10 A muckraker comes to Cleveland and founds Point of View
So many years have passed since I made my way to Cleveland in 1965 to work for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I now wonder why I didn’t seek work at one of the many New York City newspapers since I had started reporting in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the shadow of the New York City media market.
I’m happy that I didn’t think of our biggest city as a job possibility, though in 1965 I also applied to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Washington Post. The Post showed enough interest by writing to an unhappy former editor at the then Bridgeport Sunday Post (now Connecticut Post). I had left the Bridgeport Sunday Post for the Sunday Herald, considered racier and leftish, because I had been barred from writing any more articles about the city’s dangerous housing situations. I had been hitting hard. The editor ignored the Washington Post’s inquiry, I was told by a former colleague.
As I walked up Euclid Avenue headed to the Superior Avenue offices of the Plain Dealer that spring day to be interviewed, Cleveland appeared to me to be a big city. The census data of 1960 reported a city of 750,000. It was somewhat intimidating. Euclid Avenue was busy with pedestrians.
At the time I also feared I was making a step into a situation where I would have a tough time keeping up with big city reporters. I’d be outclassed.
Now, however, I don’t believe I could have made a better choice. Cleveland has always been a good news town as far as I’m concerned. Can you beat electing Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a large American city, or electing a young Dennis Kucinich, a progressive with an urban outlook who flamed out, or Ralph Perk, who set his hair afire with a blow torch for the cameras, or George Forbes, who kicked half the city’s population with words of abuse, then wanted the same voters to make him mayor. His run was a strange strategy. I described his campaign bluntly in 1989 as “fuck you, vote for me!” It didn’t work.
And then there has been the historic establishment of corporate and civic leaders, very well-funded by the institutionalized riches of the city’s great past of wealth and power. Cleveland had been almost perfectly located for the industrial age by long-ago glaciers with a lake at the doorstep, available iron ore and coal in close shipping proximity, all used to produce the steel for an industrial era. The city birthed many corporate behemoths including John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. And banks and law firms to go with the businesses.
And it had worthy leadership.
Lincoln Steffens wrote in his early 1900 book “The Struggle for Self-Government,” that “It seems to me that Tom Johnson is the best Mayor of the best-governed city in the United States.” That was Cleveland.
That hereditary wealth made for a dominate power structure. It ruled the city and its agenda to fit its needs. Really still does. It fit my purposes as a journalist and as a critic of the power structure operating for its own benefit at a time when major movements of change were about to burst forth as I arrived and began to understand. The major media would not tell the brutal truth.
I left the PD to join the Wall Street Journal before events forced me to start my own newsletter, Point of View. It doesn’t mean the Cleveland Plain Dealer, as it was once known, was a bad newspaper. (It dropped “Cleveland” from its name during the tough times when Cleveland was known as the “Mistake on the Lake”).
However, in 1965, there was a lot of talent here. There was also an exodus. James Naughton and Gene Maeroff went on to careers at the New York Times. Don Barlett passed through on his way to the Philadelphia Inquirer to scoop a number of Pulitzer Prizes as did Walter Bogdanich, and his wife Stephanie Saul, one, at The New York Times and the other at Newsday. Jim Neff was lead writer at the Seattle Times for the 18-part series, “The Terrorist Within,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2003.
Others peeled off in other directions. Joe Eszterhas escaped to Rolling Stone magazine and then movies, Bob McGruder to editorship of the Detroit Free Press, Jim Cox to Channel 8 TV, Terence Sheridan became a private investigator, and Mike Roberts to Cleveland Magazine and then Boston Magazine editorships.
The Plain Dealer, which Sir Winston Churchill said, “By all odds the best newspaper name in the world,” became a pass through for many talented reporters. The plain truth suffered too often.
So, there was no shortage of high-quality reporters at the Plain Dealer. Time magazine labeled the PD reporters as “Tigers,” maybe at that time more the work of the paper’s publicist rather than its journalistic production.
