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.

A Quick Little Post, Community and Economic Development, Opinion, Uncategorized

Another Drive Down The Pennsylvania Turnpike; A Quick Little Post.

When I set up an appointment in January to meet with Mr. Rick Swartz of the Bloomfield-Garfield Development Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA, I didn’t know that there wouldn’t be any snow on February 20th 2018, but that it was almost 80 degrees there.  Not only was traffic on the freeways fine for a weekday, but for once someone else happened to drive; a fellow East 185th St. Block Watcher named Dennis who actually was willing to drive!

Pittsburgh February 20, 2018, Offices of the Bloomfield-Garfield Dev Corp.

The Offices of the Bloomfield-Garfield Development Corporation.

Anyway, the main purpose of this road trip back down the turnpikes was to meet with the Director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Development Corporation, Rick Swartz, and later finally see Bakery Square.  Rick has been the Executive Director of this community development corporation as long as I have been familiar with the neighborhood.  In January, I sent him an email asking if I could ask a few questions related to the project I’m working on.  He replied that he’d be more than happy to and eventually agreed to meeting the day after Presidents’ Day.  What turned out what I thought would be a fifteen to thirty minute chat became almost an hour until our busy schedules put an end to it.  He was very nice in answering not only my questions but providing more information and leads than I imagined (of course most will be put in my project and not on this blog).  I will say this though; they have a lot of hard-working people working there and it’s all based on the premise that a decentralized, and team player, approach  to community revitalization is what really works.

The day was full of surprises in a way, not just the almost summer like weather or the hamburg I had for lunch with Dennis and one Jason Sauer at a place called Tessaro’s.  By trying to find out where Jason (the subject of a few posts on this blog) is renovating an old house he bought (named Rowdy Park after his son), my colleague and I accidentally stumbled upon one of the latest and I think more impressive projects built in the neighborhood; Garfield Commons.  Driving up the hill from Penn Avenue, I did see the infill housing construction done on vacant lost on those streets but a development like Garfield Commons really surprised me.  Built by a public-private partnership between the City Housing Authority and a private developer, Garfield Commons is the only mixed income project in the neighborhood.  Only one-half the units are slated for low-income households, the rest is moderate.   In fact, as the picture below shows, the units wouldn’t stick out in a suburban development here in Hudson or Avon.  This is not what one would imagine for low-income residents and that’s the point.  While there is still a lot of blight and abandonment in Garfield, things have really been changing in the past ten years.

The development corporation got into developing housing originally because no one else wanted to do so.  Now, developers are coming in on their own. For existing home owners, many being African-Americans, whereas in the past if you sold your house you’d only get what you paid for, property values have now risen enough that they actually have equity.  Instead of being pushed out like they were in places like the Lower Hill decades ago, neighborhood residents will see their homes appreciate in value.

Ironically, the existence of Bakery Square a mile down the road, and Google’s 450 employees there, hasn’t really impacted the community.  What has, are the universities with their adjoining technology programs and the researchers who need a place to live.  However, Garfield is far from being gentrified which is exactly what Rick and his staff don’t want to happen.  Somewhere down the line, he would like to see a Land Trust set up to focus on preserving the neighborhood’s affordability. “We will not be here forever as the Bloomfield-Garfield Development Corporation,” he said.


A view of Columbia Street in the Garfield Commons development,

Once again, I am absolutely grateful for Mr. Swartz taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with me in person like he did.  For someone like myself who has basically self-published or written locally that was quite amazing.

Sometimes you are just meant to do something.

Pittsburgh February 20, 2018, View from Jason's yard towards Downtown.

The view from Hillcrest Street looking towards downtown.


Photographs by James Valentino



My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Happy Presidents’ Day From Mad Man On A Great Lake.

Can you believe February is almost over?

There was a time when we didn’t just have a Presidents’ Day but two.  As anyone who has seen the film Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby can tell you, there was once a holiday for George Washington and other for Abraham Lincoln.  While some people out there might have been up in arms to know that government workers and teachers would have had two-day off if this was still going on, nevertheless it would have been nice to still celebrate these two great men individually.

Between work, my writing project, and life in general, it has been hard to write for this blog.  Then again, I think the bad comment I received a few months back subconsciously intimidated me which just shows I have to develop a thicker skin if I am to write for public consumption.  After all, one week later, I received a very nice comment from someone I am acquainted with from the Geauga Democrats who really liked, guess this, one of my pieces regarding East 185th Street North Shore Collinwood.  No politics at all!  That’s the point, I may veer off on occasion because of my concern over the state of this nation right now, but Mad Man On A Great Lake is more than that.

