Mayor’s speech, neighborhood news
and controversy mark TWDC annual meeting
(Plain Press, March 2005) About 150 people in attendance at the Tremont West Development Corporation’s (TWDC) Annual Meeting on January 27th at OLA St. Joseph Center listened to Mayor Jane Campbell give the keynote address, received an update on neighborhood news and were witness to several controversies.
Mayor Campbell began her keynote address with a glowing report on the $19.6 million dollar Valley View Federal Hope VI grant awarded to the neighborhood. She noted the city of Cleveland plans $1.5 million in infrastructure improvements to accompany the rebuilding of the Valley View area with 190 mixed income rental units and 20 new homes for sale.
At this point a man in the audience shouted out his displeasure with the Campbell administration’s overemphasis on upscale housing as opposed to the needs of children in the poorest big city in the nation. As the man was walking out of the meeting in protest, Campbell immediately shifted gears and began talking about her administration’s efforts to improve the lives of the city’s children.
Campbell noted that the City of Cleveland Health Department under the direction of Matt Carroll has “set its sights on dealing with lead poisoning.” She noted that lead poisoning is the cause of brain damage in children and that because of our old wood frame housing stock “Cleveland has a higher incidence of lead poisoning than most other cities.” Campbell said her administration has doubled the amount of money it has to deal with lead poisoning. Through funds provided by a grant from major health care foundations, she said, the city is working with Cuyahoga County to go into households of mothers of infants within ten days of birth to teach methods of preventing lead poisoning.
Campbell then spoke of the challenges facing the Cleveland Municipal School District. She voiced outrage that the state legislature has not fixed school funding in Ohio despite the Ohio Supreme Court ruling four times that the way Ohio funds schools (through property taxes) is unconstitutional. “One tax is particularly onerous on senior citizens and those on fixed income. It is the property tax” she noted. Campbell said that rather than obey the State Supreme Court rulings the Republican leaders in the state legislature chose to run somebody else for the Supreme Court and try to change the rules.
Campbell said that “Clevelanders from across the city who voted against the last school levy had two things to say: 1) The levy costs too much money – ‘I want to support the kids, but don’t have the money’ and, 2) ‘the state needs to step up to the plate.’ ”
Campbell called for a constitutional amendment to require the state “to fund our schools before they spend any other money.” Promising to campaign to place such an amendment on the statewide ballot, Campbell received applause from the Tremont audience as she said, “They didn’t do it the old way, so we are going to have to do it our way.”
Job development was the next topic on Mayor Campbell’s agenda. “Unless we can bring jobs to Cleveland, keep jobs in Cleveland and allow jobs in Cleveland to grow and thrive, we are going to be hurt,” said the mayor.
Mayor Campbell then brought up the topic of the convention center. “How can we fund the convention facility when we have so many needs?” she asked. She said that no property, sales or income taxes would be raised to fund the convention center. She said funds would be raised from hotel bed tax increases and taxes on businesses that benefit directly from convention business.
Campbell then made a pitch for her proposal for individual cities in Ohio to decide whether or not they want casino gambling. “I think Clevelanders should make this decision,” she said.
Mayor Campbell then brought her attention back to the Tremont neighborhood. She noted the recent completion of $673,000 in improvements to Lincoln Park. She said the city is working on creating a dog park at Tremont field.
Shifting her focus to health care, Mayor Campbell said, “The Tremont Health Center run by the city of Cleveland wasn’t the finest place. The city looked at services and said we have to close this as a Cleveland Health Center. We are not providing all the services we should.” Mayor Campbell urged residents to look at the former site of the Tremont Health Center. She said, “rehab is going on – Neighborhood Family practice is fixing up the facility to reopen it as a clinic. Neighborhood Family Practice is going to come and provide better health care in the Tremont Clinic than it was providing in the old days,” said Mayor Campbell.
Responding to a question from the audience, Mayor Campbell addressed the proposed $100 million development of Steelyard Commons. She said that developer Mitchell Schneider had secured agreements from various entities to come in. The leases are dependent on one another. She said a piece of legislation in Cleveland City Council “could bring the project to a halt.”
Mayor Campbell said the controversy stems from the proposal to bring national retailers, particularly WalMart to the site. “We have been clear, the city of Cleveland will not subsidize WalMart in any way. However, we will not stop Walmart from coming in.”
