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Community Building in Cleveland

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Document date: October 27, 2000
Released online: October 27, 2000
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MR. KOJO NNAMDI: Hi, I am Kojo Nnamdi. Coming up on Public Interest: economically depressed neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, sub-standard housing, lack of access to social services, the breakdown of the educational system, the breakdown of families. It sounds like the usual depressing list of factors that lead to the breakdown of a community? Well, it is. And since you have heard it all before, you don't need to hear it again. What you might be interested in hearing is how to build the community that appears broken down. And that is just what they have been doing in Cleveland, Ohio where today we will examine community building and the role of this community in that process after the news.

[NEWS BREAK.]

MR. NNAMDI: From Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio, this is Public Interest. I am Kojo Nnamdi.

[APPLAUSE.]

MR. NNAMDI: We start with a bright audience. You have heard the litany of urban poverty before and certainly policy-makers have attempted to fix the problem. But all too often, solutions were imposed from the top down. Well, in the early 1990's, right here in Cleveland a different, maybe even a revolutionary idea was born. It is called community building. It goes farther than simply asking the residents of an area for advice. It involves them in the policy-making process. It gives them control over many decisions that directly affect their lives, allows solutions to be tailor-made to the challenges of each individual neighborhood. And by doing so, attempts to create a community and a social network that is stronger and more self sufficient.

Here in Cleveland, community building grew out of a study on poverty. Two spin-offs of this study: the federal-funded Hope VI program and the foundation-funded, Cleveland Community Building Initiative, hereafter to be called CCBI. The first focuses on revitalizing public housing. The second has made community development in a variety of economically depressed areas its goal.

What has been successful and what remains a challenge? And what can the rest of the country learn from Cleveland's experiences? We will examine these and other questions on today's Public Interest. It is a part of our continuing series focusing on American cities in the 21st century. It is done in conjunction with the Urban Institute.

And joining us for today's discussion is Art Naparstek. He is senior associate at the Urban Institute, also Grace Longwell Coyle Professor of social work at Case Western Reserve University. Art Naparstek, good to have you here.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Thank you. It is good to be here.

MR. NNAMDI: He is joined by Olivera Perkins. She is a reporter with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She covers urban development issues. Hi, Olivera.

MS. PERKINS: Hi, there.

MR. NNAMDI: And joining them both on stage is Katherine Butler. I should say Katherine with a "K" Butler, as she instructed me to. She is a resident of CCBI's East Village Council and president, indeed, of that East Village Council. Katherine Butler, welcome.

MS. BUTLER: Thank you very much.

MR. NNAMDI: Art Naparstek, I want to start with you, maybe in the 1940's in the Bronx in Mount Vernon, New York when you were a member of a gang called the Ravens. Remember that?

MR. NAPARSTEK: I sure do. How do you know about that?

MR. NNAMDI: Well, I try to find out about these things.

MR. NAPARSTEK: You are terrific. I have been trying to forget about that.

MR. NNAMDI: We are here to remind you. At that point, however, you said that despite the fact that there was the potential for you and others going bad, so to speak, there was something about that community that restrained you. What was it?

MR. NAPARSTEK: When we did something wrong in those days, what was a bigger problem for us was not getting arrested by the police but being brought home to our parents by the police. My father was not concerned that a cop would bring me home, but he was concerned about being shamed in the neighborhood. The neighborhood had a thousand eyes and everybody was watching out. What really made the difference, Kojo, was that authority came from within the neighborhood and wasn't imposed from outside, so that everybody in the neighborhood felt a sense of accountability to everybody else.

MR. NNAMDI: You were able to use that experience some time later in the 60's when you were in the military in Chicago and had to deal with some young people in Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor housing developments in Chicago. Tell us that story.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Well, actually, it was during the civil rights movement and when Martin Luther King came to Chicago in the mid-60's after the successful movement in the South, the first organizing event was to be at Soldier's Field in Chicago, a stadium of 90,000 people. And we had a big discussion as to which community should be targeted to bring the people out. I was involved in Selma. I lived in public housing when I was in Selma, and the public housing in Selma was very, very different. I lived with a family and there was a sense of community. The Robert Taylor homes in the 1960's in Chicago, there was no sense of community. It was an atrocious place. It was 20, 30 stories of housing, 30 blocks on the south side of Chicago, separated from the rest of Chicago by 12 lanes of expressway.

And we had this big discussion. And I remember Dick Gregory saying, "We need to just pull the people out of the Robert Taylor homes." And a number of other folks said the same. I said, "It is going to be very hard because it is unclear as to who you would start with" because people were so disconnected. Unfortunately, what happened was that very few people from the Robert Taylor homes came to the Soldier's Field on a beautiful May day and Sunday. And, consequently, the civil rights movement in Chicago faltered as a result of that, never got off to a good start. And for me, that was a real sign that something had to happen, something had to change. And we had to change housing like the Robert Taylor homes. It just didn't support family life, it didn't support children, and didn't support community.

