Westbrook uses community organizing as strategy
to rebuild Ward 18 neighborhoods
At its July 8th Board Meeting, the Plain Press Board of Trustees interviewed Ward 18 Councilman Jay Westbrook. A Clifton Avenue resident, Westbrook has served in city council since 1980. Westbrook has been president of Cleveland City Council since 1990.
Plain Press Board of Trustees: Maybe we can start with some comments, since it has been in the news - about the detective that died in your ward- maybe some lessons that can be learned from that. I know you had a big community gathering at West Blvd. Christian Church, and the family of the detective was talking about their hope that something good will come out of this. Certainly the neighbors were talking about doing some organizing. Maybe you could comment a little bit about what has come out of that.
Ward 18 Councilperson Jay Westbrook: First and foremost, Officer Robert Clark is a police officer that I knew, and many people in the neighborhood knew. It is difficult to talk about it without really thinking about the personal tragedy -- so I want to acknowledge that right up front. He really exemplified so many things we say we want police officers to be and to do: sensitive to the community, responsive to citizens, and aggressive in a targeted way. And, really it is all of the qualities that led him and his other two partners to be in a very real sense in the wrong place in the wrong time.
Part of the tragedy of it is that on any given night, in any police district in the city, there are a multitude of street level drug arrests. We get all the police reports, a list of suspects names and the charges, and there are three or four rocks of crack cocaine or something else on them. So in that sense it was a very routine enforcement action that took the life of an officer.
I do think there are some things to learn from it. I don't think I'll be able to say them all, but I can say some of them -- and not in any particular order. First and foremost -- all of us in neighborhoods that are crosscut by the dynamics of decline, crime and chaos on one hand and community initiatives to create order, create community and create community building. On any given day you kind of feel is the glass half empty, is it half full, what is really going on here? One of the things I think this is reflective of is, at any point of time, there can be a crisis that comes out of this cross current of things that can and does overwhelm the community. And the community feels that this is not reflective of who they are and what they are about. Kind of the outside community looks at it, like the Plain Dealer, Mike O'Malley writes an article and says this is what the neighborhood is all about. "It was strong and now it is dead." You know. So you can make those kind of prejudicial judgments, just like that. That is how real estate agents judge neighborhoods, how banks judge neighborhoods. People with choices can write off a neighborhood.
Or, we are seeing evidence in Cleveland now where they say: "This is the place to be. It is the trend, get with it, get in a neighborhood."
Either of those extremes, I think, tend to not really reflect what the neighborhood is. So I think that is one thing that in a crisis like this can tend to create a lightning rod where judgments about a neighborhood are made that are wrong. Because the fabric of community life is always more complex, and more interwoven.
Secondly, it certainly reflected of however far we think many of our neighborhoods and I like to think, my own neighborhood, my own ward has gone -- there's miles and miles and miles more to go.
And, another thing, and this hits home to me. There does seem to be a pattern of commercial strips that have declined that are intersected by residential streets that are strong and stable. And those declining commercial districts are sort of like the front porch of a home that is sagging the steps aren't there. And you say, "Boy, you know, that's a crummy place to be." But you might get in the front door and find a very nice family, or a very well kept home. Those commercial districts tend to have a high volume of absentee property ownership that is neglecting the property. Elements of, in fact, the example of this building where Patrolman Clark was killed, there are two units in the building. The couple, that was harboring Correy Major, had just been evicted from a building a block away. So a property owner that had found cause to evict a tenant, (the tenant) just becomes a tenant a block away. So the problems stays - and you are just playing musical chairs.
Board: And a vacant restaurant downstairs.
Councilman Westbrook: Right. It had been a very well managed business: good business, good prices and good clientele. But it was suffocated out by the street activity. So I do think, and in my ward, you are familiar with Denison Avenue and the problems we've had there, we've made some major headway in cleaning that up. Our 500th drug house board up was on Detroit Avenue about four years ago, in what now is a very well run stable multi-family apartment building and major renovation of what is being called Shilling Square at W. 110th and Detroit. So part of what I'm getting at, is that one of the things we see clearly is that as much as we push street drug sales and street level crime around, that is what we do, we push it around. Unfortunately, we push it off Detroit and Denison and it picks up on Madison. Another thing is that we have a number of strong crime watch groups in here.They meet regularly. They work together. They were on the case. They knew exactly what was going on. The police officer wasn't there to buy donuts, he was there to interdict crime -- being responsive to community concerns. So a safety agenda was being worked. The tragedy causes people to say, "Nothing is being done." So, it feeds into the sense pessimism and cynicism that is so prevalent in our neighborhoods anyway.
I guess another thing is, I being a politician, you are supposed to be in the happy talk business, but as much as I knew and cared for Officer Clark, there is clearly something about a police murder that galvanizes a community. But in terms of human life it is no different than Matthew Carroll, a 12 year old kid on Detroit, who bought a gun on the street, was playing with it and blew his brains out - two years ago now. That just becomes a little blurb in the paper. But to that community, that's in many ways as troubling as a police officer that is gunned down in a drug bust gone bad. How could a 12 year purchase, handle, and be in a group handling a .22. Nobody's saying anything, parents' not engaged, noboby... So part of what I'm saying is that it is reflective of a level of community problems that also take other victims as well. I think rather than rushing out and condemning the neighborhood, people ought to be willing to learn from it. Be open to learning about what does it takes to make absentee landlords responsible? What does it take to, in this case there are some uniquenesses, obviously, where a kid is arrested at a strip joint on Brookpark and out in the same day. There are some uniquenesses there, but I think the common threads are pretty much there, at least the ones I can think of. I think it is reflective of a partnership, that is sometimes fragile and not well developed, but between the police and communities.
Board: Can you discuss the involvement of block clubs in your ward?
