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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.