Candidates for Cuyahoga County Executive: Chris Ronayne and Lee Weingart debate. The City Club of Cleveland 9.20.22

Candidates for Cuyahoga County Executive: Chris Ronayne and Lee Weingart debate.
From The City Club of Cleveland 9.20.22
Chris Ronayne (L), Lee Weingart (R)
moderated by Nick Castele, Ideastream

The City Club of Cleveland debate between the two candidates for Cuyahoga County Executive: Chris Ronayne and Lee Weingart.
Cuyahoga County voters will vote on a new Executive on November 8, 2022

A bumpy road to regionalism by Jay Miller, Crain’s Cleveland Business 9/19/22

A bumpy road to regionalism
by Jay Miller, Crain’s Cleveland Business 9/19/22

“Regionalism sounds like a disease,” David Abbott, a retired former president of the Gund Foundation, told a group of law students at Case Western Reserve University in April. “I never really liked it for that reason, but also because it’s so hard to define and it’s even harder to apply in the real world.”

Despite his skepticism, Abbott and other civic leaders in Northeast Ohio — past and present — have been trying to think and plan beyond their traditional city and county borders for more than 100 years, not always successfully. The early efforts were focused on providing public services at a lower cost and evolved to include improving the environment, transportation systems, housing and the economy. More recently, civic leaders have been thinking more broadly about regional economies.

People may live in one city, send their children to school in another and work in another county a 60-minute drive away. As important, businesses looking to relocate or open a new operation focus on the infrastructure, available real estate and talent pool in that 60-minute radius.

In 1917, the Citizens League, a government watchdog group that lasted until 2004, proposed creating a metropolitan government for all of Cuyahoga County. At the time, only a few suburbs had been created out of the county’s townships — 85% of the county’s population still lived in the city of Cleveland — and the Citizens League believed a strong county government would lower taxes and improve services.

Similarly, Akron in 1929 annexed the city of Kenmore and the village of Ellet and was unsuccessful in bids to annex Barberton and Cuyahoga Falls before the Great Depression and a change in state law. The communities sought as merger partners typically feared higher taxes and the loss of local identity.

One reason thinking regionally might be making Abbott feel ill is that, for much of the 20th century, Northeast Ohio was not actually considered a region. Instead, it was five cities, and then five metropolitan areas — Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria-Lorain and Youngstown — surrounded by small towns and farmland.

That statistical breaking of borders came about in 1949 when the U.S. Census Bureau created the “standard metropolitan area,” acknowledging that the automobile and its freeways and the expansion of economic activity into suburban areas had created interconnected communities beyond city and county borders.

That led to the creation of organizations such as metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) — which allocate federal transportation dollars — and regional councils of government, which perform a variety of services for member communities. Unlike most regions, Northeast Ohio has four MPOs — the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, which serves Summit and Portage counties; the Eastgate Council of Governments, serving Mahoning and Trumbull counties; the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, which covers Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties; and Stark County Area Transportation Study serving Stark County.

Then came the recession of the early 1980s, when the cities of the Midwest’s Factory Belt turned to rust. Cleveland lost 12,000 manufacturing jobs, and Akron lost 10,000 jobs in its rubber and plastics industry. That led to steep declines in population. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit research group, by 2007, Cleveland had lost 28.9% of its 1980 population while Akron lost 14.9%, Canton lost 26.4% and Youngstown 40.3%.

At first, after the recession, communities continued to focus on finding more local tax dollars. In Summit County, Akron pushed legislation through the state legislature in the early 1990s that allowed a city to join a development district with a township. The new structure was called a Joint Economic Development District, or JEDD. Since Ohio townships can’t levy income taxes, the JEDD allows the two communities to share the tax revenue on commercial development in the township.

Those consolidations of public services are still few and far between because many communities continue to see collaborations, where their name may be obscured by a bigger name community, as a loss of local identity and independence.

In 2002, regional business leaders, led by the late H. Peter Burg, then chairman and CEO of FirstEnergy Corp., began talking about creating a nonprofit that would bring together economic development efforts in Northeast Ohio. “The time for a more regional approach may have been right for some time, but we didn’t have the vehicle to drive it home,” Burg told Crain’s at the time. Rather than emphasize the virtues of particular cities or counties to businesses in and outside Northeast Ohio, Team NEO would sell as a single market the 13 counties in the new group. “Our focus is to find what companies need and then find where in the region that need can be met,” Burg said.

