A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion

Another Hot Fourth of July.

IMG_20180704_142422This is the first time in years I haven’t been in a parade which actually is a relief.

Well, I did get an invite of sorts to join the Geauga Democrats today in the hot humid heat but I had to decline.  I was driving out  to Lake County to be with my favorite Trump supporter, my father, in Mentor, Ohio where I knocked a plate with a deviled egg and cubed watermelon off a wooden television tray and on to a carpet.

It’s funny, as I see posts on Facebook of people at parades in Parma, Lakewood, and other places around the Cleveland area, I began to think about all the political campaigns I have worked on over the years, and the T-shirts I accumulated.    Starting with Commissioner Tim McCormick’s race in 1996, I was all over Cuyahoga County as part of one crew or another, walking or running alongside a candidate (be it William Denihan, Jane Campbell, Ed Jerse, or Sherrod Brown)  passing out candy, holding signs, and shouting to the crowds the elected official or candidate’s name.  Then were the many times the long walks back to where we started since there weren’t always enough seats in the car at the end of the parade waiting to take volunteers back.  Now, as I get out of bed limping to one degree or another until my tendons stretch due to plantar fasciitis, I wonder how I had the energy to run all the way down Pearl Road.

Before I headed out into the oven, I started to look for some of my many T-shirts for those races.  Except for the Yuko, Cavanaugh, and Polensek ones, I haven’t seen any of them since I stopped working out at the gym.  Those in the photo are just part of the pile I wound up with.  Over the past few years I have been thinking about finding a T-shirt  with the title I HAVE WORKED ON POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS FOR TWO DECADES AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT but I don’t think we can fit that on the front unless in small letters even though I am now an extra-large.

So, I never got to get an office job with Governor Strickland or with Sherrod Brown.  I am lucky people at the sign in tables know who the heck I am when the Cuyahoga Democrats have an Executive Committee Meeting (fortunately, there are still a few who do!).  Yet, despite the replies I get to some comment I make on Twitter, the replies I receive from someone on Facebook, or my discussions with real life family members, a part of me still believes that you must do something.  If anything exercise your right to vote like I always do.  I will most likely get involved in something related to the Democratic Party in the upcoming months (like I did going to two fundraisers two weekends before) and even see what’s in my budget to spend at a few other events foolish as it may seem.

For those of us, to borrow a phrase from Richard Nixon’s race 50 years ago, the real ‘Silent Majority’ which is suddenly findings its voice, it is important to show the world that what we have now in our Federal Government doesn’t represent the majority of the population, what we think this country stands for, and what we want to be in the future.  It’s time to start putting the dark side of our country which has come out again with a vengeance (starting with the T-Party in 2010, and not just Trump) back into the closet and once again, like we have done so many times before, get our best and brightest people to help reverse the damage and get us back on track.

Of course, this is my opinion and it means to be honest nothing.  However, there was more to it behind all those T-shirts than wishing to work for Sherrod Brown or get experience to become a campaign manager for someone.  We all have to try to participate in making things better and help those who you believe want to do so as well.  No matter how many times you may say, you can’t give it all up.

Happy Fourth of July ladies and gentlemen.


The author (center( with State Representative John Rogers (left) and State Senator Kenny Yuko (right) at a ODP event in Willoughby Hills, Ohio, in June.

Photographs taken by James Valentino.

About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Cleveland is number 5!!!…as one of the least liveable cities in the nation.

As I always said, forget downtown, Cleveland is also many neighborhoods which, on average, see high crime, poverty, low number of advanced degrees, and there are only four more cities in the USA that are worse than us.   This is what I got from reading today’s piece in USA TODAY on the top 50 worst cities to reside in the nation.  The fact that Detroit Michigan is number one on the list leaves little comfort, especially since Toledo, which is located at the other end of Lake Erie just south of the Michigan border, is ranked 35 while Canton gets a 33 ranking.  Akron isn’t even on the list.    What the piece says about Cleveland many of all already know but to have all written down together, after all the hype coming from the powers that be and City Hall after the 2016 Republican Convention shows a general picture of what the nation thinks about this place.

