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, About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

One More Quick Little Post.

IMG_20180311_115315It’s hard to write on a blog when you have so much else going on.

Recently, I went out to a local garden center to check a few things such as what spring bulbs and seeds have arrived and fertilizer for my spruce tree.  While there, I stopped in their houseplant display room where everything was in bloom.  From potted gardenias with their fragrant white blooms to florist cyclamens and African violets, they were are welcome sight to see right now as my snowdrops try to keep growing despite day temperatures not reaching 40 degrees F.


I have written enough about spring here in Cleveland for all of you who don’t live here to get an idea what it’s like.  Soon places like the garden center will be packed with people buying things for their yards and so will I.


Photographs by James Valentino

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





About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores Membership Meeting.

IMG_20180116_181313For those who read this blog, you may know that the neighborhood I live in has a community development corporation called Northeast Shores.  Yesterday, January 16, 2018, it had their membership meeting at the Collinwood Recreation Center on Lakeshore Blvd.   In a surprisingly full room, local residents, merchants, and representatives of such groups as the Hospice of the Western Reserve learned what has been going on with the local development corporation.  There were elections for new board members, and the candidates got to tell the crowd a little about themselves.  Many of them seemed to have moved to the area in the past decade.  That is an encouraging sign but also means that there were very few people I knew in that room.

Another thing on the agenda was a short speech by the owner of an accounting firm doing their books.  He stood up to tell everyone that they should have their report ready by the next meeting.  It would be interesting to see since Northeast Shores has had to let go most of its’ staff last year and move into space given by the Hospice of the Western Reserve to which the executive director, Camille Maxwell (who became director last year after her controversial predecessor left), is sincerely grateful.

What would a community meeting be without of few words from Mike Polensek?  The councilman gave give everyone the run down on what has been going on in the ward.  while I heard half of it before, such as Cleveland’s police officer shortage, Mike did talk about some of the major projects in the neighborhood such as the ongoing LaSalle Theater renovation and the new Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary School under construction.  He also said a few words about how people should be supporting the development corporations and try to make them as strong as ones elsewhere in the city. Last but not least, the Power Point presentation showing the new marquee of the LaSalle Theater, all lit up at night, drew a lot of applause from the audience.  I can’t wait to see the LaSalle when it’s finished.

Last night was kind of encouraging.  I keep telling people that it’s a toss-up on what’s going on here but there are a lot of committed people who seem to be investing a lot into the future of North Shore Collinwood and that’s wonderful.  Now, if we can City Hall to give us our income tax increase money’s worth this year, as in more police patrols and funds for home repairs for residents, that can be a great boost.

When I drove home, I had to stop at the light at East 185th Street and LaSalle.  There across the street from me was the theater and its’ brand new marquee.  This is something people would notice driving in from Lake County to dine at the Standard or get a beer at the Cleveland Brewery.  It also shows that our development corporation managed to pull this project off and it’s something the staff should be proud of.  So should Councilman Polensek.  There will be more news about the neighborhood to come.


Photographs taken by James Valentino