Lawyer Jon Pinney, who gave a much anticipated talk at the City Club a week and a half ago, was tamer than most people were expecting, which might have disappointed a few. He certainly made some enoightening points: using statistics to show the massive economic and population gulf between Cleveland and Columbus over the last decade, the need for more collaboration amongst civic and business leaders in the region, and the call to study other cities’ successes . The fact that the Cleveland region is losing 19 people per day is horrifying to anybody who cares about the future of our area, so he set that stage for why his talk was needed.
Though it was a little short on specific policy proposals, and occasionally relied too heavily on cute phrases like “egosystem,” in the end Pinney’s talk was a starting point for his goal to “disrupt the system.” And the six characteristics he believes crucial if our region is to move forward are admirable. Having said that, his long-awaited call-to-arms of eight specific individuals to step up their efforts was unconscionable in the fact that all of them were white males, something immediately brought up in the Q&A afterwards. Pinney certainly should’ve had the foresight to realize this was a colossal mistake on his part. At the very least he could’ve cited this fact in his speech as Exhibit A of the city’s structural defects.
But perhaps the speech should best be looked at as who Pinney did not lambaste or call out. The end goal surely isn’t finger-pointing, but here are a few examples:
- The Cleveland Clinic: No (non-sports) entity is more associated with the city in the eyes of the world than the Clinic, yet what have they done for their hometown? To walk just two blocks from the Clinic is to enter the dregs of society and quite a few people would be terrified. I’m not even sure if the Clinic wants a seat at the proverbial “Rebuilding Cleveland” table, but without them any regional improvements will be more difficult. Hopefully the new CEO will prove more open-minded. But if you want further information on the Clinic’s less-than-aggressive pursuit of civic betterment check out this article from last year on POLITICO.
- Joe Roman, CEO of Greater Cleveland Partnership, was not only not criticized in any way, but Pinney thanked him. A man who has been perched at the top of the city’s socio-civic ladder for years, surely could be at the top of any complaints about stale leadership. Akin to what Brent Larkin wrote about in the PD not long ago
- Mayor Frank Jackson: If the man who’s been mayor for 12+ years isn’t in some way responsible for what’s happened in Cleveland, then I don’t know who else is.
- Suburban politicians: The inability to realize that as Cleveland goes, so goes the region, is short-sighted and harmful. A regional focus is perhaps the only way for the city to compete with Columbus, Indianapolis, or Philly just to name a few.
- Freddy Collier: The head of City Planning for Cleveland who apparently believes the Opportunity Corridor will save the city and its poorest residents and also appears to believe the far west side of Cleveland is in need of nothing.
These are just a few. Hopefully we as a region can move forward collectively and avoid the blame game, but in order to address the situation frankly, we must be frank initially.