Neo-Liberal Cleveland: the Silence Ends

Submitted by Randino on Mon, 03/20/2017 - 09:45.

 Neo-Liberal Cleveland: The Silence Ends

By Randy Cunningham

            I recently attended a Cuyahoga County Council meeting on the proposed renovation of the Q.  All the usual suspects were there – a bunch of suits salivating for profits, and the building trades, salivating for jobs.  What was unusual was the meeting drew a standing room only crowd, that included activists from the Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) who voiced their opposition to the proposal.  The suits talked numbers. The GCC talked about the lives of people in the neighborhoods. 

            The life of an opponent of schemes such as the Q is a lonely one. I have lived in Cleveland since 1980 and have watched as one convention center, stadium and hotel proposal after another have rolled on through the rubber stamp process to approval.  They are all deemed essential to the future of civilized life in Cleveland. They are all accompanied with an implicit threat made by the extortionists of the economic development profession.  If this convention, or that hotel is not approved and subsidized by the city, county or both, Cleveland will become a Walking Dead like dystopian wasteland. The residents of the area, mindful of the threat and not willing to risk that the warnings may be true, dutifully trudge to the polls and approve another raid on the public treasury. Either that or they just keep their mouths shut and let their elected representatives tend to the needs of their real constituents – the ever-avaricious downtown developers.

            What has changed is that the opponents of this development scheme are not as lonely as usual. The standing room only crowd at the county building, was only surpassed by a town hall the GCC held at one of its member churches earlier in the month to voice its opposition to the Q renovation as proposed.  This meeting was reminiscent of the old community organizing groups of the 1970s and 80s. Again, there was the full church, with signs marking where various delegations were to be seated. They had the chairs reserved for the County Council members – most of whom did not attend, and they had the list of demands.  The only change was that GCC people – being good church people – were more polite to those council members who did attend than the groups were in the past. The demands were soft ball, and the responses of the officials in attendance were non-committal.  In the old days, these responses would have gotten you thrown out of the meeting, but the kinder and gentler approach of GCC enabled the officials to leave unmolested.   

            The smart money is still that the Q renovation will go forward through the next step of the process to Cleveland City Hall. The downtown coalition that backs this proposal still has mojo to spare and almost always gets its way.  This is how it has been since the overthrow of the Kucinich administration in 1979 and the suppression of the community organizations in the 1980s.  A new regime was founded based on downtown development and the pacification of the neighborhoods.  Seldom is heard a discouraging word ever since then.

            That is until recently.  The natives have been getting restless of late.  A movement to raise the minimum wage was threatening enough to Cleveland City Hall, to compel Mayor Frank Jackson and Council President Kevin Kelly to kowtow to city hating Republicans in the state house to pass a law that derailed the ballot initiative for the wage increase.  In the process, they screwed other municipalities out of their rights to set labor standards in another bad day for home rule in a state where it is practically dead.  Then there was the End Poverty Now march during the RNC convention. City Hall tried all manner of obfuscation to prevent the march. They made scary predictions of rampaging Anarchist zombies feasting on Republican convention goers. They predicted ruin and riot and turned the city into a police state. Nothing as lurid as their predictions came true. They even sent detectives out to visit desperados like me to let us know we were being watched. And now the dust up over the Q. 

            What has gone wrong for the winners in Cleveland is that the fate of the losers has just gotten worse. The economic development hustlers have promised the residents of Cleveland heaven on earth and life everlasting with each new downtown development. The development is approved and built, but for some mysterious reason heaven remains far off and out of sight for the neighborhoods.  The successes of downtown have made even more glaring the squalor in Cleveland’s neighborhoods, where lead poisoning is pervasive, housing abandonment is rampant, and if the gangsters don’t get you, the police will.  The ruling neo-liberal regime is ignorant of the old English saying “The castle is not safe, if there is trouble in the cottages.” The current regime has been able to maintain a rough silence for over thirty years with the skilled application of the carrot and the stick, but a situation where there is so much success existing right next to so much failure is inherently unstable.  Something has got to give.

            The pop-corn rebellions that have occurred recently are dress rehearsals for future insurgencies.  Our Zen Mayor, Frank Jackson will run and probably win. The past 30 years of pacification has culled the ranks of potential rivals.  He will wax eloquent about how concerned he is about the least of us, even though he will conveniently forget those words once he is re-elected.  His deep pocket backers, who have made out like bandits under his tenure, will spend as much money as they need to keep a friend in City Hall.  After all, there are many more grandiose projects on their wish list waiting for the rubber stamp. And the parts of Cleveland outside downtown and a handful of hip ghettos, will continue to rot and the pacified poor will be left to their fatalism.  But, the combustibles will continue to accumulate as well.  The dynamite is there. It is only lacking a blasting cap.

            Hopefully the blasting cap will not be a police incident that will result in a riot. The best blasting cap would be a well-articulated alternative to the old neo-liberal regime. You fight ideas with ideas. Protest is great. I have been doing it all my life and will continue until I go into the ground. It keeps you young and keeps your opponents on the defensive.  But it is not enough for the cottage to take the castle. You need alternative ideas, strategies and visions to do that.

            GCC made a baby step in the right direction with their proposal for a neighborhood development fund to match the amount being shoveled down Dan Gilbert’s gullet. Now such proposals need to be developed and magnified to the power of ten. You need activists who can move from protest to politics without losing the energy of protest, while keeping mindful of the seductive perils of politics.  The goal must be power for a new progressive regime that will take Jackson’s rhetoric about the least of us and turn it from an insult into an operating principle for how Cleveland is governed.  When those conditions are met, then we may see a new day in a city that I call the home town of the humble.  

