Monday, August 20, 2007

incredible, remarkable reports from the field

Here's a tidbit I got in yesterday from one of our workers in the field. My initial reaction was that I found this sort of behavior simply incredible and really remarkable. I have obtained permission to post this anonymously and present it here for all to see. Let me know how it makes you feel.

Yesterday morning I attended...a meeting of CPAC - Community Partnership for the Arts and Culture. The ostensible point of this meeting was to discuss the role of the arts at Medical Mart...The meeting was a rally for Joe Cimperman, Tim Hagan, and Fred Nance - a way for them to force down the throats of local artists (and I am not convinced how many of them were actually there and how many members of the audience were shills) why Medical Mart and the new convention center are critically needed in Cleveland. In my opinion, this was one of the most corrupt and blatantly political misuses of public time and information I have ever witnessed. I felt like I was watching Chicago politics in action (a friend pointed out that I was but the difference is Chicago actually accomplishes things).

One of the biggest accomplishments of CPAC is the successful campaigning this group did to get an arts referendum on the ballot and then to get arts funding passed – it is a citizen/artist action group that really is concerned about NE Ohio, the arts, and survival of the region. But this meeting, called on very short notice, allowed all three boys to hammer home a nasty message to the CPAC membership. Cimperman, Hagan, and Nance repeatedly instructed this audience to tell their friends NOT to sign petitions for the referendum, and to make sure that they themselves did what they could to guarantee the failure of the referendum effort. They told CPAC NOT to exercise the rights of citizens to get an issue on the ballot - rather, the opposite: make sure it doesn't go to referendum. Unreal!

Tim Hagan spoke first, and set the tone and the message for the meeting. He did this in his urbane-yet-folksy way -- that is what is most dangerous about him: he has a weird charisma. It seemed to me that, of all three, the audience paid most attention to him. As he developed his rationale for why this tax is so vitally important to the survival of NE Ohio, I was stunned by the politically inept points he made. He said that he had been a County Commissioner for 19 years and in that time he had seen the population of Cleveland dwindle from about 700K to 400K and 280K+ of that current population lives at or below poverty level. He said Cuyahoga County, during his time in service, had gone from 1.7M to 1.4M and that more than half our high school students do not graduate. This is a good track record – this is a “leader” that I should follow? He said that we have to do Medical Mart for the Cleveland Clinic and because, as the Clinic is the biggest employer in the state of Ohio (30K+), it has the economic edge. Hagan went on and in more disgusting blah-blah details. Repeatedly he reinforced the No Referendum mantra. Sycophantic at best.

Fred Nance was scheduled to speak next but he was interrupted, quite rudely, by Mr. Cimperman – who, busy man, had to leave but couldn’t do so without ramming home his message. Cimperman, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a thug masquerading as a boy scout, told this house that it should step aside and let the "leadership" handle this - the leadership knew what it was doing, and was tired of citizens questioning its actions: for once, the citizens should just get out of the way and let the leaders do it: and if the citizens don't like it, elect someone else next time! This struck me as the same approach Cimperman has taken in his support for strip clubs in the Stonebridge neighborhood and the disastrous and ill-conceived “Remove the Ramps” campaign currently threatening the Edgewater/ Cudell neighborhoods, which I believe he supports. Uncaring – that was the impression he left me with – uncaring and out of touch.

Fred Nance was unreal - he did a PowerPoint that was any eerie shadow of a presentation recently done by Bioenterprise Inc in its "We need Pittsburgh as our partner" meeting. Mr. Nance claimed that it is a good thing that outside VCs (venture capitalists) are investing in Cleveland bio-enterprise. In fact, Bioenterprise Inc. had pointed out that out-of-state investment dollars in NE Ohio are not a good thing as they benefit outsiders and could lead to new NE Ohio bio-enterprise start-up companies being lured out of Ohio to other locations and taking their business, dollars, and knowledge with them – as has happened already. Ill-informed at least.

Big fear factor moments: Time might be on the Stone's side but not on Cleveland's: Hagan told the audience (and Nance supported him) that “we” have to act now – “we” can’t let this go to referendum! Hagan and Nance told the CPAC audience that they needed to support the "leadership" and kill the ballot effort because MMPI, the investor, was looking at New York City AND Cleveland as potential sites for the Medical Mart development – “and we don't need to lose to New York City”!

What really struck me the most was this: these three were addressing artists and yet they did NOTHING to couch their argument(s) in terms that the audience could perceive as beneficial to the arts and to their own enterprises. Instead, the three banged home the message that the leaders of the county want this done, they know better than anyone what should be done, if you don’ t like it elect someone else the next time but for now just get out of the way. NO attempt at all to address the needs of the audience and to show in real terms how Medical Mart and a new convention center would benefit the arts of NE Ohio. Insensitive.

According to Fred Nance, this new Medical Mart and Convention Center would be managed by MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties Incorporated – out of Chicago) and would be no headache to the city, AND (he we go!) would “create jobs” (he told us not to think about that promise when it was made on the Gateway project – this was different). Nance went on to say that MMPI would bring in all sorts of trade shows around the clock and throughout the year; and, oh yeah, arts would be supported by MMPI in Cleveland as they are in Chicago. Mr. Nance had to admit that he could not provide statistics and examples of how MMPI supports the arts in Chicago, because he did not pay close attention to that part of the MMPI presentation when he attended their presentation in Chicago. Instead, he reminded CPAC that at the back of the room were magazines (reminded me of the ones on airplanes) that MMPI published showing their support for art. Inept.

...The wind-up for the CPAC presentation was a Question and Answer period. Usually the CPAC Q&A session are marked by the intelligent and informed questions that people ask – and they are not always friendly questions and remarks. But this Q&A session seemed to be LOADED with people who were merely bowing and scraping. About 4 questions (observations really) were allowed -- all of them lauding these three men and the Medical Mart effort. One foolish man actually said that he was an artist and a trade show presentor and that he could tell us, from his own experience, that trade shows want to come to Cleveland and not to New York and other big cities because they are just plain tired of traffic and congestion - and Cleveland has no congestion and no traffic snarls(?). Actually, this respondent didn’t say anything new; he merely restated what Tim Hagan had said earlier. Insane.

I tell you this was a disgusting attack on the ballot effort - crooked and hateful. I kept waiting for Boss Hogg, the Kingfish, or Richard Daley I to walk into the room. Unacceptable.

1 comment:

  1. This a perfect example of how politics works.

    Artists are now interested in getting money from the pols because of the cigarette tax to the County coffers.

    The pols want a return on the money.

    So they are telling the art community that now you have to return the favor WE gave you by passing a measure of public money for the arts.

    It's the quid pro quo for taking their handouts.

    The same was done with social agencies during the Gateway vote. The social agencies get dough from the County and they returned the favors by backing a regressive tax for Gateway that hurt poor people, their constitency.

    I appreciate the outrage of the person who wrote you.

    This is Tim Hagan, Joe Cimperman and Fred Nance working the trough.