Reason Saves Cleveland

Why Cities Like Cleveland Die: They Refuse to Emulate Success While Persisting in Failure

Earlier this month, Cleveland's West Side Market celebrated its 100th anniversary with a fundraising party designed to raise dollars to help maintain the facility.

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Earlier this month, Cleveland's West Side Market celebrated its 100th anniversary with a fundraising party designed to raise dollars to help maintain the facility.

As all of us involved in the production of the documentary series Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey learned, the West Side Market is a really unique and memorable scene brimming with great food, good people, and energy—for the four days a week and short hours that the West Side Market is actually open. Click on the image above to watch the episode that explores how the West Side Market could rev up its operations, benefiting customers and business folks alike.

The market is owned by the city and operated by Cleveland's parks department, which helps explain why it doesn't keep regular business hours and why the building that houses it is in a constant state of disrepair (as you'll see in the video above, vendors lost no time in complaining about the market's physical plant).

And yet, reports Cleveland's Plain Dealer, the powers that be in the "Mistake on the Lake" have no plans to innovate in a way that might not only serve the market's customers and vendors better, but allow the city to focus on core services such as policing.

Across the country, public markets have moved toward the nonprofit-management model. That's the case at city-owned markets in DetroitColumbus and Cincinnati. And not-for-profit groups run the well-known Pike Place Market in Seattle and Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.

In Cleveland, the prospect of the city's selling the market or outsourcing its management is, to put it mildly, a non-starter.

"We sometimes hear that private is more efficient and better than public," said Ken Silliman, the chief of staff. "Mayor (Frank) Jackson doesn't buy that. We, as an administration, don't buy that. The West Side Market has received both local appreciation and national acclaim because the city of Cleveland has stayed true to the origin of the market.

"And in a time when other city markets have diversified to the point where the food is a minor feature in the interest of more profits, we have—and will continue to—resist that trend. That's one of the benefits of private ownership. We're about service, rather than profits."

Read the whole thing here.

You got that? Screw the experience of other cities that have far more famous markets (such as Pike Place and the Reading Terminal Market). Cleveland will bravely soldier on doing what it was doing 100 years ago. And if paying customers can't get a sandwich or a steak or a cup of coffee after 4pm on Mondays and Wednesday—or any time at all on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, well, that's because the city's operators are "about service, rather than profits." Pike Place Market may be open "19 1/2 hours a day, 362 days a year," but Cleveland don't play that game, you dig?!?!

You don't need to be a "market fundamentalist" or even a loosey-goosey libertarian to blanch at Ken Silliman's statement above. How the hell exactly are you about service if you're not even open three days a week? That's not putting people first—it's maintaining control at the expense of your constituents. To call it misguided would be an understatement.

Cleveland is a remarkable place, with a rich and varied history, and a ton of cool stuff. But it is, sadly, a ruin of a city, one that has lost more than half of its residents since its peak in 1950 and is now reduced to bragging about its symphony orchestra rather than its ability to educate or employ local citizens.

Unlike Pompeii, though, Cleveland wasn't destroyed by a natural disaster. Its long, slow, heartbreaking death is entirely man-made and could be reversed if the people in charge there would try to do things differently. Or let residents do things differently. That's what Reason Saves Cleveland was all about: learning from other places' successess and failures and figuring out how to adapt those lessons to your particular city.

Here's another video to watch, one of Drew Carey and me meeting with the Cleveland City Council after they invited us to discuss the series and its reform ideas. There's a lot of good people fighting the good fight in Cleveland—many of them across the table from us—but the mentality evident in the Plain Dealer article will override the best intentions of well-intentioned change agents every time.

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  1. “We sometimes hear that private is more efficient and better than public,” said Ken Silliman, the chief of staff. “Mayor (Frank) Jackson doesn’t buy that. We, as an administration, don’t buy that. The West Side Market has received both local appreciation and national acclaim because the city of Cleveland has stayed true to the origin of the market.

    Reality is negotiable. Dogma isn’t.

  2. Why Cities Like Cleveland Die: they allow Warty to live there instead of running him off with pitchforks and torches.

    1. People are always looking for unneeded complexity in answering questions.

      Why is Cleveland a disaster? Warty.

      See? It’s so easy.

      1. If only the rest of life could be so simple.

    2. That’s only half true!

  3. http://fox8.com/2012/11/22/org…..rt-stores/

    Welp, I guess my country bumpkin-self will just have to enjoy the diverse products I can buy at WalMart, 24/7.

    1. http://www.alamhof.org/

      And Tuscumbia, Alabama has a Music Hall of Fame, as well. And we’d gladly induct Rush if they’d just record something in our state.

    2. Strange that my city hasn’t collapsed entirely by all of the Walmarts here.

  4. in a time when other city markets have diversified to the point where the food is a minor feature in the interest of more profits, we have – and will continue to – resist that trend. That’s one of the benefits of private ownership. We’re about service, rather than profits.”

    JUMPING BUTTERBALLS!

    *weeps, beats head on desk*

    1. I got that reaction too. It’s officially the stupidest thing I have ever heard a Clevelander say, even ahead of “Let’s draft Brandon Weeden in the first round.”

  5. “Whatever you do, be sure to not actually make money. Because if you turn a profit once, those bastards will expect you to do it every time.”

  6. OT, but I missed the PM links:

    Forbes on Ron Paul’s emotional blackmail of America by asserting the right of secession.