More realistically, the Plain Dealer revealed a weakness as the city became an object of national scrutiny. This troubled Publisher Thomas Vail. His photograph and bragging had accompanied the Time magazine article. Now the city was facing criticism. Vail ordered a response to the critical material about his city. All beat reporters in 1967 were ordered to write a positive article about their area of coverage. The truth apparently didn’t matter. Thirty-four articles, under the banner “What’s Right with Cleveland,” were published in the newspaper. A promotional booklet was produced for further distribution. I was covering the welfare beat and refused to write anything positive about Cleveland’s poverty. I felt the times were more reflected by a bumper sticker of that time: “Pray for Cleveland.”
The nature of thinking by Vail and other editors was reflected in coverage of a mine disaster. Seventy-eight miners were killed in the Mannington Mine in West Virginia in 1968. The PD used the occasion once again to try to burnish its reputation.
A tear-jerking series proclaimed the paper’s interest in the disaster:
“Now that Hartzel Mayle is buried in the mine,” began one article in a series asking for public donations, “his wife, Juanita makes sandwiches with one slice of meat instead of three.”
Another noted, “The Plain Dealer Christmas Express stirred the people yesterday. Trucks carting food and clothing roared onto Main Street, and a helicopter carrying $75,000 landed in the middle of everything.”
Vail said, as I reported, “A great newspaper must not only be well-written and important in its community, but it must also have a big heart and do good things for good people.”
What the PD didn’t do, however, as it appealed for nickel, dime and dollar donations, was tell the public that the mine was owned by Consolidated Coal, a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Continental Oil, which had nearly $1 billion in profits in the preceding years. Nor did it mention the close corporate connections to Cleveland figures, including George Humphrey of Hanna Mining, a major establishment family in Cleveland. These facts were nowhere to be found in the PD. They did appear in Point of View, the newsletter I founded in 1968.
These kinds of corporate connections didn’t make it into established media but a lone operation as Point of View could not only reveal such connections but make the issues known at least to segments of the community.
Point of View also allowed me to reveal what the PD actually censored at publication time.
For instance, in a fatal clash in the Christmas line at Higbee’s department store, a big advertiser at the time for the Plain Dealer, an editor ordered the name “Higbee’s” not appear on the front page of the paper. This tragic death of a black man in a line with children awaiting a visit with Santa Claus became less a tragedy than the need to safeguard an advertiser’s name from Page 1.
Another example involved race. A PD reporter included in his article the fact that a leading businessman made racial jokes at a public meeting. The copy of the censored material was slipped to me.
The occasion was a formal dinner of Bluecoats, an organization primarily of corporate leaders. Its purpose was to provide charity funds of some $10,000 for police officers and their families when an officer was killed on duty.
New York Times editorial columnist James Reston was the guest speaker. He was introduced by Fred Crawford, a leading Cleveland businessman and the former chairman of TRW, Inc., a major US corporation.
These sentences from the article, later published in POV, were penciled out of the reporter’s copy before publication:
“Crawford told two racial jokes to the all-white audience.
“In prefacing one joke, he commented upon someone being ‘blackballed.’
“Crawford then added: ‘I guess it takes two black balls to get elected in this city.”
“The remark elicited a mixture of laughs and agitation.”
Crawford was referring to Mayor Carl B. Stokes, first black mayor of Cleveland.
Apparently, editors consider this too revealing of the racism of a corporate leader and by eliminating the references protected Crawford.
It wasn’t the only time editors bowed to corporate leaders.
The hard-hitting and tiger image would be unrealized at a newspaper that a leading attorney, Jack Reavis, managing partner of Cleveland’s largest law firm, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue (now Jones-Day, one of the world’s largest) told the U. S. Civil Rights Commission in 1966 that he had received “a pledge from the editors of the newspapers that they would give us no publicity except as we asked for it.” A year later, Ralph Besse, former chairman of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., claimed the same arrangement about a $40,000 secret fund to pay black militants to keep peace. The story was grist for the second issue of Point of View, which made no such arrangements.
Bowing to power wasn’t unusual.
There was a dearth, however, of what I felt was the kind of journalism I saw as necessary, especially for the times. A lot of essential hard-edge reporting went unattended.
