PILLA’S INITIATIVE GAINS INTEREST PROTESTANTS LOOK AT `CHURCH IN THE CITY’ Plain Dealer October 25, 1996

PILLA’S INITIATIVE GAINS INTEREST PROTESTANTS LOOK AT `CHURCH IN THE CITY

Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – October 25, 1996

Cleveland Catholic Bishop Anthony M. Pilla was elated this week to receive a Protestant invitation to broaden his closely watched “Church in the City” experiment to other faiths.

Episcopal Bishop J. Clark Grew II asked Pilla to gather with local Protestant leaders early next year to discuss how they might cooperate with the Catholic diocese’s effort to link disaffected suburbanites back to the concerns of the city.

But some local evangelical leaders voiced skepticism about Pilla’s plan and whether well-meaning religious groups might inadvertently make matters worse for the poor.

“It can’t be all us white suburbanites gratuitously alleviating our guilt by serving dinner to the homeless once a month,” warned the Rev. James J. Bzdafka, pastor of Providence Evangelical Free Church in Westlake.

Pilla agreed. “It’s got to come from a deeply felt personal commitment and a change of attitude,” he said. “You can’t just give money and let somebody else do it. One notion we apply in this is nobody is so poor he can’t contribute and nobody is so rich he can’t benefit.”

Pilla sees real benefit in Grew’s invitation.

“I didn’t want to be presumptuous and say I was the convener,” the Catholic prelate said, noting that partnerships are difficult for the Catholic Church to forge here when it is perceived as the biggest kid on the block. Roughly 30 percent of the residents of northeastern Ohio are Roman Catholic.

The Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, said he would be at the table.

“The question really is, friends, how broad and diverse a community do we want Greater Cleveland to be and how hard are we prepared to work for it,” McMickle told about 100 listeners yesterday at the Women’s City Club of Cleveland.

The club luncheon marked Pilla’s third public presentation of his “Church in the City” initiative in the last week. Pilla was particularly encouraged by the Catholic congregations surmounting class, race and geographic barriers to work and worship together, such as St. Catherine at E. 93rd St. in Cleveland and St. Basil in Brecksville.

Today, Pilla delivers the fourth description of such alliances to a Harvard Business School gathering at the Union Club.

“It’s foolish to think that we can have a thriving region and a declining urban core,” Pilla said.

Three years ago, Pilla pointed out that the expansion of U.S. 422 from Solon into Geauga County created a virtual pipeline for out-migration from Cleveland and the eastern suburbs. He never argued that the expansion in itself was wrong but questioned why its $65 million cost was not matched by an equal redevelopment effort in the city.

The Rev. Kenneth W. Chalker, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Cleveland, has similar problems with the extreme isolation of suburbanites from city people.

“The professional financial portfolio manager, for instance, can drive in from her upscale home in Hudson, into the city, directly to the parking garage under the building in which her office is found, spend the day caring for all needs from lunch to exercise and never see the resident population,” Chalker told the Women’s City Club forum.

Later, when asked about his Westlake parsonage, Chalker said he was not completely comfortable living so far from his downtown ministry.

“There are real problems in the city,” Pilla acknowledged in an interview afterward. “People have gone to the suburbs for legitimate reasons. I couldn’t expect somebody to sacrifice the well-being of their children or their elderly parents. We must work to make the cities more livable.”

The bishop’s effort comes amid a national debate on the effectiveness of American social welfare systems and the conservative argument that careless charity breeds dependency.

Bzdafka’s nondenominational church is one of the fastest-growing Christian churches in the region. He said his 4-year-old Westlake congregation struggles with its duty to the poor.

“Our congregation has a heart for the inner city and helping the poor, but we want to do it responsibly,” Bzdafka said. “… We are struggling with what it means to be Christian and what to do that doesn’t complicate the problems by our being involved.”

McMickle and Pilla agreed. McMickle said an occasional tour of duty in a soup kitchen doesn’t cut it for “a guilty black suburbanite,” either.

“With social justice issues, sometimes I think we evangelicals have really missed the boat,” Bzdafka said.

Why Mike White Shouldn’t Be Forgiven The Scene January 10, 2002

Why Mike White Shouldn’t Be Forgiven
The Scene January 10, 2002 The link to original is here
He built a lot of stuff. He’ll be remembered as a great mayor. He’s still an S.O.B.

The resurrection started before the burial. On May 23, Mayor Michael White announced that he would not seek a fourth term. After serving 12 years — longer than any mayor in Cleveland history — it was over. He was going to spend more time with his children. He was going to be a “full-time husband.” He had done what he came to do.Who could argue with the man? Consider the school system, the crime, poverty, the unemployment that ravaged Cleveland in 1989.

Consider downtown: No Rock Hall. No Gund. No Jacobs Field.

Consider the Warehouse District: It actually had warehouses.

Cleveland wasn’t so much a city in 1989 as it was a post-industrial approximation of one, a rusted-out hulk of its mid-century self.

Then along came White, more genetic aberration than career politician, a pure shot of single-minded will, a control freak of Napoleonic proportions. Hell, it seems silly to even talk about a “White administration.” It felt like he was running the place by himself, or at least trying to. This is a man who called his staff together at 1:30 a.m. on the night he was first elected. Not to celebrate. To start working.

“The mayor gave his life during those 12 years,” says Bill Denihan, who worked for White for almost a decade. “Good, bad, or indifferent, he gave all of himself.”

And there is much for which he can be proud: the stadiums, thousands of new homes, the resurrection of the Browns, the hope of a resuscitated school system, the passage of the bond levy. “History will look upon him more than graciously,” says Tom Andrzejewski, a consultant who worked on White’s first campaign. “The facts speak for themselves. Just take a look at what he’s done.”

Yet the darkness was never far from the light. White had to take credit for every triumph, avoid blame for every misstep. Vindictive as a second-rate crime boss, cruel as the weather, he went out of his way to retaliate against his enemies, to silence his detractors, to shut out anyone who wasn’t sufficiently loyal. Even friends weren’t immune to his churlish tactics. More than a few times, allies found themselves suddenly cut off, without word or explanation, wondering what they had done to incur his ire. “There’s just a whole generation of people who need counseling because of him,” says Councilman Joe Cimperman.