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Q Politics - Cleveland Cabal - Dire predictions

Randy - not sure you follow Eric J Brewer, but he is running for mayor- please see his comments:

Money talks. Civil rights walks.

The Cleveland NAACP chapter board led by attorney Michael L Nelson Sr voted last week to endorse a pending decision by Mayor Frank Jackson and County Executive Armond Budish to invest $70 million in public funds to renovate The Q for Dan Gilbert. Gilbert agreed to invest $25,000 to sponsor the NAACP's Freedom Fund Dinner at the Renaissance on June 3. He also bought a $5000 corporate membership when he purchased the organization's endorsement.

Rev. Jawanza Colvin, perhaps this is your explanation for why the city's only civil rights organization in name only is fighting and ridiculing clergy over The Q. They don't do civil rights. They do civil rights dinners.

We're cool, Mike, but you know this ain't right. You, me and others were all over Rev. Hilton Smith and Rev. E.T. Caviness on this very issue when they were leading the Cleveland NAACP chapter. I jumped all over Hilton as he endorsed renovating the Cleveland Brown's Stadium for $120 million in public funds. It was worse because he used the organization to help his Turner Construction employer. Turner Construction got the construction management contract. My very public observations about their leadership helped in your decision to seek the job.

$360 million in public funds just to renovate two stadiums. Seriously. Are this town's politicians out of their fucking minds? Is The Q money the real motivation for Jackson's income tax increase request to Cleveland voters last November?

We've got lead poisoned water pouring out of our faucets in old homes that's affecting the physical and mental health of nearl 1 million inhmillions. 82 percent of Cleveland jobs are in the hands of non-Cleveland residents. There is a black hole of non-existent residential and commercial development in east, west and south side Cleveland neighborhoods. One out of 5 Cleveland school students has "attempted" suicide according to the Centers for Disease Control, and $360 million in our money is going to renovate stadiums for teams we can't afford the tickets to watch. I remember when a Cavs ticket cost $12.

This is some gotdamned bullshit and Budish, along with his minions on the county council, all of them, have created a $1 billion debt. Ain't no reform. Only more unchecked public corruption in this garbage-assed corporate-controlled political cesspool of a town and county.

How many Cleveland residents are employed at The Q? How many Cleveland residents are vendors? How many work in the front office and how many play on the team? How many Cleveland residents sell anything along the sidewalks and how many own parking lots? I'm talking about Cleveland residents who live within the geographical borders of this town. Not people who live in Solon and say they're "from" Cleveland. What are Clevelanders getting out of their $35 million investment?

Here's the problem with the Cleveland NAACP allowing itself to be used in this corporate manner.

I'll be real. Only corporate Cleveland respects the NAACP and thinks it has any influence in the Descendant of Slave community. It doesn't. The NAACP is simply the oldest surviving civil rights organization. It was founded by whites, not Descendants of Slaves. It's mission has typically run counter to the goals of the Descendant of Slave community it purports to represent. Even today.

It was not intended to be a civil rights organization for "Negroes" as we were known then. It was the organization of the "Coloreds." More specifically, it was a "progressive" organization that also embraced the suffrage and immigrant movements and prison reform. I am a Negro on my birth certificate. The caste system of this nation separated the Descendant of Slave community with these and other special word definitions.

The Descendants of Slaves preferred others organizations led by Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Paul Robeson and later by Rev. Luther King, Jr. Today Black Lives Matter has more respect than the NAACP.

Allowing itself to be used by Gilbert to push the renovation also sends the most jacked up message to the team's Descendant of Slave members. Colin Kapernick's free agency isn't going so well because of his protest of the national anthem. Pressure has been placed on Descendant of Slave athletes to add their voices to the constitutional abuses affecting all Americans in the nation's police departments and courts. So when they do speak out they're supposed to have back up, and now Lebron and the other Descendant of Slave team members see the team's owner buying the Cleveland NAACP for $25,000.

As I'm writing I'm thinking that this might be the reason athletes from the Descendant of Slave community don't support the NAACP. They've got a national view of the USA and see the same sellout bullshit in every town. All the team's owners "own" a local NAACP chapter.

The only reason I'm not as critical of Mike is because unlike Hilton he was much more vocal and on the side of right during the police shootings under Jackson. He wasn't shy about adding his voice when the NAACP as an organization was silent.

This is one issue upon which I strongly disagree. The Cleveland NAACP should return Gilbert's $25,000.

You haven't had a Freedom Fund dinner in years primarily because the organization's leadership has been lazy and organizationally unambitious. George Forbes expected the preachers to fuck it up, and they did. You lawyers got it back, Mike, and it's "let's make a deal?" This ain't court or a settlement, and there's nothing to settle. The NAACP is a civil rights organization and it should limit its total focus to civil rights.

City of Cleveland detectives "visiting" civic petitioners

 "They even sent detectives out to visit desperados like me to let us know we were being watched. And now the dust up over the Q. "

Hello Randino,  

Please describe the City of Cleveland detectives' visit you mention - it is important that Google know about the actions which the City of Cleveland may take with regard to citizen's petitioning.

Thanks,   

Jeff

Nelson and that mob can

Nelson and that mob can support whatever they want.
But they are *not* Civil Rights leaders.

The NAACP is obstructing the true Civil Rights organizations in this region.

This $25,000 payoff from Gilbert is merely the tip of the iceberg.