Economic Growth

How to Save Cleveland

Turning around America's dying cities is difficult, improbable, and necessary.


You want a quick indicator of urban decline in any city you visit? Ask a local what's great about the place. If the top three answers include "a world-class symphony orchestra," you're smack dab in the middle of a current or future ghost town.

This orchestra axiom is something I divined while working on Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey, an hour-long documentary you can see at Time and again, I'd ask Clevelanders—a proud breed beaten down by decades of lake-effect snow, economic degradation, population decline, and gridiron disasters worthy of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland ("I had not thought death had undone so many")—to tell me what was still top-notch about their hometown. It didn't matter if I was talking to a CEO or a homeless man, a bar owner or a barfly. The inevitable reply: "We've got a world-class symphony orchestra," typically embellished with some transparently phony claim about how it compares to those in other cities ("It's in the top 15 or 20 in the world!"), as if orchestras are regularly ranked like NCAA basketball teams.

Such are the thin straws at which residents in drowning cities grasp. Such is the psychic depravity that failed polities inflict on their residents, the mental tics and habits of mind that both compensate for and reinforce the steadily diminishing material conditions that drive down the quality of life. The job losses, the economic stagnation, the grim depopulation of downtowns and residential neighborhoods have a psychological dimension that is every bit as punishing and effective in keeping terminally ill cities in their sick beds as high taxes, stifling regulations, and municipal corruption. Talk to the people left in cities on the skids, and you'll quickly hear some variant on one or more of the following: If only heavy industry hadn't gone south, if only Standard Oil or Boeing or Consolidated Fuzz or the Browns hadn't moved, if only the weather were different, if only the blacks or the Puerto Ricans or the Italians or the bohunks or the unions or the Jews or the Bilderbergers or air conditioning hadn't ruined it all.

It isn't hard to understand why certain burghs go bust: Crime goes up, schools go down, taxes go up, services go down, the hassles and costs outweigh the opportunities and benefits until the population leaves in a steady trickle or mass migration. But it is far more difficult to figure out how to shock a pulse back into a place that once thrived.

No Hope, and No Plan

Part of the solution is changing the mind-set of the residents, replacing the alternating feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, passivity, and defensiveness with more productive emotions and cogitations. The prerequisite for change, the economist Ludwig von Mises once said, is a felt need for change. That's only part of the answer. Fatalism must give way not to delusional optimism and boosterism but to a sense of longing for something better—and, equally important, a belief that it can be achieved.

That sensibility is almost completely absent in Cleveland and many other cities today. Since its population hit a high point in 1950, Cleveland has lost more than half of its residents and essentially all of its economic and cultural capital. The Rapture happened here, but instead of going to the bosom of God in heaven, the elect ended up in Houston, Charlotte, Los Angeles, New York, and, most galling of all because of its proximity and broad-shouldered similarity, Chicago. There was a time, at the turn of the 20th century, when Cleveland and Chicago were real rivals, but that competition long ago devolved into a sort of lopsided Clippers vs. Lakers fiasco in which the clear winner need not even acknowledge that a competition ever existed.

As Chicago was becoming the hog butcher for the world and tool maker and stacker of wheat, Cleveland peaked as the seventh-largest city in America, with nearly 1 million residents, before beginning a long, slow, steady decline underscored by race riots, the Cuyahoga River bursting into flames, and a 1978 default on its municipal bonds. This year Cleveland earned the dubious honor of being named "the most miserable city" in the U.S. by Forbes. "Cleveland nabbed the top spot as a result of poor ratings across the board," wrote Kurt Badenhausen. "It was the only city that fell in the bottom half of the rankings in all nine categories." Consistently one of the country's poorest urban areas, Cleveland had double-digit unemployment long before it was commonplace in the rest of the country. Some two dozen Cuyahoga County officials are under federal investigation for corruption. Is it any wonder that in the last five years more than 70,000 people have vamoosed not just from the city proper but from the larger metropolitan area?

As befits a city built for twice as many people, Cleveland has a surplus of desperation, quiet and otherwise, but shockingly little sense that policies need a fundamental overhaul. At one point, I talked to City Councilman Joe Cimperman about the business climate. Cimperman's no villain; he's a good guy who clearly loves his hometown. Many local entrepreneurs, I said, felt the city was anti-business. "Who said that?" he asked defensively. "What were their names?" Cleveland does have a pro-business attitude, he insisted.

Cimperman went on to explain that the city council's role was to help business owners and residents "thread the needle" of endless regulations and mandates and edicts. (Cleveland has more than 20 zoning designations alone.) He boasted of helping a linen company—the last one of its kind within city limits—that had been trying for the better part of a decade to get variances allowing it to expand. With Cimperman's help, the company managed to navigate the paperwork in a mere 18 months. When I talked with him about Houston's less restrictive land use policies and wide-open approach to new businesses, he scoffed: "Houston is a joke." If that's true, the painful punch line is that during the last 50 years, Houston became the country's fourth-largest city while Cleveland was sliding down to 41st.

When leaders are not defensive, they are poignantly bereft of ideas. When I asked another council member, Kevin Kelley, what was the single best change that could be made to improve Cleveland's public schools, he shook his head and said, "I don't have a good answer to that." This defeatist response, conditioned by decades of failures large and small, is a form of learned helplessness that creates a vicious circle of economic and psychological despair and dependency.

Facing Up to Present Problems

From 1990 to 1993, I lived in Buffalo, a city eerily similar to Cleveland, differing chiefly in scale. (It's about half the size.) As I packed up to leave Buffalo for Los Angeles, there was a mayoral debate in which a Republican candidate, a Democratic candidate, and an independent candidate outlined their plans for revitalization. The first respondent (I forget which, but it hardly matters) said he would go to the state capital and fight for the city's fair share of tax money. The second one said he would go to Albany and also Washington, D.C., and fight for the city's fair share of tax money. The third candidate, the eventual winner, upped the ante by saying he'd go to Albany and Washington and fight for more than the city's fair share of tax money. Is it any wonder that during the 1990s, a decade in which many cities turned around years of population declines, Buffalo was one of only two entire major metropolitan areas that lost people? (The other was Pittsburgh, a long-slumping town inaccurately but repeatedly praised for a comeback that is suspiciously devoid of economic or population growth.)