Among the groups that helped shape and fund the new organization, which opened shop in January 2003, were the Greater Akron Chamber, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce, the Stark Development Board and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. The 13 counties in the region were Ashtabula, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Wayne.

Team NEO focused only on attracting businesses to the region, leaving local chambers of commerce and public development agencies to help existing businesses in their areas expand. But it didn’t work out as planned, Crain’s reported in 2011, as public officials and local economic development organizations resisted giving up their role as leaders for their communities’ business attraction. “It was passive aggressiveness done in a beautiful fashion,” Ned Hill, dean of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University at the time, said recently.

About the same time, in 2004, a group of 28 philanthropies and businesses committed $30 million to create a nonprofit, the Fund for Our Economic Future, to build stronger ties between the shrinking cities and the region, and to shake off the rust. “We’ve been individual cities, competitive with each other, very parochial, and that doesn’t sell in the 21st century,” said Robert Briggs, then president of the GAR Foundation in Akron. Specifically, the Fund began with aspirations to be the place where regional economic strategy — looking at issues such as stimulating entrepreneurship and improving transportation links and higher education — was hashed out. But that didn’t pan out.

“I think when the Fund first got started, it was trying to be the keeper of the regional strategy with a portfolio of economic development (projects), but it was just too unwieldy,” said Brad Whitehead, who served as the Fund’s president from its founding in 2004 until 2020 and is now a senior adviser. “We have thriving sector partnerships (in areas such as manufacturing) that are sub-regional but there’s not an (overall) strategy.”

However, the Fund has built a strong reputation for its work in building the skills of job seekers and connecting them with well-paid, in-demand jobs. And though it considers itself a regional organization, current Fund president Bethia Burke considers its partners on workforce issues to be local organizations.

“Workforce services aren’t delivered regionally, nor I don’t think they should they be,” she said. “But what I think has been useful is we share (ideas on) what makes local workforce delivery better.”

In 2011, Team NEO was able to firmly establish itself as the principal manager of economic development in Northeast Ohio. Then Gov. John Kasich created JobsOhio, his vehicle for channeling state incentives to induce businesses to invest in Ohio. JobsOhio then sought existing regional organizations to be its partner around the state. It chose Team NEO to oversee economic development for 18 counties, only slightly more than was planned for the original Team NEO. The added counties were Ashland, Erie, Huron, Richland and Tuscarawas.

“Companies choose to invest in Northeast Ohio because of the critical mass that exists within the 18 counties — an integrated supply chain, 7,700 manufacturing companies, 25 higher education institutions and a $240 billion economy,” said William Koehler, Team NEO’s president since 2015. “The question then is: How do we take advantage of the focus people have and their desire to invest in (their) communities, while also challenging them to lift up their eyes and recognize there are some things that are better-off if they’re leveraged regionally?”

Team NEO gained clout among the region’s mayors and economic development professionals because, as one of JobsOhio’s six regional partners, it would hold the strings on the $100 million business-attraction purse that Kasich was creating from state liquor profits to invest in business attraction and job creation. So most, but not all, local officials applauded the move.

Bob Bowman, then deputy mayor of Akron for economic development, didn’t jump on the bandwagon, not understanding how a nonprofit organization could put together the kinds of deals he was doing. “I don’t know how somebody from the private sector puts together a public deal,” he told Crain’s, conceding that politicians would be unhappy not being the center of deals. “Who gets the credit? The state always wants credit, and now the region will want credit, which was not involved until now, and there’s also the local level and all the people in between.”

Northeast Ohio, like much of the Rust Belt, continues to lag the national economy. But observers are optimistic that with Team NEO playing its regional role, the region and its communities are making headway.

Ward J. Timken Jr., former chairman, CEO and president of North Canton’s TimkenSteel and a member of the Team NEO board of directors, believes the region’s civic leaders, who he calls “leados,” and Team NEO are meshing well.

“I think all of the leados that I have been involved with through Team NEO are doing a great job,” he said, noting that many of the key regional organizations have gone through leadership changes in the last few years. “I think they’re cooperating, which is really, really important. Everybody is rowing in the same direction right now, which is great.”

Another civic leader who did not want to be named said he is more skeptical that the region is working well together, but he is hopeful.

“I’ve watched for years as the chambers have just stuck their middle fingers up at Team NEO, because as much as they need Team NEO, Team NEO needs them,” he said. “But it looks like (Bill Koehler’s) got them working together.”