Councilperson Westbrook: First, let me say something about myself, I think it will be a backdrop to responding to you. I got into politics from community organizing. I look at being a ward councilman as being a community organizer. When I was elected I was on the outs with the council. I didn't get any block grant dollars. So I didn't have any rabbits to pull out of the hat, or sort of gimmicks to satisfy voters. I told people in my ward then, and my message now is "We rebuild our communities by mobilizing citizens." So when I was able to receive block grant funds and other types of resources that citizens deserve to have, I put them into organization. I was one of the first councilpeople to use block grant dollars to hire a safety organizer, Michael McDonald and Safety Net in partnership with Ward 17, Councilman Pianka at the time and now Tim Melena and I set up that program and we expanded. Other councilmen have built off of it and now we have a network through block grant dollars of I think eight or nine safety organizers. I know that through the Americorp and the Enterprise Foundation, they have also supported safety organizers. I think that is absolutely critical. I think that just conceptually, for all the talk about Community Policing, if that is driven from City Hall or even by the Police Department, it would be very top down. It will just be policing, frankly, it won't be community. Community Policing can work, and does work when it is a true partnership. When citizens have the confidence to engage the police, when citizens feel they have a legitimate demand on police resources. And when police learn to listen and be strategic about how they deploy their strengths as well. Building those kind of bridges and building those kind of vehicles for genuine collaboration, discussion and strategy making is one of the things that I have been committed to. And I think I put my money where my commitments are.
Board: Certainly having a resource person like Mike McDonald, he can do leg work for the community and for the police. Court watch, check things out - information is valuable in those kinds of searches and it takes time.
Councilperson Westbrook: Right. And what you find -- I think this is another thing that was very clear with Officer Clark and Madison Avenue -- that is citizens who are committed to strong communities, when given a vehicle to be involved, given a vehicle to express themselves, given a vehicle to point out crime problems in a community -- they'll use it. If no vehicle is there, despair sets in, and people feel disenfranchised and disengaged. And neighborhoods can become over run. We've always seen our building blocks as the crime watch groups on streets and blocks. We have all down Madison from 105th to the end of my ward at 85th street, we've got engaged block clubs there that are now doing more to work together. And that exists throughout my ward. I initiated an organization, now called Lorain Turnaround Neighbors in Action, that covers the neighborhood South of I-90. I've been very supportive of the Simpson Neighbors, which is a wonderful commitment by Simpson United Methodist Church, both the district and the local congregation, to improving the community through organizing. They house the program, they have a part time staff person -- hopefully in the near future will become a Cleveland Police officer in Debbie McDonnel. And Simpson covers at least to 73rd. And then historically we had the Stockyards Area, which back in the 80s all the way down to W. 52nd street was my ward, and I was instrumental in getting the Stockyards organization started. When I look at my ward, I see community organizations. You could do an overlay of the ward by block club organization, little federations of organizations. Of course North of I-90 is Cudell Improvement which is 22 years old and one of the main LDCs (Local Development Corporations) in the city. I think that it took me about two weeks on the job as a councilman in the early 1980s to realize that the kind of the traditional view of role of councilperson: tell the councilman about the drug sales on the corner, or tell the councilman about the truant kids, or tell the councilman about the absentee landlord -- as much ideally you would like to think that relationship alone would work, and maybe in an ideal world -- sort of the Ozzie and Harriet world -- City Hall could work that way, it's just, it doesn't. But when you build the bridges between, and create the vehicles to access those resources and to aid in the empowerment of citizens at a community level, I think you really can make a very significant change.
Board: Plus you can't function receiving three thousand phone calls a day.
Councilman Westbrook: No, you really can't. You are offering a false promise. I think that is politically dangerous. But it is also not constructive to rebuilding a community, it is like selling snake oil.
Board: What are your feelings about Community Development Corporations (CDCs)?
Councilman Westbrook: I think that they are critical to the success of communities. Cleveland has a rich history of them. They came out of community activism and then went into a more institutionalized form. I personally think that the best kind of CDC is a hybrid of both of those. An organization with development expertise, but not so elite or specialized that they are detached from the neighborhood. So that a good CDC in my opinion is one that has a reflective and responsive board and staffing that is capable of doing good housing work, good safety work and good development and redevelopment.
Board: Cudell, you said the area north of I-90 all Cudell, they have done some organizing, I know, South of I-90 as well.
Councilman Westbrook: Cudell, as the CDC in my ward, their storefront renovation program is on Lorain Avenue. We've extended it to Denison in a couple of incidences. As a CDC the weatherization programs extends throughout Ward 18 and actually into some of the surrounding wards. That is one the quiet programs that they do, you don't do a lot of organizing around it, or hold meetings around weatherizing a home. But it is a very strong program that they have. They are the vehicle for the Midwest Housing Partnership which services the entire ward. That is Betty Alberty and Bob Fuchs. The Housing Partnership has done some wonderful work. They do invest in relationship to existing community organizations. Several years ago we had a house by house survey in the Cudell Area. Last year we had a house by house survey in the Lorain Turnaround Neighbors Area. Whenever the city tries to do that by itself, I've never seen it work. They either get overwhelmed by the paperwork and end up penalizing conscientious residents who may have a porch spindle out of place and are just crushed when they get a housing citation.
Board: That brings to mind the point of sale inspections I've heard about. What are your views on that, because that kind of scares me?
Councilman Westbrook: It is one of those ideas that is sort of germinating within the council. When I say that I mean that the council as a whole realizes the value of it as an idea, but the negative consequences of it as an across the board program in the city. So it is sort of been on a slow track because you try to figure out, it could have these benefits but the negatives outweigh the benefits. That's why in the recent article I think it reflected the idea that maybe we start it as a pilot program in certain neighborhoods where maybe based on some index of housing values and housing sales and stuff you could say that this might be an area where you could institute such a program. I would not want to say the negatives would outweigh the positive, but the negatives are pretty clear in terms of we live in a city where, for whatever reasons: the lack for thirty years of systematic housing inspections, the demographics of the city, the income levels, much of the housing stock would not survive in the market place if we had point of sale inspection. And that is just a fact. You have to acknowledge that and then say, maybe on the basis of trying to then preserve what we have and continue to rebuild it. Maybe there is some selective way to do point of sale inspections.
Board: Can it be linked up with the survey that is being done by housing inspectors where they are rating every house in Cleveland. My understanding is that they are going to then create a globally based scale of rating properties, so that in one neighborhood what is an A property, could be a B or C property another neighborhood. Could they be somehow linked together in a way that would make it comprehensive?
Councilman Westbrook: That is one of the things that we are looking at. Obviously we have struggled with the issue for the last decade of how to revitalize housing property and I think we realize to whatever degree that abandonment has occurred either by absentee ownership neglecting property and not reinvesting, that the consequences of that have already hit home and you can't go back ten years and kind of reconstitute a point in time. Whenever we do concentrated code enforcement, we find the levels of financial hardship: elderly citizens, people that are hard hit by the economy, maybe even dual income families that are still just having hard times making ends meet -- may just barely meeting the mortgage. As soon as we enforce the housing code, we are hit with a demand for our grants, and low cost loans that far exceeds our resources to meet those. So I'm one, I feel you shouldn't use the stick until you have the carrots there to aid legitimate needs.