    For the life of me I don’t understand why people think that because a government is democratic it can never become abusive or that the democratic process can never become useless and unresponsive when it comes to remedying these problems.

    1. Because many people are stupid. See? That’s as easy as ProL’s Warty answer above.

    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Cry_of_Freedom

      I think it goes back to the “Battle Cry of Freedom,” which over and over labels the Confederate nation as traitors. It was a very popular anthem during the Civil War, and it helped to build morale in the North in support of the war.

      Overtime, it and other Union propaganda helped to build the popular notion of a central, unified nation as opposed to a loose federation of states.

      1. The song was also the anthem for Lincoln’s re-election campaign. So, it held a sentimental value for people after he was assassinated.

    3. Is there a fundamental right to secede? Sure there is, in the same way that robbing your neighbor’s house can be justified as a fundamental right if you are starving. It’s not the abstract right in question, but when it should be applied.

      So Michael Peck is Tony?

      1. robbing your neighbor’s house can be justified as a fundamental right if you are starving.

        NO THE FUCK IT CANT.

        Starvation does not justify theft.

        1. That struck me as odd too. I mean what exactly is he getting at?

          You can shoot your neighbor if he attacks you, but not for no reason. Likewise you can secede if your government becomes tyrannical and abusive of your rights, but not if it actually keeps itself restrained by the limits placed on it by the Constitution, which is what Ron Paul was essentially saying when he pointed out the abuses of government power that are not being addressed.

          1. He also says that you shouldn’t be allowed to secede from the union because that would mean that Atlanta would have the right to secede from Georgia, which is obviously absurd!

            Yeah, it’s not like part of Virginia seceded from the rest of the state in order to stay loyal to the union. If that were true it would totally invalidate his point, so thank God it isn’t true!

            1. If Atlanta wanted to secede from GA, it wouldnt even be the whole thing. Definitely not any of Fulton county outside the city, Sandy Springs, for example, would go with the rest of the state.

              I doubt all of the city would want to stay with the city either.

        2. Starvation may not justify the theft, but if I am starving I’ll damned well consider it!

          1. I’d steal if I was legitimately starving to death, but if I was caught it wouldn’t serve as ‘justification.’ I’d expect to go to jail. Doing what is necessary to survive doesn’t mean that what you do has to be approved of by society.

          2. …does your consideration make it a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT?

            1. No, it’s not a fundamental right. Stealing obviously isn’t a right. As a human I’d steal in order to not die, but I wouldn’t attempt to justify it before a court or claim that theft is my right.

    4. My God… the stoopid from that article. It burns.

      “Michael Peck, Contributor
      I cover the intersection of games and national security”

      There ya go, sport. Keep digging.

      1. So, he’s an expert on barely interactive, jingoistic rubbish like Call of Honorfield: Modern Ops?

    5. Why exactly does he believe that Washington has a right to rule over a people that doesn’t respect their authority or legitimacy? Because some long-dead people signed a legal document? Washington has repeatedly breached the terms of that social contract, so how can it fairly still be binding on any other party? Any justification not related to past agreement would also sanction any form of imperialism and rule by conquest. Does he really want to go there?

      Unless he can explain why D.C. has a right to its power, then the right of secession is implicit, and requires no legal or moral defense, only a practical one.

      1. I like that liberals always talk about how terrible the ancient tyranny of dead white men is, until you start talking about secession. Then the will of dead white men should bind us from now til judgement day.

    6. I think most people see the democratic process as an end itself as opposed to part of a process that’s supposed to best preserve our fundamental individual rights.

  7. Pike Place is not open 19.5 hours a day; just the stores on 1st Ave are. The stalls section and the lower level stuff closes at 6pm.

  8. Yeah?? Well, EIGHT TURNOVERS!!!!

    1. Coming from a Steeler family, it was hard to watch.

  9. Why Cities Like Cleveland [Deserve To] Die: They Refuse to Emulate Success While Persisting in Failure

    Equally accurate, but reflects a very real sentiment.

  10. We’re about service, rather than profits.

    Which translates to “we’re not really serious about being about ‘service’, you naive nincompoops.”

    If they were really about service, the profits would reflect that. Since they are not about profits, then it follows that they couldn’t care less about the customer, service or anything that has to do with commerce.

  11. lol, those bought and paid for politicians crack me up man!

    http://www.Tru-Privacy.tk

  12. What’s the location like? In some similar cities I know well (Buffalo, Rochester), the public market is located in rather ghetto-ey areas rather than on the tourist waterfront like Pike Place. I don’t disagree with the article at all; I just wonder if location is an additional factor.

    1. It’s right across a bridge from downtown, in a mostly-yuppie part of a neighborhood that’s half liberal-ass yuppies and half trashy Puerto Ricans and half angry black idiots.

      1. Basically, you have to drive to get there, parking is annoying and there it gets boring after your first visit.

        If their attitude is “This place would be perfectly run if it weren’t for the fucking customers”, then it’s a magnificent plan to keep the proprietors happy… broke but happy.

        1. I would think the proprietors would want to… I dunno… make some money.

  13. Quite like another public entity in my locale: the Library. Only open when most people are working, except for the retired, elderly, and stay-at-home parents. Yet its boosters decry the drop in visits and circulation of their materials as an argument that a larger, more modern building would reverse that trend.

    Ah, the tone-deafness of public officials…

  14. you’ll never understand cities, they are not favored in your world view

  15. “Gentlemen, we have to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”
    –Mel Brooks as ‘The Gov’ in Blazing Saddles

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