Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Claude Cornett's Presentation at the 8/17/09 Old South Side Community Coalition Meeting
Submitted by Claude Cornett on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 09:48.
Sorry I didn’t make it to the July meeting. I was camping at the time. However, I was pleased to hear that the issue of the need for a pocket park near Tremont Pointe was discussed. Other Tremont neighborhoods may have even worse problems, so I will try to be brief. Here are some of my experiences since June and some things we can do to address the many issues that concern us.
At the July <7/14/09>) South of Jefferson Block club meeting, I circulated a petition and introduced it as a resolution for voting; and it was seconded. The petition and proposed resolution read:
"We residents of the South of Jefferson neighborhood strongly urge the Tremont West Development Corporation, CHMA, the City of Cleveland, the developers of the Towpath Trail project, residents, and other stakeholders to cooperate and arrange for adequate, permanent recreational facilities and services in our immediate neighborhood to help serve the needs of our expanding population."
It also asked for monthly progress reports in Inside Tremont.
It was supposed be on the agenda and to be voted upon at the August <8/11/09> Meeting, but despite repeated efforts, it was not.
When I made this milquetoast proposal in July, Sammy Catania, the TWDC Development Director, immediately went ballistic. He strongly said that:
* My proposal bordered on racism and fascism (Making a real ass of himself )
* The Tremont Pointe Residents’ Association opposed any new recreational facilities on or near Tremont Pointe, and
* I need to be engaged with the residents of the area to have a better idea as to how to offer assistance.
As a result, I decided to perform a survey to document how residents of Tremont Pointe and throughout the nearby area actually feel about this.
Two days after returning from camping, I spent an hour and a half doing a door-to-door survey in Tremont Pointe.
* The results were:
--12 Tremont Pointe residents wanted new recreational facilities in their immediate neighborhood
-- 3 were against new recreational facilities
--2 declined to answer
One of whom said that she was on the Tremont Pointe Board, and, among other hostile things, ordered me to leave Tremont Pointe immediately or she would call security
Despite her intimidation, I continued the survey
Many signed the petition
* Immediately after I completed my survey, the police stopped and questioned me. When I showed them what I was doing, they went away.
As of Today (8/17/09), almost everyone < with only one exception (Michael DeNicola, who chairs South of Jefferson Block Club meetings) and another who had no opinion,> that I surveyed who lives outside of Tremont Pointe, along the vast majority of those surveyed within Tremont Pointe, have responded in favor of adequate, permanent, new recreational facilities and services in their immediate neighborhood. Furthermore, 67 people, mostly in this immediate area, signed the petition.
The Board Member’s attempt to intimidate me and calling the police, along with the results of the survey, clearly demonstrate that :
* The Tremont Pointe Resident’s Association does not represent the opinions of most of the residents
* At least one Tremont Pointe Board member is willing, able, and skilled at using intimidation against people in Tremont Pointe
Tremont Pointe residents are more vulnerable to such intimidation than most of us due, to a higher risk of it leading to eviction.
Many people that I have spoken with have expressed concerns about attending and voicing their opinions at block club and other public meetings due to their experience and/or fear of harassment, as well as having their efforts come to nothing.
At the risk of repeating what I said at the June Meeting, My own experience is that when I tried raised the issue of the need for more recreational facilities in the neighborhood at a South of Jefferson Block Club meeting about three years ago, my landlord was contacted by a building inspector that told him that his tenants at my address were raising questions that make the powers that be uncomfortable. This implied that (as had been done in the past when a real-estate company had an interest in some of his property) his property would be subjected to increased inspections and code enforcement if he did not shut us up.
I do not intimidate easily and, fortunately, neither does my landlord. I raised the issue of attempted intimidation at the next block club meeting, naming the inspector, and complained about it to various authorities. That put a stop to it. If it happens again, I will contact and provide the details to, among others, the FBI. The FBI is actively involved in an investigation of corruption in Cuyahoga County that has resulted in the indictment of housing inspectors and other government officials.
So called democratic institutions can be about as democratic and representative of their people as the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) if we don’t stand up for our rights, expose those who try to intimidate us, and change those institutions or create new ones that are free of such coercion and that genuinely represent the people.
Given the history and widespread perception of
* Harassment when people raise issues at block club meetings that are uncomfortable to the powers that be,
* Not having their issues seriously dealt with, or even put on the agenda, when they raise them
What can we do to overcome these problems and increase participation?