Board: Such as Repair a Home and different programs that have been closed for quite awhile because there were no funds there.
Westbrook: Right. Exactly.
Board: That also ties back to the drug house board up issue. Before you arrived we were sort of tossing back and forth housing and thinking about that as a tool. There was some disagreement. Some of us here felt that it was the only available tool to close down a nuisance home in a neighborhood. Others felt that there was a lack of due process there for people could unfairly loose their home. We were just wondering if that drug board up, you had said that the 500th house had been boarded up in the city.
Westbrook: That was several years ago. We are at almost 2,000 right now, I believe.
Board: One of the problems. Also the demolitions then of houses. I know Cleveland has not only condemned and boarded up houses, but there is a huge backlog on that. We are talking about the loss of housing stock in Cleveland sometimes through demolition, drug board up, and code violations. And we have a low income housing crisis in Cleveland. How can we enforce the law and use that as a weapon against drugs, against code violations, but maintain housing stock for low income people?
Westbrook: Right. Let me start with the latter first. I think there is a crisis in terms of low and moderate income housing. Quality housing. I think the crisis exceeds the ability of local government to fully address it. In part it has to encompass CMHA (Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority). In part it has to encompass the private sector, because if the only housing we develop or nurture is to produce a big profit then obviously we are not going to produce low and moderate income housing. I think there are several strategies that have been employed, that continue to be employed, that ought to be acknowledged. One is the Cleveland Housing Network. It is kind of an unsung hero in the city, but has really aided immensely in the acquisition of distressed property, and the rehabilitation of those properties and in getting those properties into the hands of low income families. It could be accelerated two or three time and still not meet the full demand that there is. Secondly, an area that the city has just began to scratch is the rehabilitation of multi-family units. Those are probably the most distressed properties in the city. They are also the most costly to rehab. They have been in many ways the most plundered by selfish economic interests. But, if in partnership with the private lending institutions we could accelerate a program of acquisition and rehab of multi-family units for low and moderate income housing, I think one it would go a long to addressing situations like Madison Avenue which exist throughout the city. Secondly, it would restore some of the most dramatic parts of our housing architecture. Many of these buildings are spectacular. Again, my view, it may be an overstatement. Some are spectacular and many are quite distinctive. You drive out Lorain and those commercial fronts with the upper apartments, mostly all masonry structures with balconies and stuff -- these are beautiful elements in the neighborhood. So now we've acknowledged this, but I can't tell you there is a grand program but it is an area where we have made some selective gains and recognize that we need to do a whole lot more.
Board: Would Cleveland Housing Network have the capacity to expand into acquisition and rehabilitation of multi-unit structures such as you are talking about?
Westbrook: They do. Having said that, though, I think that one of the things that we should learn from them is that there is a value in being of such a scale that you can actually put your arms around the property that you own and you maintain. So that there is a ... I would not want the city doing it. I think that the housing network model of working through the LDCs (Local Development Corporations) would be an applicable model for the multi-family units in neighborhoods. So that it is not a bureaucracy of property management throughout the city, but a small scale community based ownership model that is in partnership with the Housing Network and the LDC's. I know the building next to the Lutheran Hospital, there had been various efforts to save that and rehab it, I guess it is gone now. But, you won't be able to save every one. But that is just up the street from where we are now -- as an example. There are plenty in my ward. We almost lost the Eastman at 110th and Detroit, a beautiful building. Actually, probably and even more accurate example of low and moderate income is the Rose Village across from West Tech High School on W. 89th street. Where developers took a boarded up and abandoned terrace townhouse apartments and restored them for moderate income housing. I can think of a lot of examples where that can be done in the city.
Board: Certainly the volume of people needed to shop in these stores needs to be increased. The apartments above them and places like the Eastman brings a volume of people, the neighborhood really hasn't recovered from I-90 -- the volume of people that were taken out. I know Mercedes Cotner (Councilperson when Clark Freeway (I-90) was proposed) said the freeway would go through her ward over her dead body and there was nothing she could do to stop it. I know council tried to stop it, but the devastation that occurred for those small merchants and for the neighborhood as far as services is very hard to replace.
Westbrook: Exactly what it is. It goes right to the doorstep of Westgate mall and you know people bypass their local drug store or the... One of the things, an example on Lorain, a building, with a very colorful history because it was owned by one of the West Side drug kingpins, Carmen Zigaria. It was condemned. It was slated for the wrecking ball. His brother stepped in and attempted to restore the building with moderate income housing. Ultimately the Veterans Administration has come in with Veterans Transitional Housing at W. 94th and Lorain. It is cited as one of the best examples of retail conversion to housing. You drive past it and you would never know that the whole street level is housing. It maintains the integrity of retail appearance and still serves as a very nice entrance way to the W. 98th and Lorain area.
Board: You have had a little bit of development along there with Coreno Plaza and now Heyduk's is opening up an antique mall across the street there in the old ice cream parlor - Michaud's.
Westbrook: Right. Michuad's Party Center.
Board: Is that the work of the storefront housing group?
Westbrook: It is the combination of a very conscientious property owner, Mark Heyduk, of Heyduk's Florist who is a graduate of West Tech High School and the horticultural program there and his family business probably forty or fifty years there. Under his leadership he has acquired actually the whole block W. 95th to W. 97th, north and south side, anchored by the florist business, and now the former Michaud's Party Center, which before that was a service station. He has restored the building back to its original facade. There is a canopy on the top and he is opening an antiques mall there. The Lorain and W. 98th street area, if anybody ever was interested in trying to track its history over the last 15 to 20 years would really find an example of what I said initially of those crosscurrents in the neighborhoods. I mean you had the drug linchpin there that I assume the police and the federal officers knew about it, but the community didn't realize what was going on at 94th and Lorain. You've got a couple of strong family businesses: Heyduk's Florist, Schindler's Fabrics - a second generation upholstering shop there, and Schneider's Bike Shop which is a regional draw. When we fought against the closing of Sears and then resulted in the redevelopment of that sight as West Town Plaza, the anchor of that was Finast which had been at 98th and Lorain. So we lost the Pick-n-Pay from 98th and Lorain but we ultimately gained the County Income Maintenance Center which actually employs more people than Finast did. So, that has been a plus. In the waning days of Ameritrust they slated for closure the W. 98th and Lorain Ameritrust Bank. We fought against that. We intervened in that and stopped its closing and then when Ameritrust folded that branch was acquired by Star Bank. We were able to maintain a thriving bank branch there but it has not been without struggle.