When down-on-the-heels cities are not simply holding their hands out, they tend to work the same frayed ropes over and over again: building convention centers that will never make money, betting the farm on light-rail systems that always underperform, shoveling tax dollars at stadiums and sports franchises that don't generate any new revenue, redeveloping the waterfront. If the basic definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again while praying for different results, then huge swaths of urban America are certifiably nuts. For its part, Cleveland has turned all the usual tricks and more while manifestly failing to address the most basic quality-of-life building blocks that might generate jobs, attract people, and build hope. What Cleveland and other slump towns refuse to do is decentralize and deregulate, pushing decisions and dollars back to the people so they can navigate their own courses through life.

It's easy to make light of the sad-sack Americans stuck in dead or dying cities, towns, and villages. According to a common view, these folks, like John Steinbeck's Joads and The Beverly Hillbillies' Clampetts, should just pack up and head west, south, or wherever, and start over. There's a tendency to treat the people left behind in the places that dominate the Forbes "most miserable cities" list (which also included such Omega Man metropolises as Detroit, Buffalo, Memphis, and St. Louis) as the equivalent of the lazy and stupid relatives our grandparents and great-grandparents thankfully left behind in Old Europe. You just can't help some people, goes this line of put-down, all you can do is give them a bus ticket or a ranch house somewhere with a growing economy.

It's true that many residents of dying cities are hardened by the experience of loss, the slow-motion trauma of seeing a once-thriving (or semi-thriving) area slowly run out of steam, money, and people. In such places, the political, business, and social classes can become intensely reactionary, not just living in the past but, like Faulkner characters, making sure that the past (or an imagined version of it) is obsessively recreated on a day-to-day basis, no matter how painful and self-defeating the repetition proves to be. Cleveland can move heaven and earth and spend billions on new stadiums and convention centers; they also expended a huge amount of time and energy trying to keep a Walmart superstore from opening within the city's limits. The leaders and residents of dead towns fetishize a past when the shops were full of people, the public schools were superb, the thoroughfares thick with streetcars. Seeing no way forward into the future, they refuse to face or sometimes even acknowledge the reality of the present.

Yet to write off such people and places as incapable of change is to write off many, maybe most, of the places where Americans live. Far more cities are failing than are thriving, independent of the current recession. This is a crying shame, not simply because of the pain and forgone dreams but because it's entirely avoidable.

Bringing Dead Cities Back to Life

Cities can in fact wake from the dead. New York, Boston, and Chicago all did within recent memory. Resurrected cities won't look like they did in their heyday. Cleveland 2.0 will never again be home to dozens of Fortune 500 firms. The steel mills and refineries are never coming back; nor is the Great Lakes shipping traffic. But it can be a vastly better place to live, work, play, and love. It can be a magnet, if not for current Americans, then for immigrants searching for relatively cheap houses and for opportunity. It was immigrants from all the hellholes of  Europe and the American South, after all, who helped make Cleveland great in the first place. There is an infinite number of worst places in the world from which people would be happy to flee.

Cities resurrect themselves by creating a better value proposition for the people who live and work there: improving services, especially schools; improving the climate for businesses and jobs by offering more flexibility and less regulation; worrying less about big-ticket sinkholes like sports franchises and publicly owned venues and instead making sure that streetlights work, potholes are filled, and crime is contained. There are proven ways to do all this, procedures and processes that have worked in all sorts of cities.

These are the lessons of Reason Saves Cleveland. If Oakland, the place about which Gertrude Stein quipped "there's no there there," can improve its education system by granting parents the right to pick their children's schools, any city can. If Indianapolis can provide better service for lower cost through competitive contracting, if Chicago can sell off money-losing toll roads, if Washington, D.C., can take on its teachers unions, then anyplace can do those things and much more.

But before Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, or anywhere else can change the way it functions, its residents must sort through the emotional baggage of an urban life on the decline, a complicated, contradictory mix of feelings: that there's nothing they can do, that there's nothing really wrong with the place they call home, that one big win or one big stadium or convention center or sales tax or state or federal grant or magnet school or silver bullet will solve everything. Most of all, they must shake off the crippling nostalgia that tells them the good old days are gone forever, and that only a world-class symphony orchestra remains. 

Nick Gillespie ( is the editor of and

NEXT: Michael Barone: "spending is not popular this year"

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  1. For fuck sake Gillespie. What have you got against Symphony Orchestras? FYI they are ranked like NCAA teams.

    In the future, try to remember “A sample of one makes a poor statistic.”

    1. I prefer the AP rankings. Friggin UPI goes way too much by past performance and almost dismisses the conductors.

      Also, does anyone really believe that this concert season is going to end with Cleveland still in the top 10? Unless Franz Welser-M?st turns into damn Von Karajan, I doubt it.

      Also, they should adopt a playoff system, but that’s a whole other thread.

      1. That’s total bullshit that there isn’t a playoff system in competitive symphony.

      2. they should adopt a playoff system

        Sure, make the regular season meaningless. Why would anyone even take on Mahler or Rachmaninoff when they can just pad their stats with Pachelbel?

      3. Cleveland should be #1 for the sole reason that one of their closing concerts of the previous season featured George Takei as narrator.

        1. was that the sci fi movie music one? I was there! Anything involving Takei = great.

          1. Yep. It was most excellent.

        2. Oh, my!

        3. I agree, Cleveland should be #1 for this reason and in the eyes of its resident it is a great and beautiful state.

      4. Von Karajan was a hack. The Cleveland Orchestra needs to fire up the cloning machine and bring back George Szell.

      5. Few other principal trumpet players demonstrate the powerful, yet tasteful playing that Sachs does. Few other string sections are as consistently spot on in every way. Rich King can do no wrong. Not even the worst conductor could ruin a performance by those musicians.

  2. If the people who live there, work there, play there haven’t got what it takes to “save” a city, why should anyone else care? Or try? If the residents don’t care enough to fix their city, nothing outsiders do will work.

