Tag Archives: Cleveland

CLEcast, Sunday PD, busy busy

After a couple of actual radio interviews, last year, I recently gave my first podcast interview.

The excellent CLEcast listened to me talk about gerrymandering, and local efforts to put an end to it here in Ohio.

Episode 106 – Matt Kuhns – Fair Districts Ohio

I would really like to thank the hosts Dan and Brian, as well as Lakewood city council member Dan O’Malley, through whom I learned about CLEcast. I would also like to thank everyone involved in Fair Districts Ohio, and especially the incredible Westshore Fair Districts volunteers, whom it has been an honor to join in this important work.

In this same period, I also had a letter to the editor printed in the ; interestingly it has not been published online yet, so here’s a scan from the paper: Read More →

Rugged defeatism

Browsing through Andrei Codrescu’s wonderful New Orleans, Mon Amour last night, I was reminded of some comments about Crescent City politics. New Orleans, Codrescu observed, features a

…peculiar mix of backwardness and upside-down priorities… matched only by an even more peculiar mix of bravado and hype. The highly vocal locals imagine that they can weather anything if only nobody bothers them to take part in the political process. Years of corruption and neglect have made cynics of them all. And lord knows that voodoo isn’t going to save us.

Yet, what we might call “rugged defeatism” seems, appropriately for voodoo country, to have a zombie-like inertia. Minus the literal voodoo, meanwhile, the same attitude seems to run equally deep in northeast Ohio.

Hearing the negativity in Lakewood about prospects for thwarting liquidation of the city’s hospital, I’ve begun to recognize a new, darker side to the seemingly defiant point of view summed up in this minor local icon:

"CLEVELAND: You've Got to be Tough!!"

Seen on t-shirts, etc.

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Ten years in exile

The other day, I recalled that this spring I passed the one-decade mark since moving to Ohio, and have made no real comment. Honestly, I suppose that I really have little of great interest to say.

I have spent a large part of my life here, at this point. More than I spent in central Iowa, even if one rolls together the years in Des Moines and the schoolyear residencies in Ames that preceded them. More than half my adult life, even if one starts that clock at 18.

Yet my living here is really still the product of a random life accident. (So long as I remain, people are never going to stop asking “how ever did you end up here?”) I found myself here largely by chance, and have remained because… Let me put it this way:

Cleveland is okay, but it’s just a place. Lakewood is a comfortable corner, but it too is ultimately just a place. I recall the final issue of the 1990s Starman series, when Jack Knight is heartbroken about parting from his beloved Opal City; if any character’s Opal fetish surpassed Jack’s it was the Shade’s, and yet the Shade offers a reality check to Jack’s handwringing: “Opal is a city. Beautiful, but in the end just a city.” That’s about where I am, at this point in life, not just with Cleveland but anywhere else.

The starry-eyed dreams of my 20s are put away. I realize that some people’s lives really do change dramatically as the result of a change of address, whether because a community offers these or those particular advantages, or because they simply fall in love with it. I’m happy for those people. But I’m not one of them and don’t expect to become one. Falling in love is not my strong suit; buy-in is not my strong suit. I always see the flaws. This goes for Cleveland—the decay, the corruption, the incompetence, the hang-ups, the disgraceful senescence of the local media—but it goes for the alternatives as well.

I know that utopia means “no place,” now. I know that incompetence and corruption flourish in most communities. Meanwhile, potentially offsetting advantages are usually offset, themselves, by other drawbacks. Appalling climate. Too far from my family, commercial and social ties. Expense; most cities are too expensive compared with Cleveland, and local wages are unlikely to affect my remote-working freelance income. I keep an eye on things, and some day circumstances may change. I have lots of boxes ready to go should that happen.

Meanwhile, here I am, and I really have no deep observations about Cleveland or Ohio. The closest I can come is to explain that in a lot of ways I have never really left the place I grew up in; a lot of America and indeed the modern world is increasingly generic, these days, but within the prairie core of the Midwest the differences are vanishingly small from one end to the other. There is variation, I’m sure, but I don’t think it has much to do with which region you’re in, within the Midwest. Having lived in all three, I can say with some confidence that the difference between life in a small Iowa city and a large Iowa city is much greater than the difference between a large Iowa city and a large Ohio city.

I do prefer the city, and I think I prefer a city on the scale of Cleveland a bit over the scale of Des Moines (though the difference is shrinking year by year). Otherwise, one Midwestern city (or inner suburb thereof, for the pedantic) is much like another for my purposes, just now. I live in one, it’s okay, and such things as I want to change about my life seem unlikely to be furthered much by exchanging this city for any other within reach.

Unless anyone has an artist-in-residency program, or some other grant incentive they want to talk about. No? Right-o, then.

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.

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The Cleveland Plain Dealer Fails, Fibs

One week ago, the Plain Dealer published an item by Mr. Ted Diadun about “The challenge of covering a race when there is no race.” Like a lot of things involving the Plain Dealer in the 21st century, it’s basically just a lot of sad piled on top of more sad. Essentially, Diadun indulges in some whining about what an unreasonable hardship it is for his colleagues that the Democratic candidate for governor has sunk low in the polls and looks unlikely to revive. Even we can’t fake a competitive horse-race narrative from this, it’s just unfair!, etc. Then, Diadun goes on to announce that, events having simply forced abandonment of standard practices, the Plain Dealer will actually publish some information about other state races (but only the big two party nominees, of course)! 

You could just picture Diadun with his chest puffed out, simply beaming with pride about what good sports he and his pals are, and how generous it is of them to make such an effort for the community in this way. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to summon up the adulation he seemed to be anticipating. I just couldn’t work out a coherent concept of what he believes political journalism is for, making it difficult to evaluate the Plain Dealer‘s predicament and response on its own terms.

I wrote an e-mail to Mr. Diadun outlining my questions. His official profile declares: “As the reader representative, I encourage comments, complaints, suggestions, compliments, debates, questions about fairness or anything else dealing with The Plain Dealer that a reader might want to talk about. I respond to calls and e-mails…” Sadly, a week has gone by and I still have received no response from “the reader representative.” More sadly, I have never received any response to any missives directed to tdiadiun@plaind.com and must conclude that “I respond to calls and e-mails” is basically just empty BS. Saddest of all, possibly, this may have something to do with the fact that Mr. Diadun has no good answers to the following questions. You be the judge:

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