Hopes for our city in the coming year

All I Want for Cleveland... 

Hopes for our city in the coming year

Cleveland is what we make it. In that spirit we asked some Northeast Ohioans of varied professions and backgrounds to share their hopes for the region in the new year.

EQUALITY

It's mind-boggling to me that we live in a state where it's still possible, in many cases, to openly discriminate against someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Think about it: It is perfectly permissible in many cases for an employer to say, "I'm firing you simply because you're gay," or a landlord to say to a prospective tenant, "I won't rent to you because you're lesbian."

And it's heartbreaking that we still live in a state, and a country, where marriage is denied to same-gender couples, when it is so abundantly clear that by prohibiting such a right, we are all — gay and straight — sacrificing our souls, our commitments to our highest ideals.

For the holidays then, just this: No one is excluded from the table. Just fairness, equality: uncomplicated, unabbreviated, unexceptionalized. Not as a giddy, Pollyannish aspiration, but as a mere and ultimately banal fact: We cannot push people out of the circle of rights of the human family any longer without ultimately destroying ourselves.

We can fix this, so easily and so fast: There's no longer any need for deliberation or timetables. What an extraordinary gift that would be, to regain part of our humanity. — Earl Pike, CEO, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (aidstaskforce.org)

SAFE STREETS

My wish is the wish of thousands of others in Greater Cleveland — we want our streets to be safer for everyone by being safer for people to walk and bicycle. 

In the past 50 years, our communities have been built around the automobile, often at the expense of neighborhood livability and the safety of people. One-third of Americans either can't drive or choose not to due to age, personal circumstances, physical impairment, poverty or priorities. Yet we spend hundreds of billions each year to build wider highways and streets that are designed only for cars and trucks. 

Approximately 5,000 pedestrians and 700 cyclists are killed on U.S. roads each year. That's like two school buses full of kids disappearing every week. Children, older Americans and minorities are especially at risk and are the most likely to be killed while doing things like walking to school, to church or shopping for their daily needs. We need to continue to push for roads that are safe for everyone — motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, people of all socio-economic means and those with limited mobility. 

Making our streets safer for everyone will help solve some of America's problems. More feet on the street would make our neighborhoods safer and help build communities. Air pollution and asthma rates would decline; health problems like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension would be fewer; roadway repair and maintenance costs would be lower. Ohioans would be healthier, happier and spend less if they added more bicycling and walking to their daily lives. We need safely designed streets and safe-driving motorists to make this wish come true. — Lois Moss, executive director, Walk + Roll (walkroll.com)

MORE FARMING

Ohio has been a red state. Ohio has been a blue state. But we are always a green state. I believe Cleveland can play a major role in the growth of Ohio by further developing our gardens and our sustainability initiatives. With the legacy of the Metroparks, we have distinctive features in the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Holden Arboretum, Shaker Lakes and many more green zones within the metropolitan area.

The emergence of neighborhood gardens and reclaiming abandoned lots, buildings and asphalt parking lots has begun. We are slowly adding to our physical, emotional and aesthetic environment. A great example is the Green Corps, a program of the Cleveland Botanical Garden. It helps neighborhoods convert urban eyesores into fertile fields. They grow vegetables, sell them at farmers markets around town and use the produce to make salsa (which is sold at many venues, including Heinen's).

The magic of this program is that teenagers from the Cleveland public schools do it! They clear the land, plant the vegetables, reap the produce and make the salsa, as well as staff the stalls at farmers markets. They are producing and learning at the same time. And all of it contributes to a greener Cleveland!

I would hope that we could stimulate such gardens in all communities from Brooklyn to Beachwood, Rocky River to Chardon, and East Cleveland to Warrensville Heights. We could help our children learn about plants and how to nurture living things. They could learn about ecosystems and the balance of nature. — Richard E. Boyatzis, PhD, Professor in Organizational Behavior, Cognitive Science and Psychology at Case Western Reserve University

 TOURISTS

I want Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio to see itself as the Orlando of culture and fine arts.

