The MedCon Plan and Planners were a Disgrace, the Process was Broken... what if anything has changed?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 02/16/2009 - 18:26.


The last time I saw “Citizen” Ed Hauser alive was at the October 8, 2008, Cuyahoga County Commissioners' public hearing on the proposed Medical Mart and Convention Center, aka MedCon.

Ed was as furious as I can ever remember seeing him, as he shouted "the process is broken".

Ed was so right.

That public meeting was a disgrace. The MedCon plan and the planners were a disgrace.

All because the planning process here is a disgrace.

Long before the MedCon was born or made public, “Community Leaders” here decided the best way to succeed with Community Development is through top-down command and control of the public... see “Preamble” to explore this subject, and new approaches to community building.

The MedCon was planned in private, among a small circle of friends, who contracted away citizen rights, without citizen knowledge or participation, leading to citizens being taxed without honest representation.

“Who was that small circle of friends” is the $1 billion MedCon-question still to be answered, as all of them should be run out of town, and the 'burbs.

Citizen Hauser speaks at MedCon Hearing

My last picture of Citizen Hauser alive, above, is him furious at THEM, and their broken processes, and the broken people hiding behind all that.

About a month later, all that finally killed Ed, and everything changed... good does come when good people die.

Ed is among us, stronger now than ever, and I expect Ed is pleased with the progress WE have made with the MedCon, since he moved his influence behind the scenes.

It appears, since Ed's death, that the “small circle of friends” here who had been in command of planning the MedCon, from the beginning, are no longer in control, and serious, out-of-town, business-driven professionals have taken charge, leading to selection of a site and plan for the MedCon that is not disgraceful, and in many important ways is excellent.

The plan developed since Ed's death features historic preservation, reuse of 100,000s square feet of existing structures, investment in underutilized public assets, building upon the best Master Plan in Cleveland history, and promises of community participation. Ed would have liked all that.

The promises in hand today are such an improvement from the commands of just a few months ago, it is important to explore why things changed, what else about the MedCon deal has changed, and what benefits for citizens may be negotiated, if the planning process is no longer broken.

I believe great change has come here, to REALNEO, and more is coming, and that future outcomes depend entirely on the level of engagement of citizens in our future... Ed can't carry everyone, forever.

On February 12, 2009, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones hosted a new public meeting about the new MedCon plan, presented by the people actually responsible for developing and operating the Medical Mart and Convention Center... Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. (MMPI) leadership.

Commissioner Jones Medical Mart Public Meeting

Absent at this most recent public meeting were the original MedCon commanders, led by Joe Roman.  They seem to have lost their way, and the trust of all around them.

It seems the Cuyahoga County Commissioners and MMPI rejected the strategy and team developed by Roman et. al. for the MedCon, in the past, and have put a new strategy and team in place

Another way of putting this is “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.”

Why don't I hear singing in the streets?

Because we have never known who are the witches behind the MedCon, we don't have proof which witches are dead, and we don't know the way home.

Specifically, still to be determined, we don't know exactly who first decided “we must plan the MedCon in secret”... and “the Greater Cleveland Partnership must lead planning and site selection, directed by Joe Roman”... and “Fred Nance must negotiate the deal for Cuyahoga County”... and “to pay for it, we will tax citizens without a vote”.

So, we do not know that the people responsible for those bad decisions, and the bad results, are not still alive and core to the planning and process for the MedCon.

We need the monogramed broomsticks.

Going forward, we must know what were and now are the exact roles of Citizens, Toby Cosgrove and others at the Cleveland Clinic, Christopher Kennedy and others at MMPI, each of the individual Cuyahoga County Commissioners, Mayor Jackson and his staff, Ronn Richards and other foundation leadership and staff, Fred Nance and Squire Sanders, other lawyers and law firms, Joe Roman and leadership and staff at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, and at member companies, and among leadership and staff at all companies and organizations in any way expected to profit or benefit from MedCon... aka “Stakeholders”.

Few “Community Leaders” here use the term “Stakeholders” because it usually includes customers, like taxpayers. I have never been made to feel a “Stakeholder” of the MedCon... more a victim...

The past, present and future state of the MedCon initiative must be made completely open and transparent, to the last stakeholder, because the multi-year, multi-front citizen mind-control process of forcing the MedCon on us has been so brutal, and because there has been such a great casualty in the loss of “Citizen” Ed Hauser, along the way.

