‘Doing nothing is not leadership’ Before his death three years ago, the visionary Richard Shatten challenged us to take bold steps forward; today, a sinking region still waits. by Brent Larkin Plain Dealer 2/13/2005

‘Doing nothing is not leadership’ Before his death three years ago, the visionary Richard Shatten challenged us to take bold steps forward; today, a sinking region still waits.

Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – Sunday, February 13, 2005
Author: Brent Larkin, Plain Dealer Editorial Pages Director

A QUIET CRISISThree years ago today, this community lost one of its great minds.

The passing of Richard Shatten robbed Greater Cleveland of a man who over two decades made immeasurable contributions to the place he called home for all of his 46 years.

On the day Shatten succumbed to a brain tumor, Sen. George Voinovich described him as “absolutely brilliant.” Cleveland State University Professor Ned Hill lauded his “intuitive genius.” Cleveland Planning Director Hunter Morrison marveled at Shatten ’s “luminescent brilliance of thought” and “crystalline mind.” Cleveland Tomorrow head Joe Roman said he’d probably never known a smarter man, and County Commissioner Tim Hagan saidShatten had “one of the finest minds of any human being I have ever met.”

As a consultant for McKinsey & Co., then as head of the Cleveland Tomorrow business group, and finally at Case Western Reserve University,Shatten ’s impact was unquestioned. John Lewis, senior partner at the law firm of Squire Sanders & Dempsey, said of him, “If you were to ask me to identify five persons who were the most important to this community in the last 20 years, he would be in my top five. And he’d probably be close to the top of the list of five.” Shatten was a civic and corporate leader. He was an educator. Above all, he was a great thinker.

On June 17, 2001, this newspaper launched its Quiet Crisis series, with the stated goal of beginning an ongoing examination of the region’s economic strengths and weaknesses and focusing on what Greater Cleveland must do to play a more successful role in the 21st-century economy. And on that first Sunday, we wrote of a panel discussion among six community leaders, including Shatten , that focused on what must be done for Greater Cleveland to prosper.

When a community, or a state, has such a civic treasure, it is wise to heed his warnings and take his advice seriously. But when I recently reread a transcript of that 2001 panel discussion, it was clear that this region and state haven’t acted on Shatten ’s warnings and have ignored his advice.

Which, of course, helps explain why this region and state are as much in crisis today as they were in June 2001. Consider some things Shatten said 44 months ago and you’ll realize they are just as true now as they were then, which speaks volumes about our appalling leadership void, both here and in Columbus.

On higher education: “Education is where it starts. Right now, the students who will determine our future are in about the fourth grade. Are they going to be scientists? Are they going to be mathematicians? Are they going to go to college?

“Over the last 20 years, we have disinvested in education and hurt our income and wealth-generating capacity. . . . We don’t have enough college-educated people, and our scientific research, while good, is not big enough. State policy (on higher education) is one of the crucial pieces, and the state is ducking it right now”

The state was ducking it then. And it’s ducking it today. The budget introduced last week by Gov. Bob Taft would deliver yet another kick in the teeth to higher education, giving our best and brightest even more incentive to flee this state ASAP.

On Northeast Ohio’s public universities:

“Let me add one of my outrageous, wild recommendations for linkage. I have been waiting 10 years to say this. We are the only place in the United States of America with state universities in four contiguous counties (Cleveland State, Akron, Kent State and Youngstown State universities). Now, imagine what the Northern Ohio state university system would look like if it was one system with a dominant campus. It’s a big, crazy idea.”

Big ideas aren’t welcome here. They’re too scary. We like the little ideas – the ones that come with no discernible benefits.

On regionalism, Shatten defended this community’s record, pointing to the Regional Transit Authority, the sewer system and the Metroparks. But he also stressed the need to continue regionalizing assets:

“This city is one of the standards of regionalism. I believe it strongly. That said, let’s reopen the game on the rest of it. Why don’t we have a water-edge governance that can actually tax and raise resources? Why don’t we open up the hard questions of the airports? But the antecedent, to me, is not to whine about it.”

Our leaders, in both Cleveland and the suburbs, have Ph.D.s in whining.

On the future:

“In the last 20 years, we had a wonderful rush of projects. We did downtown. We did the stadiums. We did this amazing array of housing in our neighborhoods. We did a lot of stuff. Now it’s sort of slowed down. But I’m optimistic a little bit, because there is a new queue out there. It’s the biopark. It’s the Cuyahoga Valley. It’s the convention center. It’s the array of manufacturing initiatives.

“The concern is, does this community have the will and the capacity to get over the edge? . . . To move this place another step will require – and I used to be reluctant to say this – another billion dollars, and probably tax increases. It’s very contentious. It’s always tough. But big things cost a lot of money.”

