End Round GMMC Meeting

Monday, 21 May 2007

We had the end of Round 9 meet­ing tonight at the Cleveland Foundation. This was a good meet­ing, even though Joel is gone and there isn’t a new di­rec­tor in place yet, we dis­cussed what was on our minds in terms of im­prove­ments that could be made to the process, ad­di­tional and dif­fer­ent as­sis­tances that can be given, and how to im­prove or ex­pand our own du­ties on the com­mit­tee. There is a lot of wis­dom held by my fel­low mem­bers, and I’m lucky to have the chance to lis­ten to their pre­ci­sion.

Round VII — Third Night of Interviews

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

I swung on up to Ohio City last night for some sushi from Kimo’s be­fore go­ing to the last night of in­ter­views for this round of Neighborhood Connections Grant-mak­ing. Kimo’s was closed again. The third time in a row this has hap­pened to me. I know he does the sushi for the Indians, and that its a big ac­count for him, but it is a has­sle to get there and find out he is closed. I guess I’ll have to start call­ing first. Maybe he could use a web­site to keep folks in­formed? Instead I went to Heck’s again. I’d last been there over a year ago with Patrick in our quest for the best burger in Cleveland. I wasn’t im­pressed with their burger then, and I wasn’t im­pressed with the pasta dish I got last night. The food was good enough, but I can and have made bet­ter at home.

The six in­ter­views we had last night switched back and forth be­tween sports/​exercise pro­grams and ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams. Unfortunately the same prob­lem we’ve had in the past also came through with sev­eral of these groups. Most or all of the money would go to pay them­selves or their busi­ness. I’m sorry, but if you re­quest $5000 and all of that money is go­ing to pay for mem­ber­ships to the busi­ness you own you aren’t go­ing to get the money. Similarly, if you re­quest $5000 and all of that money is be­ing split be­tween the work­ers at the busi­ness while claim­ing their hours as in-kind con­tri­bu­tions, you’re not go­ing to get the money. I think that is one of the pos­i­tives hav­ing com­mu­nity ac­tivists as the grant-mak­ing com­mit­tee. We know all of the tricks peo­ple will use to make a buck. I won­der what it says for the Cleveland econ­omy that small busi­nesses are so des­per­ate for pa­tron­age or cash that they’ll cre­ate one-off pro­grams and hope the fund­ing source doesn’t look too closely at their ap­pli­ca­tion.

Round VII — Second Night of Interviews

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Last evening was the sec­ond night of in­ter­views for the sev­enth round of Neighborhood Connections grant-mak­ing. We had six in­ter­views on the sched­ule, but one can­celled due to ill­ness. The other in­ter­vie­wees pre­sented on beau­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams, safety pro­grams, and ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams.

One thing that I’ve started to no­tice, from at­tend­ing the Tremont Strategic Investment meet­ing last week, sit­ting through these grant in­ter­views, and just talk­ing to peo­ple around the city is a dis­tinct fear of youth. Time af­ter time I hear peo­ple com­plain that chil­dren and youth are play­ing in the streets and that peo­ple don’t feel safe go­ing out­doors be­cause of this. Their an­swer is al­ways “get the kids off the street and into su­per­vised ac­tiv­i­ties and ed­u­cate them about what­ever we think they ought to know.” The sense I get is that they don’t think chil­dren should play in the streets. This makes no sense to me. Children every­where have al­ways played in the streets. This is not the prob­lem.

The prob­lem is that adults are afraid of chil­dren they do not know. Especially in an ur­ban set­ting, it ap­pears that, to them, un­su­per­vised chil­dren play­ing in a neigh­bor­hood equals crime. These folks all want to do some­thing about it, or ac­tu­ally, they want to tell other peo­ple what they should do about it. “We need a rec-cen­ter;” “The po­lice should keep them from rid­ing their bikes all over;” “Our se­niors are afraid to go out­doors.” Bless them for their good in­ten­tions, but do they ever think to ask the youth what they want? No. They’re too afraid to go out­doors and talk to them. They want struc­tured en­vi­ron­ments with specif­i­cally tar­geted youth and a cur­ricu­lum that usu­ally doesn’t ad­dress the real needs of the youth.

