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    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    Tuesday Talkback

    Last week I called the folks at The Plain Dealer slackers for the typo in the title of Monday Moaning. This week, the PD couldn't be bothered even to upload Monday Moaning. It did run in the print edition yesterday, but I don't have it in front of me or anything, and even if I did, I wouldn't retype the moans just to talk back to them.

    Instead, I'd like to take moment to talk back to this article, Fading Away.

    Robert Smith's article is short, (remember his article on "Patel Hotels"?), so I'll reprint it here, permission be damned (I'll take it down if someone complains).

    The news from the U.S. Census Bureau is not good for Cleveland, population 444,000, and falling. The city lost nearly 7 percent of its people from 2000 to 2006 and now ranks as America's 40th-largest city. That's down from 33rd and a world away from the 1920s, when Cleveland was the nation's fifth-largest city. Among major American cities, only New Orleans and Detroit suffered greater population losses, the Census Bureau will report today. Mark Rosentraub, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, said the numbers are alarming and demand a regionwide response. "We're not going to be able to turn this tide unless the region unifies," he said. "We need to get behind a single plan for attracting immigrants. Without them, we'll never grow."

    Cleveland in the rearview

    Eight cities passed Cleveland in population, including Louisville, which ballooned by merging with its home county. Record immigration helped Atlanta surge by 17 percent, and even solidly Midwest Kansas City attracted newcomers from abroad. K.C. grew by 1 percent to inch past us.
    How low can we go?

    Cleveland has lost about 7 percent of its population in the last six years. Mark Salling, a demographer at Cleveland State University, says the city is on course to dip below 400,000 in 2015, and below 300,000 by 2033.

    Where's everybody going?

    An analysis of Internal Revenue Service data shows that about half leave Cleveland for the suburbs, and the other half leave the region entirely, mostly for the sun belt.

    The power of immigrants

    Chicago has been losing about as many residents as Cleveland, but unlike us, it has newcomers pouring in, says Ken Johnson, a demographer at Loyola University. The Windy City settled about 170,000 immigrants between 2000 and 2006, offsetting its losses. In contrast, the entire metro region of Cleveland attracted only about 24,000 immigrants during the same span.

    We're still major league

    The city may be fading, but Greater Cleveland -- Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain, Lake, Geauga, Portage and Ashtabula counties -- is home to 3 million people. We're the 15th-largest metro area.

    By merging with Cuyahoga County, Cleveland would grow overnight to
    1.3 million people, becoming America's seventh-largest city.

    This deserves a more thorough response, but I'm going to write from the gut.

    I have long wondered whether a metropolitan area can survive as a doughnut -- a vibrant ring of suburbia surrounding a void and decaying hole of a city. I shouldn't wonder, as that is the reality in and around Cleveland.

    I have lived in the city of Cleveland, and I do not live there now. I don't think I would live there again. It is an inhospitable place, full of mostly run down neighborhoods with declining city services, and a lack of any leadership that can even articulate a vision to change it, let alone put such a vision in action. The city and its citizens are poor and dysfunctional. There has been a brain drain in this city -- some of it out of the region, but the rest of it out to the suburbs. We have poor leadership and no leadership and dumb leadership in Cleveland because it is a reflection and representation of the poor and uneducated people who still inhabit the city. The talent has moved out to where there are better homes, better schools, better police, better parks, and lower taxes. The ignorant underclass elect someone like Frank Jackson to speak for them, and is it any wonder he is mute.

    One proposed solution is to increase immigration to the city. But in order to do that, you have to offer them a reason to come here: jobs. So, unless and until that happens, forget it. And if it does, it will be in spite of, not because of, the present leadership. So don't count on it.

    The other proposal is to spread the decay of the city out into the burbs, by expanding Cleveland. If Cleveland were to annex all of the Cuyahoga County suburbs, it would be the seventh largest city. But would it be for long? People left Cleveland to get away from its problems. If those problems reach the burbs, the flight will resume. I want my city taxes to help my community. I don't want my local police force to be assimilated by Cleveland police. I don't want my local schools to become part of the Cleveland school district.

    Proponents might say that a county-wide Cleveland would put the talent and the leadership back into the city. That we'd have a larger base of talent and voters to elect better mayors and city council. As evidence to the contrary, take a look at most of our county-wide office holders and ask yourself whether that passes the laugh test. Look at our county commissioners and ask yourself whether slimey Jimmy Dimora and Taxin' Tim Hagan represent the the kind of talent and leadership it takes to improve this region. The last commissioner turned mayor of Cleveland, Jane Campbell, oh what a fine mayor she turned out to be. And it only gets worse running down the other county offices. Our Recorder, the oft accused wife-beater Patrick J. O'Malley, or our Auditor, the smiley-on-your-gas-pumps Frank Russo, or dottering old fools Geralds McFaul and Fuerst as Sheriff and Clerk of Courts. Ask yourself how the West Side elects and reelects to Congress ineffective-at-anything-but-bankrupting-the-city-as-mayor Dennis Kucinich. And looking at all of these fine, fine office holders, anyone can see that the burbs are on their own, and need to be. For if Cleveland were to expand, it would take the whole region down with it, destroying every suburb along the way that manages to have decent schools, police that don't beat their citizens, and affordable taxes that cover services for which their residents get value. And no goddamned red light cameras.