    1. Exactly.

    2. If we outsiders pushed a federal program to consolidate the population into a smaller area and bulldozed the rest to turned into federal parks land, you bet the people there would start to care.

  3. By the way, why pick on Cleveland? Have you seen Detroit lately?

    1. That’s like suggesting a doctor should reanimate a maggot-infused corpse instead of stabilizing a overdosing drug user. Some things (Detroit) are beyond saving/reanimating. The residents should abandon it, and come back in 100 years after nature has taken its course. By then, Detroit could be walled-off and turned into the World’s Largest Decaying Urban Hunting Park. I think the gun-toting citizens of Michigan could get behind that.

      1. We had this 22 year-old intern last spring, who told me that she and her boyfriend were going to cycle from DC to Detroit over the summer.

        I gave her a weird look and asked her “Why Detroit?” I got the distinct impression from her answer that she and BF thought Detroit was some post-apocalyptic ghost town, with nothing but rats and zombies living there. I told her, “You know, there are still about 500,000 people living in Detroit.” She looked at me as if she had never heard that before.

        1. “You know, there are still about 500,000 people living in Detroit.”

          I’m not sure I would call that “living”. Wow, that makes my reference to reanimating the dead even more apt. Then again, I live in Northern Viriginia which is one bad beltway accident from turning into a third world nation under marshall law. Fuck this place and the government subisidized assholes who live here.

        2. You tried to bang her but she shot you down, didn’t she.

        3. We’ll wait for census results for the official number. I place the over/under at 820,000.

          But what the fuck do I know. I just live here.

          1. I think your population figure is about right, J sub D, but it used to be about 2 million, give or take a few. But it still strongly appears to be true – whatever that phrase means – that many large cities with long-term Democratic governments – with or without a black-majority population – which have relatively high taxes, extensive regulatory schemes of whatever sort in place, whose former industrial or commercial base went broke, are all in the shitter, to be vulgar about it. Between the cities governments’ policies “chasing away” productive citizens and businesses and the increase in regulation plus taxes instead of a more free-market approach (read less regulations, fees and taxes), more and more of these cities are dead or dying. The continuance of counter-productive governments, the decreasing effectiveness of the public schools, and the general appearance of these cities give the impression to an outsider that most of the residents don’t care enough to even vote out the politicos whose policies contributed significantly to the decline. Apathy, indifference; you name it. Consequently, no matter what well-intentioned outsiders do or say, these places will continue to deteriorate. To what end? I have no idea and frankly don’t want to consider what they’re going to look like in 20 years. We’re wasting time, money and effort attempting to resurrect a corpse.

    2. I’d rather not, thanks.

  4. A good article. Too bad nobody will pay attention. Doing all of these sensible things would mean that government officials would have to give up their power, and that’s not in their blood. They would rather be rulers of a shithole than be ordinary citizens in a prosperous city.

    1. Incorrect, given their druthers they’d no doubt choose to be rulers of a prosperous shithole…

      1. Better to rule in Hell…

        1. I’d rather serve in Heaven, great health plan and generous time off.

          1. While you and your peers work under the gun that provides your “Heaven”.

    2. As someone said here last week: no one goes through the trouble of getting elected just so they can leave you alone.

      1. Exactly. They want to rule and it is a matter of supreme indifference to them what the effects of their rule are, so long as they get to continue to rule. Insanity? I think so. But, there it is and folks vote for it, regularly.

  5. All of this and nothing about keeping Lebron from shipping off to the Bulls or the Nets?

    1. Step 1 to save Cleveland: stop having the President and Mayor of New York gabbing about stealing the only good thing about the damn town:…..eBron-1302

      1. The last basketball game I went to (free tix) was Orlando vs. Cleveland the year just prior to the Cavs getting James.

        Man, did they suck. We left in the 3d quarter, with the Magic up by 20 or so.

  6. You know what Cleveland needs? A monorail!

    1. By Gum, it put Brockway,Ogdenville, North Haverbrook on the map!

      1. The lever you have pulled, Brakes, is not in service. Please make a note of it.

        1. “Are we gonna die son?”
          “Yeah. But at least we’ll take a lot of innocent people with us.”

          1. Is there a chance the track could bend?

            1. Not on your life my Hindu friend.

              1. I call the big one Bitey.

              2. (Monorail Song Finishes)


    2. Libertarian Fonzie saves the Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World!

  7. “only 18 months” rofl

  8. “He boasted of helping a linen company?the last one of its kind within city limits?that had been trying for the better part of a decade to get variances allowing it to expand. With Cimperman’s help, the company managed to navigate the paperwork in a mere 18 months. When I talked with him about Houston’s less restrictive land use policies and wide-open approach to new businesses, he scoffed: “Houston is a joke.”
    Yeah, and Cleveland’s empty…which is as it should be. After Cleveland lays empty and abandoned, someone will colonize it, perhaps making it the linen capital of the US by f*cking understanding that a linen company shouldn’t take 18 months to get licensed…or perhaps need licesening at ALL.

    1. Obviously Dan, you are racist who thinks children should work in mines, women should suck cock underneath desks all day long, and U.S. should rape and pillage the world because Americans are inherently superior. I’m going to re-read my Marx and Krugman so I can parrot more names to call you. NAZI.

      1. I’m cool with number 2.

    2. if you ease zoning restrictions, there will be less incentive to pay off government officials to get things done, either through campaign contributions or cash in envelopes

  9. I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    1. I agree that that’s how we should deal with Gainesville.

      1. Thanks, but there is no need to give us a source of supermutants. We can already beat OSU with just the normal variety of human.

        1. I thought Baby Jesus was on your side or something.

          1. No, he left us to go to the mountain top.

            1. But I see your point ?

            2. Thought that was Mohammed (PBUH).

              1. Neither. It was Dr. King.

              2. Denver joke.

        2. “Some even call me mad. And why? Because I dared to dream of my own race of atomic monsters, atomic supermen with octagonal shaped bodies that suck blood…”

          1. Leela: I don’t know what you did, Fry, but once again, you screwed up! Now all the planets are gonna start cracking wise about our mamas.