Board: You have one of the few remaining independent drug stores the Rexall there. No parking -- it is struggling. You also have vacancies. Famous Cleaners closed, there is another cleaners in there now. But there have been some vacancies up and down the street. It is difficult because the population just isn't there. You used to have Tony's Restaurant at the corner of Clark and Lorain Ave. Right across the street was a Fazios and a drug store. All that was a shopping area, now it is a freeway. Whole streets were wiped out. Blocks and blocks of people were cut right out of there. That is the key. As you said, systemically it is a problem. The freeways have made everybody more mobile. You can leave to shop. Nobody can compete with suburban big boxes. Now we've got industries opening up new factories in the suburbs. The Salvation Army is actually busing people from the central core cities to work in the suburbs. What can we do systemically? Some cities have have a geographic border like New York City. Some cities have chosen a ring, like Portland, and say if you are going to develop outside this ring your are going to pay money to the central city to maintain it. What kind of strategy do you see Cleveland using to create a linkage?
Westbrook: That is an excellent question. We, the city of Cleveland, has become much more attune to and aware of what is commonly called "regional dynamics". Our population, our job base over the last ten years has really remained static. Yet we continue to operate as though we are in a growth region. So people moving out, new housing is being developed.
We just saw the fight about the expansion of I-71 and a couple of years ago -- the expansion of I-90. Cleveland has begun to work in a much more focused way first of all with ourselves, council and the administration, and regional planning agencies like NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency) as well as the Regional Sewer Board and RTA ( Regional Transit Authority) to look at strategies of public investment that reinforce the urban poor. It also is an interesting phenomenon that the interest of the center city joined up with first of all the outer ring -- mostly Republican and rural interest -- because they want to stop the encroachment and we want urge the reinvestment. So all of a sudden we got like progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans saying "we have some common interests here."
What we do need now is for the Ohio Department of transportation to get clued in, for the State government to get more engaged, to further develop the brownfield policies that we have, develop as you referred to in Portland or Minneapolis where there are progressive policies in place that value reinvestment and penalize this kind of wanton expansion that has a very high price tag to it. Unfortunately Ohio is not altogether a very progressive state. So that things that a Portland or Minneapolis does, it takes a while for it to get back to Ohio and in this case you know a lot of horses have left the barn or a lot of chickens have flown the coop before we understand what it takes to close the door. But we are getting there.
One of the things that we haven't talked about, and I think is reflective of getting there, is a much more aggressive industrial development and redevelopment policy. We have done a great deal in Cleveland to keep businesses, to help businesses expand. Organizations like WIRE-Net (Westside Industrial Retention and Expansion Network) on the West Side, which by the way was not created out of some economic guru, or even some businesses or the Growth Association, it was created out of community organizing. WIRE-Net, basically said well, kind of classic community organizing, "What is it that is in the interest of the kind of small and medium sized manufacturers that will cause them to reinvest and stay in the community?" When they started to answer that question we found that it was safety, it was infrastructure revitalization, and now we are finding that it is training and access to a prepared work force. All of a sudden our local businesses are very much interested in the success of the Cleveland schools. So the circle has kind of come full now where twenty years ago businesses were thinking about moving to the Southwest, merging, looking for cheap labor in off shore locations. Now we have small and medium size businesses, entrepreneurship that is doing well and as they grow they are faced then with the question of "Do we relocate to the suburbs or can we expand here in Cleveland?" And, through organizations like WIRE-Net and the Cleveland Industrial Retention Initiative (CIRI) we are succeeding actually in identifying those businesses, and frankly intervening in the industrial real estate market place. Where if you are running a widget shop and you've outgrown your plant and you call your Industrial Realtor and say "I need 20,000 square feet." They are going to give you 15 or 20 places in suburban Cuyahoga County without blinking an eye. But if through the Industrial Retention Initiative we now have these businesses organized and they realize that one their labor pool is right here in the neighborhood and that is their strongest asset. So, secondly they say if all things being equal we can expand or relocate nearby at a competitive rate in a functional building that is what they want to do. So we are kind of shifting the advantage, almost back, or headed back in our direction.
Board: We had a chance to go to the graduation of Project Destiny, WIRE-Net's program at Max Hayes. One of the things that manufacturers are saying is they want a high quality student to be attracted to manufacturing. And they have needs and the jobs pay more than the average college graduate will earn. They are talking in the $40,000s in pay level. You are talking about machine tools and plastics and all these different small industries. People don't really hear about it. Small manufacturers don't have the incoming pool of labor and they are competing with the big auto and steel manufacturers for employees as their work forces retire. How do we prepare our students at our schools? What can we do with the schools, as a councilperson, as a citizen do you have any insights?
Westbrook: Everything you said is exactly true. This is case where, this is like the movie "Back to the Future". You could go back to the future of industrial based employment. Whereas the 70s and 80s left us with the sense that the industrial economy was gone, that we were transcending to this service sector economy, get with the program and the future is dead in industry. But in Cleveland and even with the Growth Association now they are recognizing everything you just said, in small and medium sized manufacturing firms we recognize that there is a clustering of types of businesses. Certainly the auto manufacturing business and the parts and suppliers division of that is very significant to Cleveland, polymers are extremely important, and we find that in Cleveland our technology can compete with any place in the world. If we can accelerate the labor force development to a point where we can meet the demand, this can be a very significant area of employment. Max Hayes, just to use that as an example, thirty years ago was the premier trade school in Cleveland. All the trades had their apprenticeship programs at Max Hayes. Now you have to go off of Rockside Road and you find all of them out there: plumbers, pipe fitters and others. Sheet metal workers are still in Cleveland, and there are others that are still in Cleveland, but none are at Max Hayes. Until recently, nobody at the school system will tell you this, but I'll tell you this, Max Hayes was the Siberia of the school system. Kids knew that if their counselor suggested "Well, why don't you check out Max Hayes", that was tantamount to suggesting they drop out of school.
Board: They are not going to make it.
Westbrook: Exactly. Kids knew, I'm being set up, basically. And the irony is, now tool and die businesses, manufacturing firms have got their eye on Max Hayes as a resource for developing that trained labor force that they need. They need elementary or rudimentary skills. Most all of these employers are prepared and ready to train people beyond that point. They need people that know what it is to go to work at eight in the morning, that can read metric scales, make conversions, and know a little about computers. It is so reflective of what it takes to reform the school system because in a short amount of time Max Hayes has gone from the Siberia of the system to one of the best performing high schools in the system.
