most of the crime in the ward occurs around retail outlets, and that’s why he’s against businesses on 66th Street. Now he is correct that when a store that specializes in selling 40 ounces of malt liquor and Black & Milds locates next to a housing project filled with low-income folks, there often is going to be trouble. But it doesn’t follow that an ice cream parlor, located in the middle-class part of the ward is going to attract the same element. And even if it did initially, it’s asinine for Councilman Dow to assume that we, the citizens who have invested our lives in our neighborhood, would not know how to handle the situation. After all, the Chief of Police, Calvin Williams, lives two blocks away.
Nonetheless, Dow kept going down that dark alley until he finally stated that young children would have to be cowering under their beds to escape the gunfire if the ice cream parlor is allowed to open up. I know, I know, you’re by now thinking that I’m making this up, but as God is my witness, I’m not. There were upwards of 100 citizens at the meeting, so I’m positive that you can find someone to verify the truthfulness of what I’m writing.
All of this speaks of the desperation Dow must be feeling in regards to his chances of being reelected. But the simple fact is he brought this on himself; a councilman cannot — for three years — repeatedly fail to call back his constituency and then be surprised when the voters want to boot him out of office.
The next step in this little drama is the meeting at the Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday April 3 at 9:30am on the fifth floor of City Hall. Residents and interested parties will get the opportunity to have their concerns listened to without TJ Dow attempting to control the conversation. I certainly plan to be in attendance to express my opinion … in my own sweet and gentle manner, of course.
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com