The eight of us who went from Cleveland to Nashville ear­lier this year all came away with this same re­al­iza­tion. Youth are min­is­tered to im­per­son­ally, in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized in­struc­tion al­ways seems to be the an­swer of­fered in­stead of ac­tual re­la­tion­ship build­ing, com­mu­nity build­ing, neigh­bor­hood build­ing or­ganic in­ter­ac­tion. The more I learn about the com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and grass­roots ef­forts in Cleveland, the more I be­come con­vinced that there needs to be a net­work­ing group that con­nects dif­fer­ent groups work­ing on the same projects, of­fers ad­vice, tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and pro­gram in­for­ma­tion that might be un­known to those groups and acts as a whet­stone for their mis­sion and ideas. A sort of net­work­ing clear­ing­house of in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized knowl­edge that seeks out the groups that need the as­sis­tance.

That is sort of what I’m in­volved in with the 2007 Cleveland Leadership Summit [in­clud­ing fo­cus­ing on youth in­volve­ment], but that is only a one off thing and not the tar­geted sus­tain­able or­ga­ni­za­tion I have in mind.

Round VII — First Night of Interviews

Thursday, 14 September 2006

The first night of in­ter­views for Round VII of the Neighborhood Connections grant pro­gram was last night. I didn’t have to haul ass out to Mt. Pleasant this time, since my group was meet­ing at St. Ignatius. We were sup­plied with cof­fee and tea which was great since I was fight­ing some si­nus stuff. We had six in­ter­views to cover in three hours, from stray an­i­mal care to beau­ti­fi­ca­tion to school read­ing pro­grams. One fledg­ling block club had a grant writ­ten for beau­ti­fi­ca­tion, but the per­son who wrote the grant from Clark Metro Development, didn’t show up to the in­ter­view, and the woman who came in his place had never seen the grant and had no idea what it was about. 

I felt sorry for her be­cause it was ob­vi­ous that her block club had started some­thing good that wasn’t be­ing served by the CDC. One of the other mem­bers of my com­mit­tee wanted to call the per­son who wrote the grant and give him the what for. The grant was hand-writ­ten and dashed off in about ten min­utes. Typically we choose to in­ter­view this kind of grant be­cause it in­di­cates that the peo­ple ap­ply­ing for it are first-time grant-seek­ers and truly grass­roots. That ex­plains our sur­prise and in­dig­na­tion when we re­al­ized that an em­ployee of a com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion had writ­ten it. The rea­sons Clark Metro has lost its fund­ing are be­com­ing self-ev­i­dent.

Another grant was for a good project but the funds be­ing re­quested, all $5000 are es­sen­tially go­ing to a mid­dle-man non-profit that has been back­ing the same pro­gram city-wide and ap­ply­ing to NC un­der the guise of PTAs from dif­fer­ent schools. They’ve re­ceived fund­ing from NC at least 4 times, which could be up to $20k in fund­ing that they’ve gar­nered from us us­ing en­gaged par­ents and teach­ers as a proxy. This non-profit gets all the money and the par­ents and teach­ers do all the work as vol­un­teers. The tough part is that if we don’t fund it, the pro­gram dies at those schools. So who gets hurt? The chil­dren of course. At the next meet­ing of the full com­mit­tee we’re def­i­nitely go­ing to be dis­cussing this type of disin­gen­u­ous­ness.

I tried to stop at Dave’s be­cause we got out at a 8:45, but they were locked up tight, de­spite their store hours un­til 9. So in­stead of get­ting ba­nanas and some or­anges, I stopped at Tremont Convenience and got potato chips and oreos. I got home, popped a Sudafed, and my nose slowly stopped run­ning. This is com­mu­nity meet­ing week for me. Tuesday was a Tremont Strategic Investment meet­ing [an­other 3 hour tour], yes­ter­day was grant in­ter­views and tonight is the Auburn Block Club meet­ing and ice cream so­cial.