“Widespread poverty, a high crime rate, and a bleak jobs picture likely partially explain the declining population. In the last decade, Cleveland’s population fell by 2.4% even as the country’s population as a whole grew by 7.1%.”

As many locals can tell you, it’s not all bleak.  The potential for this city on the North Coast is amazing and many of the problems it faces many cities in the nation’s Rust-Belt have to deal with as well.  Then again, decades of following the same playbook in downtown investment at the expense of neighborhoods like North Shore Collinwood has paid off this dividend of bad publicity.

Some cities in this region, like Pittsburgh, managed to turn things around and that’s why I have been examining what they are doing down there to see what we up here in Cleveland can do differently.  We also need inspired leadership, and an effort by City Hall not to just follow the mayor’s mantra of “it is what is” and improve public services for residents like they promised when we voted for that ! percent income tax hike in 2016.  It’s time to stop doing just studies on what needs to be done and just do them.  If Detroit area native Dan Gilbert wants to have money spent on the Quicken Loans Arena then he better spend some dollars in Slavic Village or St. Clair Superior.  If we get another shot at landing an Amazon type headquarters here, think out of the box and come up with a really good plan and not just offer them a downtown landmark getting empty because Forest City Enterprises is closing up shop (after all the tax dollars and subsidies given to it for projects I must add) but something like what Pittsburgh did at Bakery Square which is in an East Side neighborhood miles from downtown.

The current way of doing things here in Cleveland is not working.  Think of this story as a wake up call.





A Quick Little Post, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Another Drive Out To The Boonies: A Quick Little Post.

IMG_20180608_082131Friday I took the day off from the job for another exercise in sadomasochism (or what my old career advisors would call networking) and attended the NE Ohio Planning and Zoning Workshop at the New Leaf Event Center in Conneaut Ohio.  I even got in the car 45 minutes earlier than I normally do so I can be there on time.

I have written about previous workshops on the blog before so let’s just say that it was worth the $60 and, while I never did get a government job in planning or community development, I still am truly interested in such matters as branding your community or grant writing for an organization which were in fact two of the topics of the four sessions I sat in on.   It gives me the illusion that I am part of something worthwhile, unlike recently my political activism.  When I left the workshop, I took a drive into town.  Once a major port for iron ore to be shipped to steel mills in Youngstown and Pittsburgh, Conneaut is now home of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution.   I tried to see where it was located but the prison is in fact hidden by woods as I drove East on Rt. 20 and unintentionally stumbled into Pennsylvania.  Retracing my way back, I drove onto Main Street and for a few blocks saw the old storefronts that still had plenty of cars parked in front of them.  Of course years earlier that place must have been a lot busier.


The keynote speaker, Dale Arnold of the Ohio Farm Bureau, does his presentation.

The It was only checking the news feed on my cellphone during one of the breaks did I realize the extent of the mess the man who says he’s president is leading us do now on the international trade and let’s be honest diplomatic front with long-term allies.  I felt Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pain when he was on Meet the Press June 1st and now Trump wants Russia back in the G-7 (6, or 8) fold.

While all this happens everyday life goes on and there is so little time even to write.  But, I do worry about what the state of this nation will be like in a few years.  We will not be great again, I can see that and I fear at the least an economic meltdown just as bad as the last years of George W. Bush     There was an interesting piece in the New Yorker on the last Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II, and what I got out of it was that Wilhelm’s bombastic tirades and erratic behavior might have triggered WWI and got himself overthrown 100 years ago this year but it was the forces unleashed on Germany in the years following his exile that truly lead that nation to utter ruin by 1945.  In other words, we can vote Trump out but what he is already unleashed would be something that may harm this country for decades to come.


Photographs by James Valentino

About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Demolishing the CIA.


The former Cleveland Institute of Art building on East Blvd.

