Cleveland: population reduced, leadership absent

Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County, continue to hemorrhage population. Nothing new here, right?

But wait, what about the Cleveland Comeback™? As this editorial board “roundtable” from The Plain Dealer* sets out, “The Cavs are in the playoffs, Cleveland is on travel writers’ must-visit lists for 2015 [no idea] and the Republican National Convention is about to bust down the doors in 2016 [whatever that means].” The absurd Opportunity Corridor is being built, too. The dreams of this very editorial board are coming true!

But the population is still shrinking?

Yeah. Still. Which juxtaposition, never quite explicitly confronted but at least presented openly, is the closest that the board comes to saying anything useful on this topic.

Reading between the lines, this is basically a confession of intellectual bankruptcy by Cleveland’s leadership. They hem and haw, but the reality is, the agenda that they advocate has largely been driving planning in Cleveland and it doesn’t seem to be producing a meaningful turnaround. Yes, this is nice and that’s big and shiny, but the reality is that downtown and University Circle are small islands in a sea of rusty decline. In the decade I’ve spent living in this region, this editorial board and most other local “leaders” have had no real ideas besides reinforcing those successes. Clearly, though, something more is needed. Just as clearly, it won’t come from the top down.

Because, again, there is just nothing there. Amid a lot of blah blah, the editorial board makes one or two interesting comments, but their only interest is how they underscore board members’ absolute failure.

Christopher Evans thunders that nothing will change until Cleveland “replaces a tired, old administration of double-dippers and political hacks with young, vibrant leaders with vision.” It’s difficult to argue; Cleveland’s Mayor Jackson seems to have informally retired some years ago, and I’m still waiting for the new County Executive to discover some purpose. But as the saying goes, “physician, heal thyself.” If this editorial board wants to see tired old hacks depart from local leadership, the best thing it could do is resign en masse.

Not likely, though! Established bullshitter Ted Diadun makes that abundantly clear with what is, if nothing else, probably the most honest comment in this editorial: “I’m not concerned with the population loss.” Basically, he points out, there are compensating conveniences in the near term… and at his age, why care about longer-term problems of supporting the legacy costs of a much larger city with a much smaller tax base? Fuck it!

Wonderful.

A couple of other comments at least approach more thoughtful review of local policies… yet in each case, their chief significance is how the consistent editorial position of this “media group” has run contrary. Elizabeth Sullivan opines that “more must be done to curtail the corrosive costs of exurban sprawl.” But the Cleveland Clinic’s plan to shutter the hospital in older, inner suburb Lakewood and pursue expansion in sprawly Avon still gets a thumbs-up from the board! More than one board member makes comments similar to Thomas Suddes’s focus on “the basics” of good streets, schools, public services, etc… But year in and year out the editorial board bangs its drum loudest for expensive wheezes like publicly subsidized sports arenas and new freeways.

I can’t claim to have a solution, myself. There are better-informed people out there; go visit CityLab e.g. and start reading, if you want specific alternatives. But I think I am at least well ahead of local leadership in recognizing that nearly everything that they have been emphasizing, and whatever sources have been informing those emphases, have proved a bust. They’ve failed; sadly, Ted Diadun and colleagues are unlikely ever to demonstrate the decency of admitting this and resigning. Thus, it’s going to be up to the community to recognize this and come up with some alternative machinery for determining and pursuing an agenda.

As recent experiences here in Lakewood have confirmed, that’s a tall order, unfortunately.

* Or cleveland.com, or Northeast Ohio Media Group, or whatever.

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