A timid step

Submitted by Ed Morrison on Sat, 07/11/2009 - 09:59.

Yesterday, Commissioners Jones and Hagan symbolically voted their colleague, Jimmy Dimora, off the island. With this single act, they are hoping to distance themselves from the culture of corruption that pervades Cuyahoga County.

It's not so easy.

Corruption represents the misuse of public power for private profit. It flourishes with too much room for discretion by public officials combined with too much secrecy.

A strong sense of elitism prevails in public official's minds as a consequence of their unexamined power. They enjoy determining the environment in which private business operates.

This arrogance leads them to believe that they are naturally privileged to receive the bribes offered, whether it is a free dinner, a trip to Las Vegas, or special renovations to their house. They become kingmakers in their own game, absorbed in a Disneyland of their own making. (Example: Hagan's claim that the Med Mart will generate 50 medical shows a year, with no facts to back his claim. The number came from loose talk by MMPI when they first appeared in Cleveland. )

As BFD commentator John Polk has noted on several occasions, forget the public interest, its about using power to make the deal.

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(Dimora so eloquently stated in the recently released criminal information: "Oh what the f-k. I'm doin' nothing, I'm trying to make calls, make a living, help my friends make more money than they already got.")

It goes without saying that Cuyahoga County businesses, the bribery suppliers, are complicit. Lacking ethics, the business community sees nothing wrong with conspiring to violate a public trust for private profit.

Acting together, corrupt business executives and government officials allow these activities become a routine interaction between business and local government, a rutted pattern of tough guy talk. They define a culture of narcissistic power plays and self-dealing. This is what we have in Cuyahoga County today.

Eliminating this culture of corruption will not be easy.

The problem is not Dimora. He was simply stupid enough to get caught on tape by the FBI. (Years ago, in Louisiana, a local city councilman, Joe Shine, invited me to breakfast to protest his innocence before his indictment. Blankly, I stared back at him and told him he was fried, because the feds had tapes. Joe served something like 5 years.)

Cleveland is weighed down by the same culture of crony capitalism that sinks Louisiana. Abetted by the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the entire Board of Commissioners, this stubborn pattern of self-absorbed behavior eats away at the public's confidence, so vital to sustainable economic development. A long string of oddball deals have been made largely without public scrutiny or vote: the Juvenile Justice Center, the Am Trust fiasco, and the shaky case for a Med Mart are only part of the list.

As the Plain Dealer has reported, the County Commissioners continue to rely too heavily on executive sessions to conduct their business. And too little public scrutiny follows the federal money that flows into the county.

(My chief candidate for more corruption: the public workforce system that has for years been neatly split between the Mayor and Dimora. In normal years, its a $15 million a year system within the county. With the stimulus, its easily over $20 million, twice what the Fund for Our Economic Future invests in the region.)

On the business side, a handful of real estate developers -- Forest City chief among them -- run roughshod over Cleveland's politics and the Greater Cleveland Partnership. They have been happy to feed the beast, as long as they get something in return: like local public officials lining up behind Greater Cleveland Partnership's goofy "Learn and Earn" casino proposal.

(Under its prior management, the Plain Dealer was a part of the silent conspiracy. They even -- for a time -- published a Forest City blog. With management changes at the paper, we are starting to see a different profile. Not surprisingly, Commissioner Hagan objects to this new activism.)

Hagan and Jones now claim they have no knowledge of the political culture which, by their actions, they have helped shape. Their performance yesterday brings forth another Nixon era concept: a credibility gap. (The first was Dimora's statement last week that he was not a crook.)

The irony, of course, is that in their call of reform, commissioners Jones and Hagan may be too late. Political insiders are already maneuvering to hijack this broken system and, in all probability, make it worse. By failing to speak out earlier and more clearly, Jones and Hagan have seriously compromised their position and damaged their credibility.

They need bold action to recover. Asking Dimora to step down for 60 days is not it.

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Bold action to recover

Thanks Ed for putting this out there...but what constitutes "bold action?"
 

Too short a list, and must get to all individuals, one-by-one

Nice to see you speaking up on the corruption here, but the list is missing too many core people and institutions to be complete. Over the last 5 years I've seen more harm caused by a small group of people at "not-for-profit" NGOs, CDCs, schools/univerisites and foundations than from corrupt government officials... and I've had people from that sector claim credit for owning politicians.

