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

Happy Holidays, and all that.

Thanksgiving 2017 has come and gone that the Christmas shopping season is officially here.

While others may be driving all over NE Ohio to stand in line for deals that may not be there at prices that would probably be lower on December 27th, I am here typing a quick little post unrelated to many of the themes of this blog.  In fact, since I wrote about the Ohio Land Bank Conference a few months back, I really haven’t had the time or, shall we say inspiration, to write a carefully researched piece for this site.  I am thankful that a few people actually keep looking at this blog.  So far, 107 views have occurred this month and that’s something.  I am also thankful that my new furnace is running in the basement, the new roof on the garage prevented anymore leaks when there has been rain, and a little bit of snow, and I managed to have found the money to pay for both (at least on an installment plan).  There are other things to ponder….

Dana Milbank in his latest op-ed piece for the Washington Post (Dear Sarah Huckabee Sanders: I’m thankful that Trump has failed) puts it down so succinctly what I feel so far about this year with Donald Trump as president.  I hope and pray that one year from now I’ll be thankful for a whole lot more; such as the Democrats winning back the Senate, the Mueller investigation leading to some individuals going to jail, and a lot more of those relatives and acquaintances of mine who voted for Trump last year get buyer’s remorse and realize what a disastrous decision their vote has been.  Locally, I am thankful that Councilman Michael D. Polensek received ninety percent of the vote in his ward and won another term.

Enough with the politics.

I am hopeful, instead of thankful, that property values continue to increase no matter how slowly, in North Shore Collinwood and more people move in and fix up houses like I see they are doing.  I hope that Mayor Frank Jackson uses the money from the one percent income take hike we voted for last November hire hundreds, and not just 65 like this year, more policemen to make all of Cleveland’s neighborhoods safer.  I hope that the LaSalle Theater, whose renovation is almost finished, will be a catalyst for even more investment on East 185th Street so and be a launching pad for all those plans to redevelop the street that I attended meetings for a couple of years back.

On a more personal note, I am also hopeful that, next spring, an organization or publisher would take a look at this project of mine that I have been working the past couple of months.  Not only that, it would be hopeful to see that, instead of them sending an email a month after I submitted it saying “thank you for your interest be we decided it’s not a good fit” they would say “this is wonderful, can we publish it?”  Of course, that’s way too early to say if the odds are good or not for that to happen.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays and all that.

 

 

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A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

Thoughts on the Neighborhood: A Quick Little Post.

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House currently for sale off of East 185 St.

Tonight, as I still contemplate why someone smashed two glass panes on my front porch door last night, I return to thoughts about this neighborhood on the Northeast side of Cleveland.  Two days in a row last week I had conversations with different people regarding the place we live in.  On that Tuesday, at my local block watch meeting, a guy who lives on my street seemed rather pessimistic.  A neighbor of ours recently sold his house and moved out.  The man at the meeting said that the couple wanted to move out a year ago but had to fix up the house first.  Then we talked about the guy across the street from him selling his house and the fact that as he walked around the Indian streets in our neighborhood he hasn’t seen as much junk in the yards in his entire time living here.  Of course, the couple that moved had a school age son and, like so many before them, wanted him to attend something better than Cleveland Public Schools.  In fact, their house sold for almost $69,000 which is in fact a good sign.  While homes averaged here $100,000 in 2000, they plummeted to the point that in 2010 they were going for $24,000.  One can argue the effects of panic selling and the mortgage melt-down have for the most part vanished.  As for the junk, and the rarely mowed lawns at certain houses that I remember once as impeccably landscaped, I admit it’s true.  However, I have also seen houses with new porches, paint jobs, and people living there.

The next day, October 11 2017, as I was leaving my ward club meeting on Holmes Avenue in the neighborhood to our south, I had a good chat with Mike Troha who was for years a building inspector and also a long-time resident.  He hasn’t been so optimistic about North Shore Collinwood today than in the past twenty years.  He has also noticed homes being fixed up and that young couples as well as empty nesters were moving in places other than north of Lakeshore Boulevard.  “Even around 185 St, and Nottingham Road?” I asked him and he said yes.  So, you see, two days and two different views from two different men living in the same place.

