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Monday, December 13, 2021

More Dumb "Core Values" From the Greater Cleveland Partnership

Posted By on Mon, Dec 13, 2021 at 3:23 PM

click to enlarge GCC demonstrations over the Q Deal - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • GCC demonstrations over the Q Deal

Having clocked the schizophrenia of trying to cast the poorest city in the United States as the greatest city in the world, and having tried and failed to cure the region's ills with an array of snake oils—a magic startup to solve poverty, a blockchain hub, a summit on "inclusive growth"—local civic leaders seem to have dialed back their boosterism. In the harsh emergency-room lighting of the Covid-19 era, they now simply want to make Northeast Ohio a "great region on the Great Lakes."

That's the modest proposal of Greater Cleveland Partnership CEO Baiju Shah, at any rate. The chamber of commerce executive, who took the reins from Joe Roman earlier this year, is out with a new op-ed in the Plain Dealer / that purports to delineate the civic system's core-values.

These values, Shah says, define the "mindset, spirit and practices" of big civic projects undertaken by the public, private and nonprofit sectors working in "purposeful partnerships" to help Cleveland regather momentum from 2016.  Back then, we are told, before the system fractured, Cleveland was poised to regain its stature, (as a great city on the Great Lakes). It's perhaps no accident that these values' organizing principle is borrowed from the Cleveland Cavaliers' marketing slogan at the time: "All In." 

Shah writes: "These values start with being INspired, include being INnovative, INclusive, INvolved, INterconnected, and end with INtegrity and IN-unity, always focused on community outcomes, not on who leads, supports, or gets credit."

(I'll refrain from commenting on the grammatical clumsiness of these values—my position has not changed—other than to say that including a lone prepositional phrase seems to be IN-violation of core-value copywriting tenets everywhere.) 

From his GCP perch, Shah can be expected to chime in every once in awhile to communicate with his membership. And as the region's putative "innovation czar," he can be expected to make bold—or at least bold-sounding—pronouncements, which tend to be relayed in the style of corporate communications departments.

While we “consternated,” the pandemic ensued, challenging us all. Yet despite social distancing, it is bringing us together again. The pandemic has rekindled an “All-In” spirit uniting us to protect our community. It has also generated significant opportunities to rebuild our region. We now have an extraordinary chance to regain our momentum and our standing. And that is beginning to happen. Through the concerted work of many, our civic system is restoring and aligning again.

The core-value stuff is easy to mock—"IN-unity"! Phenomenal.—but it's mostly a pretext for Shah to discuss the current priorities of the chamber of commerce: making Cleveland a hub for smart manufacturing; promoting sector partnerships in manufacturing, IT, and health care to train and place workers in in-demand jobs; scaling up minority businesses; championing real estate development downtown and along the city's waterways.

"These are examples of a mending system," Shah writes, of the explosion of new projects underway, including the Progressive Field renovation, the Sherwin-Williams headquarters and the so-called Innovation District.

That's certainly one way to look at it.

Another is to regard these developments as examples of a broken system, one in which the public sector perpetually subsidizes the private sector to ensure its growth, even as the community suffers. And the community is indeed suffering: CMSD is hanging on by the thinnest of threads. Who even knows how many thousands of students have fallen through the cracks for good? Gun violence and drug overdoses have skyrocketed in 2021. Huge numbers of Clevelanders once again can't afford their rent, their power or their water. Covid variants continue to mutate and pounce. 

But the public, private and nonprofit sectors—what Shah calls the "civic system"—are evidently restoring and aligning. 

They're certainly up to their old tricks. In recent weeks, the city and county voted to hand over about $285 million in public dollars for renovations at Progressive Field, (renovations that will include a lavish expansion of the Guardians corporate offices, a nice bonus for the Dolans). Last year, the city greenlit an incentive package that provides $100 million in subsidies to Sherwin-Williams for its global headquarters, a handout that could have fully funded the Lead Safe Cleveland program on its own. 

The "Innovation District," a partnership between the local hospital systems, universities and the public sector, is a project made possible by $265 million in state subsidies. Its goal is to help make Cleveland a national leader in pathogen research and, per, to "lure tens of thousands of new jobs and investment to the region, to make Cleveland an even bigger center of biomedical innovation and startups."

The $265 million contribution from the state is roughly the value of the Cleveland Clinic's "fair share deficit." That's another way of saying that the Clinic makes $261 million more per year in tax breaks than it spends on community and charity care. It's the highest such deficit in the country.

All of this new development might be encouraging for folks who use "leverage" as a verb on a daily basis, but it's downright sickening for people living on the margins. For them, the asymmetry of resources could not be clearer. People watch in horror as every day more public money flows to private interests and billionaires—these are the public's supposed "partners"—and the public never seems to be any better off. That's one big reason why the city's population has been shrinking for seven consecutive decades. And it's a big reason why many of us will have have a hard time getting INspired by the communiques of leaders celebrating this time-honored extractive relationship as an INnovative and INclusive future.

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