            Hermes: I’m just glad my fat, ugly mama isn’t alive to see this day.

            Professor Farnsworth: Enough about your promiscuous mother, Hermes! We have bigger problems.

            1. “Ladies and gentlemen, something very strange has just occurred in this basketball match between space clowns and atomic monsters.”

              1. “You’re that Bubblegum Tate?”

              2. “Man, that was just showboating algebra. I thought you knew that.”

                1. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Fry. You lost the woman of your dreams, but you still have Zoidberg. YOU ALL STILL HAVE ZOIDBERG!”

                2. “You dare laugh at the Jesters of Dunk? We came here to terrify and humiliate you, not tickle your funny bones. Watch, as I humiliate your civilization by passing the ball to Curly Joe… only to have it stay in my hand with elastic!”

    2. Do Clevelanders come mostly come out at night? Mostly?

      1. Clearly you have not driven through Cleveland at night as I have, albeit 30 or so years ago. Even then it was a joy given that no one else seemed to be on the streets or downtown. They seemed to be spending the nights trembling behind locked doors in darkened homes. Now they are probably living in Arizona.

  10. Is this the Nick Gillespie who dies his hair to match his stupid fucking black leather jackets? What a pathetic asshole!

    1. You have got the cutest little nose! Come here and let me give it a kissy-kissy!

    2. Shhhh! The Jacket hears you.

      1. The Jacket knows all. The Jacket sees all. In His sleeves, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.

    3. Give it up, dude.
      Grow some balls and find a handle you want to keep.
      If you can’t find a reason to disagree, then either leave, or join us. First posted 5/21/10

      1. Max is balls to the wall furious that Nick Gillespie is commandeering all the sex appeal from the democrat party and giving it to libertarians.

        1. Speaking of that…how you doin’?

  11. To be perfectly honest I always felt what kept Cleveland back was the absence of a hastily made tourism video:

    1. Dear God, I don’t think anyone’s ever posted that!

      1. I’m an original. Like the number 23. I came up with that on my own. No all-time great players with that number, right? Witness!

        1. A switch to 45, that would be original . . .

    2. thanks for sharing that video 🙂

      the same guy did another one.

  12. One thing that might save us, or at least make us happier, would be if people from North Ridgeville, who’ve never even lived in Cleveland would leave their opinions unpublished. The only things that will count in the future are resources and we got em. Food, energy, water and I would add medicine. We have a long growing season, not as long as California, but longer than Boston. We have terrific fresh market systems: West Side Market, North Union Farmers markets, etc. Food is inexpensive and easily grown here. Energy? We use natural gas and steam waste from our electric plants for heating, we have a nuclear electricity generating plant nearby, as well. Water? well look around – we got it. The city of Cleveland’s water doesn’t even require electricity to get to our homes. Medicine, yes that’s in Cleveland,too. Not Strongsville, not yokelsville, not McMansion corridor, OK?
    You want your kids educated? Send em to private school or avail yourself of Ohio’s on-line schooling, K-12. If they make it far enough to get into college, well we got that, too! Med school, law schools, at least 4 schools of nursing, all that you need. And it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg in Cleveland.
    What drags Cleveland down is being forced to subsidize entertainment for the yahoos from the suburbs. We have to pay for the Browns’ stadium, Progressive Field, the Q and we subsidize the Rock Hall and many other things that “bring people in.” Who cares? It’s not worth it, we don’t get enough back from the suburbanites to make it worth our while. Next we’re going to build a shiny new casino. Wish to heck they’d just put it out in the exurbs.

    1. Ummm…the Gateway Sin Tax was for all of Cuyahoga County, so the Q and Progressive Field are subsidized in part by the ‘burbs. Probably Browns Stadium, too.

    2. What drags Cleveland down is being forced to subsidize entertainment for the yahoos from the suburbs.

      Haaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahaha! Yep, that’s all. Are you not paying attention, or are you a government hack?

      PS March of Dimes walk, downtown Cleveland – guess who we saw! No one! Except us! It’s a ghost town – but what’s really bringing it down is subsidizing those Evul Suburbanytes, I know…

  13. (Cleveland has more than 20 zoning designations alone.)

    Montgomery County, Maryland (adjacent to DC) has over 430 (and they’re trying to pare it down to a mere 120).

  14. Take any city named in the article. Google search the elected officials in city government. A preponderance of (D) over (R)??
    They should all take their lesson from Chicago; do away with all pretense of transparency and go with graft and the spoils system.

    1. To be fair, although Houston has non-partisan elections, most of the city officials and the last few mayors have been Democrats. Granted, in Texas, being Democrat means that you’re a lesbian who hates firefighters, and not that you want to run everyone’s life. (Bill White is the notable exception. He would have ruined Houston if he had enough power.)

      1. The mayor doesn’t hate firefighters, firefighters are jerks! I live next to one, and even though his mixed-race relationship means that he’s probably not actually racist, I still ain’t gonna go shake his hand, the jerk!

        For the benefit of everyone else, the mayor of Houston was responding to an insulting amount of inaction from the firefighter administration to a pretty nasty sexism scandal. Also, h-town is probably the only city in the south you’re ever going to see that has to be _reminded_ that it elected an out lesbian as mayor.

  15. A very small part! The darned players don’t even pay Cleveland city income tax now that practice is out in the burbs, too. The stadia were all built with municipal money. And isn’t it wonderful, we still own them? That way Cleveland gets to pay for all the upkeep. Rent? don’t make me laugh. And it’s our police who get paid the overtime, not the county’s, to keep you safe while you enjoy your game. It’s our trash collection that gets to clean up after you.

    1. So why’d your citizens support this? Personally, I don’t go downtown except to hit the bars, so…if it makes you feel any better, Anita, I’m not benefitting from “your” subsidy to the Evul Suburbanytes…

  16. Population of Cuyahoga County (2000): 1,393,978

    Population of the City of Cleveland (2008):

    Also, if I were the Cavs, I’d get the hell out of that punitive tax regime, too.

