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.


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.