A little less than a year before his death, Shatten wrote a piece that appeared on these pages headlined, “Don’t let Ohio’s future slip away.” In it, he argued the state would pay dearly for its failure to invest heavily in research, higher education and job-creation strategies.

“Doing nothing is easy,” he wrote. “Leadership is risky and might fail. . . . We [must] act on a large scale. While Ohio debates how much of its future it can cut from the budget, our competitors are investing in their future. We spend less as our competitors invest more. This makes no sense.

“Doing nothing is not leadership. . . . Leaders must act if we want a different future.”

They haven’t.

Richard Shatten : A genius, and much more by Brent Larken Plain Dealer Thursday, February 14, 2002

Richard Shatten : A genius, and much more

Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – Thursday, February 14, 2002
Author: Brent Larkin, Plain Dealer Director Editorial Pages

The tributes to Richard Shatten that rolled in last night sounded like a broken record.”He was an absolutely brilliant guy,” said Sen. George Voinovich.

“He had luminescent brilliance of thought, a crystalline mind,” said former Cleveland Planning Director Hunter Morrison.

“He clearly had one of the finest minds of any human being I have ever met,” added former County Commissioner Timothy Hagan.

On and on it went.

Cleveland State University Professor Ned Hill said Shatten possessed “an intuitive genius.” Joe Roman, head of the Cleveland Tomorrow business group, said Shatten was probably the smartest person he ever met.

There were others, but the point is made. And, indeed, no one who knew him would doubt for a second that Shatten , who died of a brain tumor yesterday at the age of 46, was a genius.

But Richard Shatten was more than that. Much more.

He was – in order of importance – a spectacular human being and the unsung hero of all the good things that happened in Greater Cleveland during the 1980s and into the first part of the 1990s. First in his position at McKinsey & Co., then as the head of Cleveland Tomorrow, and more recently at Case Western Reserve University, Shatten made contributions to this community that are incalculable.

“If you were to ask me to identify five persons who were the most important to this community in the last 20 years, he would be in my top five,” said Squire Sanders & Dempsey lawyer John Lewis. “And he’d probably be close to the top of the list of five.”

With much justification, most of the credit for the Gateway project invariably falls to former Mayor Michael R. White and Hagan. But behind the scenes, the heavy lifting was done by Shatten .

“Richard knew as much about baseball as my 1-year-old son,” recalled Roman. “But that project wouldn’t be there without Richard. I used to scream at him for not taking credit for things. But with Richard, it was never about him. It was always about trying to get things done.”

But Shatten was also about more than shiny new downtown buildings. Voinovich credited him with convincing the private sector of the need to invest in inner-city housing as the city was emerging from default.

“Although he was working for the private sector, he had a public heart,” said Voinovich. “They don’t know it, but he touched the lives of thousands of Clevelanders. This was a sweet man who got up every morning and wanted to touch people’s lives.”

Shatten was a man with virtually no ego. He had no personal agendas, other than love and devotion to his wife, Jeanne, and three daughters.

For him, it was never about power and always about ideas – ideas that might make Greater Cleveland a better place to live and work.

“One reason this is such a profound loss is because Richard was one of the very few people who had a broad grasp of the region,” said Morrison. “In many ways, Richard got it much more than the politicians did. He was profoundly important.”

In the 1980s, before coming to Cleveland, Gund Foundation Executive Director David Bergholz was working in Pittsburgh and heard rave reviews about “this spectacular, very young guy from Cleveland” he would be meeting during a seminar held not far from Pittsburgh. “So I went to this retreat and was dazzled by him,” Bergholz recalled last night. “He was such a natural. He had enormous skills. And he was not one of these guys who was just brilliant and kept his own counsel. He was always willing to share everything.”

Last week, when he knew he was dying, Shatten took time to meet with County Commissioner Tim McCormack about an economic development plan the commissioners hope to implement.

“I can only imagine how difficult that was for him,” said McCormack. “But he did it because he was among our very best.”

They didn’t come any better.

“The Quiet Crisis” Series about Northeast Ohio from early 2000s (video)

A Quiet Crisis…the panels
These ran 2001-2004 and featured community leaders talking about how to improve the economic performance of NE Ohio
Through 14 round table discussions of community leaders that were broadcast on WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN, radio call-ins, in-depth reports on radio and television, newspaper articles, columns and editorials, the ambitious multimedia campaign highlighted the region�s problems and also offered solutions in ways that energized and empowered individuals and organizations to action and change.


“The Quiet Crisis” Series about Northeast Ohio from early 2000s (video). This part was a combined effort of WVIZ and Plain Dealer

The link is here