    1. Taxes are actually lower in Cleveland than the surrounding county. A couple of minutes of research reveals…..xAbatement

      Whatever the reason is for the surburban flight is in the Cleveland area, it ain’t taxes.

  17. Soylent Green is people!

    Soylent Pink is gay people!

  18. Change in big cities (not just Cleveland) will probably require a demographics change. No, I don’t mean any particular race or whatever. But look who now primarily inhabits big cities: welfare recipients, government employees, and upper class progressives. I don’t see any impetus for change or growth coming from that collection of people.

    Apart from a natural demographic or socio-cultural shift, turning off the money spigot from the feds, states and suburbs is the only way I see things changing. And it won’t be pretty.

    1. And what is it you are dancing around?? Say it, you’re among friends.
      Blacks, in increasing numbers, inhabit big cities, especially big cities in trouble. Unless or until you can change that demographic, from one feeling entitled to government largess to one rejecting it and the damning influence it has, you will continue to watch this decline.

      1. I spotted this article who mentionned some challenges coming at Atlanta, it’s at…

    2. ChrisO, I spotted this article from the NY Times about changing demographics in Chicago.

      We can wonder if there might be other minis-El Paso here and there as Reason once mentionned in the following article: “The El Paso Miracle”?

  19. To be fair to Buffalo et al., I’m beginning to sense that New York City only lucked into thriving during the 00’s–and mostly out of its ability to attract a large number number of very, very wealthy people. Those people aren’t so wealthy anymore, there’s still no middle class to speak of, and tons of poor people. I’m thinking NYC might crash–and hard.

    1. It was well on it’s way, from the core, until Rudy decided to mop up on street crime. New Yorkers can abide the Mafia, Wallstreet crooks, even drug warlords, so long as they feel safe to walk the street.

      1. Make that “until Giuliani decided to sic the NYPD on anything he did not like.”

        1. And Bloomberg more so–bogus “stop and frisk” (of anyone they don’t like the look of) is at an all time high.

  20. “Houston is a joke!” Houston is a joke?

    Sorry son, you’re the joke, you and your toasted “city.” Plus Houston has a better symphony.

    Houston is a joke! Where do we find all of these dopes we elect to stuff?

  21. Save Cleveland? God forbid. The more bad examples staring us in the face, the better.

    Really, it should be kept alive as some kind of penal colony for welfare drones and corrupt Democratic crony-capitalist politicians.

    Houston-based entrepreneurs could charge money for safari tours in sealed trains with bulletproof glass, and taxes on this income could be used to eventually build a giant containment dome over the city, sort of like that box thing BP tried to use in the Gulf.

  22. Things are not much better here in Baltimore*.

    *City Motto = If not for the Feds, we’d be Cleveland.

  23. After mulling this over for a couple of days, I still don’t see the “need” to save Cleveland. Can’t market principles dictate which cities thrive and which fail?

    Also, I’m afraid that the comment bot has autism.

    1. Ditto on both counts. And if I hear “one more time” that “southeast Michigan needs Detroit”…no, it doesn’t.

      14% turnout in Detroit’s last local election – NICE. Guess that means the voters/citizens are not tired of what’s happening yet..?? OK, enjoy it.

      But don’t continue to ask for bailouts and “saving”…just fade away.

  24. Living outside Columbus, I can name one reason the big cities in OH will never get their act together…

    Municipal taxes. This state has set up a perverse disincentive for big cities to perform; namely that they can tax the people who work inside their limits but live in the outlying ‘burbs. What does that look like?

    1. City leaders can pimp for more revenue, knowing full well that the overwhelming majority of people who pay for it live in other jurisdictions.
    2. Those of us who get stuck with the bill have no say over the new levies, or how they’re spent, since we can’t vote where we don’t live.
    3. This leaves big cities like Columbus, Cleveland, etc. with zero incentive to become more attractive to businesses, improve their schools, etc. Why should they, knowing that they can just soak us poor schlubs out in the ‘burbs and escape any accountability from the TRUE taxpayers?
    4. Adding insult to injury: the towns we live in likewise need operating revenue, therefore many ‘burbs “piggyback” their own taxes ON TOP OF the big city’s.

    I still cannot believe this practice is allowed under OH law.

  25. Two words: ART and MUSIC.

    Detroit used to have a big underground music scene back in the late 90’s. I remember when NYC started clamping down on underground music, a lot of hot venues were happening in Detroit and Miami.

    Likewise, Jersey City NJ set aside a few city blocks called the PADNA where it offers subsidized housing for artists (filmmakers, fashion designers, fine artists, art students).. and even lets them join an organization which helps them display and market their artwork. This helped drop crime in this section of Jersey City.. and attract new young people to the area (hipsters and yuppies) drawn by the creative spirit.

    The best thing a city can do to quickly infuse a new sense of culture and identity.. is to mobilize your artists.

    1. Hipsters and Yuppies…sounds like Shangri-La.

  26. At least Columbus has New Albany …

  27. Deregulation! That’s always a great solution. I mean, always. There’s always so much more that can be accomplished once the regulators and the law look away for a moment or two.

  28. That actually sounds like a pretty good idea dude.


  29. An idea fitting to your rationale: BP once owned the biggest building in Cleveland! I read that right at the moment they are having lots of headaches related to over-regulation and “red tape” I’m sure they are looking for a little freedom right now, so let’s deregulate and invite them back. Drill, Lake Erie, Drill!

  30. This is a damn shame. We live in London, Ontario and visited Cleveland in March. It was a fantastic time with wonderful, friendly people. One of the greatest trips I’ve been on. Mind you, I haven’t been on that many, but it was still quite memorable and we plan on going back this year.

