JAIL OR GYM – LOCATION PRIORITY

Submitted by Martha Eakin on Sun, 02/12/2006 - 22:22.

I  will confess up front - I don’t know the deep background. Nevertheless, I was struck by a comment attributed to Fanny Lewis, Cleveland City Councilwoman, in today’s CPD article on locating the Myers U. fieldhouse.  It seems that Myers U wants to locate its fieldhouse on the same piece of land that Lewis has been promoting for  a jail to house nonviolent criminals.  Ms. Lewis is quoted as saying, “We have more men in prison than we have in college so there’s a need.”  This may, very unfortunately, be true; but aren’t we hearing from all sides that education, from pre-school on is a huge problem in Cleveland; that to compete locally, nationally and globally, we have to provide better education to everyone. If we want to reverse this proportion, shouldn’t we be favoring the school’s needs?   The fieldhouse for a school should be as close as possible to the main campus. Cleveland does not lack for empty space.  In seven years of searching for a place to build this type of jail in Cuyahoga County, is the location on Chester at 49th the only viable alternative?

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re: Myers fieldhouse

 Even though Councilperson Lewis's reasoning isn't the greatest, there is a need for more jail space, sadly enough.  Now, if they were building a new public school building there, I would agree that the school would probably have priority. 

 Since Myers is private, I can't agree with this.  Also, the fact that Myers is primarily, if not exclusively, commuter, what do they need a fieldhouse for and how can they say that it's more important than a tangible civic need?

Derek Arnold

Interesting action in the PD on this

The PD has put interesting spins on this issue. Clearly the midtown and regional development folks aren't going to want a prison on Euclid Avenue. In what seemed an attempt at balanced coverage, the PD printed a letter from Lewis on the prison, but then the following day printed an editorial trashing Lewis for pushing the project. Cold blooded... guess that tells us where the PD stands on the matter. See coverage linked below.

Fannie's flight of fancy

There are better places than Midtown to lock up felons, no matter how rosy a picture the councilwoman paints
Thursday, February 16, 2006

In the battle over the old Ward Bakery site on Chester Avenue, Cleveland Council woman Fannie Lewis is right about one thing: Cuyahoga County desperately needs what's known as a "community-based corrections facility."

But the war horse from Hough is trying to force the issue with misinformation and with little apparent concern for potential damage to Myers University, Dealer Tire Corp. and the entire Midtown area.

Instead of kowtowing to the indomitable Lewis, it is time for other elected officials - most notably Mayor Frank Jackson and Lewis' City Council colleagues - to pull her into a more constructive discussion. It's also time for Lewis and her colleagues to realize that their wards are not baronies and that the personal preference of an elected representative cannot trump broader public interests.

At stake are about four acres east of East 40th Street where, in 2000, the city demolished the abandoned bakery. Lewis subsequently suggested the site to Cuyahoga County officials for a minimum-security prison, but neither the commissioners nor the Common Pleas judges, who must petition the state to erect such a facility, have moved on the idea.

Lewis keeps saying that this would be a facility for those getting out of prison and returning to the community - a major concern for the city. One problem: It's not.

It is a jail - one that would be built and operated with state money - for low-level felons. They would get education and help with drug and alcohol problems while held there; some might get into work-release. Every other urban county in Ohio has such a place; studies show they reduce recidivism. They're a very good idea, but they're not what Lewis purports - or what a distressing number of other public officials parrot.

Nice as it would be for Cleveland to have the prison - and rare is the politician willing to have one in her back yard - this is simply not a good use of land in a commercial district on the uptick. Myers, which moved into the neighborhood a few years ago, wants to build a fieldhouse and sports complex on the bakery land. It has promised public access to those facilities. It says they will increase its ability to help Clevelanders access higher education. That's a vital mission, too, and a much better fit.

Assuming it would get the Ward site, Myers sold land elsewhere on Chester to Dealer Tire for a headquarters expansion. Now, the college may be out in the cold. And Dealer Tire is reconsidering its plans, fearing how a prison might affect the area.

With Cleveland's abundant vacant land, there must be a win-win solution here. But it can't be dictated by one person's tunnel vision.

Lewis stands by controversial use of bakery site

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Feb. 11 article regard ing the use of the old Ward Bakery site on Chester Avenue at East 53rd Street failed to mention that ever since the site has been in Ward 7, I have been seeking to identify a project for that land that would aid people coming back to Cleveland from a period of incarceration. While everyone loudly proclaims that we have a crisis brewing because of the 5,000 individuals who return to Cleveland each year, no one wants to do anything about it. When it comes to building facilities, everyone loudly shouts, "Not in my back yard!"