There are organizations marketing the city, but there is no focused effort to build a coordinated visitor experience once people arrive. Our lodging, dining and transportation assets should work hand in hand with the cultural and arts organizations, and in partnership with the civic and government institutions, to develop a fully integrated visitor industry like no other! This is called destination management — where the stakeholders together map out ways to build a dynamic tourism industry.

In 2008, tourism accounted for $772 million and 7.7 million jobs in the U.S. It supports both skilled and unskilled workers and a range of support businesses — from food, shipping and linens to tour operators and hotel management. What I want for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio is a bustling tourism industry attracting people from across the country and globe, spending their dollars, euros and yen here! — Barbara Oney, executive producer of Got City Game (gotcitygame.tv), former chief marketing officer, Greater Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau (Positively Cleveland), and Hollywood executive

HIGHER STANDARDS

All I want is for Cleveland to lose its willingness to settle for third or fourth best, and its tolerance of failure.

Issue 6's passing is a start. Farewell People's Republic of Cuyahoga County. Good riddance to those ethically challenged tax-fattened hyenas. The usual suspects could always find a way to fill an open hand for something in return. It's always the same names playing the same games at our expense. Those chiselers lived on shady bait-and-switch business schemes and rampant corruption and cronyism. They released a steady swirl of misinformation and panic. As a result, they've brought Cleveland and its immediate suburbs precariously close to morphing into southeast Detroit. 

We use dollars to chase dimes. This past decade, Cleveland rejected investment proposals from Apple and Intel while Cuyahoga County wasted time and taxpayer dollars on a medical mart and convention center that will never get built. 

I want Clevelanders to know that the only chance of a turnaround will come from sharp, young leadership providing new ideas and creative solutions. — John Gorman, media consultant, author (buzzardbook.wordpress.com) and former radio executive

ARTSY IMMIGRANTS

All I want for Cleveland is homesteading legislation like in Paducah, Kentucky, where they created a live-work artist community by giving away houses.

Here in Cleveland, instead of letting out-of-town investors and shady developers land-grab our savable foreclosed properties, let's create a national call, and invite artists and immigrants with entrepreneurial spirit to repopulate our city by giving them $1 homes if they have the will and means to rehab the property, a plan to be self-sustaining to keep the property out of future foreclosure and a willingness to invest emotional capital into Cleveland. It means getting creative with the building and housing code, and finding a way to funnel some of the "stimulus" funds we are getting into a revolving loan program perhaps, but we need population and we need small neighborhood jobs more than anything.

Forget the medical mart or condoing the lakefront — if we don't focus on repopulating the abandoned properties in our neighborhoods in a faster, more inventive way, we might as well hire Blackwater to usher visitors in and out of the central city in a couple years.

As board president of Northeast Shores Development Corporation in North Collinwood, I am seeing firsthand how slow it's going to get abandoned HUD properties turned around. I'd love to see council and city leaders get back to our progressive roots and ask themselves, "What would Tom Johnson do?" (Maybe take over RTA!) Just let me help write the press release for the Great Cleveland Housing Rush of 2010. — Cindy Barber, owner of the Beachland Ballroom and former editor of Cleveland Free Times

EXPLORATION

Circa the late 1970s, my aunt worked for the Cleveland Board of Education. Sometimes when she would go to work on a Saturday, she would take me with her. I was probably about 10 years old. We would leave her Parma home for downtown. Either on the way there or the way back, we would always fit in a "field trip." Our field trips consisted of driving by interesting sites. The imposing Franklin Castle was an eerie favorite. A drive through the industrial flats to view the swing and lift bridges, hoping to see massive forms of steel rise or move sideways through the air, allowing enormous ore ships to navigate the winding waterway. Maybe a cruise around Captain Franks on the East 9th Street Pier or down Prospect Avenue to look at the "girls in hot pants" (and they really did wear hot pants back then!).