During the last two years of his tenure, White’s meanness became his calling card, the cloud he could never get out from under. Airport expansion, relations with the police union, tussles with city council — everything, it seemed, was about him. He had evolved into the city’s most reliable asshole, a designation he seemed intent on keeping to the end. Just 10 days before he left office, he forced the city’s top two prosecutors to resign. Their apparent crime: speaking of the mayor in less-than-glowing terms to Jane Campbell’s transition team.

But the nasty reputation never tempered the mayor. If anything, it fueled his sense of persecution, widened his blind spots. In an interview with Scene in June 2000, White responded to critics who said he managed by intimidation and fear: “Aha! Let’s distort his personality. Let’s put in an element of intrigue about how he treats people, because then you don’t have to have the facts, and you don’t have to have the record. You can just slash and burn a person.”

No doubt Mike White’s reputation will not suffer very long. Over time, the depth of his cruelty will fade into the soft focus of history. It won’t be long before he’s described as driven, dynamic, and uncompromising, rather than petty, despotic, and spiteful.

In some ways, the resurrection has already begun, starting on that day in late May when he said he’d never run for office again. “He is leaving the same way he governed, with the courage of his convictions and individuality of a true leader,” beamed former congressman Dennis Eckart in The Plain Dealer.

With his tenure ending this week, it is now the season for Mike White retrospectives, those exhaustive, exquisitely boring stories on the complexities of man and office. Overlooked is the fact that Mike White isn’t all that complex. He was elected. He built a lot of stuff. He wasn’t very nice. But there are reasons he should never be forgotten — or forgiven.

Reason I: Unyielding Loyalty Shown to Longtime Employees

Mike White has given much to the people of Cleveland, but perhaps his most important contribution came in the field of human resources. For 12 years, White ruled City Hall with such tyranny that he could write his own self-help manual: The 7 Habits of Highly Malevolent People.

“Those that leave city government ought to be his strongest supporters . . . jumping up and down, saying, ‘You know, I worked for White, and I know what he can do,” says Denihan, who served nine years as safety director. “Just the opposite is happening. He’s got a couple of hundred people out there who had executive positions saying, ‘I know what Mike White is like, and believe me, you don’t want to see that kind of management occur in this city again.'”

Denihan recalls the feeling of dread that would fall on members of White’s cabinet each Wednesday, when they would gather for their weekly meeting. “Folks would be thinking, well, whose turn in the barrel is it this time?” Directors would be singled out and torn apart for any reason. In May 2000, Joseph Nolan, the mayor’s former personnel director, told The Plain Dealer he decided to resign after watching White belittle and then fire the two highest-ranking employees in the Health Department in front of their stunned co-workers.

But leaving White’s employ didn’t necessarily mean people were free. Denihan and Nolan discovered that in the spring of 2000, when White’s HR acumen was at its zenith. Controversy had erupted over the police entrance exam. Eighteen months earlier, more than 2,000 people took the test in the hopes of eventually joining the Cleveland police. By March of 2000, however, the city was still unable to hire a single candidate, because Coleman & Associates, the company hired to grade the tests, had muffed the job so thoroughly.

Coleman was the most expensive, least experienced company to bid on the job, and council wanted answers as to why it had been selected. When council announced an investigation and complained that the mayor’s office was stonewalling, White held a press conference. Yet rather than take responsibility, the mayor promptly turned into a version of Hogan’s Heroes‘ Sgt. Schulz. He knew nothing, nothing about how Coleman was chosen for the grading.

Instead, he pointed the finger elsewhere: at Nolan, Denihan, and former Civil Service Commission Secretary Cynthia Sullivan, none of whom worked for him anymore. “People I believed in, people I trusted, made errors,” said White. “Ask them the questions.”

White’s attempt to evade responsibility was as revealing as it was depressing. Nolan and Denihan had been two of the mayor’s most loyal and competent employees. Each thought he had parted company with White on decent terms. And neither had a significant role in the fiasco.

Yet White wasn’t satisfied with simply impugning reputations. After Denihan fired back, speaking openly about the way White treated staffers, White offered a simple explanation: Denihan was a liar. “It’s unfortunate that someone of Mr. Denihan’s caliber now has to stoop to out-and-out lying to get his name in the newspaper,” he told Scene.

To critics, White’s treatment of Denihan was only the most glaring example of his vindictiveness. “That’s his demeanor,” says Councilwoman Fannie Lewis. “That man destroyed a lot of people around him. He don’t take no prisoners.”

Reason II: Extraordinary Efforts to Help the Homeless

In politics, even more so than in life, one is defined by one’s enemies, a maxim that’s never been more applicable than in the case of the mayor. In November 1999, Mike White met the enemy. And the enemy was homeless.

In an effort to protect citizens as they shopped the mean streets of Tower City or roamed the wilds of the Flats, White ordered stepped-up police patrols during the holiday season. The target: shoplifters, muggers, and “other criminals,” whose nefarious deeds seemed to consist of sleeping on the sidewalk.

“Basically,” says Brian Davis, executive director for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, “he wanted to criminalize homelessness.”

Cops were ordered to tell homeless people to move. If they refused, they could be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Since it was the season of giving and sharing, police were kind enough to hand out information cards telling the homeless where they could find shelter. The information turned out to be highly useful for those lucky enough to snag one of the city’s few emergency shelter beds — less so for the thousands of others for whom no beds were available.

The policy was a far cry from White’s campaign posture in 1989, when he promised he would “not settle for Cleveland having one person on its streets without a place to stay.” But it was hardly the first time his policies toward the poor were more punitive than progressive. In 1994, the ACLU sued the city in federal court on behalf of four homeless men who said police picked them up around Public Square and dumped them miles away. (The city denied this was official policy, but eventually settled the case.) That same year, police charged a man for distributing The Homeless Grapevine because he did not have a $50 peddler’s license. The city soon stopped enforcing the policy, and a federal judge eventually ruled that requiring a fee was an unconstitutional restraint on speech.

