The World Turned Upside Down

Submitted by Randino on Thu, 08/31/2017 - 07:17.


The World Turned Upside Down          

by Randy Cunningham


            When British General Cornwallis’s troops stacked their arms as they surrendered to American and French forces at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, a military band played the tune “The World Turned Upside Down.”  It was totally appropriate to the event, because America had humbled the most powerful empire of the day.  That the mighty British Empire should lose a war, a battle and prized colonies was unthinkable. 

            Perhaps the backers of the Q renovation can empathize with Cornwallis and George III since the defeat of the Q is just as unthinkable and has turned the world of Cleveland’s business and political elite upside down as well.  For over thirty years their every wish and whim have been catered to.  All they had to do was ask and it was done.  They said jump and all of Cleveland jumped.

            Cleveland has a “command economy” when it comes to economic development decisions. The commands are not coming from government. They come from a private government called the Greater Cleveland Partnership.  This coalition of Cleveland’s movers and shakers calls the shots.  What they want they get from the compliant and supine political leaders of the county and City of Cleveland.  What they don’t want such as the $15 an hour minimum wage, is blocked.  

            What happened on August 28th when Dan Gilbert threw in the towel on the Q project is historic.  A bottom up, democratic coalition of unions, advocacy organizations and community organizations handed those who have never lost, their first loss. They have reacted with sputtering, incoherent rage. This is not the way the world should work. They are making grim forecasts that this loss will return the city to the bad old days during the Kucinich era when the city defaulted, and “business confidence” tanked.  What they didn’t notice, is that while downtown shined the bad old days never ended out in the neighborhoods and that created a stock pile of social and political dynamite. The Q issue was the blasting cap. The grass roots coalition threw the switch.  BOOM!!

            The partnership still has power and is still in control.  But they have lost something critical to wielding power.  They have lost the aura of invincibility.  They can be defeated and that is an invitation to future rebellions and resistance to their agenda.  They know what they have lost and that is why they are beside themselves over this defeat. They are scared and they should be.

            The winners in this battle should not be complacent, however.  There are many more battles ahead but the insurgents must answer the question of what we propose as a new governing logic for Cleveland. Opposing is easy. Proposing is exceedingly difficult. But no work could be more critical.  We must develop a vision of a city where the commands come from the base, not the corner offices of those who have been running things.  What would we do about transportation policy?  Housing policy?  How would we democratize the city and take back what we have lost from thirty years of the privatization of local government? 


            These questions will not be answered by manifestos.  As a shameless manifesto monger, it is hard for me to swallow that, but I must.  However, it is critical to begin to think about what we would do if we were a governing coalition, which we are years away from.  Now we know what it feels like to be the dog that catches the car.  What do we do now? Answering that question is the work many of us will spend the remainder of our public lives working on.  

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At war - a city divided

I feel my life draining away in Cleveland.  I don't think I am the only one.  It's not like we should be miserable here, WE HAVE SO MUCH.  We should be able to get along, and have a quality of life, here.

But, there is this circus of morons known as our local government and our so-called Chamber of Commerce known as the Greater Cleveland Partnership.  Thank you Randy for articulating my angst.