Fall Grant-Making

Thursday, 7 September 2006

The Neighborhood Connections grant-mak­ing com­mit­tee met again last night to start the fall round of grant dis­cern­ment. We had de­li­cious food from Luchita’s. This round only had about 60% the num­ber of pro­pos­als com­pared to the spring round. This is, ap­par­ently, typ­i­cal. But it means that you have a bet­ter chance of be­ing funded if you ap­ply for a grant in August.

I’m re­view­ing pro­pos­als from Clark-Metro, Detroit-Shoreway and Old Brooklyn this time ’round. The grants were good for the most part, we only culled three from our group, one had a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand in fund­ing al­ready, so they got the axe even though the project was a good idea.

Cleveland Bus Tour, The Compound, The Red Krayola

Monday, 7 August 2006

DSC01050Saturday was an ex­tremely full day for me. I rode my bike down to the Hanna build­ing and then took a 6 hour neigh­bor­hood tour of Cleveland. Once that was over I went to a free all-day lo­cal band rock show at The Compound and then went to Parish Hall to see the leg­endary The Red Krayola.

The bus tour only con­firmed what I’d al­ready felt about Cleveland; there are no bad neigh­bor­hoods to live in, each one has its own dis­tinct fla­vor and style that is ex­uded in the work be­ing done by their re­spec­tive res­i­dents. That’s not a very good sen­tence. I went through St. Clair-Superior, Glenville, North Collinwood, University Circle/​Little Italy, Buckeye, Tremont [I gave the tour here], Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway, Bellaire-Puritas and Cudell-Edgewater and saw the gamut of Cleveland in­comes and lifestyles. In each neigh­bor­hood we saw a project that was be­ing funded by Neighborhood Connections. It was good for me to see that all the read­ing I did ear­lier in the year has been re­al­ized in the work of those who re­ceived the fund­ing.

After the tour ended, I rode my bike back to Tremont, stopped at the Jefferson Library and dou­ble-checked the lo­ca­tion of Straight Outta Compound II. It was on E. 63rd and St. Clair, and I wasn’t about to ride my bike back down­town, so I drove. This ended up for the best since I gave Lou a ride back to Tremont a few hours later. The Compound is a chain-linked dusty gravel lot and a few old brick build­ings that many lo­cal bands use as prac­tice space. I’d missed the first 4 or so bands, but caught 4 more while I was there, had some wa­ter­melon and a brat from the WSM, some ice cream and some in­die girl eye candy. I saw State of Ohio, This Moment in Black History, Sounder and Argyle Denial be­fore we hit the road for…

BLKTYGR, Home and Garden and The Red Krayola at Parish Hall on W. 62nd and Detroit. An al­most mir­ror-hop rock-show-swap venue menu of ban­da­li­cious­ness. My friend Wasco told me I should go see The Red Krayola, as it would likely be a once in a life­time ex­pe­ri­ence. I was ut­terly un­fa­mil­iar with them, but I’ve since done some re­search, since the show was so awe­some. They’ve been around in one form or an­other since the mid-60s al­ways ahead of their time mu­si­cally. And, it seems, even ahead of most peo­ple who are ahead of their time. Their mu­sic was po­lit­i­cally charged, but not heavy-handed like that sort of con­tent of­ten comes across. BLKTYGR was awe­some too, it was my first time see­ing them play. Home and Garden didn’t get me go­ing at all though. They were too sorta jam-bandy for my taste. I ended up home around 1am, so I reckon I spent about 2 awake hours in my apart­ment on Saturday. All pho­tos from the day are here.


Fire

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

A group of folks from all over the coun­try was in town learn­ing about the small grant pro­gram spon­sored by The Cleveland Foundation. You know, the one I’m on: Neighborhood Connections. A few of the com­mit­tee mem­bers [and one lucky al­ter­nate] were asked to go along for a neigh­bor­hood tour yes­ter­day and then share din­ner at Fire in Shaker Square.