Yet I had worried when I arrived that Cleveland was a major city with sharp-witted talent. I would be hard-pressed to compete.
But signs appeared early that made me realize maybe I was mistaken.
Before I left Bridgeport, I had the opportunity to interview Robert Penn Warren. He had just published “Who Speaks for the Negro.” He had traveled America interviewing young black activists. When I told him I was soon headed to Cleveland he advised me to look up Ruth Turner, a young black woman who just graduated Oberlin College. She was one of the people he singled out in a nationwide search for new African-American talent. When I mentioned my desire to meet Turner to other PD reporters they turned up their noses. She’s a radical, not to be sought out. I did eventually get a meeting with her, but she wanted nothing to do with the Plain Dealer. She left the city soon after.
I also learned that Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had left campuses at this time. They chose two cities to begin community organizing – Newark, N. J. and yes, Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted to meet them and write about them. They invited me to their West Side apartment on Jay Avenue for dinner but again wanted nothing to do with speaking to a Plain Dealer reporter for a story. The SDS activists also distrusted the newspaper’s fairness.
These were newsmakers of the day, but they mistrusted and shunned the media.
Along with this rejection of the changing times, two other things should have given me pause about the new job. There was a tug among reporters as to where I would live – east or west. Strange to me as a newcomer. However, it revealed the bitter racial division of the city. West was white; east was black. Our family ended up renting in Cleveland Heights.
The next question I faced was “What was my nationality?” It indicated another significant characteristic of my new home. Nationality was a major feature in the dynamics of the city. It was another factor of division and problems.
There were more serious warning signs to indicate troubles and lack of recognition about what was going on in the city that the newspapers were supposed to cover and inform the public about. Dark days were ahead and those steering the newspapers didn’t quite understand. The city and its civic leaders in particular needed a scrutiny the newspaper neither would nor could provide.
The 1960s, if anything, revealed the ignorance of the city’s newspapers of their city. As we moved to the 1970s, 1980s (the Press was garroted in 1982), 1990s and onward the Plain Dealer became the mouthpiece of corporate & legal interests.
In the 1960s the mistakes of the Establishment (corporate, legal, foundations and their controlled instruments) decided urban renewal would be the savior of the once great city of Cleveland. They pushed for vast urban renewal projects east and west. However, almost all urban renewal took place on the east side, inhabited heavily by African-Americans.
Instead, it set in motion movements it couldn’t control or direct.
In 1965, Hough, drained of its middle class and overcrowded by the population movement of the central area, inhabited mostly by African-Americans, exploded. Nightly conflagrations climaxed with the 1966 Hough riots.
It was clear Cleveland’s newspapers were searching for an answer to what had been brewing for years, if not decades. It was no surprise then that a grand jury, headed by the celebrated Press former editor, Louis B. Seltzer, came up with the laughable conclusion that the riots in the city it covered for decades had been caused by “Communists.” It was testimony to the serious lack of newspaper reading of the city it covered. Indeed, the Ohio National Guard Adjutant General concluded that the assessment by the Seltzer led grand jury had “absolutely nothing to substantiate his statement” of Communist action. The Plain Dealer credited the grand jury with having “guts” to so conclude.
You have to wonder what the city’s two major newspapers were covering.
Seltzer had already seriously damaged the Press’ reputation by his fixated desire to convict Dr. Sam Sheppard for the murder of his wife, Marilyn. In a front-page editorial the Press called out, “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail?” changed to “Quit Stalling, Bring Him In.” Another headline: “Somebody is Getting Away With Murder.” This trial by newspaper helped damage the Press’ reputation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Sheppard). The PD thereafter, I believe, became the “respectable” newspaper for suburban families to have delivered to their homes. It started the demise of the afternoon Press.
The Plain Dealer was stumbling through this period trying to placate black anger but not alienate its majority white population.