Board: What about West Tech?
Westbrook: West Tech is gone for good as a school. It is not going to come back.
Board: What about as a trade school. Higher tech trade school.
Westbrook: I personally don't... I think there are tech schools out there. For example in my ward is the West Side Institute of Technology at 98th and Walford. I think Chuck was saying this earlier, I think the biggest challenge now is to carry out the outreach to bring people into these programs. I would rather see us invest our dollars in outreach and in training rather than in more real estate. I think that the schools are there to do it, Max Hayes is an example. West Tech is a high priority. I obviously don't want an abandoned school sitting there. I think there is a very good opportunity to develop that site. Probably for housing. I don't want to leave the conversation without saying something would be done. If there was a viable school, if there was a school that had outgrown its walls and needed more room we would be eager to...
Board: You are talking about needing infrastructure for a prepared work force and West Tech is closed.
Westbrook: I don't want to mix apples and oranges too much, because West Tech means a lot to me. I almost served time in jail at Federal Judge Kurpanski's order because I tried to keep it open. But I think realistically speaking, that site is too large and won't be redeveloped as a school. I think that if we can invest our resources in Max Hayes and restore that to the prominence that it once had, and build that linkage between it as a training school and the manufacturing firms, I think that would be a very significant step.
Board: Are people looking at West Tech as a redevelopment for housing?
Board: What about a massive training for adults. We have adults coming off of welfare, we have a lot of people that are in marginal jobs, and we have this need in industry. Will the same thing work for adults as high school students? I know Tri-C (Cuyahoga Community College) is downtown, and several neighborhood agencies have told me we need something large in the neighborhood because of transportation, day care all those kinds of things. Could West Tech serve, or some other facility?
Westbrook: Yes it could. I think that what the county is looking at, which I support, is a system of community based empowerment centers that can access people to jobs. I honestly think that for most of the training that is needed, there are already facilities to do that. Historically we have all seen federal training programs that feed the consultants and train people for dead end jobs. Those facilities are there. We find ourselves in a very unique period in the economy of our country. I know, I never expected to see help wanted signs in front of industrial firms. I never expected to see the old American Greetings plant purchased and redeveloped. When I first began organizing in Cleveland, I worked with the Ohio Public Interest Campaign against plant closings. The first plant closing that we organized around was the Glidden Paint Plant at Berea and Madison, which now has more people working there as Seibert Coatings than it did as Glidden Paints. I never forsaw that, and I'm not trying to do a commercial for American capitalism -- because it certainly has caused a lot of harm and a lot of pain in communities. But I do think that at this point in time we see a type of productivity that we as communities need to link up with and the partnership that can be created through the Welfare-to-Work program if done right and I think done in a community base. I think what I said earlier about the Industrial Retention Initiative, as it relates to working with businesses to stay in communities and also what I said earlier about the Cleveland Housing Network that property management happens best at a community level -- I think retraining people for available jobs also happens best at a community level. So that the system that the county commissioners have devised of community based empowerment centers that can aid people in looking for jobs, that can aid people with the support services that are necessary in terms of child care, health care, housing, and others. That they don't want to be so small that you are fragmented and not really helping, but you also don't want to become so bureaucratic that people sit around and get the run around.
Board: How do you move that state of the art equipment like Tri-C has downtown, the computer aided machine tool design, and things like that are very sophisticated -- Max Hayes has older stuff, but they have stuff -- how do you get it into the adult training centers so adults are learning skills, learning the shop math, learning the things that they are going to need rather than just going over how to write a resume and how to do an interview.
Westbrook: First of all, I think we have to be careful not to paint with too big a brush, because a lot of people do have real skills. They have skills that need maybe polishing, need some assistance. Just because someone has been on welfare, doesn't mean that they are without skills. So I think the notion behind empowerment centers is what in a community context is called asset based development. You build off an individual's strengths, build off of their interests. Then help them access that training. So I think it would be a mistake to think that you have to have all the bells and whistles at every location, because you may have somebody who is interested in becoming a gourmet cook may have to go to a school in one location, whereas somebody who wants to be a tool and die they may need to go someplace else. We have a transportaion network and I think we can facilitate that.
Board: Do we have a location picked for the West Side Employment Center?
Westbrook: I think it would be premature to say what that is. I have a favorite site. I've talked to the commissioners (Cuyahoga County Commissioners) about that It is their decision to make and they haven't made that decision. I think it ought to be accessible by existing transportation lines. I think in the near future, they will be making that decision.
Board: Downtown question. Real quick. The Civic Vision report came out a week ago. What kind of feedback have you heard from various people and city residents?
Westbrook: The primary feedback that I get, and that I share, is that it is time for the neighborhoods. Sometimes we get into what can be described as a tug a war. "If we only did a downtown vision, then maybe it would trickle down and help the neighborhoods. If we don't do the downtown vision then the neighborhoods won't thrive." On the other hand "We've heard enough about downtown, we need to do the neighborhoods." Well, I think we can grow as a city not from an either or, but from a both and. I think everybody's proud that the downtown doesn't dry up at five o'clock in the afternoon. I think that it is a benefit, the growth of the downtown has benefited neighborhoods.
It does become an issue of priorities and attention. And I know in the city council, and I also think that the mayor and his administration are first and foremost committed to the neighborhoods. It is not as glitzy as a civic vision plan. The daily newspaper doesn't salivate as much about the neighborhoods as it does about the downtown. But in the council we have begun a very serious effort to develop twenty one neighborhood based plans. Priorities, not only for development, but for quality of life, for service delivery, safety and in conjunction with community groups and organizations and based on the calls that we receive and the meetings that we go to. I think that we have made very significant and valuable investment in the downtown. I think that you can look at it as sort of priming the pump or leading the way, I think that from a public sector stand point we have done that and I think that it is time for the private sector step in and carry the ball forward downtown and that the attention, not just of City Hall, but of the civic community and of the media and others begin to shift to neighborhoods.
There is a lot going on in neighborhoods. If you catalog it, it would equal or surpass civic vision. Most of the Civic Vision plan will happen without a lot of public resources. I think that Euclid Avenue will redevelop with housing and principally with private investment. I think that the second next phase of the North Coast Harbor will also happen, mostly with private investment and not so much with public investment. The convention center? I don't have the slightest idea how that could be financed. I would not favor another tax. I would not favor any other dipping into, I would not favor going to the voters for additional public resources.