That wanderlust has stayed with me through my adulthood. Cleveland is a great town to explore. After 30 years, I still find myself turning down unknown streets, hoping to find an undiscovered adventure. I wish that more Clevelanders would take some time to check out new areas, poke around old areas, drive up and down unfamiliar streets, and dive into the treasure chests that await them in Slavic Village, Collinwood, Tremont, Detroit-Shoreway, Fairfax and Downtown. I wish that Clevelanders would get out of their suburban strip-mall areas and rediscover where the heartbeat comes from. I am talking about great ethnic food, churches, architecture, diversity, history, industry, desolation, renovation, art, cemeteries, parks, awesome views, quirky shops.

Get out, Cleveland! Be a tourist in your own city! — Bonnie Flinner, owner of Prosperity Social Club in Tremont

THE MOST AWESOME STATUE EVER

The city should construct a 400-foot statue of Ghoulardi, straddling the new Innerbelt bridge at the main gateway to downtown. Imagine how this would immediately change Cleveland's image and transform its crappy skyline into one of the most distinctive in the world! It would glow ghoulish blue-green at night and be visible, rising above the horizon, from 100 miles away. Tourists would flock here to climb to the top of Ghoulardi's fright wig.

I am totally serious here. This would be a civic treasure, far more beneficial than some dumbass medical mart. — Derf, cartoonist, author and Scene contributor

SOLVING TWO PROBLEMS

Of course, I am going to say that I want an end of homelessness in America for Christmas because of my job. But for the past 24 years, this has been a pipe dream. Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II never even thought about ending homelessness in America. Pushing for an end to homelessness in the time of welfare reform, invasions of other countries and trickle-down economics was like wishing that a fire-breathing dragon would show up on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve.

But today we have a president who understands that cities are important, and solving homelessness is possible. President Obama has repeatedly mentioned the word "homeless," which had not been uttered at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for years. The Veterans Administration has put forth a plan for ending veterans' homelessness. 

When things are darkest, it is often the time of greatest opportunity. The housing market has collapsed, and we now have four homes for every homeless person rotting in our neighborhoods. We have lost so many jobs that we have nowhere else to go but up. Locally, we have experienced 11 years of job loss, and our population has contracted so significantly that a recovery has to employ more people. The administration is pushing a reform of health care that would reduce homelessness.

Homeless people do not have to be a fixture on every corner. In the richest country on Earth, no one should be without a warm place featuring some privacy. — Brian Davis, executive director, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

UNITY

All I want for Xmas is for Greater Cleveland to learn to see past geography, race and ethnicity.

I'm not a native. Even though I've lived here for 15 years, the diversity of this place is truly a marvel to a woman who grew up with "white only" and "colored only" signs. I saw those barriers come down in the '60s and '70s. Imagine my shock at finding them again, when I moved here in the '90s. African Americans told me point-blank they weren't coming to Lakewood. Whites told me bluntly the East Side is a cesspool, and your people are why.

Cleveland's boundaries aren't external. They are internalized. And they are hurdles the region doesn't seem to want to overcome

Make no mistake: Cleveland isn't a declining city; it's a deteriorating region that is leaking vitality. In order to survive, the area needs vision and visionaries. Instead, we get folks who can't see beyond the banks of the Cuyahoga River, or the name of a neighborhood, or the location of a suburb. — Afi Scruggs, freelancer writer

SOME SWAGGER

Pride is a key element of success in any organization or team. It motivates every member to work harder, player harder and defend what they believe in. Cleveland needs pride in a big way!

Cleveland had it a long time ago, and somewhere through history, it became "the mistake on the lake" and people accepted this branding. It is time to reject this bad rap and stand up pridefully for what Cleveland is today. We are home to one of the best hospitals in the nation, the Rock Hall, turn-of-the-century architecture, situated on a great lake, with a vibrant food scene, arts, music and a casino on the way. There is plenty to be proud of.

If Cleveland were a large corporation, our marketing department would be tasked with developing some new branding platforms to help reposition our products both locally and nationally. We need to act like a hungry entrepreneurial company to get this done. Let's assemble an all-star group of business owners to spearhead a new "marketing department" that reflects real business experiences, not political aspirations or agendas. Tasked with developing a progressive marketing and PR strategy, I bet this group will deliver. Set a real timeline, a real budget that can be creatively funded, leverage private sector resources and let it rip!