Last week, I spotted on Twitter a tweet about what will be on the agenda for that week’s Cleveland Planning Commission meeting.  The thing that stuck out for me was not just seeing the request for grants for the East 185th St./Marcella sewer project (and a permit to demolish a building next to the LaSalle Theater for what I hope is more parking) but something at University Circle.  It’s official, they now plan to demolish the old Gund Building on East Boulevard that was home to the CIA.  Now, for all those who don’t live on the North Coast, CIA can also mean the Cleveland Institute of Art which sold this building to the Art Museum and CWRU when it moved everything to their new facilities on Euclid Avenue a few years back.

Naturally, I have many memories connected to the 1956 building.  Not only did I take a painting class there but I was there practically every weekend because of the Cleveland Cinematheque which I was a strong supporter of.  I knew practically every inch of that building.  In fact, the drawings and proposals in the basement done by its industrial design students helped inspire me to write a piece a few years back on the fate of the Design District proposed by one of its’ instructors, Dan Cuffaro, for the are around Playhouse Square.

While the new Institute of Art Building is very nice, it’s still not the same for me.  Not only have I not gone to a Cinematheque show in months but when there I only see the main lobby and atrium.  Everything else seems hidden away.  As for the old building soon to be demolished for a park, I’ve walked past it at least a dozen times this year heading to other places.  It does look forlorn and you can see it’s been vacant for a long time.


Another view.

Things keep changing.


Photographs by James Valentino.


A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Fifty year anniversaries.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination in Memphis Tennessee of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  This was just one of the many events that took place in 1968 that we will be hearing about this year.

In the Washington Post’s Daily 202, James Hohmann gives what I think an excellent analysis of MLK’s final speech.   “His case for the virtue of nonviolent protest, boycotts and pushing the country to live up to our shared ideals is timely. His paeans to unity, economic justice and the moral obligation to look out for the least among us are timeless.”  I also believe that his proposal for a Poor Person’s March on Washington still resonates 50 years later.

It’s like, if things went differently in that year, this country would not have come to the state it is today; and I don’t mean the election of Donald Trump.  His election is really the  final product of things that have been wreaking havoc in my opinion this nation for 50 years and this utter feeling among people who see things have been falling apart.  The idea of a Civil Society (let alone a Great Society or making America Great Again for that matter) has kind of evaporated. Of course, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Robert F Kennedy was in Indianapolis on that day and that very night delivered what is considered one of his best speeches.  Of the cities that rioted that night, Indianapolis wasn’t  one of them.  “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”  Where is there now in this country a man or woman who can say such things and we can sense that they truly mean it?

While journalists, historians, and talking heads on cable amp up coverage of this anniversary, and many do note how tragic it all was, for many now, it’s just another item in the background of their daily lives.  In fact, for many who lived through that year, all those events that fill our history books in college didn’t seem to hit home then either.  I know in the case of my Father, marrying my Mother in November of 1968 was something that was far more tangible than the Tet Offensive.  Having come back from his stint in Vietnam in the Spring of 1966, that was all behind him and he had a new car, a steady job at a company called the Towmotor Corporation, and got engaged the December of the previous year. He has never mentioned to me who he voted for in that year for president, or even if he bothered to do so.

As for my Mother, she had a younger sister who got married in March of 1968 about a week before Lyndon Johnson announced he wasn’t going to run again for re-election.  Last month, I went to her house to celebrate her fiftieth wedding anniversary to my uncle.  They had a big crowd, and not just family, but many of their friends were there too.  There was a very nice cake, plenty of snacks that made a meal, and champagne to toast the couple.  It was a very nice evening and the weather was much better than it was when they tied the knot.  Later, just for the heck of it, my uncle brought out another  bottle.  It was of a rare brandy from France called Liqueur de Mirabelle.  Flavored with the plum that only seems to grow in the Lorraine region, and, if I heard right, it was a gift from my grandparents in 1968 or he got it somehow to give to my grandfather who never took it. Anyway, for the first time in 50 years, he opened up the bottle and a few brave souls like myself took a sip.   It had become pure rubbing alcohol.

