Here’s To Cleveland

I didn’t watch a minute of Republican National Convention coverage, but I have been following news reports about what’s been happening outside the convention hall.  I’ve also talked to friends who live and work in Cleveland area about how things were going.

I had read all the dire forecasts about chaos, and warring protests, and a replication of the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968.  The pundits painted a pretty bleak picture of what they thought would happen on the shores of Lake Erie, and my concern was that poor old Cleveland was going to get a black eye on the national scene, having been unluckily saddled with the most contentious political convention in decades.

IMG_5545By all accounts, though, that didn’t happen.  Sure, there were a few incidents here and there, and there was a heavy police presence that sought to fend off trouble before it began, but the drama (if you can call it that) was confined to the convention hall itself.  One of my colleagues whose office looks out over Public Square happily reported that the protests that were staged were peaceful and respectful.  The predictions about clashes and riots and police beating heads turned out to be nothing but hot air and, perhaps, wishful thinking by pundits hoping for the worst.  I’m confident that, this morning, the Cleveland local government leaders and city fathers are breathing a sweet sigh of relief.

A report in the Washington Post captured the spirit of the city and the convention-goers and the people who came to protest — and for the most part the prevailing mood was to simply get along.  That’s a pretty good way of describing what we’re like in the Midwest, generally.  We’ve got people representing all points on the political spectrum, but somehow we manage to get along, drink a beer now and then, and come together to cheer for the local sports teams or stand up for our home towns.  As the Post report indicates, maybe that generous, accepting, prevailing spirit had something to do with a riot-free convention.

So, here’s to Cleveland, for surviving the doom and gloom predictions and coming through without a scratch.  With the Cavs championship and a successful hosting of the RNC, it’s a city on a winning streak.

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Cleveland Under Construction

My guess is that almost everyone who lives in Cleveland was happy when the Republican bigwigs decided that the 2016 Republican National Convention would be held in the city.  Lately, though, Clevelanders have seen the pain that precedes the hoped-for gain.

IMG_5536_2In my two recent visits, there seemed to be construction everywhere.  A new downtown hotel is being built, and Public Square, the open area in front of the Terminal Tower, is completely torn up and blocked off.  Work is underway on a $32 million project to convert the square — which had become kind of a no-man’s-land of discrete congregation areas for homeless people, separated by wide roads with heavy traffic — into a more welcoming, traffic-free, park-like setting with restaurant options and a concert venue.  In the meantime, however, long-established traffic patterns have had to be changed.

When I was in Cleveland late last month for a meeting, traffic was a disaster.  Even though I arrived for a meeting in plenty of time, it took about 30 minutes to move two city blocks, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.  When that happens, fellow drivers start to get testy, and inventive u-turns, curb-hopping, and other efforts to avoid the jam are bound to occur — which just makes things worse and dramatically raises the irritation level for other drivers.

As we drove to a dinner that night, a Cleveland friend said he’s expecting 12 months of disruption until the work is completed in time for next summer’s Republican get-together.  He explained that virtually every pothole-filling, bridge-refurbishing, scrape-and-painting, general-sprucing-up project that has been deferred over the last few years for municipal budget reasons has been hauled out and approved so the City by the Lake can look great for its turn on the national stage — and all of that work is happening at once.

Like other Clevelanders, he’s resigned to some pain in order to get the anticipated gain of positive national publicity, news stories about how Cleveland has really turned the corner, and resulting community good will.  He’ll accept crappy traffic, delays, and general disorder in the meantime.  Clevelanders are a hardy breed.

Arcadia

20140722-173126-63086197.jpgI’m back in Cleveland for another stay at the fabulous Hyatt Arcade. Its lavish interior decorations, glittering flourishes, and gold paint seem well-suited to Cleveland’s new attitude. With LeBron James coming home and the Republican National Convention on the calendar for 2016, the residents of The Best Location in the Nation all seem to be walking with smiles on their faces and a spring in their steps.