Updating the list of Cleveland’s most influential people: Brent Larkin July 17, 2022

In 1998, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, left, won election to Congress to succeed legendary U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, right, who shared the delight of her victory. In his column today, Brent Larkin adds Tubbs Jones, who died in office in 2008, to his expanded list of the most influential Clevelanders The Plain Dealer orginally published in 2007, and moves to “right a wrong” by adding Lou Stokes in his own right to the original list.
Updating the list of Cleveland’s most influential people: Brent Larkin
July 17, 2022
The original 2007 article:

The Plain Dealer’s 2007 list of the most influential Clevelanders in history
The link is here

11 weeks after Jackie Robinson’s debut, Larry Doby arrived By Frederic J. Frommer/Washington Post July 5, 2022


Larry Doby threw out the first pitch before the 1997 MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

11 weeks after Jackie Robinson’s debut, Larry Doby arrived
By Frederic J. Frommer/Washington Post July 5, 2022
Team owner Bill Veeck recalled receiving 20,000 letters after signing Doby, “most of them in violent and sometimes obscene protest. Over a period of time I answered all. In each answer, I included a paragraph congratulating them on being wise enough to have chosen parents so obviously to their liking.” “Signing Doby was Veeck’s first defining moment as a major league owner,” wrote Paul Dickson in “Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick.” The move “gave him a voice as a progressive and social critic.”
The link is here

A look back at 9 previous downtown Cleveland lakefront proposals that didn’t move ahead – Plain Dealer May 30, 2022

Plain Dealer – May 30, 2022

A look back at 9 previous downtown Cleveland lakefront proposals that didn’t move ahead

Cleveland downtown lakefront plans
Most of the ideas outlined in a rendering from “Civic Vision 2000 and Beyond,” 1998, a project of Cleveland Tomorrow, didn’t come to pass. But the urge to better connect downtown Cleveland to Lake Erie still persists.Courtesy Greater Cleveland Partnership

CLEVELAND, Ohio — They were big, bold, and visionary. And they never made it from blueprint to reality.

Since the late 1980s, planners, developers, and civic organizations have come up with at least nine big plans for developing the downtown lakefront, including proposals about how to better connect downtown to Lake Erie. Yet downtown is still firmly separated from the water by the Ohio 2 Shoreway and rail lines used by Norfolk-Southern and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Here’s a list of the lakefront proposals, and what happened to them:

– The city’s 1988 Civic Vision 2000 Downtown Plan included Progressive Corp.’s proposal to build a lakefront skyscraper headquarters designed by architect Frank Gehry that would have risen next to an extension of the downtown Mall overlooking North Coast Harbor. Progressive dropped the idea and built its headquarters in suburban Mayfield.

(Related coverage: Could downtown Cleveland’s parks and public spaces be more fun and better programmed? A new survey seeks answers)

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas
A model portrays a design from 1987-88 by architect Frank Gehry for a skyscraper headquarters for Progressive Corp. that would have risen on the Cleveland lakefront next to an extension of the downtown Mall. Gehry Partners LLP

– A new downtown plan called “Civic Vision 2000 and Beyond’’ grew out of a closed-door process in 1997-98 led by executives of Cleveland Tomorrow, representing the city’s top corporate leaders. The plan included a concept for linking downtown more strongly to the lakefront. After a big rollout, it never gained momentum.

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas
The 1998 “Civic Vision 2000 and Beyond” project undertaken by Cleveland Tomorrow, a predecessor of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, included a proposal for a new convention center at the north end of the downtown Mall overlooking Lake Erie. It was the same spot identified for a regional passenger rail terminal in the 1903 Group Plan for downtown.Courtesy Greater Cleveland Partnership

– In 2001, Cleveland Tomorrow and the Growth Association, then the city’s chamber of commerce, followed up with a concept called “The Shoreway: Reclaiming Our Lakefront’’ that aimed at revamping the lakefront highway to foster development between downtown and the lakefront. The proposal was the first to take a serious look at the issue.

– In 2004, the city completed its Waterfront District Plan, the biggest lakefront vision in 50 years. It was led by then-city planning director Chris Ronayne, working under former mayor Jane Campbell. (Ronayne is now the Democratic candidate for Cuyahoga County executive.) The plan called for extending the Mall over the Shoreway in a manner that anticipated a proposal like the 2021 Haslam proposal.