“Having fed racial passions with inaccurate reporting,” I wrote in a 1973 special pamphlet, “the PD two months later called for an end to those tensions. This city must not be turned into a mutual aggravation society. It is time for all groups – for their own safety, for their own good, for their children’s future – to work together, find peaceable, lawful, orderly community.” The paper then condemned “anyone who tries to keep up the vendetta.”
It couldn’t obey its own admonitions. The paper ran a series of articles, based on interviews with Cleveland police officers, entitled, “What’s on Their Mind.” The series simply opened old wounds day after day with assaults on the black community. It gave police the opportunity to dirty Mayor Stokes.
I countered with the findings of the Civil Violence Center of Case-Western Reserve University in its report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. It charged the PD with “opening old wounds” and “effectively keeping the vendetta going.”
The report added that other reports in the PD “fed suspicion that the newspaper was carrying on a vendetta of its own.”
It cited in particular a PD “expose” of a six-month-old issue.
It involved dismissal of concealed gun charges by Mayor Stokes of two bodyguards arrested outside the home of a black stockbroker. They had been guarding CORE national director Floyd McKissick the night the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Stokes and other prominent blacks were engaged in keeping peace in Cleveland as other U. S. cities erupted in violence
They did not trust white Cleveland police to guard McKissick. Stokes said at the time, “We were trying hold the city together.”
The PD knew of the situation. Indeed, didn’t publish its “expose” until months later. The Center zeroed in on the article as an example of PD provocation.
In its report, the Center noted the delay in the PD’s reporting of the dropped gun charges. It wrote, “Reporters interviewed for this study indicated that the editors of the Plain Dealer had knowledge of the dropped charges months before they decided to publish their expose.”
It was just another example of Cleveland newspapers ignoring responsibility.
The times, however, were changing as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement took over media attention.
When I came to the Plain Dealer in 1965, the PD had one black reporter and he, McGruder, was in the Army. I was at first a general assignment reporter, but they soon teamed me up with a young black college student, Bill Davis.
The editors realized that something was changing. Events were forcing them to attend to the half of the community – blacks – that they had long ignored.
The paper began on the back of the Metro pages a series of examinations of the city that they had so long neglected – impoverished areas. The sporadic series was labeled “The Changing City,” and each article took the entire back page of the section.
Between May and July of 1965, I did five Changing Cities, always with a young intern, Bill Davis, who was still a student at Hiram College. I complained that if Davis was never expected to write any of the pieces, how was he to learn the job? The question went unanswered.
The paper’s management, however, was using Davis as a social link to blacks rather than training him to be a writer. They needed a black face in the black community.
In l973, I produced a booklet called “Mediaocrity,” that touched on my media coverage during the first five years of Point of View.
It foretold the troubles that would plague the business as change hit hard.
I started the booklet with the Plain Dealer and its motto as “The Starter.”
The Plain Dealer used Davis, who was 19 years old and had no other newspaper experience, in its desperation to have a black face. The paper sensed its lack of diversity and the void it had to fill.
I began the booklet, “The weekend – much discussed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer city room for months before – started a bit peculiarly. Some 30 PD editorial workers and their companions had been invited to join in the anniversary celebration of a small African nation. The host was a 19-year-old black reporter who said his uncle was Ambassador to the United States and had asked him to invite his newspaper colleagues to the festivities.”
The trip took reporters to New York City, a stay at the Americana hotel and a special visit to the United Nations as part of the anniversary fete. However, the visit to the U.N. seemed to reporters suspiciously like a normal U.N. tour, not a special event.
From NYC there was a shuttle flight to Washington, D. C., and what was supposed to be a celebratory ball that might also include a visit by then President Lyndon B. Johnson. It didn’t turn out that way.
Instead formally dressed participants were taken for taxi rides (expected limos didn’t show up) to the home supposedly of the Ambassador. As I described it, “Upon arrival, instead of the President and other notables, they found a sleepy-eyed man and his abundantly pregnant wife. After a hushed conversation with the host-reporter (Davis), the unexpected guests were invited in for sandwiches and coffee by the couple.”
The young man chosen to be the “PD social secretary to some segments of the Cleveland black community” was really being misused to allow the uncomfortable editors to escape dealing with blacks. They had put so much investment in what seemed a solution to them that editors had co-signed for his furniture in an apartment, which they had also wrangled for him.