To no one’s surprise, the controversy over the police sweeps was also settled in court. Just before Christmas, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Matia issued a restraining order barring police from ordering homeless people to move. The following February, the city and the ACLU reached a settlement. The cops wouldn’t remove people unless they were actually disturbing the peace.

By that time, however, city attorneys were in full revision mode, denying there ever was a policy to remove the homeless from sidewalks — though three months before, the mayor said one of his goals was “curtailing the practice of sleeping on sidewalks.”

Reason III: Wise Use of Lakefront Property

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if city leaders notice, but Cleveland is on a lake. A pretty big one. Residents seem to enjoy this. They like to look at the lake, walk along its shores, watch the sun set over its horizon. And, crazy as it may seem, some people even use the damn thing — for fishing, boating, swimming, dumping old tires.

The concept that citizens might actually want access to the region’s most valuable natural resource wasn’t a priority during White’s tenure. During the last 10 years, the city has plopped down the Rock Hall, the Great Lakes Science Center, and Browns Stadium along North Coast Harbor “like so many pieces of unrelated urban furniture,” in Plain Dealer architecture critic Steven Litt’s memorable phrase.

Granted, White didn’t have a lot of help in this department. For decades the lakefront has been seen as a tool to harness industrial muscle and not much else. In Chicago, 85 percent of the lakefront is publicly accessible; in Toronto, it’s 75 percent. Cleveland, by comparison, has just 40 percent open to the public, much of which is at Edgewater Park. Only recently have city leaders awakened to the idea that our most valuable land might have better uses.

Still, if there is one unpardonable sin in recent lakefront development, it’s Browns Stadium. In 1996, when the NFL promised White that Cleveland would get a new franchise, White promised the NFL a new stadium.

From the beginning, White preferred the site of the old stadium, saying that it had served football fans well for 64 years. The NFL, of course, got what it wanted: a steel-and-glass marvel mostly paid for with public money (originally slated at $247 million, the current price tag is well over $300 million), and Cleveland got stuck with a beautiful stadium on some of the city’s most valuable property. It’s used fewer than 15 days a year.

“He was the great planner, and we all know every planning decision was his decision,” says Councilman Mike Polensek. “And we’re going to pay the price for it. We’re going to pay a price, severely. I look down upon a stadium that’s only used for eight games a year from my office — on a piece of land that should have never been used for a stadium.”

Reason IV: The Ghengis Khan Theory of Public Relations

It has long since been forgotten, but there was a time when Mike White didn’t think The Plain Dealer was run by beady-eyed jackasses bent on his destruction. He just thought it was run by beady-eyed jackasses.

During his first term, coverage was largely positive. The PD‘s editorial page cheered his every move. “He got a free ride,” says Polensek.

The tide began to turn in the mid-’90s, after White won his second term. The PD wrote stories about city contracts awarded to mayoral cronies. It looked at his role in Art Modell’s decision to leave town. It scrutinized stadium costs.

Then, in May of 1999, new editor Doug Clifton arrived from The Miami Herald. A gruff former Marine, Clifton clashed almost immediately with White over access to public records. The mayor took Clifton’s insolence as a sign: The paper was out to get him. He began publicly denouncing its stories. He refused to talk to PD reporters. He had his press office tip off other media to the paper’s records requests.

The PD hammered White over the city’s troubled Finance Department, over his autocratic management style. But it didn’t always conduct itself as a beacon of dignity. Early last year, it reported that the diminutive White was having foot surgery for a condition called “hammertoes.” Reporter Christopher Quinn couldn’t help but remind readers — twice in one story — that the malady usually affects middle-aged women after a life of wearing high heels.

It mattered little by that point anyway. White had already decided to “phase out” The Plain Dealer, going so far as to throw a PD reporter out of his May 23 press conference announcing that he wouldn’t run again.

Politicians bitching about newspapers is nothing new, of course, and White has skin thin enough to be offered at communion. Even so, his decision to cut off The Plain Dealer should go down as one of the more lead-headed moves in mayoral history. “He’s a public official, and the emphasis is on public, not on official,” says Andrzejewski, who worked as a PD reporter before hooking up with White in 1989. “I think he always has not had a good understanding of that, or a good understanding of the responsibilities that go along with that.”

Whether White likes it or not, The Plain Dealer is the chief conduit to the public’s understanding of what’s happening in town. In many ways, it decides what is and isn’t news. The television stations follow its lead, and public policy often treads in its wake. While it may have scored him easy points with those who distrust or resent the paper, for White to stop talking meant he essentially stopped talking to his constituents.

“I don’t think it was ever possible for him to think of our coverage as fair,” Clifton told Scene last year. “What he perceives as fair is totally without a critical component. That’s not fair to me; that’s not fair to our readers.”

Maybe that’s what White wanted all along — to be mayor in a lab, to run a city without critics, without dissent, without citizens. Judging by the latest census numbers, it seemed to be working.

Reason V: Willingness to Share Credit

Sometimes, it takes drama for a leader’s innate qualities to emerge. When the St. Michael Hospital crisis called, White’s ability to alienate everyone around him came shining through.

In February 2000, Cleveland Clinic announced its intent to purchase the Mt. Sinai Integrated Medical Campus in Beachwood from the bankrupt Primary Health Systems for more than $60 million. As part of the deal, the Clinic also planned to purchase Mt. Sinai Medical Center-East in Richmond Heights and St. Michael Hospital in Slavic Village, and shut them down.

The plan effectively locked out other buyers who might have kept the two facilities open and drew howls from patients, activists, and city council members. “We’re talking about people’s lives and their neighborhoods and primary health care for the working poor and moderate-income people,” Polensek railed at the time.

It’s the kind of fight tailor-made for politicians: a faceless corporate behemoth vs. residents desperate to maintain community hospitals — the kind of thing Dennis Kucinich drools over in his sleep.

Yet when the deal was announced, White said he could do nothing to stop it and that the city shouldn’t be in the hospital business. At the same time, he was privately negotiating with the Clinic to keep some limited services at St. Michael.