This is what you get for living in a place that is considered a tipping point neighborhood.  All major cities have them, especially in the Rust Belt.  These are places where they can be the settings for major revitalization, or shortly become the empty wastelands that are so many other inner-city neighborhoods dominated by empty lots.  I can honestly say that we are a far cry from the latter, but as this act of vandalism to my porch door shows, there are issues.  We have to keep it real, after all even suburban communities in Lake County have their problems.  It would be nice to get away from it all but can everyone afford to live in Hudson or Avon (or Carmel California for that matter)?   Besides, as I see the new railings being put on the the porches of the duplex next to me, I do agree in part with all those people who these days say that this is such a great neighborhood and give it a few years to really take off.

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The La Salle Theater currently under renovation.

Tuesday this week, I stopped after work at the Slovenian Worker’s Home on Waterloo Road where there was a spaghetti dinner.  It was  fundraiser for our councilman, Michael D. Polensek, who is up for re-election this year.  Anyway, I ran into the neighbor who I talked to last Tuesday.  The first words out of his mouth was his pleasant surprise seeing all the work being done on that duplex next to me. “They are really going to town” he said.  I also learned tonight that the cousin of Polensek’s assistant bought a house on East 174 St. for $5,000 and is renovating it.  It happens to be an Arts and Crafts style home and from previous conversations, I knew that they plan to live in it.  Seems like Mike Troha was right after all.

 

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The Fishing Pier at Villa Angela Beach.

Photographs by James Valentino.

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A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores’ Membership Meeting; A Quick Little Post.

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The NE Shores Development Corp. Meeting at Euclid Beach.

I truly believe that to have a successful city, you must have strong neighborhoods.  One of the signs of this is to have a good network of local development corporations that work with the community.  The Collinwood area happens to have two of them; the one representing North Shore Collinwood being the Northeast Shores Development Corporation.  This has been around for decades and I remember stopping in their offices in the 90’s when they were actually housed in a building next to Euclid General Hospital. Board members, and executive directors, come and go but I’ve been a fairly loyal member.  However, Wednesday’s Quarterly Membership meeting was the first I’ve been to in a year.  Instead of at the Collinwood Rec Center, they decided to put it across the street at Euclid Beach Park.  That’s where I went a little before 6:00 to the pavilion to see what was going on.

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Mary Louise Daily speaks with Scott standing next to her.  New Executive Director Camille M. Maxwell sits to his left.

I knew some of the people already, such as Councilman Michael Polensek’s aide Mary Louise Daley, but the vast majority were new faces. Even the new Board president, a guy named Scott, I never met before.  However, I wound up staying there for over an hour and a half, and not just because of the hot dogs.  They just appointed a new Director and I got to chat with some of the staff for the first time in years.  None lives in the neighborhood.  However, one young lady did just buy a house in Old Brooklyn which at least is in the city.  As for the business development specialist, he lives in the same area of Cleveland Heights where my mother grew up.  As for the new director, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Actually, a lot of positive things are still taking place here.  Work is still going on regarding the new Euclid Beach Pier.  As for the La Salle Theater on East 185th Street, they are in the process of getting more funding for the renovation project there.  Also, we’re going to get one of the big white Cleveland signs like the one that everyone has been taking photos with at Edgewater Park.  Considering the terrible events last month at Mr. Car, this meeting put things all back into perspective.  While my neighborhood is not one of those targeted in that new Cleveland State Univeristy study commissioned by Mayor Jackson for investment, it still on the cusp of becoming one happening place.  Chatting with some of the people there, I met a lady who moved here from Shaker.  She told me that a realtor told her that the area where she moved to was getting a lot of money coming in renovating those lakefront properties.  Also, like many of the other former Heights’ residents who moved into North Shore Collinwood over the past few decades, she loves the lower taxes from what she was formerly paying.

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I hope the Corporation starts renovating their new offices on East 185th St. soon so they can move back there.  I also will try to attend more meetings to see what is going on.

