feeding two birds with one seed -- seeking solutions

Submitted by Susan Miller on Tue, 01/01/2008 - 12:09.

The big picture... I am still trying to get back far enough to see it. In the meantime, I was struck by what has been rambling around in my head for sometime now as expressed in the Wall Street Journal recently in this article: Architects Bring High Design To Affordable Housing. I have long been intrigued by the work of the late Samuel Mockbee whose Auburn University architecture students build innovative designs in Alabama's Black Belt. I was thrilled to visit and view Green Cleveland at CIA last year. And then we got the news of homeless people being evicted from Public Square. WTF?!? Why not build affordable housing for them? It has been done and with great success in other cities. This is a way to feed two birds with one seed rather than the current out of sight out of mind plan.

In my recently depressed (and cold) state, I have had dreams of moving to a warmer climate, and some nights when I am unable to sleep, I surf the net dreaming of a single story small home in the forgotten coast of Florida, that region from whence I immigrated to Cleveland. Here are a couple of places I would love to escape to: this award winning Habitat Home design or if I had the money, a Solar Cracker House. I grew up among the last of the long leaf pines on the panhandle of Florida. What I came to Cleveland to escape was the cultural backwater, the old-boy mentality and the 80's/90's erosion of one of the most beautiful and undeveloped parts of old Florida. Having explored miles of white sandy beaches and stepped over numerous snakes in the bayou hugging woods of the coast, I needed a city where I could put my talents to work. Well, my talents have worked, and I am no longer certain that Northeast Ohio is the place for my beleaguered soul. In twenty nine years, I have seen the corruption here corrode the existence of a once great city and perhaps just as the train wreck of cheap development that urged me away from the north coast of Florida, the lack of sound planning and innovative actions in NEO will drive me back down to the southern shores of this longitude. As I weigh the benefits of a walkable neighborhood that includes two lively business districts and proximity to a world class museum and orchestra against the solitude of salt marshes and the quiet of oysters growing under the wavelets on the Apalachicola Bay, I cannot stop thinking that it is high time Cleveland began to learn from other regions and applied some of the innovation found elsewhere here in our city/region.

Here are a few ideas in no particular order (and I'm sure there are many more that I have not listed here -- you'll let me know…)

  • Stop feeding the wealthy -- they have enough and out-of-work, blue collar taxpayers are tired of footing the bills for their expensive lifestyles.
  • Stop moving the homeless from view -- move them into affordable housing and provide services to them. (see above)
  • Stop co-opting the local nonprofits’ missions and rearranging them to suit the needs of those who live in the “More Lands” of the region only visiting downtown during daylight hours. (For example – let CRS follow their mission of preservation without fear of fiscal reprisal and stop twisting the words and actions of NEOCH.)
  • Stop with the grandiose plans for more jails and delinquency centers and new shiny offices for county workers -- work with what we have and be thankful that the county has offices.
  • Get with the technology -- people could find the services more easily if local government websites were designed for the public's use rather than from the point of view of an insider. Cleveland’s website is much improved though from last year at this time. Thank you!
  • Concentrate on shoring up the safety, education and infrastructure needs of the city and the region and stop the competition for tax dollars among municipalities.
  • Wind down the tax abatement deals -- the people who have been paying taxes in Cleveland for decades will revolt eventually, and it will be a replay of Hough in the 60s.
  • Stop studying and begin doing. And let the taxpayers be a part of the process; after all, we're paying for it. How freakin’ many times does Ed Hauser have to say this?
  • Show us the money -- it's ours, and we would be well served to know where it's going once it reaches the black hole of government coffers locally. Avoid examples like the local Catholic Diocese and NEORSD, for example.
  • Explain the reasons that the platform you ran on cannot be the series of reforms you promised during the campaign, we're still wondering why you (this is a collective you) haven't delivered because we're still paying. We know there are reasons; we just need them out there in the light of day. If you hit a brick wall once in office maybe some of us can help you find a way around it (many of us are smart about these things having lived frugally for sometime now).
  • Get with the renewable energy plan for God's sake (or more to the point for the earth's sake) and let's start working on wind and solar, stormwater management and new green building codes. May we please not be the very last to adopt these sensible measures in regard to climate change? Jeez!
  • Start where you are and stop dreaming and pining for some iconic future big box idea that will save us all like the famous silver bullet.
  • Put our eggs in more than one basket -- the CCF is lovely, but it is not the whole answer (if it was, we wouldn't be in this fix...). Oh yeah and we’re tired of footing the bills for the reputed savior of the local economy. Please say again with more clarity why we should build them a showroom. Some of us still don’t get that.
  • Listen to the other 98% -- we're speaking, and there are some great ideas out here.
  • Institute a plastax for the next round of needed funds -- you can feed two birds with one seed (Ireland is doing it).

Maybe I'll go or maybe I'll stay. Either way, by 2009, one might wish for some of the things listed above.  I will probably still be thinking about that affordable green home.


What did we learn in 2007? Voices and Choices was a passing exercise (so past now that the most recent blog post was when Brad Whitehead was interviewed by MTB – clicking through to Advance Northeast Ohio we find the recently posted poll on prospects for 2008 with a whopping 64 votes! Wow, what engagement!). The Port Authority seems confused and embarrassed. (Here’s a quote from their recently published strategic plan, “It will also provide the public with a clear understanding of the Port Authority’s role and how it is working to improve the economic competitiveness of  [sic] ”… of what? These guys need spell and grammar check, and it would be great if the members of the Port Authority Board actually read the draft plan, but whatever…) Cleveland  and Cuyahoga County governments seem confused and embarrassed – more often than not caught with their pants down or with their hands in the cookie jar. If not then we would have more insight as to their planning processes and the word transparency would not cause government workers and elected officials to look like they just came down with food poisoning. The aforementioned entities seem bent over before a handful of wealthy developers, kowtowing to the demands of these well-to-do whose interests and money are being spent in other regions of the US and even in Israel. Let us not forget that when Cleveland and Cuyahoga County taxpayers offer our firstborn's education savings (in the form of taxes) to someone like Bob Stark, we may need to cross the pond to see the benefits of those investments. Very few Cleveland residents will be able to appreciate in person the economic development efforts their taxes are buying via Stark in Safed -- they can't afford the time off or the air fare.


Blowing snow drifts against the now two-years-vacant house behind mine, piling up with the reasons to opt for hurricane season preparations and river keeping activism in the Deep South. But for now, here I remain waiting for a sign of life on this elegant earth, this could be a green valley. Best to us all in the New Year! Perhaps 2008 will be a rebound year for my family and yours. Let’s keep exchanging these ideas that feed two birds with one seed, the triple bottom line way of doing business, etc.

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Don't let the winter get you down.  It will get better.  Paint something RED.  The house behind me has been vacant for 10 years.  If you do move, move to Brooklyn Centre.  We need critical mass :)

I hope you stay. If you do

I hope you stay. If you do leave, I think you should still post on realneo so we can learn about how another city is doing and not doing the right things.