Our first stop was at the St. Clair CDC, where we lis­tened to a cou­ple of grantees dis­cuss their projects, one group has cre­ated this ex­cel­lent wel­come bag for all of the renters in their com­mu­nity. Not only does it in­clude coupons and perks for lo­cal busi­nesses, but it also pro­vides a lo­cal busi­ness phone di­rec­tory, voter reg­is­tra­tion ma­te­ri­als, city and coun­cil in­for­ma­tion and a wealth of other things to make new peo­ple feel at home. The other group re­ceived fund­ing to have a sum­mer fes­ti­val for the chil­dren in the neigh­bor­hood. The area, which the res­i­dents refer to as the ‘40s, is pretty di­verse, with old Eastern-European pop­u­la­tions, as well as hefty chunks of Chinese and African-American com­mu­ni­ties as well. It seems to be a neigh­bor­hood just get­ting started in its re­vi­tal­iza­tion [and un­avoid­able gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, as some lake­front con­dos are be­ing built]. I was ac­tu­ally rid­ing my bike through this area a few weeks ago, and it is worth ex­plor­ing.

Then I was asked to speak a lit­tle about my story in­volv­ing Tremont, and since I can talk about Tremont all day, I tried to hit the ma­jor points only. It has be­come in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous to me within the past few weeks that I moved in to Tremont at ex­actly the right time, since hous­ing prices have in­creased enough [due, once again, to gen­tri­fi­ca­tion] that I couldn’t af­ford to live here now.

After I spoke, a com­mit­tee mem­ber from Glenville told his tale, as we ar­rived in Glenville. This is an area that used to have pow­er­ful block clubs but had fal­len on hard times. Historically, it was a heav­ily Jewish neigh­bor­hood but it is mostly African-American now. The hous­ing stock in Glenville is ab­solutely amaz­ing, and not sur­pris­ingly, lots of peo­ple af­fil­i­ated with the Cleveland Clinic and University Circle are mov­ing in and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the low prop­erty val­ues and restor­ing the places. [Read: gen­tri­fi­ca­tion]. Our stop here was at a com­puter lab for se­niors and and its com­pan­ion lab which trains the black com­mu­nity into IC3 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Our next stop was The Passport Project in Buckeye, where we heard from sev­eral grantees on how an­other project of The Cleveland Foundation, Connecting Circles, had ben­e­fited them. They were the pi­lot group for this pro­gram, which en­cour­ages net­work­ing and knowl­edge-shar­ing among the groups, with as­sis­tance from a lady who teaches about non-profit work and com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing at Case. Each group [some which have been in ex­is­tence for 40 years] was very en­thu­si­as­tic and en­gaged in the Connecting Circles pro­gram, so it seems to be a suc­cess, es­pe­cially since the peo­ple said that it had reen­er­gized their own per­sonal projects and had borne fruit al­ready. The pro­gram, for them at least, had al­ready fin­ished but they de­cided to keep meet­ing nonethe­less.

Then we went to Fire and I was told to or­der what­ever I wanted [Danger! Danger, TCF!]. So we got a bot­tle of Mark West Pinot Noir, I had flat bread with ramp pesto, roasted toma­toes and melted brie, a wa­ter­cress and other stuff salad, and filet mignon with onion rings and some other sort of onion/​potato fried thing. [Obviously, the only thing I mem­o­rized was the ap­pe­tizer]. The ap­pe­tizer was de­li­cious, and is a recipe I shall steal. The Mark West was ex­cel­lent, the salad was de­li­cious, and the filet mignon was out of this world. I don’t get steak but once a year, in Canada, so I in­dulged. I wasn’t a big fan of the onion rings or the onion/​potato thinger be­cause they just tasted like fry­ing. For dessert I had crème brûlée. Oh how I love crème brûlée.

There are so many en­gaged and in­volved peo­ple in Cleveland, do­ing their neigh­bor­hood ac­tivist work to make their com­mu­ni­ties stronger that I’m glad TCF is giv­ing them tac­ti­cal as­sis­tance to en­cour­age their growth. Talking with the folks last night from other foun­da­tions gave me some great proof that en­gaged peo­ple are en­gaged peo­ple no mat­ter if you’re from Connecticut or from Texas. Oh, the thinks we could think [and do] if more of us were as in­volved in our own com­mu­ni­ties.