White’s subsequent agreement was assailed for not going far enough to save the facilities, and it was eventually thrown out in bankruptcy court. The only thing it did was confuse critics and fans alike, who found it hard to understand how a master pol could be so clumsy. Whatever his intent, White was pushed into a corner by Kucinich & Co., who made it look as if he was siding with the Clinic over the neighborhood. Says Lewis: “Look how far he went out for the Browns. Why couldn’t he have done that for Mt. Sinai and St. Michael Hospital?”

In retrospect, the whole thing seems a bit silly. White and his critics wanted the same thing — to keep the hospitals open. But White’s inability to share credit, his unparalleled skill at alienating all those who could help, doomed him. He was a victim of his own personality — a situation captured with stunning clarity at a council meeting during the battle.

“The chambers are filled,” recalls Cimperman. “Council members are making speeches. It was intense. Congressman Kucinich was back, making a speech for one of the first times since he was mayor. Mayor White can’t stand down from a fight. He’s got to be there, even if he’s not saying anything. He walks over to the lawyer who was representing us, who was sitting inside the well, taps him on the shoulder, and says, ‘Get out of here. You can’t sit inside the well,’ and goes back to his seat . . . To me, that just captures the lost potential. You’re in the middle of a situation that you can be a hero on, and your personality won’t let you do that. Instead, you tell our attorney to get the heck out of there. What, are you absurd? It’s ridiculous.”

Reason VI: Saving the World From Cleveland Cops

The low point for White’s administration may have come in July 1999, when the mayor held a press conference to address what he called the most serious crisis he faced since taking office: allegations of white-supremacist groups operating inside the Cleveland Police Department. The proof was as vague as the charge was incendiary: racist graffiti in district stations, white officers wearing star-shaped pins, others sporting Elvis tattoos.

The Warren Report, it wasn’t.

At the time, White was being ravaged by the police union and black leaders for accommodating the Ku Klux Klan’s wish to hold a rally here. The investigation into police racism was seen by cynics as a ploy to shore up support in the black community.

Though the inquiry was completed within weeks, it was eight months before White released the results. In a 92-page account, the Internal Affairs Division found nothing more than hearsay and gossip. Though the report was sandwiched within a stack of arrest statistics, complaint reports, and other data that implied bias on the part of individual officers, the conclusion was clear: There were no organized hate groups inside the CPD.

Such news would normally be embraced. Instead, White called a press conference to bash reporters for suggesting he was the source of the initial racism charges. When asked in retrospect if he’d have done anything differently, he responded in triplicate: “Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”

Normally, such tactics could be chalked up to rank opportunism — hardly an uncommon sin in city politics — and easily forgotten, except for one reason: Gerald Goode. In mid-July 1999, Goode, a no-nonsense, by-the-book sergeant in the Fourth District, asked fellow black supervisors about a pin he’d seen on a white officer. Thinking it might signify an anti-government group, Goode asked if anyone else had seen one like it.

Yet his simple curiosity was soon blown beyond recognition. Days later, when White held his bizarre press conference, he cited, among other things, racist pins as evidence of organized hate groups operating within the CPD.

Though the IA report yielded nothing, White made no effort to atone for the damage he had unleashed eight months earlier. “It’s the one piece of unfinished business,” says Bob Beck, president of the Patrolmen’s Association. “Never once, even after he was proved wrong, did he apologize.”

By that point, it was too late for Gerald Goode. At the end of October, he killed himself.

“Church in the City” initative from Cleveland Bishop Pilla 1990s

 

Graphic shows Cuyahoga County urban development in 1948 & 2002
Yet the population actually stayed about the same. (rustwire)

Cleveland.com article on “Church in the City” 2/9/2017 forum is here

Thursday February 9, 2017
“Revisiting the “Church in the City” initiative with the Mayors of 3 Northeast Ohio Cities”
Moderated by Len Calabrese
John Carroll University, DJ Lombardo Student Center/LSC Conf Room
7:30 Free & Open to the Public

“Moral Implications of Regional Sprawl” by Bishop Anthony Pilla
March 1996
The link is here

City Club of Cleveland forum  (audio)
Description: Bishop Anthony Pilla, ‘Church in the City Initiative/Conference of Catholic Bishops.’
Date: June 14, 1996
Program Length: 56:30
The audio link is here
The text from City Club speech is here

Newspaper articles
BISHOP URGES CATHOLICS IN SUBURBS TO REACH OUT TO THOSE LEFT IN CITY Plain Dealer April 16, 1996

A Bishop takes on the Suburbs Baltimore Sun May 15, 1995

PILLA’S INITIATIVE GAINS INTEREST PROTESTANTS LOOK AT `CHURCH IN THE CITY’ Plain Dealer October 25, 1996

SYMPOSIUM MARKS FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF PILLA APPEAL Plain Dealer – April 19, 1998

 

What’s Wrong with Cleveland By Rabbi Daniel Jeremy Silver 1985 (with intro by Roldo Bartimole)

What’s Wrong with Cleveland  By Rabbi Daniel Jeremy Silver 1985 (with
intro by Roldo Bartimole)

the link is here

The late Rabbi Daniel Jeremy Silver, who was the spiritual leader of The Temple, gave a sermon in the mid 1980s that should be well remembered by Clevelanders, especially as the city examines why its population has declined so severely over the years.

It may offer some insight into how Cleveland deteriorated and why. I believe it dissected Cleveland’s downfall and the reasons why the city decayed over the years. It suggests the city suffered the inertia of its past success. I think it also gives us something to think about when we get over-excited about projects – like the East Bank Flats development now and Gateway and other costly developments of the past couple of decades.

Cleveland’s greatness, he tells us, was a “matter of historical accident.” Geography, indeed, played a major component in our growth. It was not planned, nor could have been, I’d say.

Rabbi Silver’s words were taken from a sermon he gave in the mid-1980s. It was given wider exposure in the Cleveland Edition on March 6, 1985, more than 25 years ago. To me it’s as fresh as if it were given yesterday.

His words should receive much wider exposure in this day of the internet. It traces our downfall. It details many of the reasons we have failed.

I was particularly struck by his recitation of an attempt by John D. Rockefeller to finance higher education here and the response he got from Samuel Mather, one of Cleveland’s wealthy leaders of our iron ore and steel industry. Mather told Rockefeller that his children and his friends went to Yale. Cleveland didn’t need a great university. Go elsewhere, he advised Rockefeller. Rockefeller did. He gave the first million dollars to the University of Chicago, setting that university on its way to greatness. Cleveland lost its chance.

