Wednesday, May 17, 2017
CPT: Cuyahoga Politics Today: Jeff Johnson and Dan Gilbert
Jeff Johnson and Dan Gilbert: Peas in the same pod?
CLEVELAND — Roldo Bartimole, who even in his senior senior status remains by virtue of his long institutional memory and his ability to follow the money the scrivener scourge of the local ruling class, recently revisited some of Cleveland's sordid political history. It was an effort to provide context to Brent Larkin's weird column last week. Larkin expressed a false empathy for the struggles of Councilman Jeff Johnson to distance himself from his extortion conviction nearly 20 years ago. But halfway through the piece he abruptly switched to his true topic, a direct assault upon the SEIU and the Greater Cleveland Congregations.
SEIU and GCC just happen to be the leading voices in the ongoing struggle to achieve justice and equity for this city's poor and largely minority residents.
Nobody stands in opposition to the desires of our local oligarchy to recreate our shrunken city into a hip burg with cool eateries, a bustling downtown, a high tech vibe, an immigrant magnet, and world-class entertainment venues.
But some of us do look around and see people working two and three jobs trying to make ends meet, amidst Third World infant mortality, thousands of vacant and abandoned structures, a malnourished public transportation system, public schools under relentless attack from private profiteers, real job opportunities separated by insurmountable barriers to entry, and a police force infected with a rogue and reckless deadly virus that has been out of control for generations.
All that makes some of us wonder whether Clevelanders should pay to transform an arena far newer than just about all of our shelters.
We need to have real change in our community, not just the ‘transformation’ of a serviceable public building. When will we stop rearranging and painting the deck chairs and have a real conversation?
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A sit-down I had yesterday with an aspiring young office seeker has surprisingly led me to have some sympathy for Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert. With the light afforded by Roldo's column, I can now appreciate how Mr. Gilbert could have come to town and, after observing how the elites here operate, said to himself, “I can excel at this game.”
He was right! We soon gave him two casinos for life, in our hunger and low self-esteem excusing his promise to build a fabulous new casino on our crooked river. We bestowed adulation upon him when he first dissed our home boy LeBron for taking his talents elsewhere and then later embraced the return of that enhanced talent in a way that further filled the Quicken coffers.
Given that sort of uncritical and generous treatment, along with the renewal of our regressive sin tax for his sports fraternity, why wouldn't he think that we would happily fork over another $282 million or so just to keep him around another seven years?
GCC and its burgeoning alliance are saying "Let's slow down. Let's be equitable. Let's talk about this."
Whoever advised Gilbert not to have that conversation should be put on irrevocable waivers.
Dan Gilbert has the clout to convene, directly or otherwise, the dialogue of community powers responsible for creating the ecology he so comfortably slid into. He cannot be pleased that GCC and others are raising a ruckus, but he would be wrong to blame them for giving voice to the voiceless. His upset should be directed to his peer group and their political intermediaries, who clearly were caught unawares that even gravy trains have cabooses.
Unless there is a community dialogue that can forge a new and true community partnership, proponents of the ‘Q Transformation’ will likely hear their plan end with a Referendum Serenade that is familiar to basketball fans everywhere: "Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey, Hey, Hey! Goo-ood Bye!”
Not the best theme song for the Rock and Roll Capital of the World!
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P. S. Tonight in Boston, game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals! GO CAVS!!!