The commitment turned out to be more than the editors had bargained for. Bills for the New York and Washington trips, air flights and hotels began arriving at 1801 Superior Avenue, the PD offices. Davis disappeared and was never located by the newspaper. However, one day some time later a photograph came over the wire depicting someone accepting a check from some other men. City editor Ted Princiotto called me over, “Is that Bill Davis?” It sure looked like him.
The Plain Dealer was tripping its way through the turbulent Sixties.
Some of the miscues made for journalistic fodder for me.
I wasn’t taking the entire trip with them.
My pieces in the PD were noticed by a Wall Street Journal reporter who recommended me to Clayton Sutton, the Journal bureau chief here. I made a trip to New York for an interview and was hired.
My stay at the Journal didn’t last long and was hardly auspicious. The main piece of work was a profile of Dr. Benjamin Spock, an anti-war doctor then at Case-Western Reserve University. I shared a byline in a front-page examination of riots in Cincinnati and a piece on Mayor Carl B. Stokes.
What ended my stay there was a happenstance invitation to a conference of Ohio University professors at the Aurora Inn in Aurora, Ohio, on April 5th, 1968.
I had no idea it would have a lasting impact on my life.
It was my 35th birthday. It was also the day following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee.
The speaker that day was George Wiley, a black man and head of the National Welfare Rights Organization, fighting poverty especially among welfare clients.
Wiley, a graduate of Cornell University and a formidable advocate for poor people spoke to the all-white group.
I remember him saying he would no longer “plead” with white people for understanding. But that’s essentially what he was doing.
I was shocked by the reaction to his obvious plea.
The reaction of the educated audience more than his words moved me. They were asking questions about “when would blacks stop rioting” as riots had broken out in many U. S. cities. And when will they stop burning our cities.
At the time, though working at the Journal I had been surreptitiously writing for a small newsletter called, I believe, Common Sense, put out by some people associated with the Council of Churches. I don’t remember how many nor have I unfortunately saved any of the issues. Common Sense was ending its tenure. So, I essentially created Point of View, a similarly small (usually 4-page) newsletter. The size was dictated by use of a small printing press that was least expensive.
I published it for 32-1/2 years – May-June 1968 to December 2000. More than 700 issues were published, with a few by others during down times when I had a heart attack in 1974 and a first bypass surgery three years later. During the latter years I also wrote weekly columns for the Edition, published by Bill Gunlocke and the Free Times, started by labor lawyer Richard Siegel. There were other alternative papers during those years with the Great Swamp Erie da da Boom, a classic alternative newspaper name.
It’s difficult to cover my 50 years of boss-less writing and adding my three years of conventional journalism at the Plain Dealer and later at the Wall Street Journal Cleveland bureau. I wrote for a short time a column in the Call & Post. It ended when W. O. Walker refused my column critical of United Way. My deal with Walker was I’d write a weekly column and he’d print Point of View in exchange.
However, anyone who has been observing Cleveland journalism knows that my reporting continued into 2018 with several websites, ending exclusively with Jeff Hess and his Have Coffee Will Write site.
It’s also clear to anyone who has been reading POV or other work that the main subject has been how Power Works and primarily an attempt to determine one question: Who Rules.
The answer to the question Who Rules? (and how) remains one task that is rarely touched by the local media. It was always essential, whether achieved, in my mind as I tried to cover what was important – and within my ability to grasp – here in Cleveland.
In the 16-page POV issue I wrote marking the 30th year of publication, I included randomly in the issue headlined: 30 YEARS OF SHAMING DEVILS a short clip from previous issues of POV. The brief notes indicate the breadth of subject matter covered over the years. They included some of the following with a time note:
“It’s like a giant whale, beached in shallow water. Too embarrassing not to look at, too big to give it much help, and too obvious to ignore… the very Plain Dealer.” Vol.16, No 7 1983.”