The Plain Dealer was the primary vehicle to force the MedCon tax increase on the public, and to promote top-down planning of the con, and has appeared collusive with “Community Leaders” to steer MedCon benefits to Plain Dealer supported private interests, without regard for any others.

Who came up with that strategy and paid the bills...? They must be excluded from future planning of any public interests in Northeast Ohio, for cause.

“Community Leaders” showed great MedCon-con flair, hiring an airplane with banner discouraging the public from resisting taxation for the MedCon and flying it over downtown Cleveland events like some CIA mind-control operation... and I don't mean Cleveland Institute of Art.

Who came up with that over-the-top strategy and paid the bills...? They must be excluded from future planning of any public interests in Northeast Ohio, for cause.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership and Squire Sanders were the primary corporate vehicles delivering the MedCon to Forest City Enterprises, at very high cost to the public.  That strategy failed.

Who came up with that strategy and paid the bills...? They must be excluded from future planning of any publiuc interests in Northeast Ohio, for cause.

Who else were behind designing the wrong processes and outcomes for OUR MedCon and OUR $1 billion+ in tax dollars?

And, who stopped the insanity?

In January, 2009, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners “Citizen Hausered” the failed MedCon command and control planning process, which was making the MedCon an embarrassment, and economic and social planning disaster, when they "Whiskey Islanded" the MedCon and took it public.

Just as the Commissioners did in the past, by buying Whiskey Island, to take it away from a corrupt vision of the Cleveland Cuyahoga County Port Authority, the Commissioners took the MedCon away from a corrupt vision of the Greater Cleveland Partnership... and the Commissioners made it all public.

Citizen Hauser is to thank for both positive developments, for all citizens. He has always been the citizen fighting for the right processes here, and I believe he is winning.

The Commissioners have proved to the public, and to our corrupt “Community Leadership”, that the Command and Control approach is a failure.

With the support of the Commissioners – and I suspect this new strategy was set in motion in mid-2008 - it appears MMPI took control of their opportunity away from top-down leadership here, and MMPI got down to business.


Intelligent analyses by intelligent people led to a different site plan than demanded by our “Community Leaders”.

The “Community Leaders” are not amused, and it has been a real pleasure reading of their squirming in their Plain Dealer, and watching in our public meetings as they try to back-peddle into a deal they corrupted, locking themselves out.

I'm sure Citizen Hauser is having a good laugh seeing people like Roman and Wolstein treated with contempt by the people they tried to con, which I believe included the County Commissioners and the leaders of MMPI.

Which brings me to the point of my post.

Many people in the community are furious with many people over the MedCon, for good reasons. But, after attending many MedCon meetings, and reading extensive MedCon coverage and plans, I am not certain who is really behind the worst of the MedCon planning, and so who should we be furious with?

We need to direct our fury in the right place... against the “Community Leaders” who broke the MedCon process from the beginning, and who break every other community development process here. Justice should come to Earth.

Because we are furious at our “Community Leaders”, as usual, “we” are failing to explore and develop FOR CITIZENS real opportunity offered by MedCon planning, now being driven by completely new people who will be part of the future of our community.

A few years ago, I asked a local real estate developer why no good outside developers ever come and work in Cleveland, and he said it is too corrupt here.

I imagine the MMPI leaders understand that well, now. Do they intend to be corrupt, because it is corrupt here? I sincerely doubt it.

I welcome MMPI, like I welcome all new Cleveland stakeholders.

I expect greatness of MMPI leaders.

Having negotiated many large, complex deals, I believe the MedCon deal has been structured in the worst possible ways. It was negotiated behind closed doors, by the wrong "Community Leaders", for third parties not at the table, excluding citizens and even MMPI leaders from the planning and analysis... meaning all past agreements and current terms, including the funding sales tax, are wrong, and “off-the-table”... entirely new terms of the deal are open to negotiation.

I'm sure MMPI leadership will gladly agree.

Who should do the negotiating?

Not any “Community Leaders” involved in planning the MedCon in the past.

I sincerely doubt the original MedCon Command and Control planning process was something MMPI designed, wanted or has appreciated... it is SO CLEVELAND+, and Cheney.

I expect MMPI wants to negotiate a good, fair deal for all stakeholders in a great new development project in our community.

As this is a “Kennedy” project, I doubt MMPI wants to lock-out union workers, or tax citizens without representation, and I doubt they want to be associated with such things in the press – mainstream or new media. All that is bad for good businesses... and bad for “those” Kennedys.