The Plain Dealer, Voices and Choices, Advance NEO, Cleveland+, Bridge Builders, and the FFOEF you mention are at the heart of all that. The universities' research is funded by industry through foundations to trash local economics analysis (you well know about that) - the Plain Dealer publishes the end garbage as fact - the foundations and NGOs award and reward themselves - the taxpayers foot the bills and live in embarassment and shame for our entire region.

Local politicans are the least of our problems, here. We have a very evil legacy still haunting us from its bowels.

Why do you lump Jones in here. I personally believe Jones has a record of being very much an outsider and voting "against the machine". He seems very much an individual to me - smart independent thinker who supports what is important to him.

I personally disagree with his smokers for arts tax, but local arts folks seem to appreciate his initiaitve with that... I belive it is helping fund Ingenuity through today's storms. I still hate it!

As I've been working for nearly 8 months on an initiative I've pitched to Jones and many county department leaders, I can say he and his people don't pursue chatty backroom type communications or dealing - seems like a very straight-forward professional team interested in intelligent facts and process.

Jones is the only reason I have any faith the MedCon may work out, because he will take personal responsibility that it does, and carry that to the grave.

Why do you clump him with Hagan and Dimora - I haven't seen the evidence they vote 99% alike, as the PD likes to publish.

I have seen proof the Plain Dealer is so corrupt it will endorse an unqualified candidate over Jones (sound familiar, to your family), and I have seen proof too many leaders in NEO are behind that, including important people in our universities, doing important things like planning OUR Strategic Investment Initiiatives.

I've been trying to figure out how I want to deal with all these people - these individuals - because I really  think many people should be fired, and many organizations shut-down... and few if any are "minority owned" urban social service and workforce development agencies... they are things like UCI (you well know leadership there).

Hate to say this, but we need to go back many administrations and generations in analyzing this situation, and get down to the individual naming names level, and all realize we and our "friends and families" are part of our region's problems, and take full responsibility for that.

Disrupt IT

Corruption probe

  How do we completely change the way of doing business here in NEO and everywhere?  I completely agree with Norm's comments here:
 

Over the last 5 years I've seen more harm caused by a small group of people at "not-for-profit" NGOs, CDCs, schools/univerisites and foundations than from corrupt government officials... and I've had people from that sector claim credit for owning politicians.

The Plain Dealer, Voices and Choices, Advance NEO, Cleveland+, Bridge Builders, and the FFOEF you mention are at the heart of all that. The universities' research is funded by industry through foundations to trash local economics analysis (you well know about that) - the Plain Dealer publishes the end garbage as fact - the foundations and NGOs award and reward themselves - the taxpayers foot the bills and live in embarassment and shame for our entire region.

The hunt for Dimora is just like the parable of Moby Dick...it's time we find ways to reinvent a better community, not based on exploitation.  The county land bank is just another vehicle to allow rich folks to make a killing off the backs of poor folks.  It doesn't have to use the scheme of demolishing properties at tax payer expense via the City of Cleveland Building and Housing department for transfer to developers.  It could involve an inventive transfer of wealth, but that would not adhere to the hallowed principle of "using other people's money," and unfettered capitalism.

Strawbuyer and demo scams have taken place on the east and west side of Cleveland, but there is no interest on picking up the story when it involves the CDCs and council reps, because they have become the developers' best tool for exploiting other people's money. 

The Shadow...

  A guy like Dimora casts a big shadow...today's PD article acknowledges the shadow effect on politicos like Cimperman...all so delusional.

Jackson's Grand Tour of Europe?!?!?!

The one I never understood was Major Jackson being toured around Europe by the GCP, or was it some Foundation... or the Cleveland Clinic... probably all of them - who wouldn't love to take a trip like that...

Compared to the hours the Commissioners may spend in private sessions at the bleak county administration building, think of the days the Mayor (and who else of his friends, family and staff) hung out on private jets and at luxury hotels and palaces with all those executives (and who else of their friends, family and staff)...

Looks like the exeuctives use the privilege of higest level government connections to get special access to other government thrills and others benefits (#1, meeting the Pope), even if only for their egos (seems usually just for their egos) while the politicos just have a good time (they certainly never accomplish anything).

Wasn't it Taft who hung out in Japan for some reason...

I saw a great example of this corporate/NGO/political corruption at the Federal level here in Cleveland, this week - I'm still investigating and then will report back on it.... usual local suspects trying to corrupt the White House.

Disrupt IT