Campbell said Clevelanders currently spend $1.3 billion annually outside of Cleveland, primarily in big box stores. “People are voting with their feet. They are leaving the city and going and buying stuff,” she said.
Campbell then challenged legislation introduced in Cleveland City Council by Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman that would limit to 5% the percentage of floor space that big box stores larger than 90,000 square feet could devote to groceries. The legislation was designed to protect neighborhood grocery stores. “We support grocery stores. Most people shop at neighborhood groceries. We have given subsidies and low interest loans to Dave’s, Top’s and Giant Eagle to encourage them to locate in our neighborhoods. We will continue to do that because those groceries provide important services in the heart of neighborhoods. The decision of whether or not those stores will be successful is going to be made by shoppers.”
She said the legislation introduced in City Council would create an artificial barrier that would make it difficult to develop in Cleveland. She said Steelyard Commons would not receive any tax abatement. The development would pay $1.8 million in property taxes to Cleveland Public Schools each year, easing the property tax burden on Cleveland homeowners. “If we try to stop this development, those dollars will go to Brooklyn and Parma,” said Campbell.
City Council reports
In remarks made later that evening, Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman defended the legislation he introduced in Cleveland City Council to limit the amount of space big box stores could use for groceries as a way to protect local grocery stores against the likes of WalMart. Cimperman said the city of Cleveland has devoted millions of dollars over the last eight years to bring grocery stores to our neighborhoods. He said City Council wants to protect that investment against a big box store in Steelyard Commons that would use groceries as a loss leader to put grocery stores in neighborhoods such as Ohio City, Clark Fulton and Payne Central out of business. Defending City Council’s position, Cimperman said, “We will not be a party to that.” Cimperman also noted that the jobs lost if neighborhood grocery stores closed would be well-paying union jobs. “WalMart’s anti-union stance is well known”, he said.
Cimperman addressed several other important issues of concern to Tremont residents. He praised Tremont residents for communicating to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Innerbelt project about the importance of keeping open the W. 14th street ramp.
Cimperman interpreted the Tremont neighborhood’s support of the recent school levy as a vote for Tremont Elementary School. As the Cleveland Municipal School District plans to close schools as part of upcoming budget cuts, Cimperman promised, “I will do everything I can to keep Tremont Elementary School open.”
Cimperman noted a number of accomplishments in Tremont. He noted the successful HOPE VI application for Valley View; the slated February 28th grand opening of the new Neighborhood Family Practice in the old Tremont Clinic building; and the successful performance of the Ohio Ballet which brought 5000 people to Lincoln Park over two nights this past year. He praised St. George Church for investing a half million dollars in their façade and exterior with no help from the city. Cimperman praised the Ukrainian Museum for its decision to expand and improve its presence in the neighborhood and praised residents who helped contribute money to help Grumpy’s restaurant after a fire. Cimperman noted that the Jefferson Branch of the Cleveland Public Library would be open on Saturdays beginning April 4th.
Ward 14 Councilman Nelson Cintron, Jr. spoke of 2004 as a difficult year in which the mayor and city council were force to “tighten our belts and lay off people. We had no choice,” he said.
Cintron singled out for praise residents along Scranton Road who rallied to support the families of victims of a tragic robbery last year at Tony’s Deli on Scranton Road in which a clerk at the deli and a customer were killed.
Tremont’s block clubs each reported highlights of their accomplishments over the past year.
The Auburn block club noted their Spring Clean-up. They also thanked St. George’s Church for parking lot improvements.
The Holmden-Buhrer-Rowley block club thanked TWDC community organizer Michelle Kilgore for assistance in organizing around issues such as crime, safety, traffic, and juveniles.
The Metro North Block Club thanked Councilman Cintron for his assistance with a candlelight vigil in September for the victims of the robbery at Tony’s Deli.
The Old Tremont Block Club, Tremont’s newest block club, (formerly Seymour Scranton) said it will concentrate on curfew sweeps, safety and housing in 2005. Their goal is to get the drug and prostitution problem to subside. A representative said, “Everyone should be able to feel safe and be able to go for walks in the neighborhood knowing they will be safe and sound.”