MMPI does not want to be trashed because they trashed Cleveland, and Kennedys don't want to be trashed because one of them trashed Clevelanders. We aren't worth all that!

I am confident it was MMPI that put an end to negotiating the MedCon with Roman and Nance, and decided a new process be taken to reach intelligent decisions about this complex project, as it seems is now being done.

As an entrepreneur and economist, I'm glad MMPI seems to have broken free from the corruption and stupidity that plagues this region.

I like that the MedCon leverages an innovative business model - it is different than any other mart, trade show and convention facility concept in the world, and it is being delivered by the world leaders in the mart/trade show field.

MMPI is part of one of the world's largest and stronger Real Estate Investment Trusts, Vornado, which has performed well in the current economic downturn. With strong commercial real estate holdings in strong markets, their value is holding up better than average, for their industry, and is performing far better than the two Northeast-Ohio based real estate developers suggested to work with Vornado, Forest City Enterprises and Wolstein, of Developers Diversified Reality, which appear unsustainable.

Most important, MMPI does not appear to be involved in any other significant way with Northeast Ohio “Community Leaders”, meaning MMPI may not be corrupt.

The last Commissioners' Public Meeting on the MedCon was my first exposure to MMPI President Christopher Kennedy... who I was pre-programmed to hate, because I associated him with the con... and this was the first chance I had to see the MMPI team in action, or to review any work-products I could say were results of the MMPI team... what I had seen up until then were the Plain Dealing demands of OUR “Community Leaders”, with some pretty pictures.

I was impressed by MMPI, their presentation, and their treatment of the public.

Their current plan offers a good beginning for us to create a good economic development project for the region. Some of us in real NEO are very smart people, and the MMPI leaders are smart people... we can do this! 

Kennedy doesn't just seem like a pretty boy with interesting genes... he clearly knows his business.

The public needs to take charge with MMPI, revisit and renegotiate the past terms of our MedCon relationships, and negotiate the best outcomes for all who matter in this community. We all know who matters... Citizens!

What has bothered me most about the MedCon is that it never seemed like innocent, simple, businesslike and professional economic development.

It always seemed a con, by the usual untrustworthy local Master Planners that brought our economy to ruination through heavy debt and public subsidy of what have been low value “silver-bullet” projects of our past, like our multiple stadiums, arenas, public garages, and convention halls already taxing the public dry, and public bond-funded private developments that never pay their dues to society.

In fact, the MedCon clearly was one of those cons, by the same con-men (not to say there aren't plenty of women involved in these cons)... from the beginning.

At the February 12 public presentation on the MedCon, everything seemed changed.

I was blown away by how straight forward and professional MMPI's thinking was on everything, and what a mess our NEO Master Planners had made of a good opportunity, by trying to do things the Cleveland+ way.

Yes, MMPI is in this to make money. That is their business. They seem good at that, which means they may make lots of money here, spreading lots of money around here.

MMPI clearly knows they will make the most money in Northeast Ohio if they are welcome and embraced here. They seem to be going to extraordinary lengths to accommodate in their planning concerns they "read on blogs and see in the media", as MMPI President Christopher Kennedy pointed out they do.

In their presentation, I saw acknowledged as priorities a laundry list of concerns I've seen raised on realneo - through citizen journalists, MMPI has learned and is learning what our community thinks and wants.

They will read this on REALNEO, and consider my thoughts, and consider your comments. They know Roldo, Susan and Laura well, and likely respect them more than the mainstream journalists here, who MMPI know have been trying to con the public.

What surprised me most, in their presentation, was I saw proposed benefits of the MedCon that I don't recall having been reported before, and that I never considered. Call them Social Value Added factors... ever hear that term applied to analysis of the MedCon.

No, because all the local analyses of the MedCon have been corrupt and focused on commanding and controlling wealth for the rich, without any consideration of opportunities for all other citizens. That has never been a factor in any mainstream discussion of this subject I have seen... our local con-men are very unsophisticated.

From what I saw in their presentation, and by attending the MMPI produced Toronto International Art Fair, in 2007, it seems to me MMPI goes to great lengths to make their facilities and events core of their communities.

Their public presentation highlighted many ways that citizens here may benefit from having the MedCon in our neighborhood... in many cases focusing on benefitting children. From holding free family previews of events, and promoting events that are positive to the community, to making facilities available for independent community activities, when not being used for scheduled trade events, it seems the MedCon is intended to be a community asset.