  31. I was born and raised in Texas, went to school at A&M, met my husband, graduated and moved to Cleveland for work. It took me a long time to meet people since I worked from home my first year here and I will admit, the first two winters nearly sent me packing. However, just over three years later, my husband and I are discussing staying in Cleveland, buying a house and raising a family. The plan has been to move back to Texas all along.. to Houston more specifically as that’s where my in-laws and friends live and my parents aren’t far away. But we like Cleveland and think that this city is a great place to live and raise a family. We live on the east side and have grown to really love it here. Yes, Cleveland needs to revitalize parts of the city and a lot of residents who have lived here there entire lives think they have it bad. But I see a place with a low cost of living, friendly people, nice neighborhoods, great schools and cultural diversity. The winters are long but there are lots of winter activities you can do to make it better, and the other three seasons are wonderful. Traffic is not bad in Cleveland and there are wonderful restaurants and a lot of things to do. Cleveland offers great cultural neighborhoods which nearer cities, like Houston, are lacking. Little Italy, University Square and Tremont are great places to spend a Saturday. Lakewood and Coventry offers a place for twenty-somethings to hang out. This city has a lot to offer and I wish people would stop acting like it’s a terrible place to live!

    1. Amen, TY! I live on the East Side, too, in the Larchmere neighborhood. I can walk to Shaker Square or to University Circle. Cleveland has easy traffic because it’s SO walkable in so many of our neighborhoods (not all, but things are improving even in the projects)

  32. I’m from Cleveland and I have some issues with this article.

    First off, what do you have against orchestras? In my opinion, a happy city has a thriving arts community. Aside from the orchestra, Cleveland has a great art museum, theater community and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    If you were to ask anyone why they’d want to visit/live in New York City, I guarantee “sports’ would not be part of their answer. Here are some New York tourist links, notice “Yankees” are missing from the lists:…..rticle.htm

    Despite Cleveland’s arts community, Cleveland is not a happy city is because many locals bet all their hopes and dreams on sports (oh, high school). A championship is not going to save this town. Many people here have a sense of entitlement. We deserve a sports championship not because of hard work, just because. I do agree with the writer in that some people here live in the past. Notice the word “some”…

    I find it interesting that of the people polled, Clevelanders/writer failed to mention the health care industry. The Cleveland Clinic has many top programs in the country and has serviced international leaders and celebrities for various medical needs.

    The state of Ohio is also showing growth in the STEM sector of the job market. Cleveland also has its hands in STEM:


    I’m not blind to the fact that Cleveland has problems. I’m a recent graduate with a degree in arts management and I’ve found little job prospects here. I think the casino is going to do more harm than good. But Cleveland has its gems but people seem to refuse to learn anymore about the city and just repeat at ad nauseum “the river caught on fire”.

  33. I guess London and San Francisco are soon to be ghost towns. damn those world class symphonies!

  34. Amanda, I moved from California to Cleveland about 5 years ago, and I agree with you.

    But I live in a suburb, so according to some of the other posters, I’m part of the problem.

    Here’s a simple start to fix the problems with Cleveland: make Cuyahoga County Cleveland city limits.

    There are something like 59 mayors in Cuyahoga county. Assuming they all make an ETERMELY conservative estimate, say 100k, that’s nearly 6 million dollars of pure waste.

    Between Lakewood, Coventry, Tremont, and University Circle, there is a lot of potential to, as a previous poster said, mobilize the artists.

    Other things that could benefit Cleveland include clean wind energy, agriculture, etc.

  35. I’m from Cleveland and I disagree with some of the points in the article.

    First off, what does the writer have against orchestras? In my opinion, a happy city has a thriving arts community. Cleveland not only has a world class orchestra but also a great art museum (free admission fyi), a bustling theater district and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum. If you were to ask anyone why they’d want to visit/live in NYC, I guarantee “sports” would not be included in their answer. I looked at some NYC tourist sites and “Yankees” was not listed. Places that were listed: Lincoln Performing Arts Center, Broadway and various museums.

    Despite the arts and culture, Cleveland is not ‘happy” because the locals bet all their chips on sports teams. A championship is not going to save this town but there are some people who think so.

    I do agree with the writer in that some people here live in the past. Notice the word “some”. There are people who are looking at the present and actively trying to improve the future.

    I find it interesting that of the people polled, Clevelanders/writer failed to mention the health care industry here. The Cleveland Clinic has many top programs in the country and has serviced international leaders and celebrities for various medical needs.

    Along with health care, the STEM field is growing not only in Cleveland, but Ohio as well. MAGNET is a technology and manufacturing incubator in town that promotes economic growth.

    I’m not blind to Cleveland’s problems. As a recent college graduate, I have found little job offerings in my field in the city. The Cleveland schools need to be desperately fixed and I don’t think the casino is going to help the local economy. Not to be Captain Obvious, but yes, work needs to be done.

    Cleveland constantly gets a bad wrap and I just wanted to illustrate that the city has some gems this article missed. I guess people would rather repeatedly scream “the river caught on fire” at ad nauseum.

  36. if iran sinks an oil tanker in the strait, gas prices will explode, & it’s “goodbye burbia, hello re-integration” !

  37. Cleveland has voted one party for 50 years and it’s controlled by the Unions. Gee, why is it failing?

  38. As a musician who has traveled the world and seen many other symphony orchestras that try to lay claim to greatness, I’ve got to say that Cleveland really is the absolute best in terms of consistent perfection. They may have gone through some bad directors and boring programming, but no one, not even some Philistine writing for a political magazine, can doubt that they are a well-oiled machine of perfection. I’ve seen bad concerts with the Concertgebouworkest, the Rotterdam Phil, the Boston Symphony, and the London Symphony, and especially the Chicago Symphony– as well as concerts that are the reason those orchestras have their good names and are worth buying tickets for. But not a single other orchestra has the flawless delivery of Cleveland every time.
    Try doing some research for yourself about orchestras before you berate what truly is the best and look like a fool in front of anyone who’s even remotely interested in orchestral music.

  39. It’s about the jobs, stupid!

    There is no great conspiracy to make Cleveland a bad place to live, just the glaring inability to attract and retain industries that give people good paying jobs.

    There are some bright spots, such as world-class healthcare, and some great colleges and universities in Cleveland, but those are not enough to feed the economy there.

    Cleveland used to be the ‘extra capacity’ for Detroit automakers in the 1950-1975 or so; Cleveland had scores of tool and die shops, factories that made the steel for cars; Ford had a major engine plant in Cleveland, GM had a thriving stamping plant there. Growing up in Cleveland, it seemed that at least half the people you knew worked for GM, Ford, or one of the old-school Cleveland companies like American Greetings, Republic Steel, National City Bank, etc.

