Public Trust -Library land for sale

Submitted by lmcshane on Sat, 01/11/2020 - 09:08.

NOTE: I am exercising my right to free speech and an opinion - I am not a representative for the library or the library union:

When Cleveland Public Library Director Felton Thomas, first came on board - he asked employees to make shared sacrifices and "get on the bus."  He came to Cleveland, Ohio from Las Vegas, Nevada, just as library systems across the state were hit with state budget cuts.   Step increases for seniority were frozen, long-time employees, who could retire, were given incentives to retire.  Costs were stabilized and the library continued to serve residents despite challenges. 

As conditions improved, Felton Thomas, received acclaim for serving on the Aspen Task Force for Learning and the Internet, and he served as the president of the Public Library Association.  Board members increased his salary, substantially - but the rank and file continued to operate without salaries increases other than cost-of-living.  New administrators started to arrive and they were given enormous starting salaries and bonuses.  Most alarming - branch conditions deteriorated and management of the collection became an operation called "fresh eyes," which resulted in "weeding" overkill - with no object or clear definition of our research library protocol.  The Main Library is now a ghost ship and the archives at Lakeshore are slowing being sold off.

Always looming in the background, competition with Cuyahoga County Public Library:  Sari Feldman's over $250K salary at Cuyahoga County Library was used to justify giving another NGO agency director, Brian Zimmerman at the Cleveland Metroparks, a comparable raise and benefits package.  The Cleveland Public Library Board of Trustees apparently are following the same playbook.  But, the Cleveland Metroparks, despite criticism of Brian Zimmerman, consistently wins best workplace awards - Cleveland Public Library is not winning those awards under the direction of Felton Thomas.  Cleveland Public Library, in competition with Cuyahoga County Public Library, passed a levy and embarked on a massive branch renovation and new construction plan.  This is where the new COO comes into the picture and his salary and bonuses were decided in executive session.  I like Jeremiah Swetel - I think he is smart, honest and hardworking, but I don't agree with the back room deals and I most certainly do not agree that we are overpaid.  I worry that the building program will include cost overruns and bad planning. 

Please read the Cleveland Public Library Board minutes -


Lake Shore Update Jeremiah Swetel, Chief Operations Officer, stated that the kick off meeting for the 185 Corridor Project consisting of representatives of the Hospice of the Western Reserve, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, Metro Parks, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Greater Collinwood Development Corporation and Councilman Polensek to discuss the next steps in the planning process to happen within the next five months. Mr. Swetel gave an overview of the following next steps: Internal Stakeholder Meetings set up by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Community Engagement Develop massings showing the library adjacent to Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School and the potential to have a mixed use development with senior living with the library behind it or on the same property with the library being the anchor helping to activate other spaces on the property

Mr. Swetel stated that this does not happen in a vacuum with what we are doing with the Lake Shore property. Part of the planning process is to come up with a plan for the property that we currently own. We are in the process of getting estimates and the property appraised to understand the costs associated with selling the property and what the value of the property is. Hopefully, this will be completed by the end of the year. After that, we can determine how we will sell the property.

Mr. Swetel stated that there is a trailer park adjacent to our property that has been recently put up for sale. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress through one of their subsidiaries has a bid in on it and have been actively working with Metro Parks to figure out how to section off a large part of the trailer park and give it to the Metro Parks and develop the front of where the trailer park is now and ideally turning the front of our Lake Shore property into market rate housing. The back half of our property would be turned into park reservation. In conclusion, Mr. Swetel stated that plans are not set in stone and await future community engagement discussions. In response to Ms. Washington, Mr. Swetel stated that Councilman Polensek helped fund $10,000 of his own money for the planning process and requests that the Library do something of value to the property. In response to Mr. Hairston’s inquiry, Mr. Swetel stated that there is a plan that Hospice would go to the lake and the library would be on Lake Shore with potential lake views. Senior living could be either above and/or behind the library. We are really looking at the street presence at Lake Shore close to the bus line and near the school. This would add value to the Library. Although this is not confirmed, we need to explore what makes the most sense. The thought is that if there is 11 acres of green space adjacent to Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, we need to think of ways to make it accessible to the public to get to the lake.

12Mr. Swetel continued to explain that Hospice owns the property where we are looking to locate our branch. They had entered into a master plan with an architect in 2016 that included relocating their headquarters to the lake with a residential component with lakefront access. The plan failed because of funding issues. Now that someone else is interested in it, Hospice is willing to give us the property at no charge to build there so that it can help generate additional interest and leverage to get funding for a project. Discussion continued on various topics such as political boundaries, updated parking lot lighting at Lake Shore Facility. Mr. Swetel stated that we are in the process of registering Cleveland Public Library as a contractor with the City of Cleveland. This means that our own staff will be able to address the longstanding deferred maintenance issues at Main and Louis Stokes Wing. In 2020, we plan to renovate the restrooms in the lower level of Louis Stokes Wing with our own staff

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Salaries and Strikes


I will say that I don't have as much an issue w/the Director's salary as I do with the rampant hiring of crony friends and other new administrators walking in at six figure salaries. Overall - here is my take: Cuyahoga County cultivates political figureheads who collect outrageous salaries b/c their board of directors allow it. These people ARE NOT CEOs - they are managers and they should be paid to manage staff members who work efficiently and safely to deliver public services.

The ball got rolling w/these outrageous salaries when Lee Fisher was paid to manage the The Centers For Families and Children Ditto Sharon Sobol-Jordan. Sari Feldman at Cuyahoga County also got her board to approve an outrageous salary for her. That gave Metroparks' Brian Zimmerman justification to go to his his board for an increase to his salary. Look at other NGO salaries: CEOGC (remember Jackie Middleton?), Ohio Guidestone, CHN Partners...the Diversity Center (what a BS organization). CPL employees in 2008 volunteered to freeze the wage step increases that had been negotiated and approved - it was probably the biggest mistake our union made to allow the wage freeze. Our wage increases were never reactivated as library funding levels improved. The library now has a marketing director (friend of Joe Cimperman), who is pushing lies about our contract in violation of state labor laws. There are pending unfair labor practices cases before the state b/c of HR practices at CPL, and the planned outsourcing of catalog and technical library services, and the selling off of our archives.

This is why library employees will go on strike.



Service Employees International Union District 1199, which represents about 400 librarians, librarian assistants and custodians, is consulting with its attorneys to determine whether the library’s actions broke its own policies and state law, which prohibits public entities like the library from using public money to support or oppose “any labor organization or any action by, on behalf of, or against any labor organization.