Category Archives: Cleveland

960 LinkedIn Connections Down the Drain

Meet Kelly Blazek. Well, you’ll have a hard time doing that these days because her internet presence has gone from “nearly 1,000 personally-known LinkedIn contacts” to none.

The Cleveland Scene reports:

If you’re not one of Kelly Blazek’s 960+ LinkedIn connections or have not been granted approval to subscribe to her bi-monthly, hand-selected Cleveland Job Bank House emails, perhaps you, dear job seeker, know her from a scathing email she sent you after you reached out in hopes of connecting with the self-described job listings “mother” of northeast Ohio.

Turns out, you may not be the only one who’s been subjected to Blazek’s— uh— professional advice.

Last week, an email response Blazek, a 2013 IABC Communicator of the Year, sent to a job seeker made its way to BuzzFeed Community Forum, another to Imgur, and today, Scene received a third fiery email interaction between Blazek and a native Cleveland jobseeker…

You should read the whole story because this meltdown is basically a case study in how not to act professionally in any setting.

Today, her blog is zeroed out, twitter account in suspension/deleted, and not available on precious, precious LinkedIn — or facebook for old people. The best line, I think, is this one:

“Please learn that a LinkedIn connection is the equivalent of a personal recommendation”

A friend responds via twitter: “A Linkedin connection is the equivalent of absolutely nothing.” And he’s correct.

Turns out one of my friends had a run in with her five years ago, and she apparently was acting similarly but was only recently called out now.

Either way, good job today, internet. Good job.

UPDATE:

blazek link

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Can Reason Save Cleveland?

Earlier today, I shared Matt Yglesias’s story on why Silicon Valley should relocate to….Cleveland.

The facebook post I shared came with this message:

Yglesias writes “It’s time for tech hubs to go where they’re welcome.” And he picks…. Cleveland? What? Off his rocker.

The post received a number of comments, including one from a thoughtful a neighbor, whose son I played hockey with. He writes:

So Jimmy, you have been away long enough that you are now a Cleveland basher as well? True, we have three months of bad weather…..but unbelievable property values, great cost of living, great culture (I would put the Cleveland Orchestra up against any from San Francisco or Washington), the largest theater district west of NYC, a great art museum, the Hall of Fame, fantastic restaurants, great music ……and, oh yeah, you can actually get to all of them within 30 minutes – not 2-3 hrs. BTW…how much would your old home on Eaton Rd cost in either SF or Washington?

I frequently, and sometimes more harshly than I should, criticize Cleveland. I’d like to clear the air and share my thoughts on the matter. I don’t hate Cleveland, I criticize because I love where I grew up and want my hometown to thrive — despite its efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Here’s my response to my former neighbor, an all around good guy who frequently inspires great discussions on my facebook wall:

Dr. S. — I don’t disagree with your points on Cleveland the region. I do think, and agree, that the region would be good to host a wide range of industries for the reasons you express. And, for what it’s worth, I love the bad weather.

Indeed, the house I grew up in on Eaton road would easily go for a million or two here in Washington or San Francisco, if not more. (So, three to six times the cost.) Detroit, as Yglesias notes, has even more affordable housing, but he wrote them off as a lost city, noting that if he had picked Detroit, people likely migrate to Ann Arbor. I don’t think Cleveland is lost yet, but it’s not going out of its way to improve things, in my opinion.

Solving Cleveland’s inability to attain the growth it could attain is a puzzle, one with locally imposed constraints and with ones imposed by the state. The Cleveland area has many great attributes and it also has some things it needs to work on. That goes for Ohio, as well.

While I am frequently critical of Cleveland — sometimes more harshly than I should be — it’s because I’d love for my hometown to be the next Silicon Valley, but at present, I don’t think it can be. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t. Some of that is on the city of Cleveland itself, some on the suburbs, and some on the state. Before I forget, some of it is on Cuyahoga County — now with less corruption!

One reason is because I think that municipal income taxes are a poor way to structure things, especially if individuals who live in one city but work in another have to pay taxes to both in some respect. Unlike other comparable jurisdictions in other states, potential employers would have to pay more in salary and benefits to offset the tax differential. Not exactly a welcome beacon to relocate to NE Ohio. Sure, low-income earners get an exemption, but, in the case of the Yglesias example, tech employers probably employ fewer people exempted than those subject to paying taxes in Cleveland and (insert name of other jurisdiction).

Like the electoral map, Ohio has a bunch of residential clusters and a larger swath of area with lower population density.  Yes, California has high taxes — but it doesn’t allow city income taxes the way Ohio does. I do think an examination of the state’s tax policies are in order. That could benefit Cleveland and NE Ohio greatly.