I have some ideas on this:
The value of a survey and petitioning process was demonstrated by how the results of this effort
* Successfully shot down Sammy Catania and discredited the Tremont Pointe Residents Association when Sammy presented their letter opposing new recreational faculties to the TWDC long range planning committee a couple of weeks ago (8/6/09)
* Helped to get Councilman Cimperman’s attention and support
To continue my summary of what has been happening, at the July 7/14/09 South of Jefferson Block Club Meeting, previously proposed South of Jefferson Block Club Bylaws were:
* Updated in general accordance with concerns stated at the previous meeting and presented in writing
* I proposed one amendment to the proposed revised bylaws, reading:
Roberts Rules of Order will be used to resolve procedural issues, unless specific alternative procedures are approved as part of the bylaws.
* This amendment was approved, and the amended block club bylaws were then approved
What happened at the August meeting is an example of how the democratic process is ignored.
The bylaws that were distributed at that meeting as final read:
Any organizational procedure disputes will be decided upon according to Robert’s Rules of orders. In the event that Robert’s Rules contradict these by-laws, Roberts Rules will take precedent unless otherwise decided upon by the block club.
This is very different from the bylaws that were passed at the previous block club meeting
Furthermore, my proposal concerning recreational facilities was not on the agenda, and I was unable to put it on the agenda.
Apparently, Mr. DeNicola’s change in the bylaws from the version approved at the July meeting enables him to break anything in Roberts Rules of Order at will (or so he thinks) and to continue to prevent items from being put on the agenda and block any vote on matters that he does not approve of.
I am, by far, not the first person who has been harassed and not had their issues and proposals considered at block club meetings. It is a common practice.
We can do something about it, by reaching out to our neighbors with surveys, petitions and information that can help mobilize them to stand up for their rights.
Politicians with the power to legislate, budget and make changes in our community have to take us seriously when we do this.
Jarlene and I had a very productive meeting with Councilman Cimperman concerning this and other matters last week. Among other things, he said that he will be exploring creating a pocket park in the South of Jefferson neighborhood and will oppose zoning change to accommodate a restaurant between Starkweather and Jefferson, off Professor and Thurman. I look forward to hearing progress reports from him concerning these efforts. (and we discussed parking issues and how to fight harassment, etc.)
We can go to the press, create our own media, and build genuinely democratic organizations that can take the grants away from TWDC and associated block clubs and apply them properly if TWDC and its block clubs continue to refuse to hear and represent the residents of Tremont. We can investigate and report harassment and how money is spent, and report any associated corruption to the mass media and to law enforcement agencies. We can go door-to -door with surveys and petitions, exchange information, and mobilize neighbors to help.
Among other tactics, we can hold rallies that quickly transition into door-to-door surveying, petitioning, etc. in specific neighborhoods. These can be followed by cultural events with music, poetry, dancing, etc. in the neighborhood that same evening, to which we invite people that we surveyed. We can recruit more active members in the process. This tactic has proven to be very effective in anti-war and other campaigns, and it can work here.
Who is with me on this?
A sign up sheet is circulating for those of us who are willing to take the time to work out the gory details. For those willing to put in the effort, let’s meet outside at the end of this meeting, and decide when and where we will meet next so that we can make and report progress by the next meeting of the coalition as a whole. <six people subsequently joined the action planning group>
I am also distributing a handout with information on how we can respond effectively to harassment, along with some information on how to assure that people’s concerns are heard and acted upon by organizations. Please read this information, especially the guidance on how to deal with harassment. We need to get this type of information out to our neighbors, and to create an effective organization that will discourage and stomp out harassment and help empower the people to actually control the organizations that supposedly represent them.
On the other side is information about a proposed new publication called Tremonsters, focusing on the issues and actions that concern us. I am also distributing a description of a new e-mail list, called Tremonsters [at] yahoogroups [dot] com, with information on its purposes, rules and how to subscribe. One of its key purposes is to have its communications break out of cyberspace and reach our neighbors that are not on-line. The proposed Tremonsters publication is one of the many ways that it can do so.
It also includes a link to Tremont Truths, the e-mail list that Jarlene moderates.
Now, let’s hear from some other folks here who have issues and ideas to share.