Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
JOHN CARNEY SHOULD RESIGN FROM PORT BOARD
Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 11/10/2009 - 18:36.
The reason we don’t know why the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority dumped its chief executive Adam Wasserman is because the real leader of the board – John Carney – believes it’s none of your business.
The Port Authority is one of those governmental bodies set up to avoid public input. It has an unelected board. The public, in fact, knows little if anything about its members. Probably cares less.
One aspect of the board has remained rather fixed over the years – the name Carney.
The political head of this powerful family, the late James M. Carney, twice unsuccessful candidate for mayor (once dropped out, once defeated), was chairman during the Port’s early years.
Presently, his nephew John Carney, son of the late judge John Carney, has been on the board for some years. He was chairman. To avoid the limelight or the spotlight, Carney resigned as board chairman. However, it seems he’s still in control. He is civically connected. Many boards. His wife, Tana, is a Cleveland Foundation board member. She was a judicial appointee, meaning political connections and power.
The Wasserman episode suggests that the Port Authority’s bosses don’t know where they are going. Unfortunately, Carney wants to open up land on Lake Erie for development. At great public cost. Development is his private business. He heads Landmark Management.
And, most unfortunately, he wants to open up a portion of the lakefront that requires costly movement of the Port elsewhere. A billion dollars or much more. And the move doesn’t seem to make sense. Certainly, it’s not been proven a good move.
It reminds me of the move back in the 1970s when another bigwig, James C. Davis, then head of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, the Growth Association and many other Cleveland institutions, wanted us to build a jetport in the lake. He had visions of another city being built in the lake. It, of course, would have been paid for by government bonds. Very costly. Squire-Sanders had a near monopoly on servicing government bonds. Yes, he finally admitted, his firm would profit. Would you doubt it?
The lakefront always attracts those with big development desires. Open land. Junk the old city.
I once wrote of the late Jim Carney, “Carney mixes business, politics and civic involvement for personal profit.” He was quite the powerful figure. He was a banker, lawyer, and real estate developer, owner of several downtown hotels. He had newspaper and television business connections in addition to being the Democratic Party boss. Carney was partners with Scripps-Howard interests. It got him favorable coverage from the Cleveland Press and Ch. 5, both Scripps holdings. Carney owned cable interests with the Scripps broadcast company.
It’s a bit ironic, given today’s Carney wishes, that back in 1972 a plan for development that included the lakefront was pushed by the Northern Ohio Community Development Corp. (NORCOM). It was a creature of Jim Carney and Bill Boyer, son of the head of Republic Steel at the time. Carney was vice-chairman of the Port Authority and head of the Growth Association (now Greater Cleveland Partnership) at the time. So he was well positioned.
These profit dreams die hard.
“We believe that the growth of this area will generate great economic benefits to Cleveland’s downtown and provide an exciting new focus on our lakefront,” a planning report said. The plan was written by Boyer, then a city planner. Never write plans you can’t use.
Always the promise of economic advantage. Never the assurance that those who pay for it might gain.
The 1970s push tells a sad story of Cleveland that its movers-and-shakers more than 35 years later are still trying to commercially develop the lakefront. Another generation. Another Carney.
It appears that the attempt once again fails.
We may never know why Wasserman got kicked out. Kicked by a $300,000 boot.
It’s somewhat encouraging that the Plain Dealer headlined this buyout on the front page today with a tinge of criticism. They didn’t like the move either.
The paper will have to go a lot farther. It should ask for Carney’s resignation. Best, he should resign. It should demand an answer to why the recently hired top candidate became useless so quickly. Two years on the job. Jeweled boot out.
The Port – once owned by the city – shouldn’t function under an unelected body anymore. It had significant powers when it was established as a regional entity with nine board members. Six are named by the city and three by the county. It has been made more powerful over the years. Exceptional amounts of money flow through to private and public interests.
Neither the city nor the county seems to have been careful in naming board members. Members seem to go through the motions without much or any real responsibility. (It is a warning that some regionalism could be negative rather than positive.)
If the lakefront is to be made significant it should remain a public place, not another spot for unneeded development in a shrinking, maybe disappearing city. Why can’t people enjoy the lakefront rather than have it be for commercial use?