Yglesias is correct to note that, unlike Detroit or Buffalo (no offense to my Buffalo friends), Cleveland could be fertile ground for such a resurgence. But, knowing that Cleveland and nearly every other major city does what it can to sell itself to businesses (like Philadelphia is doing to California’s Sriracha maker, under fire from the city in which it does business), businesses aren’t flocking to Cleveland. I wish they would, because I’d love to move back some day and watch the Browns lose in person. Maybe some day, we’ll win big.

My other concern/criticism with his piece is, at least as it pertains to the city, is this: If Yglesias thinks that it’s time for “tech hubs to go where they’re welcome” because SF residents are complaining about private bus stops — wait until he learns about some of Cleveland’s NIMBY problems.

Cleveland’s zoning and regulatory policies, for me, leave much to be desired. In my opinion, the city of Cleveland’s problem isn’t due to one-party rule, it’s more a problem of ideology. It’s more of a “our job is to help business ‘thread the needle‘ of regulations” than it is to make the regulations and laws more conducive for businesses to want to locate there in the first place.

My TL:DR is this — If Yglesias were revealing some secret about why everyone should “flee to the Cleve” and move their business there, people would already be doing it. I wish they were, as Cleveland is a great area with a lot to offer. But they aren’t. It’s not because of a lack of publicity or PR. Other journalists, with a love for Cleveland and Ohio, have already suggested some reasons why Cleveland might want to shun PR and focus on change, but they’ve largely been ignored.

While I’d love it if Ohio and Cleveland adopted the Texas and Houston models, that is unrealistic. It won’t happen. It’s part of the culture, which is fine. Even some modest changes in that direction, though, could help Cleveland.

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UPDATE: I recommend this post by Daniel McGraw on the same topic.

‘Jackass’ Approved for Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit

bgThe upcoming film Bad Grandpa, part of the Jackass series, was filmed in Northeast Ohio.

I noticed a frame of the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, a bridge I crossed frequently during my high school years on Cleveland’s West Side.

In an effort to win filming locations, Ohio offers the “Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit” as an incentive, though many films use Cleveland as a backdrop for other cities like New York, Chicago, or Washington, rather than a feature. In other words, Ohioans are subsidizing Hollywood firms to turn Cleveland into New York.

So far as these incentives go, Ohio isn’t alone — over 75% of states offer some form of incentive.

According to the website of the Ohio Development Services Agency:

“The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit provides a refundable tax credit that equals 25 percent off in-state spend and non-resident wages and 35 percent in Ohio resident wages on eligible productions.”

It also specifies that “[e]ligible productions must spend a minimum of $300,000 in the State of Ohio”.

The Ohio Development Services Agency confirmed to me that, while “the production company has not yet sent in their final audit … the project was approved for a $1.5 million Motion Picture Tax Credit.” The production company projected that “47 percent was to be shot in Ohio.”

Motion Picture Tax Credits and other incentives for filming are popular among state legislators. The Tax Foundation observes:

“Forty-four states [in 2010] offer significant movie production incentives (MPIs), up from five states in 2002, and twenty-eight states offer film tax credits.”

While they are popular, they are not without controversy. The Economist called such incentives a “stupid trend.”

Since 2010, three states have dropped their motion picture incentives. Many others, including New Jersey — the epitome of states with silly policies, have suspended such programs.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation is skeptical of the value of incentives and credits for motion pictures:

“While broad-based tax competition often benefits consumers and spurs economic growth and development, industry-specific tax competition transfers wealth from the many to the few … Movie production incentives are costly and fail to live up to their promises.”

The report continues:

“Based on fanciful estimates of economic activity and tax revenue, states are investing in movie production projects with small returns and taking unnecessary risks with taxpayer dollars. In return, they attract mostly temporary jobs that are often transplanted from other states.”

and:

“Furthermore, the competition among states transfers a large portion of potential gains to the movie industry, not to local businesses or state coffers. It is unlikely that movie production incentives generate wealth in the long run. Most fail even in the short run. Yet they remain popular.”

I’m in agreement. Scrap them.

But if you’re going to keep them, at least require that they say they’re in Cleveland in the film, so that you can pick movies that cast Cleveland in a positive light.bsig

Here’s a screen grab from Google street view of the bridge seen in the movie.

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The next frame cuts immediately to Charlotte, North Carolina. From the trailer, it appears most of the film is depicted in North Carolina. (Also, Cleveland’s tallest building one of Charlotte’s tallest were both designed by Cesar Pelli and look similar.) Other scenes were filmed in North Carolina.