“George Voinovich isn’t the candidate of the Fat Cats. He’s the candidate of the Bloated Cats, as we shall see.” Vol. 12, #5 1979.”
“It’s almost inconceivable that two seemingly politically wise operators – Bob Weissman and Dennis Kucinich – could toil for a decade to takeover City Hall, do just that, then in five months have the whole thing fall in on them…” Vol. 10 #20, 1978.
“The proposed purchase of a radio station for $1-million by a corporation controlled by Council President George Forbes’ wife has the financial support of one of the Cleveland banks involved in the city’s default.” Vol. 12, #18. 1980.
“They buy dead horses don’t they…For some reason, generous Ralph Perk has taken quite a fancy to the tax delinquent ($49,000), 40-year old, empty Euclid Ave. eyesore (arena). He wants very badly to purchase Nick Mileti’s obsolete building with $1-million of neighborhood renewal money…” Vol. 9, No. 2, 1976″
“They ain’t heavy, they’re our Civic Leaders. Dick Jacobs strolled into city council’s finance committee hearing with a model of proposed building covered by a black plastic garbage bag and by the time he walked out city council had filled the bag with potential subsidies of more than $125-million.” Vol. 20, No. 14, 1988.”
“Convicted conspirator George M. Steinbrenner, III, who channeled illegal campaign contributions to former President Richard Nixon, recently arranged with Supt. of Schools Paul Briggs to funnel $10,000 to pay 10 striking Cleveland reporters and editors to speak about journalism to high school English classes for up to two weeks at $500 a week.” Vol. 7, No 13, 1975.
“Council President George Forbes has once again steered legal business to members of the Climaco, Climaco, Seminatore, Leftkowitz & Garofoli law firm. Forbes personally picked Tony Garofoli as council’s legal representative in dealing with Figgie International… for massive Warrensville Township (Chagrin Highlands) development.” Vol. 21, No. 7 1988.”
“The Frightened Men at the Plain Dealer have struck again. This time it was a favorite of theirs who fell. Joe Eszterhas was fired last Friday because he wrote an article in Evergreen that said nasty things about the Plain Dealer and its editor-publisher Tom Vail.” Vol. 4, No. 5, 1971.
“Cleveland business leaders last summer ‘bought peace’ in the ghetto by paying some black activists about $40,000 in a 10-week period to do what they had decided to do already – keep it cool.” Vol. 1 No. 2, 1968.
“Some tactics get grotesque. For example, a (Council President Jim) Stanton aide was discovered at 1 a.m. in the office of Dick Green, urban renewal director. (Another) was found rummaging the wastebasket in the Law Dept. in the dark. He explained he was looking for a copy of the morning Plain Dealer and ‘hope no one thought he was a spy.” Vol. 2, No. 24. 1971.
It was difficult for me both in gathering, writing and publishing, then mailing by ZIP code packages, and keeping records of subscriptions and sending reminders for renewals. A small business, in this instance a tiny almost microscopic sized business, was also a financial struggle.
I never had more than about 1,700 subscribers at a peak. My likely high number came during the Dennis Kucinich mayoral term. POV was likely the most supportive of many of Kucinich’s aims. He also came at a time when Council President George Forbes likely had as much or more power than any single politician in Cleveland. He helped sales too. And in one incident gave me a boost likely desired by most journalists.
Forbes made me better known by tossing me – literally – out the door of a hotel meeting he wanted to keep closed to media. His misfortune was that the rest of the news people obeyed and left. However, they were at the open door – news photographers and TV cameras at the ready. (Some years later, invited to address a class by Forbes, teaching at Baldwin-Wallace, I showed up with a blow up of that photo. Before my talk, I said, I want the class to view another aspect of their professor. I produced the photo. Forbes merely laughed and said, “Pass it around.”
What about the future of journalism in Cleveland? My guess is it will be as bleak as or worse than the past. Again, the Plain Dealer has some excellent young reporters, many of them young women who write with passion.
But the same old story of hands off those who make the big community decisions rules.
