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Friday, February 10, 2017

Downtown Cleveland Alliance Stole All the Missing Scene Boxes, Citing Safety Concerns

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 6:49 PM

click to enlarge An empty Scene box in Tremont. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • An empty Scene box in Tremont.
The Downtown Cleveland Alliance took the 26 missing Scene boxes. They didn't use the word "steal" in their communications with us — they said the boxes were picked up due to safety concerns — but we're failing to see much of a distinction.

A DCA operations director admitted that the boxes had been taken over the past several weeks and are now "in safekeeping" in the organization's operations center on E. 16th and St. Clair. DCA is ready, they say, to "aggressively work with" Scene's team to get the boxes back in their proper locations.

DCA is the only non-profit organization dedicated to improving downtown — "striving to make downtown Cleveland the most compelling place to live, work and play," per the literature. Most visibly, it employs a team of ambassadors for street beautification and maintenance.

Heather Holmes, DCA's director of marketing and public relations, told Scene late this afternoon that it was due to this aspect of DCA's responsibilities — street and sidewalk maintenance — that the Scene boxes had been taken. Evidently they were becoming something of a hazard.

"Quite a few of them were flipped on their side, in the middle of the sidewalk, tipping over into the street," Holmes said, "and so [our staff] took them back to our operations center for safekeeping."

But why wasn't Scene informed?

Holmes said that DCA was actually in the midst of compiling a "very detailed report" about all the boxes — how many of them, where they were taken from, etc. — but that she personally agreed that the staff waited much too long to reach out to us.

"We'll fall on our sword on that," said Holmes. "They should've called the moment they picked up the first one. At the time, they didn't know exactly who to reach out to."

Holmes said the DCA operations team wants to do whatever it can to help Scene's distribution team more securely affix the boxes to the sidewalks.  The bad winter weather had, according to Holmes, been wreaking havoc on our boxes.

But the scale still confused us. How could even the fiercest of winter winds knock over 26 Scene boxes (in at least three discrete sessions) while passing over all others?

"It could be snowplows," Holmes speculated. "If the snowplow went by and it moved a little bit, it could knock [a box] right over. I'm not sure how they got knocked down, but they were down. They were in distress, if you will."

An epidemic, to be sure. Readers, from this moment on: Please kindly apprise us when and where you see our boxes blowing higgledy-piggledy into downtown streets!

Scene was initially tipped off to DCA's involvement when an advertiser called us this morning, after our article about the missing boxes, saying that he'd seen a DCA van (or truck?) taking a Scene box this past Saturday morning. When he asked the DCA folks what they were doing, they drove away. (He did not indicate whether the box had been in distress).

A DCA spokesperson told Scene, when we first inquired, that picking up news boxes was not something they would "typically do." We certainly hope not. Those boxes are, of course, private property and permitted by (as in, with individual permits from) the city. Heather Holmes called us shortly after our circulation director, Don Kriss, spoke with their operations guy for nearly 30 minutes, begging for more transparency.

The DCA, which represents "downtown interests," might not be terribly fond of Scene. This seems worth pointing out. Both Len Komoroski of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Dan Walsh, Board Chair of Destination Cleveland — both of whom were among the handful of presenters at the Quicken Loans Arena Transformation Press Conference — sit on DCA's 18-member Board of Directors, the rest of whom are comprised chiefly of big wigs from the worlds of real estate and finance.

Scene's recent coverage of "downtown issues" — our outrage over the secretive financing deal at the Q and our refusal to call the Mayor's gross mishandling of Public Square anything but an unmitigated disaster — might be just the sort of "unsafe conditions" that spurred the DCA to clean up their streets.


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