End Round GMMC Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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 creme brulee. Oh how I love creme brulee.

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.