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You can watch the trailer here:

The Wonders of Privatization (Snow Edition)

contractorsBainbridge Township, Ohio

“Did they shovel our porch?” my sister asked my mother. “Yep.” replied mom. “Wow.”

Ohio, at least northern Ohio, is experiencing one of its worst storms in recent years. Last night, the meteorologists spoke only of dire outcomes. And we’re only supposed to get a foot of snow.

This is not the same Ohio I grew up in, where snow was quite prevalent and a few feet fazed only the carpetbaggers. Snowmageddon in D.C.? Nothing compared to the great snowstorm of 1996 where we got over four feet of snow.

In recent years, snowstorms have been more mild here.

A year ago, my parents were still residing in my childhood home on Eaton road in Shaker Heights. To its credit, Shaker Heights has a very good public works system relative to neighboring communities. Of course, that comes at a high cost.

Shaker recently raised its taxes to keep its very good public works system — snow and trash removal — despite state budget cuts in the form of aid to cities. They proposed, and the voters approved, tax increases.

My parents moved. One county over, in fact, to Bainbridge Township in Geauga County, where taxes are lower (both in income and property taxes.)

Despite telling us for years they would impound our childhood in storage and buy a loft downtown, they opted to move east to an even bigger home. It’s a nice home. But, it’s in the snow belt.

Shaker Heights, like all inner-ring suburbs, gets its share of snow. Chagrin Falls and the surrounding parts of Cuyahoga and Geauga Counties tend to get a lot more snow.

The meteorologists were a little off on the timing, but they seemed to be correct on the amount of snow. It’s coming down hard.

Interrupting our alcohol-fueled games of bananagram and Jenga was the sound of snow plows. Since most of Bainbridge is unincorporated, the communities (run by Home Owners Associations) hire contractors to do the work of government that cities, like Shaker, ordinarily perform.

Dad came out of his new office and notified us that Ali and I would have to move our cars if the contractors were to plow our driveway. It was more of a command.

This, of course, was foreign to us, since we grew up using the winter mouse murderer known as the snowblower.  (If you’ve never seen mouse blood and parts sprayed over snow, then you haven’t truly lived, my friend.)

In Shaker, the city plowed the streets. When I was younger, they had this strange device designed to plow sidewalks. But given the age of those sidewalks, it often resulted in destroyed slabs and damaged machines. I don’t know this for sure, but I am pretty sure they killed that program.

The plows were big, and all of their drivers were city employees. Presumably belonging to a union. While the plows afforded bigger economies of scale, the labor contracts probably negated those benefits, since public employees’ unions have CBAs with pensions and overtime.

Of course, you had to plow your own driveway, and we used our snowblower to clear the block’s sidewalks because that’s how we roll, but the streets were plowed well — better than in the city of Cleveland.

Out here, however, the contractors plow your roads, your driveway, your walkway, and your porch.

Ali’s car — the Lesboat I call it, since it’s a Subaru — has 4WD. It pulled out of the driveway with ease. The “Silver Fox”, my dad’s old Honda Accord  that I now drive– complete with FIGHT TERRORISM license plates –does not. It was quickly evident when trying to move it why he no longer wanted it.

It got stuck.

I tried, in vain, to back it out of the driveway, a slight decline. Our driveway in Shaker was about a one-story incline that required skill to navigate. This, one would think, would be easy. Not so much. Without 4WD, skill was required.

After a few tries, my dad put on his boots and came to my aid to help push my out. It didn’t work.

All of the drivers of the snowplows stopped and got out of their trucks to help push me out.

That’s service.

(My mom rewarded them with a sixer of Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold.)

It got me thinking about city-provided services and private contractors.

While city-provided big trucks may be superior at providing the economies of scale necessary to plow big thoroughfares, the same could be done by a smaller amount of F-250’s, or bigger trucks. (Ohio isn’t big into privatization, while my current home of Virginia has embraced it, with VDOT using private contractors to plow main roads.) If allowed to compete, they’d presumably buy bigger trucks.

When the weather is tame, cities eat the cost of stagnant trucks and employees. Contractors have more flexibility. If it is particularly snowy, they can hire guys with trucks to join their team for the season, or lease trucks fitted with plows. That saves time and money, especially when competing for contracts.

And when it comes to providing service, they do a better job and more thorough job, at least when it comes to plowing snow.

In Bainbridge, however, my parents still have to take the trash out to the end of the 30 foot driveway. In Shaker, they employ little golf-like carts that pick it up from the back.