City of Cleveland 2004 Waterfront District Plan
Cleveland’s 2004 Waterfront District Plan called for protecting the Lake Erie shoreline with new islands made of dredged sediment from the Cuyahoga River, plus new waterfront trails and parks, and additional north-south connections to neighborhoods.City of Cleveland, SmithGroup JJR

– A 2009 plan developed under then-mayor Frank Jackson, led by waterfront planner Stanton Eckstut, called for extensive redevelopment of lakefront land owned by the city and the Port of Cleveland, with new blocks oriented diagonally to deflect prevailing winds. A 2012 update included a spot for a pedestrian bridge from the Mall to North Coast Harbor.

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas
A Plain Dealer graphic from 2009 details a proposal by planner Stanton Eckstut to divide downtown lakefront into parcels oriented diagonally to deflect prevailing winds.Plain Dealer file

– The 2010 Cleveland Design Competition, conceived by local architects, challenged contestants to figure out how to use a multi-modal transportation hub as a connector between downtown and the lakefront. Entries by more than two-dozen teams came from around the world. The ideas were visionary but failed to motivate action.

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas
A park shaped like the contoured wings of a giant bird stretches over railroad tracks north of the downtown Mall in this 2010 proposal by Mario Caceres and Christian Canonico of Paris, France, one of the best designs in the Cleveland Design Competition that year.Mario Caceres and Christian Canonico

– In 2013, expanding on ideas from the Eckstut proposal in 2009, Cleveland developer Dick Pace and Texas-based developer Trammell Crow proposed widening the East Ninth Street bridge over the Shoreway with a parklike expansion and building a Mall extension slightly to the east of the one later proposed by the Haslams. The city didn’t approve of the idea, Pace said.

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas
A 2013 proposal by developer Dick Pace of Cleveland-based Cumberland Development and Texas-based Trammell Crow called for an off-axis extension of the downtown Mall and widening the East Ninth Street bridge as a park. Courtesy Dick Pace, Cumberland Development

– In 2014-2016, the non-profit Group Plan Commission proposed an eye-catching, $25 million pedestrian bridge designed by Boston architect Miguel Rosales, to connect the Mall to the Rock Hall. After the estimated construction cost rose, the city rejected the concept as impractical and too expensive.

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas
A proposal made by the Group Plan Commission and Boston architect Miguel Rosales in 2014-2016 called for creating a graceful pedestrian bridge connecting the downtown Cleveland Mall to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

– A 2019 concept developed by the nonprofit Green Ribbon Coalition proposed extending the Mall as a wide “land bridge’’ oriented northeast toward North Coast Harbor. The concept stirred public interest, but the city stayed mum on it until Jackson said in 2021 that he liked the Haslam proposal, which he described as a “land bridge.”

Downtown Cleveland lakefront ideas.
The Green Ribbon Coalition in 2019 proposed creating a 5.3-acre, $100 million “land bridge” that would have decked over the lakefront railroad bridges and Shoreway, bridging the gap between the downtown Mall and lakefront attractions including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center and FirstEnergy Stadium. Green Ribbon Coalition

Myths surround ‘Untouchable’ lawman Eliot Ness. What’s the truth? Washington Post June 1, 2022

Washington Post June 1, 2022

Myths surround ‘Untouchable’ lawman Eliot Ness. What’s the truth?

A poster from legendary lawman Eliot Ness’s unsuccessful run for mayor of Cleveland in 1947 hangs in the Cleveland Police Historical Society. (Piet van Lier/AP)

Eliot Ness is a 20th-century law enforcement legend. Most people know him as the incorruptible crime fighter who brought down Chicago gangster Al “Scarface” Capone during Prohibition in the early 1930s. Ness was immortalized in a book, television series and movie — all titled “The Untouchables.”

His name graces the atrium of the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Ness is so ingrained in American culture that, curiously, there’s even a craft beer named after him: Eliot Ness Amber Lager out of Cleveland. The Ness legend is largely fiction, however. He was never an FBI agent, as many people believed; he worked for the Bureau of Prohibition, the forerunner of the ATF tasked with stopping the sale and consumption of alcohol between 1920 and 1933. Ness also rarely carried a gun.

“Eliot Ness was involved in trying to disrupt the flow of beer and look for evidence of bootlegging but never found enough evidence to build a strong case against Capone on those charges,” Jonathan Eig, the author of “Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America’s Most Wanted Gangster,” told me. Instead, Capone was sent to prison for tax evasion. “Ness was one of the smaller players, to be honest, in building the case against Capone.” But a story about the Internal Revenue Service accountants who gathered evidence against Capone would be pretty boring, he notes.

