Tag Archives: Lakewood Hospital

An Open Letter to LEAF: please help defeat Issue 64

The following is a letter which I recently addressed to the Lakewood Earth and Food Community (LEAF)

There is no more respected voice in Lakewood on issues of sustainability, health and local resilience than LEAF. The deal that closed Lakewood Hospital impacts all of these issues, in predominantly negative ways. I would like to ask LEAF’s members to consider joining opponents of this deal, which voters will confront in November as Issue 64.

Closing our hospital leaves Lakewood without many important health services. Worse, it leaves Lakewood without the control over local interests that our publicly owned hospital protected. As experience has demonstrated—in East Cleveland, in Sagamore Hills, and in Lakewood—a private multinational will pay lip-service to what’s best for communities even while transferring away resources that people depend on.

In Lakewood, this means not only lifesaving medical services, but a resource equally important to most people’s wellbeing: nearly 1,000 jobs. The reintroduction of those jobs at sites outside of Lakewood, meanwhile, only underscores this plan’s most serious harm to LEAF’s mission. As environmental sustainability inherently requires both local action and a holistic outlook, the deal that closed Lakewood Hospital must be considered within a regional context.

In this context, the deal has nothing to do with a changing need for hospital services, and everything to do with sequestering those services in the most affluent zip codes. Shutting down Lakewood’s publicly owned hospital and opening a private hospital in Avon cannot be judged separately in matters of sustainability. If we are to steer ourselves away from unhealthy and environmentally costly development and lifestyles, we need to promote compact, walkable cities like Lakewood. The efforts of LEAF exemplify this planning for tomorrow. In contrast, transferring hospital services to a car-dependent exurb exemplifies the worst features of failed models.

Even if part of this plan is outside the direct control of Lakewood, we can still pursue better options than simply conforming to a harmful trend. Our city and region need community leaders to step forward, today, and help make that choice clear. I hope the members of LEAF will respond to this need, and oppose the choice of sprawl and outsourcing by voting against Issue 64. Our committee will be pleased to answer questions at any time, and we thank you for your ongoing good work.

Sincerely,

Matt Kuhns
Sr. Editor, Save Lakewood Hospital Committee

The blur months

Perhaps, in some limited ways, a blog can say as much through the absence of posting as it can through actual posts.

It does seem fair to say that the absence of activity around here is in some sense a record of my life, lately, or at least of the disruption of my life’s former routine.

Seven months ago, I wrote

After weeks of dithering, our city council has confirmed the November general election as the date for our referendum on their vote to close our community hospital. So, just under 35 weeks to go. 😐 Then I can (maybe) have my life back!

We’re now down to just more than four weeks. And whatever I imagined was the case in March, in the past five or six weeks this campaign has really “just about maxed-out my personal energies,” in ways which challenge me to find a personal precedent.

I hardly know where to begin.

On a personal level, life has become so different. It has now been a bit more than a year since the last period of real, extended quiet like those which I experienced with some regularity during the past decade. Last September, e.g., with a seasonal slowdown in freelancing work, I had peace, quiet and even boredom.

Since then, no. Even when work has slowed down, this year, tranquility has remained a memory only. Always some new thing going on. Meetings… meetings… documents to write, documents to design… strategy to consider… e-mails… phone calls… reading, analysis and posting.

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Small potatoes travel, advocacy, etc.

As the French say, “it goes.” (Ça va.)

I made an extended weekend visit to Hamilton, Ontario recently. It was just about worth going, which is to say that it was nice, but it felt like I hardly left. Oh well. It was strange to realize that it had been more than 10 years since I was last in Canada… I suppose I had seen the obvious major cities, the exchange rate was unfavorable for a long time, and I’ve been spending my travel dollar on other destinations. Still, there is a whole other country right there, and there are things to see outside of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.

Original Tim Horton's

Store number one.

Hamilton is nice enough to visit. It’s cute, really; I kept thinking “that’s cute,” “huh, that’s cute,” “this is cute.” So many cute, little houses. Cute Hess Village. The Tim Hortons museum is incredibly cute. (If by some chance you plan to visit, Timmies store number 1 is at 65 Ottawa Street, at the corner of Dunsmere, and I presume that the mini museum on the second floor is open 24/7 like the eatery downstairs.) The Art Gallery of Hamilton is cute, though n.b. their web site and banners may give the impression of a rather larger collection than they actually have.

Probably the best reason to go is to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is actually in close-by Burlington; just the glasshouse areas alone are worth the admission and in season I’m sure the full grounds are spectacular. If you happen to visit the cute town of Dundas (where I stayed), their local museum is well worth a visit. The Canadian Warplane Museum is also popular; I was satisfied though not enthralled, but it did provide what’s probably my most popular Twitter post ever:

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Hancher vs Hilton & life beyond politics?

Lately it feels like my life has been subsumed by overtly political concerns and activity. I look down the front page of this blog, and posting has been a bit more sparse than usual, but more significantly almost everything in recent weeks has been tagged “politics.”

It’s a presidential election year, and I’m reading too much about that. I don’t know if things were different decades ago, or if it’s more my personal feelings changing, but US presidential contests seem like they have become not only all-consuming but invariably near-apocalyptic. Good news, we seem more and more to have real choices; bad news, the nature of those choices combined with the growing power of the office make it difficult for me to say “oh it’s just politics” and turn back to “real life.”

I would probably be getting more actively involved already, if not for having already just about maxed-out my personal energies for Lakewood Hospital. After weeks of dithering, our city council has confirmed the November general election as the date for our referendum on their vote to close our community hospital. So, just under 35 weeks to go. 😐 Then I can (maybe) have my life back! Certainly I could use more in my life than slow, tiring and usually dispiriting campaign hack work. As I’m not sure what else that is at this point, though, I’m doing a little stock-taking.