So, I guess I can share the link to this piece in the Guardian I read about the current resident of the White House (I couldn’t post a really good one from the New Yorker about his “Russian Gamble” but here’s a transcript of the indictment courtesy of the Atlantic).  I thought people were going overboard when they said that the man is not a legitimate president but after Friday’s Indictment you don’t have to be just on the hysterical left to wonder.  Well, that’s enough!

I was surprised to see today a few people looking at one of my old pieces on the phantom neighborhood of Beachland in the Nottingham area of North Shore Collinwood (still following me?)  Once our development corporation gets its’ act together they should join with the councilman into getting the city planning department to change our neighborhoods name back to North Collinwood or something a lot more catchy.  Hey, why not Euclid Beach so we can really confuse people looking for Euclid Ohio?  At least that name has a history here.  Actually we have a lot more projects to tackle than just branding the area.  I still can’t wait to take a tour of the La Salle Theater once they really get around to doing it.

Anyway, for those who have read this, thank you very much for your continued interest.

A Quick Little Post, Opinion, Uncategorized

A German Miracle: A Quick Little Post.

Ever since I heard about this last fall, I’ve been keeping tabs on German Union IG Metall’s efforts to get a 28 hour work week.   Well, as this link to CNN shows, this week their work paid off.   In a deal that would be unthinkable here in the United States, workers can opt two have 28 hour work weeks until going back to the standard 35 hours German workers normally do.  However, as the piece explains, there is a cut in pay while those who want to work 40 hours can do so.  Now, the question is this, do those with the 28 hour work week keep any benefits that they may have?

What is also interesting is something I didn’t know before, that Germany followed the French example and enacted a 35 hour work week.  This is interesting because, when France first did this, many here thought that this law did nothing for the economy and just fed into people’s laziness.  However, as this article from January 4th 2017 in Time Magazine shows, France and Germany rank 7th and 8th in productivity; just a little behind the US which was at number 6.

Of course in this country, there are millions of workers with less than 40 hours and very flexible schedules; since they usually cobble two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet and no benefits.  It will be interesting to see how the German economy fares int he next year.

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

The State of the Neighborhood; A Quick Little Post.


East 185th Street looking North.

While the mayor and his merry band at City Hall figure out how to hire more policeman by the end of this year, I didn’t let this fact stop me from taking a walk down my street this Sunday.  After all, one of the supposed advantages of a Cleveland neighborhood over moving out to the urban fringe is their walk-ability.  On a sunny, almost early March-like Day in January, I took a stroll up to see what was going on with the La Salle Theater.  From the photos you can see how much work has been put into renovating this place.   It’s a great thing that the councilman, and Neighborhood Progress, came up with the money to finish this. While we may not have a street like Pittsburgh’s Walnut in this city, places like East 185th have the potential to do a whole lot more and, right now, it looks like it might just happen.


The La Salle Theater with its’ new marquee.

Then, it was a stop at Gus’ Diner East 185 for lunch.  It wasn’t packed like usual but I just missed most of the lunch crowd and got one of the two booths that were still empty.  As I ate a corned beef sandwich and fries, I continued working on a project of mine that is now 43 pages long.  Some of it does cover what is going on here in North Shore Collinwood and the vast potential this place, and other Cleveland neighborhoods, have.







A few days later, while the national news swirled and buzzed with the unthinkable only two years before, I had to take a long walk home from my mechanic who has a garage off the Shoreway in neighboring Euclid.  Getting back on my street, I had an opportunity to see some of the houses that are for sale or recently had a history of foreclosure, vacancy and neglect.  Just like everywhere else in the city of Cleveland, the streets off of East 185th St. were really hit by the mortgage crisis.  However, for those who follow this blog know, things have stabilized since 2010 and slowing rebounded.   Yesterday I had even more encouragement seeing a new driveway in a Cape Cod that is apparently being renovated.  This is significant because of what I remember as a kid growing up here.  Thirty to Forty years ago, the owner at that time was a woman in her 50s and she had a thing about her lawn.  It seemed like every year she would have it ripped up and re-seeded so it would have that golf putting green look.  I would sit in the back seat of the car my parents were driving and sometimes see her standing on her front lawn.  With her curlers still in her hair and covered by a scarf she would look down at how the germinating lawn was growing.  Flash forward to 2010.  She was already dead by then, the house had a few owners, and by that year was vacant.  The front lawn was not only full of weeds but not even cut.  If by a miracle she came back to see this, the lady probably would have had a fit; just like many of the other old homeowners I remember living up and down Cherokee.  Well, yesterday, for the first time in years, not only was there a new driveway but that Cape Cod looked almost like it used to be.