Well, these facilities have to be placed somewhere within Cleveland, and I'm proud to say that the residents of Ward 7 do not turn their backs on their brothers and sisters who happen to be in need. I allowed the two most recently built halfway houses to be opened to locate in my ward and, God willing, will allow this additional facility. The article failed to point out that I offered Myers University a different location for its fieldhouse.

To Ken Lurie, of Rysar Properties, who was quoted as saying, "She has to be stopped," I say, that is what the ballot box is for. If the people who elected me were not satisfied with the direction I'm taking in the ward, they would have "stopped" me long ago.

Anyone who states that I promised this land to Myers University is either confused or flat-out lying.

Fannie M. Lewis Cleveland Lewis represents Ward 7 on Cleveland City Council.

 

Myers U. fieldhouse becomes political football

Wanted Midtown site now slated for jail
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Joan Mazzolini and Susan Vinella

Plain Dealer Reporters

Cleveland officials have abruptly derailed Myers University's long-held expectation to build a fieldhouse on the former Ward Bakery site, next to railroad tracks on Chester Avenue.

University officials say they built their expectations on a promise by City Council members to provide the bakery site in exchange for a Chester Avenue parking lot, where the fieldhouse was originally planned.

City Councilman Joe Cimperman asked the school to sell the parking lot so that Dealer Tire, the former Mueller Tire & Brake, could expand its headquarters and preserve 130 jobs.

But last month, as the college continued to design the fieldhouse and a parking garage for the bakery site, Councilwoman Fannie Lewis wrote to Midtown Cleveland Inc. to announce that a work release jail would go there. Midtown Cleveland helps redevelop the neighborhoods immediately east of downtown.

Cuyahoga County commissioners, judges and jail officials have searched for a site for the jail - to house nonviolent criminals - for at least seven years and the state has set aside about $9.3 million to build it. Cuyahoga is the only county in Ohio that doesn't have such a jail.

Lewis pushed the bakery site for the jail as long as two years ago. The five-story bakery, which closed in 1979, was torn down in 2000 after it had become a haven for the homeless.

Myers University did not include the bakery site in its plans as it spent more than $15 million developing a Midtown campus over the past few years. The school has opened a conference and event center, classrooms, offices and a library along Chester and Euclid avenues.

The school also planned a $4 million fieldhouse - with an indoor track, basketball and volleyball courts - on its parking lot at East 37th Street and Chester Avenue. But last year, Midtown and Cimperman asked for the parking lot.

"We did make a very sincere, honest, open deal to give Mueller Tire the property we had so they would be able to stay here in town," said university Vice President Elving Otero. But the college expected the bakery site in exchange.

Cimperman said he never promised a land swap. Dealer Tire is in Cimperman's ward and the bakery site is in Lewis' ward.

But last month, as the college continued to design the fieldhouse and a parking garage for the bakery site, Councilwoman Fannie Lewis wrote to Midtown Cleveland Inc. to announce that a work release jail would go there. Midtown Cleveland helps redevelop the neighborhoods immediately east of downtown.

Cuyahoga County commissioners, judges and jail officials have searched for a site for the jail - to house nonviolent criminals - for at least seven years and the state has set aside about $9.3 million to build it. Cuyahoga is the only county in Ohio that doesn't have such a jail.

Lewis pushed the bakery site for the jail as long as two years ago. The five-story bakery, which closed in 1979, was torn down in 2000 after it had become a haven for the homeless.

Myers University did not include the bakery site in its plans as it spent more than $15 million developing a Midtown campus over the past few years. The school has opened a conference and event center, classrooms, offices and a library along Chester and Euclid avenues.

The school also planned a $4 million fieldhouse - with an indoor track, basketball and volleyball courts - on its parking lot at East 37th Street and Chester Avenue. But last year, Midtown and Cimperman asked for the parking lot.

"We did make a very sincere, honest, open deal to give Mueller Tire the property we had so they would be able to stay here in town," said university Vice President Elving Otero. But the college expected the bakery site in exchange.

Cimperman said he never promised a land swap. Dealer Tire is in Cimperman's ward and the bakery site is in Lewis' ward.

Haviland said Lewis attended an April meeting with the president of Myers and others and gave the OK for the fieldhouse at the bakery site.

"There was no verbal agreement," Lewis said. "What they wanted me to do was change" my decision.

She said the jail is a better fit.

"We have more men in prison than we have in college so there's a need."

Rysar Property President Ken Lurie, whose office is next to the site and up for sale, said the bakery site is a "ridiculous" place for a jail.

"It's the gateway to downtown," Lurie said. "Fannie Lewis should be stopped."

To reach these Plain Dealer reporters:

jmazzolini [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4563

svinella [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-5010