    No, Cleveland must be contained, and not allowed to spread.

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    Comments on "Tuesday Talkback"


    Blogger Gina Ventre said ... (8:53 AM, July 03, 2007) : 

    I understand that change takes time but should it take this much time? Do the pols just tell us that change takes time so they can change nothing while we stand around awaiting change and thinking that the pols will bring it if we wait long enough?

    What happened to the Euclid Corridor Project? All I saw last night were orange barrels and detour signs. I've heard about how the construction is forcing restaurant and shop owners to clse up.

    What's special about it? How will it improve things?

    How about that midtown idea on Chester? I think of the failing Myers University when I think if midtown.

    What happened to the lake front ideas?

    Frank Jackson is just a figurehead. Cleveland inches in a circle because of inertia, not because of leadership. It's not good leadership or bad leadership. It's no leadership.


    Blogger Audient said ... (9:24 AM, July 03, 2007) : 

    Bad leadership vs. no leadership. It may make no difference. And it isn't just Jackson. Jackson is only the latest. And if Dimora and Hagan are really our best and brightest, then brain drain indeed!


    Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:26 PM, July 03, 2007) : 

    So I guess as someone who both lives and works downtown, I qualify as one of the “poor, dysfunctional and uneducated” residents of the city of Cleveland?

    It makes me sad to hear Cleveland talked about so negatively. Yes, we have problems. No, I didn’t vote for Frank Jackson. But the issue should be how we overcome the problems of the city and its leadership, not alienating the city so it decays even further.

    I’ve lived in Midtown for two+ years now, and I love it. I do not find it "inhospitable" - in fact, I find it just the opposite. I take walks most evenings and try to find new routes that allow me to see different places and find little gems of restaurants and bars to put on my list of places to try. It bothers me that every time I tell people that I walk around my neighborhood, they make a face and ask if I think that’s “safe.” Ha. The people I’ve met when I’ve been out have been, for the most part, pleasant and kind. They say hello and stop to pet my dog. And I love that. They may be part of the “ignorant underclass” – but do you think those people don’t exist in the suburbs, too?

    Maybe if more people stayed downtown after work instead of running for the suburbs, the place would liven up a little. I know it’s a vicious cycle – companies need the promise of traffic to be convinced to open downtown in the first place, but no one stays around if they think there’s no place to go. What we need are people to take a chance – be it by starting a new business or visiting an existing one. We need people who can look at the empty buildings on Euclid and Superior and see potential, not decay. The Euclid Corridor is coming together – I see it outside my office windows every day - but it’s a large project, and we can’t snap our fingers and watch it magically complete itself.

    To say “Cleveland must be contained and not allowed to spread” is not allowing it to grow to it’s full potential. It is instead saying it has already failed, the Do Not Resuscitate order has been placed, and we have to just sit back and wait for it to die. And that’s not fair. I love this city. I love the people, the diversity, the places, the wealth of things to do. I’m not sure I’m in favor of annexing the suburbs per se, as I’m not sure that will solve our problems - but I guess I just hate to hear the city talked about as if it’s a weed that will choke the life out of the surrounding flowers.

    Sorry for the long winded response – guess as a Clevelander I feel pretty strongly about this.

    - Stephanie


    Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:38 PM, July 03, 2007) : 

    I'm a lifelong Clevelander. I was born and raised in the city, and when the time came for me to purchase a house, it was in the city.

    A few months ago, I began a new job in Columbus. It's a two-year gig, and at first I was fairly certain that I was coming back to Cleveland at the end of that term (I still own my house up there).

    Now, with the latest proposed tax increase (which has Jackson's support) I'm seriously considering other places to live once I'm done with this job.

    It's taken me nearly my entire life to come to the realization that Cleveland is, for all intents and purposes, dead.


    Blogger Audient said ... (1:45 PM, July 03, 2007) : 

    I allow anonymous comments, but I appreciate it when they are signed.

    I once felt as Stephanie did. I still work in the city of Cleveland. I still pay taxes here to the city of Cleveland. I'll save a "taxation without representation" rant for another day.

    In the last couple of years, I've watched this city go from an incompetent mayor to an invisible mayor. I've been ticketed by red light cameras. I was smacked around by Officer Beckman in Ohio City during a traffic stop, and then was threatened to be railroaded by the Cleveland prosecutor's office if I tried to speak up about it.

    The Euclid Corridor project became a waste of money once they abandoned the idea of rail.

    Yes, there are poor and ignorant people all over. But in Cleveland, the inmates run the asylum.

    Yes, I'd rather see the city thrive. But I have no faith in the idiots at the helm. The elected officials are ineffective at best, incompetent and corrupt at worst. The business leaders aren't really any better, but their role and job is not to benefit the public per se.

    Yes, there are little pockets around Cleveland that are nice. But that is the problem. There are little pockets, and nothing more.


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