Scene's NEO History Lesson: A Century of Bumbling

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 11/28/2004 - 15:14.

Today I noticed Pennsylvania's license plates feature the catch phrase "WWW.STATE.PA.US" (home of PA's excellent PowerPort - a stark contrast to Ohio's silly little state site). PA is surfacing as a true new economy powerhouse, as highlighted by Philadelphia's struggle to become the world's most wifi'ed city and a recent presentation at the Ohio Wind Power Conference by Kathleen McGinty, Secretary, Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Dept., who drove home the point that PA's effective leadership is putting them a generation ahead of OH with alternative energy generation and manufacturing.

But seeing PA drivers educating America about WWW.STATE.PA.US really made me think about our mindset as "Birthplace of aviation", the truly inept tag-line of our license plates. A feature in Scene Magazine chronicles how OH leaders blew the opportunity to develop the aviation industry here. Scene quotes NEO legacy-powerhouse Frederick Crawford: "You know, there was a time when we had working in Cleveland the men who would later create the greatest aircraft companies in the world. The problem was, the fools running the city did not understand what they had and lost it."

It's bad enough we can't think of anything intelligent to put on our license plates to promote Ohio, but it is far worse we find glory in our failure. For more to think about this subject, read the excellent article "A Century of Bumbling" from Scene, excerpted and linked below. And, what would you like to promote to the world on your license plate? I vote for "New Economy Leadership" - post your thoughts as comments to this post.

A Century of Bumbling

Cleveland's civic ineptitude isn't new. It goes all the way back to Rockefeller. 


This evening, three men in their 20s talk of women and the
prospects of careers in Cleveland. They mistake my age for wisdom. One
asks whether I think the city has a future.

I recite past glories of commerce, mentioning those
captains of industry who amassed great fortunes, whose charitable
endeavors wrought the museum, orchestra, and university. I say its
factories played no small role in the winning of two world wars and the
cold one.

One man shakes his head, raises his glass, and tips it toward me. "Then tell me, man, what the fuck happened here?"

He says it the way a homicide cop would upon arrival at a particularly grisly axe murder.

I pause.

I want to explain the Rust Belt, the global economy, the evolution of
high tech in a low-tech place, the highways to the suburbs, our
conservative bankers, stifling politics, recalcitrant unions, the
difference between the thinking in blue-collar bars and East Side
country clubs, the failure of urban renewal, the disaster of school
busing, and the rest of the conventional thought on the dimming of a
city's light.

But in the gloom of my reflection, something else lurks,
something elusive and haunting. That something is not what happened,
but what did not.

Over the past 100 years,
Cleveland has wasted more opportunities than most cities get. It wasted
them because things came easy and city leaders never thought much
further than the weekend.

<>READ: A Century of Bumbling