In the end, it’s all about trade offs, I guess. And my parents seem to value lower taxes and better snow service.bsig

 

 

 

 

Privatize it! (The West Side Market, that is.)

Below is a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Dear Editor,

Gretchen McKay writes in her 11/18 piece about her travels to Cleveland that my hometown has a “landmark public market.”

The West Side Market is filled with great vendors, is in a growing part of town, and located in a beautiful building. What makes it a landmark, at least to me, is that it is a landmark example of how not to run a market.

The aptly named chief of staff to the Mayor, Ken Silliman, defends the city’s continued reign over the market because Cleveland is “about service, rather than profits.”

Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie hit the nail on the head when he recently asked “How the hell exactly are you about service if you’re not even open three days a week? That’s not putting people first – it’s maintaining control at the expense of your constituents.”

I love my hometown team and am happy that, for the second time in so many years, our team beat yours.

Cleveland was indeed derided as the “mistake on the lake.” These days it is still making mistakes, and operating the West Side Market and a golf complex miles outside of the city limits are but two of many examples.

If you make a day trip up to Cleveland next year for a game, definitely make a point to visit the market. Never mind, the West Side Market is not open on Sunday. Service isn’t available, and neither are profits.

Jim Swift
Alexandria, Virginia

Bomblecast #16 — NIMBYism, Cleveland, and McDonald’s

Friends, no guest this week — but I did add some great production value for you all.

So grab your blankets, your egg nogg, and pull up a chair for episode #16 of the Bomblecast.

Don’t like McDonald’s? Don’t shop there.

A friend of mine shared a petition from a gal in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood — where I went to high school.

I broke out the bomble.com telestrator to share my thoughts and some questions.

Oh, and finally, if you want a well-reasoned argument from one of the petition signers, there is this:

Just another reason why Cleveland doesn’t deserve nice things. I hope they get their wish and end up with another “artisan” Rent A Center instead.

Here’s a novel idea: If you don’t like something, don’t patronize it.

Before I forget, I’ve long agreed that the West Side Market should be privatized. Read reason’s take “Why Cities Like Cleveland Die: They Refuse to Emulate Success While Persisting in Failure” here.

It’s petitions like these that make me happy my parents are moving away from communities that act like this — and why I have no plans to move back to Cleveland.

 

Goodbye, Shaker

This weekend, I helped my parents move out of my childhood home in Shaker Heights to Bainbridge Township, a small community outside of Chagrin Falls.

One day, my dad had me help him destroy part of my childhood (red wagon, hockey sticks, etc.) and some trash by taking it to the town dump.

This sign pretty much sums up how I feel about Shaker, despite the good memories I do have:

If a daily newspaper is so important….

Over at the hometown paper for many Bomble.com readers, we read that the Cleveland Plain Dealer may no longer be a daily newspaper.

Naturally, the union is taking out advertisements to “save” the paper as readers know it.

Beginning Sunday, residents will begin to see billboards, bus placards and advertisements asserting that the newspaper as they know it may be in peril and asking them to make their feelings known to the paper’s owners.

The campaign to “Save The Plain Dealer” is being led by members of Newspaper Guild Local One, which represents about 170 writers, photographers, designers and other newsroom staff. Ohio’s largest newspaper is owned by New Jersey-based Advance Publications Inc., which has been curtailing print publication at its newspapers in other cities, including New Orleans.

Gee — where is all of that revenue to take out advertisement on billboards and buses coming from? Union dues! Which, last time I checked, came from the salaries of union workers!

My guess is a campaign like this isn’t necessarily cheap. Would that money have been better used keeping a paper profitable instead of going to union coffers?

Newspaper guilds, like teachers unions, say that they’re only in existence to do a good job for readers/the kids.

The real reason they exist is to keep their jobs and their benefits. Most people understand that.

Some support those unions, while I and others, think they are unnecessary.

The economics of newspapers are, well, bad. The Plain Dealer ate up the Sun News (of which I was a former paper boy) and brought their local coverage in house. Other than the free papers, the Plain Dealer is pretty much it for most of Cleveland. In addition to expectations of free content, advertising for print is down across most of the country.

They also have to compete with completely free local coverage from webpages like Patch.com.

It would be sad, I agree, if Cleveland lost its only remaining daily newspaper. But the Newspaper Guild Local One can play a valuable role in preserving the Plain Dealer’s status as a daily … by voting itself out of existence at the Plain Dealer.

Obligatory Sherrod Brown Jay-Z “Dance” .gif

H/T to EK for the video.