Rabbi Silver also told us that “… the future of this city does not depend upon entertainment or excitement….” He goes on: “In real life people ask about the necessities – employment and opportunity – before they ask about lifestyle and leisure-time amenities.” How about that?

Here are his words. This is a first attempt to look at Cleveland’s population losses and its tragic downfall as a leading American city.

I suggest anyone interested in the history of the city to print out Rabbi Silver’s address and keep it to read and re-read. It may be 25 years old but it speaks to us today as we make some of the same mistakes.

I hope to be able to trace some of the city’s decline and its causes as I have seen it from the mid-1960s until the present soon.

What’s Wrong with Cleveland
By Rabbi Daniel Jeremy Silver

Cities grow for practical reasons. Cities grow where there is water and farm land. Cities thrive if they serve a special political or economic need. A city’s wealth and population increase as long as the special circumstance remains. A city becomes a lesser place, settles back into relative obscurity, when circumstances change. Some, like Rome, rise, fall and rise again. Some like Nineveh, rise, fall and are heard of no more.

In this country the larger towns of the colonial period – Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore – came into being and grew because they provided safe harbor for the ships that brought goods and colonists to the New World and carried back to Europe our furs and produce. New York continued to grow because it had a harbor and great river, the Hudson, that could carry its commerce hundreds of miles into the hinterland. Newport did not grow because all it had was a landlocked harbor.

Cleveland was founded as another small trading village on Lake Erie. We began to grow because of the decision to make the village the northern terminus of the Ohio Canal. The canal brought the produce of the hinterland to our port and these goods were then shipped on the lakes eastward to the Erie Canal and to the established cities along the eastern seaboard.

In 1840, shortly after the Ohio Canal was opened, there were 17,000 people in our town. We became a city through a second stoke of good fortune: Iron ore was discovered in the Lake Superior region. Because of the canal, this city was the logical place to marry the ore brought by ships from the Messabi Range, the coal brought by barge from the mines of southern Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania and the limestone brought by wagon and railroad from the Indiana quarries. Here investors built the great blast furnaces that supplied America the steel it needed for industrial expansion. From 1840 to 1870 our population increased tenfold. It is claimed that from 1880 to 1930 we were the fastest growing city in America. By 1930 Cleveland had become America’s sixth city. There was nothing magical about our growth, or really planned. It is a matter of historical accident: the siting of the canal, the discovery of iron ore and the ease of transportation here, the basic materials from which steel is produced.

There is an old Yiddish saying that when a man is wealthy his opinions are always significant and his singing voice is of operatic quality. During the years of rapid growth no one complained about the weather. For most of this period our symphony orchestra was a provincial organization and our art museum was either non-existent or a fledgling operation; yet, no one complained about the lack of cultural amenities. Our ball club wasn’t much better than it is today, but no one was quoted as saying that the town’s future depended on winning a pennant. There was then no domed stadium and no youth culture. Yet, young people of ambition and talent came. They came because there was opportunity here.

Those who believe that the solution to our current faltering status lies in a public relations program to reshape our tarnished image or in the reviving of downtown are barking up the wrong tree. We all welcome the city’s cultural resurgence – that Playhouse Square is being developed and that there is a new Play House – but, ultimately, the future of this city does not depend on entertainment or excitement, but upon economics. In real life people ask about the necessities – employment and opportunity – before they ask about lifestyle or leisure-time amenities.

We grew because we served the nation’s economy. We fell on hard times when the country no longer needed our services or products. Fifty years ago the nation and the world needed the goods we provided. Today the world no longer needs these goods in such quantity, and we can no longer produce our projects at competitive prices.

Once upon a time the steel we forged could be shipped across the country and outsell all competition. Today steel can be brought to west coast ports from Asia and to east coast ports from Europe and sold more cheaply than steel made here. The Steel Age is over and so is the age of the assembly-line factories that used our machine tools. This is the age of electronics and robotics, and these are not the goods in which we specialize.

Cleveland grew steadily until the Depression when, like the rest of the country, it suffered. Unlike many other areas we did not recover our élan after the Depression and World War II. It is not hard to know why. We were a city for the Steel Age. America was entering the High Tech Age. We lacked the plant, the scientific know-how and, sadly, the will to develop new products and new markets. The new age was beginning and the leaders in Cleveland preferred to believe that little had changed. We played the ostrich with predictably disastrous results. The numbers are sobering. The human cost they represented far more so. There were some 300,000 blue-collar jobs in the area by 1970. By 1971 this number had been reduced to 275,000 and by 1983 to 210,000. One in four factory jobs available 15 years ago no longer exists.

Cleveland lacks the two special circumstances that have made for the prosperity of certain American cities in the post-war era: government and advanced technologic research. This has been a time of expanding government bureaucracies and of the transformation of our information and control systems. Silicon Valley is the symbol of the new economy. We are a city of blast furnaces and steel sheds, not sophisticated laboratories.

The years between 1980 and 1982 were a time of national economic stringency, but the number of jobs available in the United States still grew by slightly under 1 percent. In the same period Cleveland lost 50,000 jobs between 1982 and 1984; when there was resurgence in employment levels, Cleveland lost another 30,000 jobs. The census for metropolitan Cleveland indicates that between 1970 and 1980, 168,000 people left the area and that the exodus continues at about the rate of 10,000 a year.

These facts should give pause to anyone who still believes that Cleveland will again become what Cleveland was a half-century ago. The numbers are sometimes rationalized as the result of the elderly leaving for warmer climates and a falling birth rate. These are factors, but the heart of the exodus has been our children. Our young, excited by new ideas, believe that another market will offer more opportunity or that their professional careers will be enhanced if they settle elsewhere.

Why has this happened to Cleveland?

Labor blames management. Management did not reinvest in new plant and equipment or research. When local corporations expanded into electronics, they generally built plants elsewhere. Management blames high labor costs and low labor productivity. Both groups are right, but in the final analysis, whatever the mistakes our political, business and labor leaders make, these alone do not account for Cleveland’s slide. Had there been fewer mistakes this town would still be suffering a serious economic downturn. We no longer are in the right place with the right stuff. (My emphasis.)

