Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Clashing Views on the Future of Public Square Operations

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 10:40 AM

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A brand new butterfly-shaped Public Square is on the cusp of completion — it’s slated to open in June — and the city is abuzz with excitement over the long-awaited revamping of one of Cleveland’s most robust and iconic public spaces.

In an editorial over Memorial Day weekend, Crain’s Cleveland Business said that once the Square’s update is complete, an “even more important” task looms: keeping it jam-packed with diverse events throughout the year. Crain’s stressed the need for a sustainable operational structure, “likely involving the Cleveland Metroparks and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.”

Though Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman has said, through a spokesperson, that the Metroparks currently have no plans to operate the Square, the parks did loan their top marketing person, Sanaa Julien, to the Group Plan Commission (which operates the Square) to serve as “CEO of Programming and Operations” for a term of one year.

“The Group Plan Commission is wise to consider establishing a trust that would work with Metroparks and DCA to run the square on a permanent basis,” Crain’s wrote, noting that the Square has been estimated to cost about $2 million per year to run. “Based on the work they’ve done in their respective fields, DCA, which has brightened up downtown considerably with its Clean and Safe Ambassadors program, and Metroparks, which has made Cleveland’s lakefront and riverfront more lively, are the right choices to make the new Public Square a long-term gem.”

But some taxpayers, who enthusiastically voted YES on the 2013 levy which boosted the Metroparks dollars to the tune of roughly $20 million per annum, don’t like the idea of the Metroparks running Public Square.

“The City of Cleveland, which has screwed the taxpayers over and over again, seems to really want to get their hands on the park’s money,” [sic] wrote Judy Boone, a Hinckley resident and a Metroparks volunteer for more than 20 years. She said she’d be delivering her letter to the park commissioners, on behalf of the taxpayers of Hinckley, on Tuesday.

“CMP took over Seneca golf course and now the old Coast Guard Station. Naturally, CMP is trying to find partners to donate in order to refurbish the facility but in the end, CMP will be stuck with maintaining it and dumping more of CMP money into it as they did at Seneca. Let the City of Cleveland and the Group Plan Commission get some of the developers to set up a trust fund to take care and manage the Square. CMP should not be any part of this.”

Boone’s frustration, she said, was fueled in part by a lack of promised repairs at the Hinckley Lake Dam, and by the fact that the Hinckley boathouse and observation are are no longer ADA-accessible.

“Taxpayers understand change but the park’s mission is to be a public service and you, as commissioners, should be putting the mission of the park first, not changing it to suit your ambitions,” Boone wrote. “If you want to be movers and shakers in the City of Cleveland, then so be it, but you cannot be stewards of the park with the obligation of accountability and transparency of the money that was entrusted by the taxpayers’ vote for the levy.”

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