    But when I got my degree and started looking for a job, I got four good job offers in Atlanta, and none in Ohio….so here I am, a damn yankee in Georgia.

  40. Iceality of Recycling Cleveland ; Everyone’s Favorite Rustbucket

    The Cav’s lost so even Lebron can save Cleveland’s image now. There is
    no time for Casino’s too. So as the 2010 vacation season starts,
    Cleveland is not going to rate anywhere as a tourist Mecca.
    While do have some first class attractions, nobody living here can
    afford to see them and only the Cleveland Orchestra, subsidized with our
    tax dollars, can leave here to travel places where they can be heard;
    which is part of the reason nobody living here can afford to visit the
    other attractions here. City Leaders could affordably change the name of
    one of the free beaches to some thing more appealing to visitors,
    perhaps the “Sacred Beach of the Holey Vagigi” in honor of Oprah or
    Renate might work. So tourism here remains a joke; and, sadly, the irony
    is because many finicky travelers are influenced by the loads of
    national jokes about Cleveland. It is a vicious circle and Cleveland
    ends up on the bottom of all the National polls but it is still the
    hometown to dozens of decent people.

    Nevertheless, here is a bold, five-tiered approach to solving
    Cleveland’s problems:

    Step 1: Develop a serious business into tourism.
    Build a serious ad campaign expressly designed to attract tourists from
    such “problem areas” as Detroit, Newark, Afghanistan, Mexico, Israel,
    The thinking is: Compared to the trouble and adversity the people of
    these countries experience daily, a week or two in Cleveland will seem
    positively tranquil and idyllic.
    I would venture to say that if a hardy group of, oh, vacationing pirates
    from Somalia were walking on Public Square and one of its members was
    hit by a drive-by shooter, their thinking could be: “Oh dear, we have
    lost Ms. Haboon, but that’s no reason we cannot still take the Playhouse
    matinee and the S.S. GOODTIME II this afternoon as originally planned.”

    Let’s face it, this is the Crocodile Dundee type of tourist Cleveland
    needs to attract: daring, courageous individuals, not easily upset
    about harsh living conditions or random small-arms fire. People who
    won’t stay holed up in their hotel rooms sniveling and complaining each
    and every time someone in their party is mugged, but who will be out in
    the bars, restaurants and theaters spending money.
    As another example, if a tour group of Red Shirts were set upon by
    pistol-packing thugs inside The Q Stadium, the delegation would no doubt
    pull out their own weapons, squeeze off a few rounds and go back to
    enjoying the ballgame. Saving the city money and giving our police a

    Step 2: A boy saved is a citizen earned.
    Recently our hometown U.S. Marines about to be deployed in the Middle
    East left for California for training. Until they joined the service,
    most of these guys have never left our rust bucket area and here we are
    sending them away to see Sunfunland USA. Sunshine, bikini girls,
    Swimming pools, movie starlets in a word….’giggity’. Hurry back Boys!
    The solution is instead of moving them away to California we should keep
    them here in Cleveland to train. Wouldn’t the presence of 10,000 or so
    troops in Cleveland boost the economy while also providing our soldiers
    a more ideal training ground for the bitter house-to-house fighting in
    Afghanistan? Let all the armies of the world know that Cleveland could
    serve as an excellent all around training site for urban guerrilla
    warfare. The torching of an old church or temple downtown now and then
    adds a nice touch of realism too.
    But don’t stop there. Invite combat doctors and nurses to come here to
    our famous Hospitals and study the injury’s caused by modern conflicts.
    See, then we would have a real supply-and-demand reason to build a MED
    MART here. Lets see if the Nashville Med Mart people can try to beat

    Step 3: Them Bad Apples, don’t throw them away in this economy.
    Advertise to attract the ‘alternative’ conventions nobody else wants.
    The mercenary crowd, outlaw biker clubs, professional wrestlers,
    military unit reunions, etc. With all these dynamic people coming to
    town, Cleveland would be able to afford to re-open some venerable
    downtown cultural institutions like the ROXY and attract exotic
    headliners like Rima Fakih to perform. You know, the fun places that
    genuine rock stars really do want to visit. These places could also
    provide extra work for the local co-eds like they do in other tourists
    Soon, Cleveland would be a truly exhilarating global village again,
    teeming with thousands of young cheerful, free-spending soldiers and
    sailors, rappers, politicians, international policemen and all their
    many diversified entourages.
    OK, maybe then, we can even talk about hosting a Rock Hall Induction
    Ceremony or opening a Casino or two.

    Step 4: Believe in turning negatives into positives whenever possible.
    Instead of bemoaning the economy and job loss over our fair city, why
    not put it to good use? Another future example, when Continental and
    United eventually close their hubs at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, people,
    don’t complain but celebrate the news! Why not put it to good use?
    We can turn the empty spaces they left into a hub for the Strategic Air
    Command (SAC). This addition would allow the Labor Day Air Show to
    expand its hours 24/7. Visitors viewing all this High-Tec military
    hardware on display would be asking themselves where can you get this
    stuff cheap? China and Russia obviously, but fortunately, Cleveland
    already has an abundance of empty steel plants and auto factory’s (not
    to mention the old WW II Cadillac Tank Plant) ready to go into
    production – all they would need is to immigrate enough skilled people
    to hire.

    Step 5: Getting back to our Future.
    Focusing on North East Ohio’s natural beauty, aquatic charm and ICEAlity
    may have worked once. But in today’s competitive market you have to be
    bold. A future bold example; by simply expanding Hopkins Airports’ main
    runway in a shape of a pyramid from Brookpark Rd north through the
    foreclosed homes area to say about……Edgewater. Dayum!, this would
    give NASA’s Glenn Space Center here a inter-galactic welcome mat, SAC
    an emergency runway and NASCAR a new raceway while giving our resident
    poor developers needed work. Look at the PR possibilities, instead of a
    bunch of small races around the nation, NASCAR could cut their travel
    and promotional costs by holding only one single top-notch 50,000 mile
    race here….and if the drivers car pool…save even more. NASA could
    promote on the runway to extraterrestrials and UFO’s on Google Earth a
    daily welcome message complete with local room rates and restaurant
    specials and weather report in different languages like Russian,
    Vulcanese, Ferengi, and Klingon, and especially Borg.
    This may sound like on far-out proposals but sometime into the future,
    Cleveland would be back because there only is one way for it to go.