Who in NEO has made any effort to maximize that positive community benefit, or even consider it in our analyses of MedCon planning?

Early in the MMPI presentation, another new point came clear to me. The MedCon plan will help redefine downtown Cleveland as our region's center for convening, which is important. Public Hall and the mall will be preserved forever, and new events and activity all around there will bring lots of diverse and interesting new people to a fascinating but never fully realized part of Cleveland, and back into an exceptional historic but neglected facility I enjoyed as a child.

As I walked around the Mall, before the last MedCon hearing, I remembered many times I attended events at the Cleveland Convention Center, before corrupt “Community Leaders” abused our money and trust and redefined community conventional wisdom here around the red-lined IX center and the whitey-flighty burbs.

The IX center represents unreal NEO planning at its segregating, ignorant worst.

Up until January, 2009, planning for the MedCon seemed even worse.

Let's make planning for the MedCon now about citizens realigning regional focus on our planning failures of our past, and present, to create a future where we fix broken community processes, and rebuild important community infrastructure of many kinds.

The MedCon is showing promise of being more than a con, but we still have the terms of an unfair sales tax and $ 1 billion+ community development initiative to negotiate. There is risk ahead, but also plenty of benefit and wealth on the negotiating table to help all people of our community, if citizens are engaged and respected along the way.

REALNEO citizens are engaged and respected along the way.

What do you think citizens should do to perfect the MedCon process, now?

My thinking... I'm planning a trip to Chicago to meet with Kennedy and his MedCon team, see some of their work in action, and start negotiating positive outcomes for citizens of Greater Cleveland... if anyone wants to share gas.

I'm not invited, but I am confident I am welcome. So are you.

CitizenHauserSpeaks650.JPG99.15 KB
Vornado021609.jpg56.83 KB
MedConMallKnot650.JPG119.11 KB
MedConJonesSpeaking650.JPG131.94 KB
MedConProgressSince650.JPG175.96 KB

Don't put me anywhere near

Don't put me anywhere near agreeing with MMPI and its intentions or its credibility or desirability for openness to process in this deal.

Not putting words in your mouth... but who is to blame?

We need to start somewhere in dealing with the MedCon going forward.

We've been going in circles around this for years now - who has been the one ringleader behind all the wasted time and money. Name one name for whom to blame for everything bad about the MedCon plan at the beginning.

Who is the worst witch of all in this land of Oz?

Disrupt IT

not for me, not IMHO

Site selection cast in stone, eh?

"We're happy to abandon this site and choose a cheaper and better site." - Kennedy in response to LaRue of Forest City

"MMPI and the county plan to ask City Hall to waive property taxes on the $425 million development. Unabated, those taxes would total roughly $2 million per year.

"If there are property taxes, then we'd have to change what we plan to build," Kennedy warned council."

"The mall-site plans call for demolishing a county-occupied office annex on Ontario Street behind the County Administration Building to clear room for the six-story medical mart. Asked between meetings if the county would sell, or give away, its plain two-story building, Deputy County Administrator Lee Trotter replied, "Everything's on the table."

I'd say not much is cast in stone, yet. I liken this deal to sliding down a slippery slope (or a razor blade).  What is cast in stone is the fact that each time someone makes a purchase in Cuyahoga County, more sales tax is being collected and put into the general fund. They made the general fund decision because to put it into a convention center fund would have required a vote of the electorate. With little to go on besides a friendship between Hagan and Kennedy (he should have recused himself from the vote for this very impropriety), the deal was slammed through with little public debate, almost no information and a kowtowed and beleaguered public in desperation for "something, anything to help with jobs" (even if they are low wage jobs).

In 2009, a service economy is not the economic development this region or any region should bank on. I should know; I'm a Floridian. I can state unequivocally that the service economy bubble is over, was over from the start. I grew up in a state that based its entire funding mechanism on tourism, and let me tell you, it sucks. It is here today and gone tomorrow. So I have to wonder about this "deal", we pay for it and they give it back to us. In 20 years, will we want it? Will it be successful? Who will run it in 20 years after MMPI is ready to "give it back"? Is Cuyahoga County equipped to run a medical mart? Is this the job of a county government? Will we then pay them to run it?