First, I have completed the manuscript for a third book, and at some point in the next year will present to the reading public Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

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Calling for integrity from Lakewood city council

On December 7, I joined around a dozen other people speaking against what is a frankly laughable rush by Lakewood City Council to turn over Lakewood Hospital and all its assets to Cleveland Clinic for dismantling and recycling. This was a first for me. Apparently I nonetheless did reasonably well—aside from achieving any interest from the addressees of my comments. I see this morning that Scene‘s Eric Sandy even quoted from me, though his suspicion about council’s reaction is the same as my own: “No dice, it would seem.”

Ah well. Some times, you have to stand up and speak for the record even if the people who most need to listen have blocked their ears. A time may come when statements I have made on this issue will, like those of many others, be remembered and thereby yet lead toward wisdom.

For now, for that record, my remarks to city council:

Prior to this year, 1996 was probably the last time that Lakewood performed a commensurate evaluation of health care. Although I am guessing, it may be that at least one member of council had yet to begin high school in that year, and at all events few of our public servants occupied their current roles.

For this reason I would like to regard some of the instances when opportunities may have been missed, as well as the drawn-out pace of affairs overall, as indicating something of a learning process rather than any intentional oversight. I would like further to note that on more than one occasion, city officials have demonstrated patience and understanding that seems highly appropriate given the uncertainties faced by all parties in this process, rather than fixating on whether or not every “i” is dotted in the first draft or on whose responsibility it is to reach out at a given moment.

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The Rust in Rust-Belt Politics

I have spent months, at this point, mentally drafting various summaries of my year in local politics. While I have believed for quite some time that the saga of Lakewood Hospital would not genuinely end with this fall’s election, regardless of its results, now is probably nonetheless as good a time as any to make some conclusions about what I’ve learned.

I must confess that, while I did not take victory for granted, none of my draft versions were really about specific results one way or another… but faced with multiple bitter losses, that suddenly pushed aside most other musings. During many restless hours last night, I basically threw everything out and started my analysis over from scratch.

One of the blessings of age, I suppose, is that at this point I have seen electoral fortunes violently reversed more than once, and some kind of life goes on. Discouraging as this may be in general, it’s now more difficult to react to any specific reverse like it’s the end of the world than it was, say, 11 years ago. It’s even more difficult since I always recall the column turned in by the local media’s token conservative* after Barack Obama’s re-election; even accepting just for argument’s sake his very different perceptions of the outcome, coming from a middle-aged adult it was just so absurdly fucking over-the-top that the memory acts as a check any time I get close to a similar reaction. Even I can’t take one election result that seriously any more.

As useful as this probably is, however, it also leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. I feel silly going to that extreme. But I find the opposite extreme equally silly. One Lakewood personality** seems to demonstrate this regularly, including this morning, i.e. “hey, we’re all neighbors; so many people on both sides tried very hard to do what’s best for the community, that’s something great.” Yeah no. I don’t believe anything of the sort. But what do I say instead that doesn’t shade into childish pronouncements of doom?

I believe I’ve figured it out. What’s more, a lot of it has already appeared here on this blog, and much of it wasn’t even my own opinion. In one of the many ironies of this whole shambles, I can base most of my complaints about what yesterday’s defeat represents on statements by the very same editorial board that has lobbied consistently for said defeat.

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The Street Fight for Lakewood Hospital

It has been quite a year in the campaign to defend Lakewood’s community hospital. Since exploring my reasoning, back in March, I don’t think I’ve had anything further to say here aside from a small jab at Northeast Ohio Media Group. As I have been co-manager of the Save Lakewood Hospital web site, it has generally made sense to present my observations and experiences there.

Events yesterday have motivated some more casual and personal comments, that can’t really be formatted into detached editorial voice. So, a few updates on what feels like a turning point in the long war…

First, my thanks to former congressman Dennis Kucinich. When I heard that he planned a press conference and community forum to discuss Lakewood Hospital, I was frankly very skeptical, of the timing if nothing else. Nine months into our campaign, I did wonder whether Save Lakewood Hospital would be boosting Kucinich’s profile rather than vice versa. I was very happy to conclude that my suspicions were groundless; I don’t think there is any way that Mr. Kucinich could have made yesterday’s press conference less about himself. The planned program was nothing fancy at all, in fact; he collected documentation of Cleveland Clinic’s fraud and maladministration, spoke in extremely measured fashion about its significance, then presented copies to the several media representatives who dutifully turned up when summoned. Thoughtful, mature, good civic participation.

That, at least, was the formal program. The informal program of certain attendees was rather different…

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Save Lakewood Hospital

I feel like I ought to make a few notes here about Lakewood Hospital, and the grassroot campaign to save it, since I have been assisting said campaign for several weeks now.

Logo for Save Lakewood Hospital; links to campaign site

My work. Probably not destined for any design annuals, but my clients are pleased and I can argue for everything going on here.

At the risk of me-centrism, I think there are some notable aspects to the fact that I am interested in and supporting this effort.

I certainly do not seem to be from central casting, based on the other people I have met. Most of the people exercised about keeping Lakewood Hospital in business are middle-aged or older, and long-term residents. Many were born in the hospital, most have at least some personal interest in it. More than a few have longstanding axes to grind with city hall, as well.

This is not me. While it feels like I have been in Lakewood for a remarkably long time, at this point, my seven years still make me new guy compared with residents of 40, 50 or more years. Despite the fact that I have had more than enough run-ins with local healthcare, I have never been inside Lakewood Hospital for any reason; others’ fretting about having to travel a few extra miles for non-emergency care seems rather abstract to me, at best.

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