  41. Cleveland: rename it, refound it, relaunch it. Cmon, it’s like that girl named Mildred….she may be hot, but you just don’t get past the name. Give the city a cool sounding new name, build a cool new city hall, and start from scratch. Some name suggestions? New London? Ohio City?

  42. I grew up in Cleveland and now I live in a suburb. One thing I think people kind of gloss over is WHY things are the way they are. I think understanding what caused the problem is a step toward solving the problem. I think there were two major factors that really destroyed Cleveland.

    1. The death of the steel industry. My dad worked at Republic Steel for almost 30 years. He was there at the end when they were bought out. This was the main employers of Clevelanders for many years. It’s never going to come back. There seems to be some that think our hospital systems, Cleveland Clinic and University, are going to grow and also create jobs. I don’t know.

    2. Busing. In the 70’s it was determined that schools in the white neighborhoods were getting better funding than the ones in the black neighborhoods. So the solution to thios inequality was to take half the kids from each side of town and bus them to the other side. I have no idea why anyone thought this was a good idea. Kids were standing at a bus stop at 5:30 in the morning to go to school and then coming home at 6 at night. So anyone that had money moved out of the city. There goes your tax base. And now as a result of years of underfunding the Cleveland public schools arethe worst in the nation. One third of our kids don’t graduate.

    So now we’re getting a casino. Why? There are so many other casinos surrounding us I don’t think we’d draw people from out of state to come here. I guess we might stop some of the people in our area to stay and gamble here.

    When we build the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame we were promised that every year enduction ceremonies would be held here and boost the economy. That really didn’t take off. I don’t know what the situation is now but for many years the ceremonies were held in NY.

    I would really like to see a comic book museum built here. Unlike a casino no one else has one and there’s a lot of business that stems from this. Superman was created here.

  43. Of course, Cleveland has a rich history of organized crime, so a Casino will most certainly help that industry.

  44. I like how the city of Cleveland has apparently mobilized PR flaks for the comments section.

  45. “From 1990 to 1993, I lived in Buffalo, a city eerily similar to Cleveland”

    1988-1996 here. I’m sure I saw the Jacket walking down Elmwood on more than one occasion (Elmwood Av. being the cool weirdo part of town, natch).

    I left Buffalo with great relief (I was looking for bigger pastures and Buffalo’s out-of-control crime, zero job prospects, and abysmal race relations weren’t helping any). Now, after 13 happy years in NYC, I do miss it on occasion. I miss the mix of small town and urban that such cities used to have, before all the bad stuff took over. Well, here’s hoping that Drew and his crazy clear specs get the message out there.

  46. An interesting and provocative lead, but seems rather hard on the Cleveland Orchestra. Shame on them for being the one remaining thing in which the city has pride. You’re right, Nick, they should get with the program and leave for another city. Would you be happy then?

    1. The more I think about it, the more I believe that your article is the Cell Phone Reviews and the trust source that ever got this role right and the only one who ever will. Like my Mobile Phones Reviews, Android Phones Reviews and Smartphones Reviews.

  47. The Cleveland Orchestra IS one of the world’s greatest orchestras. Why is it so bad that residents are proud of that? The writer talks about improving quality of life. Aren’t institutions like the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Clinic and professional sports an important part of quality of life? I don’t understand how lack of pride in world class amenities helps Cleveland.
    Cleveland was sold out by the forces of globalism which has translated into greater concentrations of wealth at the top while the majority (labor) beg for a few crumbs.

  48. We outsiders pushed a federal program to consolidate the population into a smaller area and bulldozed the rest to turned into federal parks land.

  49. The solution is instead of moving them away to California we should keep
    them here in Cleveland to train. | RAN ran ran ??? ??? ??? |

  50. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  51. I was just having a conversation over this I am glad I came across this it cleared some of the questions I had.

  52. Cleveland was sold out by the forces of globalism which has translated into greater concentrations of wealth at the top while the majority (labor) beg for a few crumbs.

  53. An interesting and provocative lead, but seems rather hard on the Cleveland Orchestra. Shame on them for being the one remaining thing in which the city has pride. You’re right, Nick, they should get with the program and leave for another city. Would you be happy then?

  54. An interesting and provocative lead, but seems rather hard on the Cleveland Orchestra. Shame on them for being the one remaining thing in which the city has pride. You’re right, Nick, they should get with the program and leave for another city. Would you be happy then?

  55. I left Buffalo with great relief (I was looking for bigger pastures and Buffalo’s out-of-control crime, zero job prospects, and abysmal race relations weren’t helping any). Now, after 13 happy years in NYC, I do miss it on occasion. I miss the mix of small town and urban that such cities used to have, before all the bad stuff took over. Well, here’s hoping that Drew and his crazy clear specs get the message out there.

  56. I agree they should pack their bags, swallow their pride and leave for another city.

  57. I’m sure Cleveland is a great city. No city is perfect, but I guess if people were to say the orchestra is the only good thing about it you’d probably want to live someone else. I’m sure, though, that you can ask Boston plumbers or anybody else there what they think about Boston, or someone in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York, and there’s a good chance at least SOME people will have a similar answer about their respective city.

  58. snow, economic degradation, population decline,

  59. ally embellished with some transparently phony claim about h

  60. Eh bien, je suis un bon poste watcher vous pouvez dire et je ne donne pas une seule raison de critiquer ou de donner une bonne critique ? un poste. Je lis des blogs de 5 derni?res ann?es et ce blog est vraiment bon cet ?crivain a les capacit?s pour faire avancer les choses i aimerais voir nouveau poste par vous Merci
    ????? ???

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