A Cape Cod with a brand new driveway.

As I finish this so I can watch another State of the Union Address, I think it is fitting I should at least write about this place.  Let’s see what interesting things happen along these streets during this year.


A view of Cherokee Avenue looking West.



Photographs by James Valentino





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

Happy MLK Jr. Day; A Quick Little Post.

The roller coaster weather here on the North Coast has gotten me in a hibernating mood.  From a high of 60 degrees Fahrenheit Friday Morning to single digits Sunday, it has been one hell of a ride weather wise.

Same with the nation as a whole.  This is not the place to mention what all the media has been discussing since January 1st from Michael Wolff’s book to Donald Trump shooting his mouth off to the point they are now using a swear word in national news shows to quote his high regards for Third World countries.  Yesterday, there was a false alarm in Hawaii about a missile attack on that State and the sloppy way they handled it doesn’t bring me much confidence.  Then again, we now have a president who has to tell the wold “I am not a racist” while having two Senators take another bullet for him while implying that a colleague is a liar.

It’s so easy to forget that people voted for this. I saw that while Saturday while getting my haircut.  The owner and his two colleagues, I guess longtime friends somewhere in their thirties, love what the Trump is doing. They were talking with another of their customers politics while I for one was unusually silent. That guy was telling them that his brother-in-law who was “good crunching at numbers” (or so it sounded to me) claims that everyone will be getting a three percent tax cut with this tax bill.  I didn’t want to break in and say that, even it were so, those cuts will be phased out for guys like us in a few years while the wealthy got as someone said in Florida “a whole lot richer”.  One of the barbers loved the man’s tweet about his bigger button because supposedly Trump called Kim Jong Un.  He called their bluff!  Didn’t the North Koreans finally used that phone to call the South after all these years (tell that to everyone living in Honolulu)?  Many more things were said along those lines while I pretended to be asleep.  As the shaving cream was applied to my neck, I went back to thinking about the piece I read in the Guardian on the United Nations envoy who wrote a report on extreme poverty here int he United States just one month ago.

I wonder what Martin Luther King Jr. would have thought about all this if he were alive today.   My copy of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury should be arriving at the homestead sometime this week as the temperatures warm up.

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

It’s 2018 And We’re Still Here!

We survived almost one year of Donald Trump.

Now, with that out of the way, here are just few musings of mine.   As anyone can see, the blog goes on.  In fact, this month I have had over 140 views which is quite good for a site like this.  I didn’t know people cared!  However, it seems the thing they most care about is a piece I did a few years back.  Maybe because of the title makes it easier to pop up than the one I just did for the Jazz Age exhibit, or my critique of Atlantic writer Derek Thompson’s World Without work hits a cord with people, that piece seems to get the most views.

I hope and pray that on the national front 2018 is going to be much better than 2017.  Perhaps the Democrats will wind up winning one of the Houses of Congress.  If they following a suggestion by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin and get their own Contract for America, then people will have more to support them than just trying to get rid of Trump.  Speaking of which, since we have had a year of his presidency, I hope than some of those who voted for him in 2016 have buyer’s remorse and will join people like me in resisting these attacks to common sense, good faith, and let’s just say democracy that he represents; though many others in his adopted party seemed to have done a pretty good job with this for years now.   Of course, this is only my opinion.

As for the neighborhood and Cleveland itself, it’s a mixed bag as well.  As the daytime shootout at Waterloo and East 156th St. showed, the city’s cost saving measures of not hiring enough police officers are definitely paying off.  Councilman Polensek is right in saying that newly re-elected Frank Jackson dropped the ball on this one by only hiring 65 from the academy, when roughly the same amount retired this year.  This is making many residents particularly angry about this because of the 1 percent income tax increase the Jackson Administration got voters to pass in 2016 to prevent, you guessed it, potentially severe budget cuts in such things as police and fire protection.  At least the number of homicides was a few less than the year before so Cleveland barely joins the national trend in this regard.  However, when it comes to police protection and other essential services, Clevelanders want to get their money’s worth.

On the other hand, the La Salle Theater renovation is moving along smoothly and I am looking forward to getting a tour of the place once they set a date.  Our local development corporation will have a meeting sometime soon and I intend to be there to see if they are getting their act together again.  Fortunately, Councilman Polensek got re-elected by a landslide and he can keep trying to get us the resources (if not the police like he wants) from City Hall to keep our long-term projects in North Shore Collinwood going.  We’ve come a long way but plenty of hard work still needs to be done.

As for the blog, I hope I can find a few more topics worth writing about.

Happy 2018 everyone.