Board: That is going to be interesting, because it has to be the Taj Mahal. If they are going to do it, it has to be something, the crowning jewel.
Westbrook: There is a market there. I don't think we should be foolish and ignore it. We have worked at making Cleveland a regional center, and in many ways we have succeeded in doing that. But I don't think we should be foolhardy about it and deplete limited resources to be a playground for the region at the cost of neglecting our residents in our neighborhoods.
Board: A variety of public institutions in Cleveland -- CMHA, RTA, the Cleveland Public Schools, the Sewer Board all have public dollars -- how much cooperation is there among them in long term planning? Can together we raise the kind of money that they have raised for downtown? Can we raise, $500 million dollars? We have what $40 million in community development block grant? Can those institutions cooperate? I just saw in Wooster Ohio, I just recently visited, a $47 million dollar High School/ Recreation Center -- state of the art. And we have West Tech High School sitting vacant right in the middle of your ward -- beautiful facilities -- a football field they still need to use, a greenhouse. How do we gather those type of resources as a community?
Westbrook: First, we ought to recognize where our strong assets are already. I think you were really outlining them -- the library system, the school system, CMHA. In reality if you took those public institutions and looked at their operating budgets it would exceed a billion dollars. The city of Cleveland alone, the operating budget is $400 million, the schools is $600 million.
Board: It depends on a lot of cooperation. We build a new recreation center, and we have a high school with a leaky pool.
Westbrook: Exactly. That is just the point that I wanted to come back to. While I don't support the privatization of public resources, I do think that there is a lot to learn from the private sector and one of the things that you see now on a mega scale is business institutions aligning with one other to build off of each others mutual strengths. Rather than acting like you are sort of a separate cow in a corral just bumping around against each other, you've got to act like you area conscious community organization that can learn how to work side by side with each other. I don't think that there are any big scale examples of that in Cleveland. But I do think there are a number of smaller scale examples. Where CMHA and the Cleveland schools have worked together, and where the city has worked with the schools.
Board: South Recreation and John Marshal both have joint facilities.
Westbrook: Exactly. Several years ago we started the city-funded Schools as a Neighborhood Resources. So that rather assuming that we had to build a recreation center in every neighborhood, we said how can we open those schools that close up at 3:30 in the afternoon and invest in them. So we spend $350,000 a year to fund the staff time and overhead cost of reopening Lincoln West, Colinwood High, and others.
Board: What you say about the city rebuilding the West Tech grandstand and fixing up the playing field.
Westbrook: I think it is a possibility. There are two gems which can be used. What we are trying to do with West Tech is look at it in a comprehensive way. Rather than an incremental, could we restore this wing or could we save this field? The field is in use now.
Board: Leonard Jackson ( in charge of recreation for the Cleveland Public Schools) tells me that it is essential. He says they've only got four fields citywide and they need it.
Westbrook: First of all I have a lot of bitterness about the schools closing West Tech. I've been a supporter of the schools, even when it was fashionable to bash them. But I think that the community deserves an opportunity to see that eleven acre site redeveloped in the most comprehensive way that it can. If that includes the field and the gym that I would be all for it. If it means replacing them, I am prepared to support that as well. I just don't know the answer right now. I do support your basic point of aligning these public institutions in a strategic vision of using their strengths and their assets in the community to rebuild neighborhoods. If that is opening libraries for community meetings. If it is, as we have with the Schools as a Community Resource, turning those into empowerment centers, learning centers. The effort that Bill Callahan (Executive Director of the Stockyards Area Development Association) and others have started with the Computer Learning Centers is a brilliant idea. If we are going into the information age and if the tool of access into the employment marketplace is the computer, then this city ought to be committed to helping everybody to do what I can't do which is be computer literate. And I think Bill Callahan and others who have helped put us in that direction are really on to something extremely important.
Board: What about tax revenues, and the tax base of the city? In order to do a lot of the things we are talking about it is going to take public funds. A lot of the things that were done downtown were accomplished with subsidies, and with abatements and so-forth. When do we see a turnaround? I understand that there has been a net decrease each year in the budget of the city in terms of real dollars. With the downtown redevelopment, new people moving in and paying taxes, professionals and so-forth, when do we start to see a turnaround on that? When the city starts to have more funds to do more work.
Westbrook: I think it needs to be said that in at least the eight years now that both Mike White has been mayor and I've been council president, half that time there has been a lot of continuity in the council and this last four years there has been a lot of change in the council. But there is a basic philosophy of government, and a basic view point of where we are moving as a city. There has not been any tax increase or any appeal for a tax increase. Essentially the value of an income tax based revenue stream is that as long as we can continue to strengthen our employment base we can basically keep pace with inflation. So we can continue what I would like to think, other people are the judge, a level of quality of services...
In 1990 we were charged by state law or committed the city to do recycling waste collection. Now we do double duty in our waste collection without a significant increase in revenues due to recyclable material. It costs us rather than benefits us. But we committed to doing that, and we do it.
We've been able to expand our street resurfacing program to a point now where we are doing curb and sidewalk replacement with the cooperation of residents through an assessment program. We've not learned how to print money or counterfeit it. But we have been able to keep pace with rising expectations and meet a significant level of demand. We would like to do more but I think we are keeping pace with that. We have also been able to create, partly because of a legal case coming out of CEI, a Neighborhood Development Fund. So we capitalized a $30 million dollar Neighborhood Development Fund out of a legal obligation that we were challenged on and lost. That in a sense we could have satisfied the legal obligation by just fattening the city coffers. We could have put that money right back in the General Fund, but instead we set it aside for community and neighborhood development.
The outgrowth of the Figgie deal with Chagrin Highland in Highland Hills is very unique. The question was raised earlier about Portland and Minneapolis. While we have not yet reached that level of sophistication in terms of public policy, we were able to take a city asset, city owned land outside the municipal borders, and redevelop that in a way that creates a perpetual revenue stream back into the city with a 50% revenue share off of those income taxes.
So we end every budget year with a tiny surplus. We are not rolling in gravy but I think we have been able to manage our resources in a way that we fund the infrastructure work, cover the operating budget and address the very legitimate rising expectations. We all talk about improved quality of life and what that means is improved city services. So we have to create that high level of services with restricted budgets that many of our suburban counterparts don't face. They don't face the same level of challenge that we face, in terms of the complex problems of disinvestment, crime and other things -- a more neglected housing base -- all the things that we talked about earlier. It means that you have to apply more resources, and at the same time try to do the basics in a way that matches any suburban community.