The Lincoln Heights (formerly Scranton-Starkweather) block club reported increased attendance at block club meetings this past year. A relationship developed with the Ohio Department of Transportation has resulted in improved conditions for the highway underpass. The block club also reported that its work with Cleveland Public Power resulted in additional pedestrian lighting along the underpass on Starkweather and Kenilworth.
The Duck Island block club reported another successful end of summer block club party. The block club said it was committed to having new development in the neighborhood on double lots so children would have backyards to play in, thus keeping families in the neighborhood.
The North of Literary block club highlighted a neighborhood safety patrol as an important undertaking.
The Professor-Thurman-Valley View block club reported holding their first ever block club party in the summer of 2004. They thanked Browns Market and St. Theodosius for helping to make the party a success.
The Central Tremont block club used funds raised from a 50/50 raffle to hold a neighborhood bike safety course for children in the Merrick House after-school reading program. The block club provided each child with a bike helmet. The block club also participated in painting over graffiti on a retaining wall at St. Peter and Paul’s Church.
The Mentor Castle Clark block club reported on continued involvement with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Innerbelt Study and its hopes for a newly-created Quigley Extension.
Friends of Clark Field reported that over 100 children participated in last year’s Easter Egg Hunt, and fifty youths participated in a soccer camp. 109 trees were planted by volunteers working over three weekends. However, 28 of those trees were destroyed after being run over by a truck. A dream of the group is to have Clark Field connected to Lincoln Park. The group would also like to get the city of Cleveland to commit to keeping W. 11th plowed in the winter all the way from Clark Avenue to the bridge.
TWDC Executive Director Colleen Gilson outlined some goals for the upcoming year. She said TWDC would play a role in monitoring the Valley View Homes redevelopment plan. Gilson said the Tremont Neighborhood Development plan is a living document and TWDC will work to continue to update the document.
TWDC will work to maintain and increase park planning for events at Lincoln Park and bring some events to Clark Field, said Gilson. The organization will continue to encourage leadership development in the neighborhood and participation of neighborhood leaders in the Cleveland Leadership Summit. TWDC will provide staff and support to the Restore Tremont project, said Gilson.
In addition, Gilson promised that Tremont West Development Corporation will participate in discussions about providing quality education for children in the Tremont neighborhood. She stressed the importance of participating in these discussions as the “future of Tremont School is in question.”
Gilson presented several awards to acknowledge significant contributions to the neighborhood. Beverly Wurm of the Mentor Castle Clark block club was recognized as the Ward 13 TWDC Leader of the Year. Henry Senyak of the Lincoln Heights/Scranton-Starkweather block club was recognized as the Ward 14 Leader of the Year.
Merrick House was the recipient of the 2004 Partner of the Year Award. Gilson noted Merrick House had served the Tremont neighborhood for over 85 years and as the parent organization of TWDC has provided guidance and assistance over the years. She noted that Merrick House’s Executive Director Gail Long, accepting the award for Merrick House, will retire in a few short months.
Sister Corita Ambro of St. Augustine was awarded the 2004 Gail Long Distinguished Service Award for her 50 years of service in parish ministry (35 in Tremont) providing a better life for many through St. Augustine’s programs and services.
At the end of the meeting, after many people had already left, Tremont West Development Corporation Board of Trustees President Jon Boylan asked for a vote by the general membership on proposed modifications in the bylaws. In calling for the vote, Boylan told the general membership, “only you can change the bylaws.”
However, a member of that body, Timothy Jenkins, raised a point of order. He said, “A quorum has been lost.” When Boylan asked the TWDC staff how many members TWDC had, he was told 750. Jenkins noted that the bylaws required 20% of the general membership be present for a vote to change the bylaws, and there were no longer 150 people present in the room.
Boylan acknowledged a quorum was no longer present. He then called for the immediate adjournment of the meeting. He said given the lack of quorum the election results for new board members could not be announced. For the second year in a row, TWDC was unable to vote on bylaw changes for technical reasons. Last year the organization failed to mail notice of proposed changes within the time period required by its bylaws.
TWDC announced the Board of Trusttee election results in its February newsletter. The following seven members were elected to two year terms ending January of 2007: Brendon Bergen, Bill Blough, Marcia Leslie, Karen Gabriel Moss, Scott Nagy, Becca Riker and Nina Swerdlow.
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