Our inability to adjust to a new set of circumstances is the inevitable result of a prevailing state of mind that can only be called provincial. Over the years Cleveland has been comfortable, conservative and self-satisfied. Clevelanders believed, because they wanted to believe, that what was would always be. Those who raised question were politely heard but not listened to. The city fathers set little value on new ideas, or indeed, on the mind. Business did not encourage research. Our universities were kept on meager rations. I know of no other major American city which has such a meager academic base.

A vignette: In the mid-1880s, John D. Rockefeller, then in the first flush of his success, went to see the town’s patriarch, Samuel Mather. He wanted to talk to Mather about Western Reserve College. Rockefeller believed that his hometown should have a great university. He knew that Mather was proud of Western Reserve and each year made up from his own pocketbook any small deficit. But Western Reserve College was small potatoes and Rockefeller proposed that the leadership of Cleveland pool its resources and turn the school into a first-line university. Mr. Mather was satisfied with Western Reserve Academy. It was just fine for Cleveland. He and those close to him sent their sons and their grandsons to Yale for a real education. He listened to Rockefeller, thanked him for his interest and suggested that he might take his dream somewhere else. John D. took his advice and in 1890 gave the first million dollars to the University of Chicago, a grant that set that university on its way to become what Western Reserve University is not – one of the first-rank universities in the country.

The same attitude of provincial self-satisfaction was to be found among our public officials. At the turn of the century we were certainly the dominate political force in the state; yet, when Ohio’s public university system began to expand, no one had the vision to propose establishing a major urban university in Cleveland whose research facilities would concern themselves with the problems of the city, its people and its industry. Again, in the 1950s, during the second period of major expansion by the state university system, Cleveland showed little interest. I am told that at first the town fathers actually opposed the establishment of Cleveland State University. They came around, of course, but ours is still one of the branches with the least research potential and fewest laboratories. Even today much of what it does is limited to the retraining of those who came out of our city schools and to the training of those who will occupy third-level jobs in the electronic and computer world. Change is in the air. Our universities are struggling to come of age, but a half century, at least, has been lost because Cleveland did not prize one of God’s most precious gifts – the mind.

Some argue that those who ran Cleveland limited their academic community because they did not want an intelligentsia to develop here. Academics and writers have a well-known propensity for promoting disturbing economic and political ideas. The comfortable and complacent do not want their attitudes questioned, but Cleveland’s lack of interest in ideas extended beyond political conservatism. Our leaders do not subsidize research and development in their corporations or in the university. Case was not heavily funded for basic research. Instead, it was encouraged to provide the training for mechanical and electrical engineers, the middle-level people needed by the corporations. It is only in the years of economic decline that our business leadership has begun to provide money for the research that ultimately creates new business opportunities and provides new employment.

Cleveland did not, however, fall behind in one area of technology: medical research. If the city fathers believed that the Steel Age would last forever, that real education took place back East and that it was wise and proper for them to look for investment opportunities elsewhere, they still lived here and the made sure that first-rate health care was available. Our hospitals have been well-financed. Medical research has been promoted. Such research was valuable and non-controversial, and the results of this continuing investment are clear. The medical field has been the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economic picture. Our hospitals are renowned worldwide. The research being done here is state-of-the-art. Recently the medical industry has come on straitened times, be even so, the gains are there and it is not hard to see what might have happened in other areas had our investment in ideas and idea people been significant and sustained.

Cleveland majored in conventional decency rather than in critical thinking. Our town has a well deserved reputation in the areas of social welfare and private philanthropy. Social work here has been of a high order. Until World War II the city had one of the finest public school systems in the country. We were concerned with the three Rs, but research goes beyond the three Rs. We never made the leap of intellect and investment that is required when you accept the fact that the pace of change in our world is such that yesterday is the distant past and tomorrow will be a different world.

We have fallen lengths and decades behind cities whose leaders invested money, time and human resources in preparing for the 21st Century. They broke new ground and laid foundations for change. We stayed with the familiar. As long as the economy depended upon machines and those who could tinker with machines, Cleveland did well. But when it was no longer a question of having competent mechanics retool for the next year’s production but a question of devising entirely new means of production, we could no longer compete. To a large extent, we still cannot.

In recent years Cleveland’s industrial leadership seems to have come awake to our mind and research gap, but the CEOs of the major corporations no longer have the power to singlehandedly make over the economy. In the High Tech Age, the factory that employs thousands of people is no longer the dominate force. Three out of every four jobs that have been created over the past decade have developed in businesses that are either brand new or employ fewer than 100 people. Those who lead old-time production line corporations struggle not to fall further and further behind and are an unlikely source of jobs.

Another problem has been that for decades the major banks were not eager to support bright, young outsiders who had drive and an idea but little ready cash. We all know people who went to our banks, were turned down, left town and set up successful businesses elsewhere. The officers of our lending institutions preached free enterprise and entrepreneurship, but most of their loans were to the stable, old-line corporations. For all their praise of capitalism, they were not risk takers. New business formation here has lagged behind that in most other cities. The birth of new business in Cleveland over the past three decades has been about 25 percent lower than the rate of new-business birth in other second-tier cities. Despite a new openness at the banks, we continue to trail. Catch-up takes a long time.

Cleveland’s business leadership has become aware of the need for research and development and of the need to stake bright young men and women who have ideas and are willing to risk their best efforts to make these successful; but even as we come alive to the importance of the inquiring mind and the risk takers of the academy and the research laboratory, we must recognize that Cleveland has a special albatross about its neck; Cleveland is not a city. There are over 30 self-governing districts in Cuyahoga County. There are over 100 self-governing communities in the metropolitan area. What we call Cleveland is an accumulation of competing fiefdoms.

This sad situation is also a result of our parochial outlook and our unwillingness to look ahead. It is easier to let each group draw into itself than to work out ways to adjust competing needs and interests. The result is a diminished city. There were 970,000 residents of the city in 1945; there are 520,000 today (My note: Try 396,815 as of 2010). Only one in four Clevelanders live within the metropolitan area. The economic gap and the gap of understanding between the suburbs and the city and between suburb and suburb has widened, not narrowed, over the years.