Board: You have a pretty diverse ward. Talking about the distribution of your resources. The needs of someone in the Clifton Baltic area are probably, while they are dramatically different than someone at Denison and Lorain. And the economic needs are different. How do you within the ward, once you have those resources, determine how to distribute them?
Westbrook: Again, first of all through the community organizations. I see them as the voice of the community. I take issues that are raised at community meetings and through organized efforts of community organizations to identify those needs and then to distribute those resources. Secondly, I think that we basically follow almost a traditional approach that where the private markets have failed either whether it is with housing or commercial we try to go in with more public resources to fill that gap. So the public resources get targeted more in the area of Denison and Lorain where private investment has had a tougher go. In the areas of Clifton and Detroit where we have been able to create a more stable private investment, we try to use public resources to fill that gap. Our strategy throughout the ward, unlike say for example the Near West Side, has been to use public resources to attract private investment. So we do not tend to do non profit development per say, we attempt to use non profit and public dollars as a way of filling the gap of private investment. When we created the Midwest Housing Partnership we did it with the very focused belief that the housing stock throughout the ward was by in large stable but that the elements of decline were infiltrating the ward and the community and that we needed a targeted strategy of stopping the disinvestment. That leads with code enforcement and ends with support from the city regenerating private investment back into the housing stock. We really embarked on a sense that rather than having a large number of vacant lots and having to subsidize new construction as we see now in areas throughout the city, we want to maintain the housing stock and redevelop that.
We have throughout the ward parks and playgrounds and I want to address that. Basically, Sunrise -- Cotner Park in the South. That was the first park or playground that I ever addressed in the mid eighties. It is time to readdress that now in the late nineties and the beginning of the 21st Century. We have made a major investment in Cudell Rec as a regional recreational facility. It is a very unique campus. It is one of only a few in the city where a city owned recreational facility is on the same grounds as a public school. We have gone into partnership with the schools most specifically used city dollars to build a state of the art playground at Seltzer School that is commonly shared - it is joined there. Recently we just reopened Baltic Playground where we involved the Committee for Public Art in doing a public art program as a way of involving young people in the community in the design of the park. So young people in the community have a direct ownership really in this park. Sometimes I hear my colleague Ms. Lewis say, "I came to council with a plan and I am carrying it out." I can't be that bold as to say I've always had a plan. I have always a commitment to listen to the people in my ward. I know that the first time that I had two nickels to rub together, the park that needed the most attention was at the time called Sunrise Park, it is now called Mercedes Cotner Park, in the southern most part of the ward. Then we addressed these others in the way that I said. But I do believe in the bottom up approach to development. That if you address the needs of the most troubled area, or the area that is experiencing the most disinvestment or decline, the more you attend to that it pushes up the opportunities in the other areas.
Board: The Clifton/Baltic/Detroit Area, specifically North of Detroit, is probably one of the most stable Real Estate markets in the city. Things sell immediately. The appreciation rate has been phenomenal. The commercial strips on the Western end of Detroit and all of Clifton have gone through a terrific resurgence over the last few years even. A terrific amount of investment. What do you attribute to that?
Westbrook: Aside from a good Councilman?
Board: Aside from or including the Councilman.
Westbrook: Well I think first and foremost, I think it is a marvelous area. What they say in Real Estate -- it all boils down to location, location, location. It is a wonderful location. You are close to the lake, you are near the downtown, you are accessible to all the transportation arteries. I can walk out of my house and get onto the 55 and be downtown in eight minutes. Years ago it wasn't that strong. There was a vision that many residents had. That the development corporation had. I and the Ward 17 Council had, that if you nurtured this asset, that it will strengthen the entire area. To go back to the first question that you asked me about Madison and West Boulevard and the tragedy with Officer Clark, way down after the personal tragedy and the huge loss of life, there is the tragedy of the mischaracterization of the community. It doesn't take a wizard to figure out that as people return to the city that the area of Ward 18 of Cudell, of Detroit Shoreway, that these are the areas that are going to stabilize the quickest. Then building off of those and restabilizing the development of rest of the neighborhoods. I think it does stand from the notion that, which I think I played a large role and there were other voices in this too, that redeveloping neighborhoods is not only a matter of spending public dollars. There was a time when we used to see huge signs that this councilman is putting in new sidewalks or putting in these trees or these planters and stuff and a few years later the sidewalks were in front of vacant lots or the planters were in front of vacant storefronts. The strategy that we have always tried to pursue is that we have to re-engage the private investment that we have to retain retail, industrial businesses and residents that we have and then build off of those strengths. I think that is a strategy that is coming into fulfillment. Not only because we embarked on that road, but I think that the out migration of population has stemmed, and people are moving back into the community. The development of Shilling Square, the Senders brothers there had never done a Real Estate development. They wanted to get into real estate development. They came to us with exactly the same sense of strategy that you articulated. They said, "We looked at the sales patterns, we saw how hot the Baltic Clifton area is, we figured that is going to stay. We want to be part of the spread of that." So they sensed that. I think we can see that going all the way down West Boulevard, filtering off of West Boulevard into the Denison Area. Very strong housing stock. The schools -- Almira School, Seltzer school, and the newly reopened Alcott School are bulging at the seams. All of those are indicators that the revitalization of the community. Obviously the amended desegregation order had a lot to do with that as well -- where the city had the opportunity to go back to community based schools. We see citizens being reconnected with the schools. The schools, again your question about the linkage of these institutions, not just the abstract school system, this is a school in a neighborhood that has five hundred kids...
Board: Certainly that Marion Seltzer Playground is very much used, with Cudell there and the school. You have a really unique example of what we are talking about. And that is right around the block from where that tragedy occurred. And we are talking about a very great community asset (Cudell Recreation Center) that also has an arts building. Something that a lot of neighborhoods would like to have.
Westbook: The original home of the Cleveland Garden Center, now located in University Circle -- Cudell Fine Arts -- you can do tapestry, ceramics, oil, water colors.
Board: It brings people of all ages together. Can we do that with all the schools in your ward? For example, we have Almira, we have Halle, we have the closed Willard School that is now a Head Start -- Head Start put in a playground. And West Tech -- whatever the nature of that... The city used to during the baby boom, and it looks like we are having a mini baby boom now, the city ran a rec program at every school. They had swings and slides and they had an adult hired for the summer that would run baseball team. I think that George Steinbrenner was one of the coaches when he was in college, that is how he got his start. But, can we have that kind of relationship.