 

Photographs by James Valentino

 

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About Cleveland, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

The Trump Flying Circus.

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Looking west on Prospect Avenue Tuesday at the Innerbelt ramp. The Terminal Tower in the distance.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost over.  From Melania Trump’s recital Monday to Ted Cruz being booed off the stage at the Q last night, the parts that I forced myself to watch were a sight to behold.  I have to admit that the 2016 Republican National Convention is one heck of a show, and it sure has provided food for thought, and late night jokes.

For me personally, it hasn’t been too disruptive.  The traffic Monday and Tuesday mornings on the Shoreway were in fact better than the regular commute; even colleagues living on the West Side were surprised how easy it was heading to University Circle where we work.  However, as I got on the Innerbelt at Prospect Avenue at two in the afternoon Tuesday, I saw the cars heading South crawling like it was rush hour.  I didn’t have any interest or curiosity about heading downtown to see where all the action is; and not just because of the barracades. Instead, like many others I know, I headed east, as far as Erie Pennsylvania yesterday to be exact.  There, on a tour boat called the Lady Kate, I spent an hour and a half taking pictures, enjoying the ride, and forgetting what was going on one state away.

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A view of Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park, Erie Pennsylvania.

There is a mixed message on how it will a benefit Northeast Ohio.  It’s a great thing to see, if we believe the local news, all the positive impressions that the delegates have of our area.  I saw on, like so many others watching the T.V. news,  footage of the California Delegation having fun at Cedar Point Amusement Park, and another on how restaurants and bars are doing good business around the Q.  On the other hand, someone at work told me she saw something about how many restaurant owners were disappointed.  Another interesting fact, on Saturday, a friend of mine told me over breakfast that a hotel in Lake County, booked in advance for the convention, only had a 20 percent occupancy so far. Perhaps the rest came in the next day but this wasn’t the only place out in Lake County that had at that point such vacancies.

It’s quite possible that the Democratic Convention next week in Philadelphia will be more disruptive.  Someone I know who is going as a delegate told me on the phone recently that since many feel that they have more a chance to have their voices, and causes, heard by the delegates heading to Phillie than the group now at the Q, they will make their presence loud and clear.  Admittedly, and with relief, those protesting now on Public Square in Cleveland haven’t been as disruptive (with the exception of trying to burn a flag) as so many of us feared.  It could have been a whole lot worse and Cleveland would be remembered for something other than having a good time at a three ring circus. Let’s cross our fingers, we still have a few hours to go.

 

Photographs taken by James Valentino

 

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About Cleveland, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Countdown to the RNC…

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One of the many reasons why things have slowed down on Mad Man On A Great Lake in regards to posts is that the guy doing all the writing has been very busy; and not just at the job that pays the bills.  While everyone is getting ready for the three-ring circus called the Republican National Convention downtown, I’ve been around town pitching for the other team.  From marching in the Fourth of July Parade in Chester Township to attending a fundraiser in Willoughby Hills for the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), this writer has been busy; too busy to write that’s for sure.

Fourth of July, 2016, the Janet mobile.

Geauga County Democratic Club Chairwoman Janet Carson smiles behind the wheel at the Chesterland Fourth of July Parade

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U.S. Congressional candidate Michael Wager (center) poses with Geauga County Commissioner candidates Ron Wiech and Bonnie Cavanaugh .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, that fundraiser Monday, and the one I went to at a Kiwanis Hall in Newbury Township this past Saturday, are part of a slew of invitations that dropped into my mailbox in this election year.  The thing on Saturday was rather important since this was the first big fundraiser that a Geauga Democrat, Bonnie Cavanaugh, had for her race to be a commissioner in Geauga County.  All this has been going on while the other side was working on how to throw their own big party in downtown Cleveland.

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A ODP organizer talks at the Cleveland Ward 8 Democratic Club Picnic.