Those who live here lack of shared agenda because we have allowed each area to go its own way and seek its special advantage. Some of our fiefdoms are run simply for the benefit of their traffic courts. Others are run for the benefit of white or black power groups. Some exist to protect the genteel ways of an America that no longer exists. Each is prepared to put obstacles in the way of community planning when a proposal threatens its attitudes or interests.

Do you remember those small groups of white and blacks that used to meet on the High Level Bridge to signify that we were really one city? Their tiny numbers, the very fact that their actions were seen as symbolic, underscored how far we have moved away from each other. To be sure, Clevelanders meet together in non-political forums where we profess infinite good will and talk of shared goals, but the talk rarely leads to decisive actions. Why? We lack a political area where our needs are necessarily brought forward and brokered. We lack a political structure that would force us to adjust our interests and develop an agenda to which we could commit ourselves, and until such a structure is in place we will not be able to marshal the shared purpose.

When suburbanites look at the problem of the city, they tend to focus on the long-range economic problems: how to create jobs and prosperity. Any who live in the city have no work in the city or outside it. Their problem is not how we can, over a 5-year period, establish X number of new businesses that will provide X number of new jobs, but how to keep body and soul together; how to provide food, clothing and shelter for their families. We do not see the immediacy of their needs. They do not see the wisdom of our plans, and inevitably we frustrate each other’s hopes. The suburbs mumble about their particular concerns and the community stumbles into a future for which it cannot plan.

In 1924 the citizens of Lakewood and West Park voted on a proposal to annex their communities to the city of Cleveland. That proposal was defeated soundly. Since then every proposal to create countywide government has failed and failed badly. Yet it should be clear to all that only when we succeed in becoming citizens of a single community will we be able to do much about our economy and our future.

Because the city’s concerns stop at the borders, its ability to handle the future stops at its borders. The same is, of course, true of the suburbs. In Columbus the city grew by annexing to itself the farm land on which the commercial parks and the new suburbs were built. In Cleveland we went the other way; today you could do some large-scale farming within the city limits.

Will we confront this structural challenge and create metropolitan government? I see little reason to believe that we will. Our history has, if anything, intensified racial and class polarization. If we become a unified city, every group and municipality will lose some precious advantage. I can’t imagine the citizens of Moreland Hills wanting to throw in their lot with the citizens of Hough. Many minorities would lose their power base. The suburbs would no longer be able to provide services tailored to the middle class and would have to bear an expensive welfare load. Yet, until we unite politically we will be unable to address effectively the needs of Cleveland tomorrow. We simply cannot plan constructively so long as members of our many councils are able to thwart well-intentioned proposals.

Recent years have been better years for this city. There has been significant construction downtown. The highway system is in place. We have created regional transport, regional hospitals, and a regional sewage system. But big buildings downtown do not guarantee the city’s future. Big buildings can be empty buildings, as some of them are. Regional transport can mean empty buses. The future of Cleveland rests first on a revived economy. A revived economy depends upon bright people and new ideas. People do not get ideas out of the air. Ideas begin in our schools, universities and laboratories. High-quality education is costly. The future for Cleveland cannot be bought cheaply.

A meaningful future depends upon a new recognition of where a city’s strength lies. It’s nice that our suburbs are famous for their green lawns and lovely homes. It’s nice that everybody agrees that Cleveland is a wonderful place to raise children. It’s a wonderful place to raise children if you don’t want your children to live near you when they become adults. As things stand now, they will make their futures elsewhere. Our suburbs are the result of yesterday’s prosperity. Employment and political unity must be today’s goals if we are to have a satisfying future.

Unfortunately, we did not prepare in the fat years for a time when we no longer could take advantage of the circumstances that had made us prosperous. Those who study such things say that if the American economy stays healthy and the formation of new businesses in Cleveland continues at its present rate, we will be fortunate if in 1990 we have the same number of jobs we had in 1970.

Our future is to be a second-tier city. I do not find that such a discouraging prospect. A prosperous city of two million can be a satisfying place and can provide many amenities. But before we can feel sure even of a second-tier status, we must develop a new economic base and a renewed concern for community. We need to reevaluate our attitudes toward the mind. It is tragic that one in two who enter the city schools never graduate.

Of those who graduate – the best – who enroll in Cleveland State University, 51 percent need remedial work in mathematics; 62 percent need remedial work in English. Half the city’s children do not graduate from high school. More than half who graduate are not prepared for this world. Is this any way to prepare for the 21st Century?

When the rabbis were asked “who is the happy man?” they answered, “the person who is happy with his own lot.” The question that Clevelanders must ask is whether we can be happy even if we are not now, and will not become again, one of the premier cities in the country. The answer seems to me obvious. We can. But even the modest hope will escape us unless we put behind us the stand-patism that has characterized our past. We must put our minds and imaginations to work in planning for an economy and a community suited to the world of tomorrow.

Playhouse Square aggregation

1 “30 Vintage Photos of Playhouse Square’s Heyday and (Temporary) Demise” Cleveland Scene March 2016
2 Ray Shepardson: The Man Who Relit Playhouse Square by John Vacha
3 “Staging Success: The PlayhouseSquare Story” Documentary by WVIZ
4 Remembering Ray Shepardson: Playhouse Square savior hailed as a visionary (Plain Dealer 6/24/14)
5 More Than Just a Show – a Playhouse Square story
6 Playhouse Square from Cleveland Memory
7 Playhouse Square Documentary
8 40 years ago, a spark helps Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare find its way back to the lights (Plain Dealer 2/5/2010)
9 The man who saved Cleveland’s theaters: Oliver “Pudge” Henkel

