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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Saving Cleveland, One Year Later

I was in Providence again last weekend. I really need to stop visiting because every time I go it reminds me of how little has been done to save Cleveland since I wrote my article last year ( “Saving Cleveland” ). I mean, for crying out loud, just look at the headlines in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday: “Medical Mart budget hidden from County cCommissioners”. Seriously? A $500 million project and the guys running the show can’t see the bill? Really?

I guess it’s time I admit it. I missed the boat. I assumed that we had folks in Cleveland running the show who might have something in common with the people who ran Providence during its resurrection. BZZZZZT. Sorry! Johnny, tell Dr. White about our lovely parting gifts.  We unfortunately have elected politicians and other leaders with mis-matched talents. They are either men and women   with enormous hearts and limited abilities (think city government), or politicians blessed  with enormous talents and limitless intellect who are saddled with hearts the size of a pre-Cindy Lou Who Grinch. For crying out loud our politicians can’t even get corruption right! The guys in Providence were “effectively corrupt,” lining their pockets while getting the job done. Ours? Well, you read the same newspapers I do.

Nope, I was wrong. Saving Cleveland is not going to come from our entrenched leaders, be they politicians, businesspeople, or community  organizers. Saving Cleveland is not going to be a “top-down” process; saving Cleveland is going to come from the bottom up. Judging by the stunning lack of success our “leaders” have had with their “swing for the fences” strategies, I was at least a little bit right in “Saving Cleveland”– Little Ball is still the game that needs to be played to save our city. One year on, though, and the strategy becomes a little more clear. We need lots of little people playing little ball. Thousands of bunt singles will still score runs. What we need is a bit of an insurrection.

Alright Smart Guy. Lots of fancy words in there. Just what you mean by “bunt singles”  and how exactly do you propose we do this? I think it’s a back-to-the-future kind of thing. When I was looking for a place to live all of my college classmates who had grown up in Cleveland were dying to get back to the City. Mind you, this was when the Cuyahoga River was on fire. And yet all of my friends were “pants on fire”  hauling back to Cleveland. I think that’s the key; I think that’s the group, those are the same people who need to embrace the Save Cleveland movement. We need another generation of young people, high school and college aged kids who decide to “love” Cleveland and bring everyone else along with them.

The saying is way easier than doing, of course. It always is, eh? In this case the say is easier still because we don’t even have to create the blueprint — it’s already been done several times in several places. We, someone, preferably the kids need to do three simple things: PROTECT Cleveland (demand that our officials make our cities safe), BUY Cleveland (always choose products made by, or services provided by local companies), and CELEBRATE Cleveland (that “love bomb” thing I talked about before).

A couple things have become clear to me over the course of the last year. I already mentioned my profound disappointment in our “leaders”, but I’ve been equally disappointed in other civic and business organizations. Our main newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, continues to take potshots at Cleveland. No fruit hangs too high if the picking will produce a story knocking the city. For the most part our television stations and radio stations are equally guilty of this type of behavior. This is not the information infrastructure that will be necessary or useful in saving Cleveland.

What we need is a new way now, the stuff that our young people use as a matter of course in their daily lives. I’m talking, of course, about social media. Facebook, twitter, Linked In, even that old standby MySpace… the way our young people talk to one another. New music is shared on Facebook. An ad, a video, or a movie goes viral on YouTube or Hulu. The “game” of saving Cleveland, all the little examples of Little Ball will take place in the stores and shops in the streets of Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs, but the talking about it will take place in the “blogosphere.”

PROTECT Cleveland. Our young need to take back the streets. They need to take back the malls and the stores and the schools. They need to be encouraged and supported when they “call out” bad stuff. They need to be encouraged and supported when they demand that our elected officials make every nook and cranny of Cleveland safe. This is the table-stake; we simply can’t throw them under the bus on this one. We can’t lose the next Flats.

BUY Cleveland. This one should be easy, right? I mean, we’ve got pretty much everything we need here in Cleveland. That’s what makes it so utterly amazing and infuriating when we learn about how difficult it is for great businesses in Cleveland to get Cleveland business. Did you know that the city of Cleveland’s website was designed by and is hosted by a company in Denver? Seriously. Denver! How wrong is that? It’ll apparently have to start from the bottom here, too. Every kid, every young executive, every young professional will need to seek out others just like them who live and work in Cleveland and do business with THEM.

CELEBRATE Cleveland. If our established institutions insist on accentuating the negative we’re just going to have to find another way to drop that big old “love bomb” on Cleveland. How about a campaign where the kids tell the story of every Cleveland experience they have, every Cleveland business they use, every Cleveland  place they visit where something about it was good? Do it on Twitter. Do it on Facebook. Post video on YouTube. Tell your buddies, and tell them to tell theirs. A fight for Cleveland, a fight for the hearts and minds of Clevelanders, each one of them a reporter with a sideline pass!

There you have it. Saving Cleveland, from the bottom up. Thousands of Cleveland people, Cleveland’s young people, coming to bat and bunting for singles. Little ball. Opening Day is today. Why not?

Batter up!

3 Responses to “Saving Cleveland, One Year Later”

  1. April 19th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Steve Bukowski says:

    I really like the points that you make in this blog. The “protect,buy,celebrate” mantra is key, and I completely agree with what you’re saying in this. It just reminds me of what’s going on at home, but Buffalo has a bigger hill to climb than Cleveland does, I think. However, I think the mantra is applicable to both cities, and I can honestly say that there is a lot of pride among my generation- proud to be a Buffalonian. We need to harness that energy, that vitality, and really do something. I think that rust-belt cities [Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, even Erie] need to take this idea to heart and go to it.

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