Let's show the rest of the country that Cleveland and its people kick ass! — Steve Schimoler, chef/owner, Crop Bistro

A PROMISE

All I want for Cleveland is the Kalamazoo Promise replicated here.

As any Thomas Friedman disciple will tell you, the greatest asset a region can have is a well-educated workforce. Education is crucial because it allows the labor pool to evolve as the global market changes. 

The fact that only 38 percent of the freshmen who attended Cleveland Public Schools graduated in four years (2005) is not just bad for those individual kids — it's bad for the entire community. Those children will be a part of this region's workforce for the next 50 years. If they are not well educated, we will not be able to adapt in a global economy.

But education is not just good for regions, it is also good for workers. The more you learn, the more you earn. So the solution to Cleveland's poverty issue is intertwined with its dropout rate. But the challenge for this city is not just fixing the dropout rate, it's building a skilled, capable workforce. And we can do both with a program like the Kalamazoo Promise.

The Kalamazoo Promise is a guaranteed college-scholarship program available to any graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools. It was launched in November 2005 and is funded entirely through anonymous contributors. 

Other communities including El Dorado, Arkansas and Pittsburgh have launched Promise programs. Locally, the Gund and Cleveland Foundations have shown interest. So what's the next step, Cleveland? The Kalamazoo Promise staff is hosting a conference in June 2010. This area should send a delegation. Hope for our region can be found in the minds of our children. — Kent Smith, Euclid School Board Member, PhD candidate in Economic Development (CSU) and co-author of Please God Save Us

A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

All I want for Cleveland is that it will realize its potential, take advantage of its plentiful opportunities and become the nation's most sustainable large city. To do so requires that individuals, businesses and governments in Greater Cleveland join in adopting sustainable lifestyles, business practices and policies. We need individuals to be conscious of their impact on the city and support the local economy, shop responsibly, reduce waste and participate in solution-based community projects.

Businesses need to lead the way by taking the three principles of sustainability into account — people, planet, profits.

Governments need to promote offshore wind power and other initiatives to create jobs in the new green economy, as well as push for expanded public transit and intercity passenger-rail transportation.

And, most of all, Clevelanders need to appreciate and care for their most valuable asset — Lake Erie.

So what can Greater Clevelanders do in 2010 to help turn this dream into reality? Build a community garden and composting facility. Reduce their energy usage. Join a watershed group. Take public transportation. Start a green team at work. Encourage legislation that will move the sustainability agenda forward.

Whatever they choose, they should remember that Cleveland can't do it without them. — Stefanie Penn Spear, executive director, EcoWatch (ecowatch.org)

SOMETHING — ANYTHING — GOOD

All I want for Cleveland is ... one good thing. Just one.

A Cavs championship. Or better, a contract that keeps LeBron here for a few more years.

Or a playoff berth for the Browns or Indians. It doesn't have to be all-inclusive. Either/or is fine.

I don't take pride in the fact that this is the place to come when a chimpanzee tears your face apart. I don't mean any disrespect to the Cleveland Clinic. It's just a little carnie.

It's notoriety, like lake-effect snow, a river that burned 40 years ago and serial murderer. Jeffrey Dahmer was already too close to home, and now there's the awful house on Imperial Avenue. You can have your decades of notoriety; I'd rather have one good thing.

Like settling the medical-mart design issues and getting shovels in the ground. Or some small biomed startup here in town mounting the world stage with a fantastic discovery that reshapes treatment of some dread disease.

Or the report card for Cleveland City Schools rising to "continuous improvement." Or unemployment dropping below the state average.

Or a decision that the 2018 World Cup Soccer Tournament will be played in U.S. cities, Cleveland among them.

I don't want it all. I'm not hard to please. All I want for Cleveland is one good thing. — Bob Rosenbaum, media consultant (themarketfarm.com)

More "All I Want For Cleveland" items will appear in the Scene & Heard section of our 12/30/09 issue.

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