Again I say, come on down MMPI. If you want to open your business in Cleveland, go right ahead. Pick a spot, we've got plenty of open land for development and lot's of empty buildings. Just don't ask me to help an accomplished REIT with the costs. We've tax abated this and that, we've subsidized almost everything else and still our economy shrinks and population shrinks. Let's make a new plan for a smaller city, a smart region with tax equity and social justice for all. I don't think it just that this one and that one gets a tax break. I'm paying taxes; so should everyone else. And I should have a say in what those taxes go to pay for. In my estimation developers are not the appropriate recipients of our tax dollars. Handups should go to the less fortunate, not handouts to the financially sound (if they indeed are sound). I dont wan't to give a dollar to a select group for whom "everything's on the table", who "warn" us about not offering a free tax ride, whose public process was broken from the get go and remains so today.

I have been trying to understand how it was that a heady sportsmaniacal Nick Mileti built the Richfield Coliseum despite protests (albeit without tax subsidies apparently) in the Cuyahoga Valley. Was he a Robert Moses for our region, promoting sprawl to fill in the valley between Cleveland and Akron? This was a bad idea that saw steel and concrete and water quality wasted for a 20 year period. Shall we now dream of a big silver bullet so delusionally that we build a similar edifice (and wrangle our Burnham Mall into it) right in the city's center only to see it falter, choke and die while we head into an ever deepening recession? What will downtown look like when banks and taxpayers fail to meet terms and the project is discontinued? Do we risk turning our downtown into more paved parking lots? Our public mall? I am less and less convinced that this can be a good thing for NEO.

I have the feeling the monogram is DMC, MD

For Delos M. "Toby" Cosgrove, M.D.

See, this is what I'm trying to determine. Is the tax a result of a friendship between Hagan and Kennedy, in which case Hagan should have recused himself, in which case Jones and Dimora need to decide if we should keep the tax as is or should approach the tax and MedCon funding differently.

But just because of a friendship between Hagan and Kennedy, does that mean Hagan was the one who designed the con? I mean Cosgrove certainly has the best lawyers in the world - he runs a bigger organization than anyone else at the table - has better legal minds than the County and other players have available, always - they specialize in structuring deals to not pay taxes and leverage public money... we know Cosgrove was the original MedCon pitch man - isn't it reasonable to assume he came up with the whole tax plan, and not just some sketch on a napkin.

Perhaps he is the one we should hate?!?!

Kennedy may actuslly hate Hagan (would that be a surprise) and totally ignore everything he says.

Who joined Cosgrove in Chicago to meet with MMPI, and who was there from MMPI. When did Roman and Nance join the circle and how/why.

Knowing what we know about all these players, and how they play ball with our community, it seems the least likely people to have originated anything corrupt about this deal are the folks at MMPI, and the most likely are Cosgrove and the good folks at the Cleveland Clinic.

Disrupt IT

Halifax considers downtown plan and convention center

An interchange of ideas

In 1968, it was slated to be the beginning bridge ramp for the peninsula’s six-lane shoreline freeway, called Harbour Drive. Public opposition put a stop to the highway but not before 134 downtown buildings were razed to make room for the Cogswell overpass.

Now its demise signals a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Halifax, Mayor Peter Kelly said Sunday "These opportunities don’t come your way very often because this is basically the end of large acreage in the downtown," he said in an interview Sunday.

"So that’s why it’s key that we take the time to look, think and respond according to what we hear from the public."

Regional council will mull over a proposal call for a Cogswell Interchange master plan when it meets Tuesday.

Such consultation is necessary, Mr. Kelly says, because it will help form the long-term strategy for dealing with the eventual destruction of the overpass.

He also said a few developers have approached city hall with an interest in developing the land over the years. "And each time we said, ‘No, we’ll wait until go through the process and then we’ll go for a proposal call.’

"Why not make the decision once there’s more information on the table?"

This is how we might proceed if we were not in Cleveland - open and transparent - taking the long view. A master plan, one not hijacked by the latest newbie brought in to rearrange what the public process agreed on. Do we recall Ed Hauser holding up the lakefront plan and asking again and again, "what happened to this plan?" as the port authority hopscotched along the waterfront?

Here's a city that doesn't intend to bend to the whim of a developer on the phone. And amazingly they recognize that they made a huge mistake in letting buildings be torn down for a highway interchange that was later abandoned. Are we as determined as Halifax to get our planning on an open and transparent, visionary track? 

Trips to Chicago

  Can be made economically on the leaves from behind Tower City.  It's a hoot Norm.