A lot of things in the past fifty years have left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths.  Of course, the reasons vary.  For me, as someone who worked on political races in the past and had a History major in college, I do honestly believe that we have lost a lot as a nation since 1968, and not just in terms of the economy.  We had another armed gunman, this time a woman, attacked YouTube’s headquarters in the Bay Area, wounding three before killing herself; all over how they treated her videos it seems.  Meanwhile, Congressman Rohrabacher (R-California) speculated publicly, with no grounds, that she was probably an illegal alien.   Madness breeds madness.

I think I will look back at those two speeches now.

A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Thoughts from a Mad Man on a Great Lake.


Yesterday, I just looked at the list of posts for this blog and I can’t believe that I have written so many by now.  So far this month, Mad Man on a Great Lake has received 107 views from people who actually bother to look at it.

Sunday, I was at the Cleveland Museum of Art which for regular readers of this blog know is a popular place for me to visit.  They have a new exhibit called Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteen Century Europe.  Perhaps the subject of a future post, the exhibit has many beautiful paintings form the 18th Century of receptions, festivals, contemporary events, and natural disasters in such cities as Venice and Naples.  It was there, at the improvised gift shop at the end of the show, that I came across a paperback edition of The Age of Conversation by Benedetta Craveri.  Translated from the original Italian, it’s a look at more than just words, or French Nobility under the ancien regime, or even the creation of what we used to call ‘polite society’.  As Ms. Craveri writes in her introduction;

“It was an ideal characterized by elegance and courtesy, an ideal that countered the logic of force and the brutality of instinct with an art of living together based on seduction and reciprocal pleasure.”

Of course, in the age of social media, networking, texting…and not really getting close to people in person anymore, the art of conversation is a bit of a lost art.  Perhaps it’s sometimes good to look back and read a real book like this.  Naturally, history major that I was in college, I bought it.

Spring is in the air in Northeast Ohio, the snowdrops are not only blanketing again the slopes of the Fine Arts Garden at University Circle but also my brick pathway in my garden.  Crocuses and violets are starting to bloom and I do see a little bit of yellow on a few early daffodil buds, ready to unfurl their petals.  Hyacinths seem to be emerging as well.  Hope springs eternal.


A Quick Little Post, Opinion, Uncategorized

In Like A Lamb.

When I turned on the television this morning and found out that Conor Lamb won that Congressional race in Pennsylvania I was pleased.  Despite a very busy month, I did try to see what all the talking heads had to say about this race for a district that will shortly vanish from the map.  I had a feeling he would win and at least personally it feels good to know my instincts were right.

Charles Pierce in his latest piece for Esquire says it so much better than I can about how this affects things for November.  To think that Democrats may have a good shot at winning back the House is still surprising.  As for what it portends for Ohio, it’s more complicated.  With the Ohio Democratic Party basically operating with the same play book (or lack of) under David Pepper that Chris Redfern and David Leland used with lackluster results doesn’t seem to inspire me much.  On the other hand, there are some pretty good candidates out there running for the first time like Betsy Rader for Congress in the District 6 (David Joyce’s seat) and Judge Michael P. Donnelly for the Ohio Supreme Court.  Let’s not also forget those up for re-election like State Senator Kenny Yuko in District 25 who helped broker a bipartisan agreement on changing the congressional redistricting process.  As for Senator Sherrod Brown, I can honestly feel now that he has no problem being re-elected no matter how much money the RNC, and Jim Renacci, throw at the race.

It just goes to show you that if you stay true to the Democratic Party’s real message of not only protecting but expanding the social safety net, pursuing program to rebuild our infrastructure, improve everyday American’s quality of life and not get bogged down in identity politics and show that government can work, well, people will vote for guys like Conor Lamb.

This gives me hope.