Westbrook: Yeah. At Almira school, a year ago, I used some of the city's resurfacing dollars to rebuild the parking lot there. Because one of the consequences of the rebirth of the neighborhood schools is that now parents want to drive their children to schools. So we have a new set of problems, we have traffic jams in the morning and the afternoons.
Board: They are coming from farther away too. ( Halle is no longer an elementary school, many of those students now go to Almira).
Westbrook: Right. We already talked about Seltzer School and the city dollars that went to work there. At Alcott School we have done the same. Actually the artists that worked with us on Baltic's playground are working with Alcott School to design a artistic entrance way into the school that will be done this summer. A combination, just as we have done with the schools as a neighborhood resources, to look at targeted areas, obviously Halle come to mind where there are not sufficient neighborhood resources. To make some investment there and to staff those in a way that can provide a recreational asset to that community is something I think we are well on track to begin to do more of. When I represented the Stockyards Area, I was at a meeting one time on 58th Street and people said "You know, what we really need is a recreation facilities." They were two blocks away from Clark Rec. We can't build a recreation facility on every corner. And all the Councilmen will tell you that the first fear you have is vandalism and destruction. I hate to say it but it is true. Just as soon as you invest in them, you start worrying about how to preserve them. But we do need to have an alliance with the schools and the continuation of an effort to provide facilities and resources in the neighborhood.
Board: Anything you want to leave us with?
Westbrook: This will sound very melodramatic maybe, but one of the things I thought about in conjunction with the loss of Officer Clark's life is another tragedy that I encountered over 10 years ago on W. 88th street in the Southern part of my ward. Where a black family moved into a predominantly white neighborhood and the tensions created out of that resulted in a friend of the African American family coming to their rescue and shooting into a crowd of taunters. The result of that was a great deal of conflict in the community. But out of that grew an effort of citizens themselves to express their remorse and their disavowal of what had happened. And the people who provoked it, some white men in the neighborhood, regretted what they did. In a week, there was a service at Simpson Church, where the neighborhood took the stage and spoke to community leaders. The mayor didn't come, at the time Mayor Voinovich, the chief of police came, the bishop came and others. The community really turned around. You'd like to hope that it doesn't always take tragedy to bring about a sense of maybe we are on the wrong track and we need to get in a different direction. Hopefully our neighborhood has matured in a way that doesn't happen. I know that the W. 88th Street and Almira Neighborhood learned a lot from that and charted themselves a different course.
But what I think is the case is that throughout my neighborhood and my ward and throughout neighborhoods in the city are countless heroes and people who have stayed the course and held on to a vision that the future can be better. I think that we are embarking as a city on a time when we can make that happen. It won't happen just because private corporations say it should happen, Growth Association says it should happen and the Plain Dealer editorializes that it should happen. I think it can happen and I think it will happen as we continue to unleash the strength of neighborhoods to chart their own destiny. But I also feel that not very city is going to experience that kind of turnaround, and that it is not inevitable that Cleveland will either. But I think that if people dedicate themselves to that I think that kind of turnaround can happen and will happen: the revival of the schools, the strengthening of the relationship between city government and other institutions and the restoration of faith in government as a tool for change and as a resource for the good of the community. I think they are all kind of within our grasp, I don't think they've happened fully. But I think you can see the signs of it happening. I think that more than a winning baseball team or a Rock - N- Roll Hall of Fame that is what will really but Cleveland on the world map of communities that have pulled together, learned to work together, and really rebuilt their future.
Board: A lot of times, participation in programs, people want to participate, but it is a matter of income -- like the sidewalk program. People would like new sidewalks in front of their house, just can't afford them. Can the city do something? I got this flier from this group (Cleveland Jobs and Living Wage Campaign) talking about a living wage, maybe for contractors with the city or city employees too. I think they are talking a minimum wage of $8.90 per hour plus some benefits. Is that something the city would consider? I mean we have been subsidizing on one end the housing, can we subsidize the wage so people can pay for their own housing?
Westbrook: We can. It is something I have been in discussion with the promoters of the living wage. I think, frankly, in some ways we have already done that, we have always said that wherever public dollars go to work so should Cleveland residents. On Gateway, the Women's Bureau of the Labor Department came out and praised us for the high level of women in construction on the Gateway project. We have set the same goals for ourselves with the Stadium. Whenever we give a low interest loan to help assist a private development we always link that to jobs for Clevelanders. So I think that is one way we have already begun to address that issue. I am always interested in issues like this being brought to the city of Cleveland, whereas, Parma, or Lakewood, or Euclid or Solon -- Where is their commitment to a living wage, too? So I'm interested in pursuing an issue like this but in a way that also challenges other municipal governments to do the same. So, Jobs. I never was a big supporter of Jim Rhodes (former governor of Ohio) but what he said was that "The basic three point program was Jobs, Jobs and Jobs." And it is clear that it is much easier to say that than to do it. And many of the policies that he implemented didn't really do it. But I think we have all seen that on a community level that if you combine common sense with public resources and a commitment to make change you can create an economic development program that leads people to jobs, captures this growing employment base, can convert troubled schools, like Max Hayes was, to a productive asset in the community. Hopefully we can continue to move down this road.
Board: One quick question. We have strong community organizations and our schools right now are going through this individual governance transformation. And we have organized around almost everything else. And I know that For the Children is working to get people involved with the schools. Is their a chance that community organizers can assist in those efforts to get people involved with the schools?
Westbrook: Absolutely. I strongly support the Summit on Education. It is one of those unsung quiet resources that I think has done a lot and doesn't get the recognition that it deserves. But through the Summit they have employed safety organizers to work with the schools. They have developed within each of the six police districts roundtable discussions with the principals and police commanders. There is a safety plan for each school. It is not like a fire evacuation plan, but it is like identifying the safety measures in and around the schools, safe walking routes for kids to school, it has a strong emphasis on mediation programs within the schools. The fact that we have had such a quiet 1997-98 school year is in many ways a result of this. There is a vital need to re-engage citizens within the schools. I think most people will tell you that the key to a successful school is community involvement. I mean you have race and income differences, you have inner city and suburb differences, you have all kinds of differences and schools run the gamut in terms of success. But one thing that is a common denominator is that if the public is not involved you don't have a good school, if the public is involved their is a much higher likelihood of having a productive school.