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ODP Chairman David Pepper talks to some Lake County Democrats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No matter what political party they’re affiliated with, many local officials are betting on the RNC Convention bringing in the big bucks. In fact, at the ODP fundraiser, I overheard a Lake County Commissioner tell someone of his hopes of the delegates staying out there would do just that.  There will even be organized tours of Grand River Wine Country where delegates from Hawaii and Connecticut can visit Debonne, Grand River, and other wineries on the Lake County side of the appellation.  The Columbus Dispatch recently had an excellent piece about all this (and quotes former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis to boot).  Despite all the brouhaha, the article was correct in citing the various problems Cleveland has that cannot be seen in the Q.  For example, only Detroit Michigan has lost more people than the Forest City and more than 30 percent of its’ residents live in poverty.  Those facts will remain as the news crews and delegates head for the airport and highways.

In a week, it will be all over.  Then, the local movers and shakers get to assess how much it was all worth doing.

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Looking West towards downtown Cleveland Wednesday.

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About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

The Midwestern Resilient Cities Summit

 

Cleveland State, April 20, 2016 The ballroom getting ready for the summit.

Getting ready for the big event.

The Midwestern Resilient Cities Summit was held Wednesday, April 20th 2016, at the Student Center at Cleveland State University.   Sponsored by the Center for American Progress, it attracted speakers and private citizens from not only the Cleveland area but Buffalo, New York, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and even St. Paul, Minnesota, to name a few.   After introductory remarks by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, speakers including the Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Christy Goldfuss, HUD’s Midwestern Regional Administrator Antonio Riley, and Cleveland’s own Chief of Sustainability, Jenita McGowan, made their pitches on how cash strapped urban areas can meet the challenge of a changing climate.

When I first saw the email regarding this event, I thought it would be a rehash of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Conference I went to more than six years ago.  However, looking at who would be the presenters, and, with a few vacation days from the job saved up, I decided it would be worthwhile to attend.  The audience had the array of policy wonks, community activists, civil servants and reporters (such as architecture critic Steven Litt) you usually see at such events.  However, there was none of the ‘Positively Global Partnership Cleveland’ crowd that usually takes up most of the tables at the City Club.

As in so many other policy conferences, the speakers were enthusiastic about the subject at hand.  Ms. Goldfuss firmly believes that strong and energetic individuals should be at the core of all these projects; these are the ones that have the most invested.  She also talked in-depth what the Federal government was doing to raise awareness on climate change resiliency matters.  This includes the White House Champions of Change, citing that 1,000 Americans so far were awarded this in the past 5 years.

There was also a panel featuring among others Cleveland’s Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Matt Gray.  When I asked him in the Q/A period how the sub-prime mortgage crisis affected the city’s sustainability measures over the past few years, he didn’t really have an answer.  Instead, he went on and touted the city’s energy programs.

As for me, I participated in the engaging and empowering community members’ group discussion. The moderator, Jacquie Gillon, was from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. A former East Cleveland Councilwoman, Ms. Gillon has been doing leadership development for 19 years. For her, the most surprising thing people learn is how much we have in common, “We minimize them a critical thinkers, how do we get inclusive?” she asked the group.  Communication, as always, seems to be a big issue in our group.  How can we get local residents, many of whom are renters, involved in these programs?  For example, one woman in our group raised the point that a city official sent to a meeting in her neighborhood at their request didn’t say anything.  “He was the wrong official,” a man who worked for the city of Ann Arbor replied.  Afterwards, I kept thinking I should have asked him why in his opinion the city didn’t send out the ‘right one”?

Another big question that was raised was how can we capture federal dollars. From HUD’s Lucy Miller’s view, her department doesn’t provide direct financing, only through Community Block Grants (CBGs) to municipalities. In Cleveland, CBGs are allocated on a Ward level. the Northeast Shores Development Corporation’s Ballot Box Project was used as an example of local use of Federal dollars. About $100,000 from HUD was involved and people voted on what projects the money could be spent on.

