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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE PROBLEM 100

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Inside Business Magazine, a sister publication of Cleveland Magazine, has published its “Power 100,” a list of the allegedly most influential 100 Northeast Ohioans, in its January/February issue, compiled by senior editor Erick Trickey. The list may indeed be an accurate reflection of who wields power in Northeast Ohio, but if so, it’s an unhopeful commentary on the region’s future.

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The list is heavily loaded with the same type of people who have brought this area to a standstill (at best) with last-century thinking and a circle-the-wagons-and-protect-the-wealthy attitude. Reading the names and what they represent is a backward glimpse into the Cleveland of 50 years ago.

The list is led by Cleveland Clinic President/CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove (pictured), who spearheads Cleveland’s major growth sector, health care. The Cleveland Clinic is the area’s biggest employer, and Cosgrove has pushed many laudable health initiatives. But he was also the impetus behind the convention center/medical mart project, a stereotypical example of an obsolete approach to economic transformation.

The second name on the list, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, has had a mixed impact. While he has steadied the helm in a difficult time in the city’s history, no one would mistake him for a visionary who seeks out cutting-edge ways to transform it, not simply maintain the status quo.

The rest is a depressingly predictable parade of usual suspects: corporate and bank chieftains, university presidents, politicians and even Plain Dealer publisher Terry Egger and editor Susan Goldberg. Big law-firm partners far outnumber innovative entrepreneurs in forward-looking sectors, like BioEnterprises’s Baiju Shah. Those involved in sustainability and green energy, neighborhood renewal, human services and the arts are missing. And the list is loaded with Issue 6 supporters like Judy Rawson, Bruce Akers, Nina Turner and Marty Zanotti, whose influence beyond pushing this issue is dubious (Cleveland Magazine, like the Plain Dealer, plugged Issue 6 and seems to be sharing the PD’s triumphalism in its victory).

Remove politicians like Joe Cimperman and Marcia Fudge, and the average annual income is likely more than a million dollars. (Actually, don’t remove them: LeBron James, perhaps the list’s most bizarre entry, alone balances their modest incomes.)

Frankly, if Sam Miller, Dick Pogue, Joe Roman, Charles and Albert Ratner, Ed Crawford, Umberto Fideli, Fred Nance, Mal Mixon and the chairmen of Eaton Corp., Sherwin-Williams and Parker-Hannifin still represent Northeast Ohio’s power base, this region isn’t moving into the 21st century anytime soon.

One more depressing stat: Of 100 names on the list, only 17 are women. Unfortunately, that’s about average nationwide: It precisely reflects the percentage of women in Congress today. — Anastasia Pantsios

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