In 2013, I wrote a very long piece in which I talked about toting up the hundreds of millions, certainly more than $1 billion, of public money that has poured into downtown, mostly for sports facilities that pay no property taxes on their structures. It was the result of hard work over the years to keep track of the money. It can be found here: http://havecoffeewillwrite.com/?p=34684
I had followed the sports facilities issue closely while the Plain Dealer gave little attention to how public money was being poured into Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) and Gund Arena (now Quicken Loans Arena.) While the main stream media ignored expenditures, POV watched carefully.
I reported that the Gateway Economic Development Corp., nonprofit vehicle created to operate the two sports facilities, built into them lavish, upscale restaurants, fully equipped down to wineglasses and dinner knives, spoons and forks. Gateway spent $5,155,893 for the baseball field’s Terrace Club with a clear view of the playing field. It became the largest downtown restaurant requiring paid membership ($800 a year) for game day access. The Club is a double-decker with 450 seats on each level. Kitchen equipment alone cost $1,054,320. The costs for tile and stone for the kitchen and bar totaled $146,600 and carpeting $343,450. All property taxes exempted. Major media ignored these details.
In the arena, it provided a smaller restaurant named Sammy’s after an exclusive downtown restaurant operated by an original member of Gateway Board. She resigned to operate arena Sammy’s. This restaurant’s cost with equipment was $2,370,134.
Gateway also built the Cleveland Indians a building not in original design plans at a cost of $5.1 million. I was told it was necessary to hide an unsightly ramp into the stadium. I noted that shrubbery would be less costly. The offices included a table affixed with a metal emblem of Chief Wahoo, the team’s racist mascot. It also had metal tabs embedded to resemble the stitching on a baseball.
Unreported elsewhere POV revealed a debacle over coffee tables for Jacobs Field loges. Jacobs demanded they be a certain marble despite the company handling the purchase warning Gateway that the marble quarried at Lucca, Italy, was not suitable. Indeed, cracks soon appeared and Jacobs wanted replacements at a cost of some $260,000.
Stephen Lau, president of Industrial First, the marble supplier, told me, “They asked for the marble, we provided it.”
In a recent example revealing that the subsidy party will continue the Cleveland Cavaliers, owned by a billionaire, forced the city and county to again donate public money in the millions to revamping Quicken Loans Arena.
What made this most disturbing is that various citizen organizations in a short time collected more than 20,000 signatures from Cleveland residents to force a vote on plans for the city and county to pay tens of millions of dollars for Quicken Loans Arena expansion.
Yet high-level corporate interests, along with Plain Dealer support, worked to derail the verified petition. No vote was ever conducted. Public money is now dedicated to the project despite the fact that original bonds on the arena from the early 1990s remain payable annually until 2023.
There is no way major Cleveland media – newspaper, television news or radio – will forthrightly examine these public expenditures for private interests. Privilege demands obedience.
Ironically, these same civic/corporate interests have now broached the need for a new football stadium to replace the 73,000-seat First Energy (Browns) football stadium owned by the City of Cleveland. The pitch is too familiar – it will be combined with other economic ventures with a monetary payoff to the larger community.
Will Cleveland and Cuyahoga County taxpayers really allow its representatives to once again ignore the serious problems of Clevelanders for ANOTHER fancy, highly publicly subsidized sports stadium to replace one built less than 25 years ago?
These are perilous times for newspapers and thus reporters.
Newspapers must change to survive. They must better represent those who need champions.
“There is an instrument of devastating effectiveness which we have only superficially, often hypocritically, employed. It is called the power of the press.
“Let’s face it. We in the trade use this power more frequently (for self-interests) … than to keep the doors of an open society open and swinging, by encouraging honest controversy, or, if you’ll pardon the term, crusading for truth and justice.”
The quote is from Edward P. Morgan of ABC News, from Robert Cirino’s “Don’t Blame the People,” a book every reporter should study.
The newspaper of the future must work for the underdog and against privilege. Will it?
~You can read Roldo’s work on The Cleveland Memory Project, where his archive holds every issue of “Point Of View,” more than 700 of them in 32 years. (See http://www.clevelandmemory.org/roldo.)