An upcoming festival in Coudersport, Pa., is doing its part to reconcile Ness the larger-than-life lawman and the real-life federal agent with integrity who still serves as a role model. One part of his legend is true: Ness and his team did earn the nickname “The Untouchables” because they couldn’t be bribed, unlike many other contemporaries.

The Eliot Ness Fest, scheduled for July 15-17, acknowledges the entertaining Hollywood fiction while putting Ness’s achievements in historical context. Thousands are expected to converge on the small Pennsylvania town this summer for a three-day event celebrating Ness’s career. The Eliot Ness Fest is also a family-friendly tribute to law enforcement, wrapped up in Roaring Twenties cosplay.

Stephen A. Green, an organizer of the event who’s the president and CEO of the Eliot Ness Museum, calls it “an opportunity to relive one of the most glamorous and violent periods of the country’s past.” It includes films, a parade and historical enactments. The festival this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of ATF; Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Chittum will deliver the keynote address.

In addition to Chicago, Ness is associated with Cleveland, where he served as the city’s public safety director in the 1930s and ’40s. Ness lived in Coudersport only for about the last year of his life. But Coudersport is the birthplace of Ness’s “Untouchable” legend.

Ness moved to the scenic town in north-central Pennsylvania with his third wife and their 10-year-old son to pursue a business opportunity. Before he died of a heart attack in 1957 at age 54, Ness met with writer Oscar Fraley multiple times at the Hotel Crittenden, located in the center of town just across the street from where the Eliot Ness Museum now stands. They talked about Ness’s crime-fighting days and made plans to write a book about his experiences.

An undated photo of actor Robert Stack, who portrayed Ness in the TV series “The Untouchables.” The real Ness rarely carried a gun. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

The lawman had resisted sharing his story, but he was deeply in debt and needed the money the book would bring in, says A. Brad Schwartz, the co-author with Max Allan Collins of “Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago” and “Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher: Hunting America’s Deadliest Unidentified Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology.”

Ness didn’t approve of the exaggerations in Fraley’s draft, but he’s nevertheless credited as a co-author of the resulting book when it was published shortly after his death. These days, many people who know his backstory agree that “The Untouchables” is a highly embellished tale of Ness’s part in bringing Capone to justice.

The book spawned a television series starring Robert Stack that ran from 1959 to 1963 and the 1987 movie starring Kevin Costner. The book, series and movie cemented Ness’s image as a tough-talking, gun-toting federal agent, much to the annoyance of some who knew the true story of Capone’s downfall.

“There were plenty of people who were still alive who remembered the real history and knew Eliot Ness had nothing to do with it,” Schwartz told me. Getting Capone was a team effort by the Prohibition Bureau, the Treasury Department and the Bureau of Investigation, the agency that became the FBI, he explains.

“What’s been lost in the fight is all of the work he did to modernize, to professionalize and to reform law enforcement,” Schwartz says. Ness’s work on the Capone case was ahead of its time in trying to make law enforcement less brutal and corrupt. It also laid the foundation for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prosecute organized-crime figures.

Ness didn’t resurface in the media again until 2014, when three U.S. senators proposed naming the ATF headquarters in D.C. after Ness. But the Chicago City Council passed a resolution introduced by city Alderman Edward M. Burke protesting the move, which revived the debate over what Ness did and didn’t do in the Capone case. Ultimately, ATF named its headquarters after Ariel Rios, the first ATF agent killed in the line of duty after the ATF became an independent bureau. (Burke was indicted on federal racketeering and bribery charges in 2019 and is awaiting trial.)

In recent years, ATF has been instrumental in setting the record straight on its most famous agent and celebrating his achievements. The bureau named the atrium after Ness when the building opened in 2008. A portrait of Ness created from a collage of ATF agents’ photos is on display. “Clearly, there’s a mythology that’s built around Eliot Ness,” acknowledges ATF’s Chittum. “That’s not lost on any of us.”

Chittum told me he jumped at the chance to speak at this year’s Eliot Ness Fest. The man and the myth serve an important storytelling function that allows the bureau to highlight bigger issues, he says. “Ness is also a symbol of ethical law enforcement. In an era where there are a lot of questions about the legitimacy and credibility of law enforcement, I think it’s worth celebrating the honest cop.”

Samantha Drake is a freelance writer in Doylestown, Pa.