10 A Photo History of Cleveland’s Playhouse Square; Rise, Decline and Rebirth 5.27.16 Cleveland.com

11 Playhouse Square from Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Louis Stokes aggregation

1 The Passing of a Giant: Lou Stokes by Mansfield Frazier in Cool Cleveland July 2015
2 “Lou Stokes – the Congressman, Leading Lawyer and Towering Political Presence Has Died” Plain Dealer 8/19/2015
3 Louis Stokes from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
4 Interview With Louis Stokes Former U. S. Congressman from 1969 – 1999 (Video)
5 Louis Stokes Biography from the U.S. House of Representatives Website
6 Interview With Louis Stokes WVIZ/PBS 2/8/2007
7 Louis Stokes Featured on “The American Dreams” show
8 Louis Stokes From Wikipedia
9 Louis Stokes Interview
10 “The Congressman” from Cleveland Magazine

11. Louis Stokes Oral History from CSPAN

12. Stokes Era Comes to an End Plain Dealer 1/18/1998

13 “Louis Stokes Autobiography “The Gentleman from Ohio” Parts 1 and 2 Cleveland.com August, 2016

George Forbes aggregation

1 Interview With George L. Forbes, Former Cleveland City Council President (1973 – 1989) – Video

2 George Forbes from Wikipedia

3 In Northeast Ohio, 3 Gray Eminences Wield Black Political Influence: Brent Larkin, Plain Dealer

4 Interview with George Forbes by Mike Roberts Inside Business July 2007 Issue

5 Interview With George Forbes 2011 – Benjamin Rose Foundation

6 George Forbes — An Obsession with Power from Cleveland Magazine

7 “Forbes: He Was So Good at Being Bad” by Roldo Bartimole From Cleveland Leader July 21, 2014

8. Voinovich and Forbes: The Era of Good Feelings Cleveland Magazine

John Glenn, Ohio Senator, US Astronaut and War Hero

Material on the life and career of Senator John Glenn from Cleveland.com

John Glenn, the American hero who made a name for himself as the first American to orbit the earth, died Thursday. Glenn was born in New Concord and served as a U.S. senator from Ohio for 24 years. Full story »

John Glenn’s name lives on

  • “When John Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas rocket in 1962, he lifted the hopes of a nation.  And when his Friendship 7 spacecraft splashed down a few hours later, the first American to orbit the Earth reminded us that with courage and a spirit of discovery there’s no limit to the heights we can reach…Full story »
    President Barack Obama's statement on the death of Sen. John Glenn
  • John Glenn says U.S. is losing scientific edge -- Brent Larkin
    Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement this year. COLUMBUS — Even with his life on the line, John Glenn was never one to worry. Not during 149 combat missions as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and Korea — missions that saw his plane hit by enemy fire a dozen different…Full story »

 

The Passing of a Giant: Lou Stokes by Mansfield Frazier in Cool Cleveland July 2015

The Passing of a Giant: Lou Stokes by Mansfield Frazier in Cool Cleveland July 2015. The original link is here

 

MANSFIELD: The Passing of a Giant

 

LouStokes

The passing of Congressman Lou Stokes not only brings down the curtain on one of the most accomplished lives in the history of American politics, it also brings an end to us having a direct link to the most activist period of the struggle for black rights and empowerment in this country. The Congressman’s attainments in life stand as a towering testament to what can be achieved via enlightened, determined — nay, fierce — efforts by a public official to turn America into the country we profess to be, but always seem to fall far short of in reality.

If there are still battles for blacks to fight in America — and there certainly are — there are less of them due to the victories Lou Stokes won with his keen intellect, superior upbringing and tenacious spirit. But the congressman, ever the keen student of history, sometimes would point out that he didn’t fight alone, or even initiate the local struggle for blacks’ full equality in this experiment in democracy we call the United States of America. It began long before he took on the mantel of leadership, but he knew he was the beneficiary of former political struggles and carried the battle flag forward proudly.

Just as Birmingham, Ala., is known as the birthplace of the black civil rights movement, Cleveland can rightly claim to be the birthplace of the black economic and political rights movement in this country, in large part due to the efforts of men and women like John O. Holly, Charlie Carr, Marge Robinson, Isabelle Shaw, William O. Walker and a whole host of others.

In 1935, at age 32, Holly would become the driving force in establishing the Future Outlook League, which grew to become one of the most powerful organizations in Cleveland demanding — and achieving — better economic treatment for blacks. It was a long and rocky road he had to travel to win victories in the end, but the hallmark of his journey was his tenacious perseverance and determination: When something got in his way, he found a way around, over or though it. He had a tremendous sense of vision, and better yet, the ability to transmit what he could envision to others. If there is such a thing as a natural-born leader, he fit that description to a T, and both Lou and Carl Stokes frequently acknowledged Holly’s commitment to the cause, and the debt they — and others — owed him for paving the way. In fact, Carl Stokes once served as Holly’s driver.

Holly passed the leadership mantel on to Charlie Carr, who was destined to become — arguably — the most politically powerful black man in Cleveland. He certainly was the most skillful and clever, if not always the most liked. The joke was, Carr was always the smartest man in the room, and if someone didn’t realize it, he had no problem letting them know. He’d won his seat from Republican W.O. Walker, then the publisher of the Call & Post, on his third attempt, by making a campaign promise to introduce legislation that would make it virtually impossible for the police to raid and arrest numbers operators. His argument was simple: If Catholic churches could host bingo games and casino nights, why then couldn’t blacks play the numbers without fear of arrest? It was this kind of clarity of thought, pointing out disparities of treatment, that’s defining police/black community relations to this very day. Carr was way ahead of his time.

Before his death, Arnold Pinkney, who was a key advisor to both of the Stokes brothers, stated that neither of their victories would have been possible without the advice of Charlie Carr. “After we won, black politicians from all over the country came to Cleveland to learn how we’d pulled it off. We’d take them to talk to Carl and Lou, and then to talk to Charlie. They’d sit at his feet, and they’d listen, and they’d learn how to win,” said Pinkney.

So, Congressman Lou Stokes’ great accomplishments and sterling legacy was but a continuation of a long line of astute political leadership that was passed down to him by others; men and women that would be exceeding pleased and proud in regards to what he did with what they bequeath to him. He took the movement for black rights — indeed the rights for all Americans — further than any of his political ancestors could have possibly imaged. He truly shall be missed, and the likes of him will never pass this way again.

Nonetheless, the struggle continues.