Antonio Riley picked up where Christy Goldfuss left off.  He cited a Harvard Study by Raj Chetty that showed the earlier children relocated the better odds they go to college and got out of the cycle of poverty.  Personally, I don’t see how relevant this was to Climate change.  After all, inner city families will not be moving to a Hudson Ohio subdivision anytime soon.  On the other hand encouraging people to move to so-called “opportunity neighborhoods” that doesn’t mean neglecting low-income neighborhoods either. $7 billion a year on all HUD budgeted housing and therefore the department fully supports resilient community measures.

Both Ms. Goldfuss and Mr. Riley referred in their speeches The President’s Climate Action Plan which has basically three points; the reduction of greenhouse gases, leading international efforts to prepare for Climate Change, and making cities more resilient. I downloaded a copy of it and, to be honest, this is one of those documents I wish I could have been working on.  While it offers a variety of chapters from deploying clean energy to mobilizing climate finance (and I did like the proposal to modernize the electric grid), I didn’t see one section specifically geared towards low-income urban areas.   As for the report, written by the Center’s staff, it naturally provides far more information than a summit can do.  Steven Litt even sites it in his own piece for the Cleveland Plain Dealer published a few days ago.

There was a field trip afterwards to the Kinsman neighborhood to see urban agricultural projects underway there.  I didn’t go however, by looking at the Kinsman Farm website, perhaps I should have.It would have been kind of interesting to see how the out-of-towners reacted to all this in an inner city neighborhood like the Kinsman area.  On the other hand, the largest urban farm in Cleveland is in Ohio City and other neighborhoods, such as Collinwood-Nottingham Village, are also taking urban gardening to the next level.   Perhaps, if there was a solar energy farm off of E. 79th and Kinsman or Wind Power turbines (like you see off of I-90 in Euclid, Ohio) off of Bessemer Road, I would never had hesitated.

The Summit was too general in some ways.  While I admire what is being done in Detroit and Toledo, I still wanted to learn more about how all this translates into real, and effective, programs that can help Cleveland; and community gardens are only one part of it.  For example, one of the recommendations that the report had been to expand access to distributed solar energy in low-income communities.  This not only would lower energy bills but also carbon pollution levels.  What someone should have done, and I admit I didn’t, was discuss with Matt Gray and Jenita McGowan an idea of getting Cleveland Public Power to create such a project in the city.  The city’s publicly owned Power Company; Cleveland Public Power currently purchases electricity from other sources and generates none of its own.  However, as their website shows, it is firmly committed to green power.  If small-scale farming can be done in Kinsman, why not some small scale wind farms or solar panels generating power?  It would have been interesting what their responses would have been.

While Mr. Gray is correct in saying the Sewer District is investing in green infrastructure.  On the other hand, the dollars spent on the $198 million Euclid Creek Storage Tunnel Project in North Shore Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, and the village of Bratenahl, probably has a far more impact on the water quality of that watershed, and the beaches at Villa Angela and Euclid Beach for that matter.  This three mile long storage tunnel is more of an immediate benefit for area residents than ‘green parking lot’ demonstrations can do.

One wonders how productive such conferences are in the long run.  After all, I saw a presentation of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest Master Plan at a similar conference in Youngstown over six years ago, so none of this was brand new.  Yet, it was an excellent summit which one hopes leads to more constructive things in the future.

 

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A Quick Little Post, Opinion, Uncategorized

As the Snow Flies: A Quick Little Post.

As winter returns briefly to Northeast Ohio, I found out today that an article of mine has been published this week in this month’s issue of The Collinwood Observer.  It is one of a series of community newspapers serving communities in the Cleveland area (for example there is The Euclid Observer for that city) and has developed a strong local following.

Actually, I began this as a post for this blog but, after talking with the Center for Advanced  Mental Health Practice’s Danielle Dronet, and a few others, I decided to submit it to the Observer last month.  Here is the link to their site.  I appreciate the fact that Investigating Holmes Avenue got published and hope that, in the future, that a few more articles will be published there.

Speaking of links, here is one to a new piece written by Cleveland Magazine regarding North Shore Collinwood, and the need for an ‘angel’ for East 185th Street.  I have only glanced at it so far but it seems like it will be a worthwhile read as the snow flies outside covering the spring flowers.

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