MR. NNAMDI: Fast forward then to the late 1980's when you are here in Cleveland and you are conducting a study on behalf of a foundation here in Cleveland, and you incorporate those experiences and what develops, what evolves out of that is something called "community building." What does that concept mean and how do you see it being implemented in what we earlier described as the CCBI?

MR. NAPARSTEK: I also had—prior to coming to Cleveland—had the distinction of helping Richard Hatcher in Gary, Indiana bring in about $180 million in federal funds into the city of Gary in the late 60's. And went back to Gary several years later, 10 years later and saw that in many ways it was still a bombed out city with no local economy. And I felt that we had to begin to look at a different way of approaching poverty in the inner-city, that the traditional ways of doing it just weren't working. And in Cleveland, we began to talk about building community, that by building community, we are talking about people forming relationships.

Look, people are poor because they lack relationships with people who have access to resources and power. So how do you begin the process of connecting people through the building of relationships to those who have access to money and access to power? And that is what community building is really all about, very simply stated, building relationships and getting that process going. Moving off, if you will, a kind of program approach, kind of a categorical approach is what they call it in Washington, programs and categories. Each program being like a smokestack. And instead looking at—plus, people don't live that way. People live in terms of connecting work to transportation to daycare to health.

MR. NNAMDI: And how that translates in terms of Cleveland in particular is that the community building concept is a concept in which you try to identify geographical areas that are manageable and try to implement the program in those areas. In the City of Cleveland, those areas are generally called villages. There are four of them. There is the Central Village, the West Village, the Mount Pleasant Village, and the East Village.

Katherine Butler, who we mentioned earlier, is a resident of CCBI's East Village and is the president of that East Village Council. Ms. Butler, you have been living here for a number of years, we won't say how many.

MS. BUTLER: Thank you.

MR. NNAMDI: But you were not particularly attracted to a lot of suggestions that came along before this one. What is it that caused you to get involved in the Community Building Initiative?

MS. BUTLER: Because of a new concept. I went to many workshops and they taught me a new word, it is called a paradigm. And it means addressing an old problem in a new way. What motivated me to stay with CCBI and become active is because already the Fairfax area was an active, stable community. It consists of residents who had been involved in civic things. The churches were actively involved. It was a knowledgeable community. And we were not swayed by the powers that be. When I met with the board of CCBI and they asked me to come on board, I said, "I will stay as long as I am motivated. And I don't know why you invited me because I tell it like it is." I am learning how to be a little bit more polished. I have gone from a F to a D—I am almost at a C+.

But the concept of having the residents at the beginning to be at the table, that was the gem. To not be coming in after the plans were made, after the master plans were drawn up and somebody came in and told us who we were and what we wanted. We were there from the beginning. That is the concept. That is the paradigm. If it doesn't work, it is worth 20 cents, two dimes.

MR. NNAMDI: For those of you listening to us, you can call us at 1-800-433-8850. That is 1-800-433-8850, as we broadcast to you from Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.

Olivera Perkins, covering urban development issues for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, much of this community building concept has been captured in a government program, a HUD program called Hope VI, which intends to incorporate all of the community building concepts and ideas into public housing development. From your own observation, how has that so far been operating in Cleveland?

MS. PERKINS: Well, we have the expert here, Art. So questions about Hope VI, I guess he can best answer. I think that when you look at Hope VI or community building in general, you have to look at it in the context of Cleveland. Cleveland is a city, of course, that has many assets but is also a city that has dealt with issues relating to poverty, especially many of these neighborhoods in which these programs have focused, have suffered from middle-class flight; and any program that addresses that has to be viewed in that context.

I noticed in terms of coming to Cleveland back in the early 90's, it is a city that really—I don't know if it had a history of community building or kind of grassroots development, but it definitely recently or within the last few decades really hasn't seized upon that. So you have to think of maybe operating from a deficit before you start to evaluate the impact of any community building effort.

MR. NNAMDI: Art, your turn.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Well, one of the things that happened after we finished this report and began the process with Katherine and others in the four villages was I brought the report to Washington and I shared with Senator Barbara Mikulski, who was at that time chair of the HUD Appropriations Committee in the Senate. And she got very taken with it because public housing in America during the 70's and 80's had totally come apart. No political party was paying attention to it and in fact many, many Americans just didn't even like it for a whole variety of reasons. Much of the housing, over 60 percent of it was built before 1980, it was obsolete. The very poorest of the poor lived there. We needed something different to occur. And that is where we came up with the idea of integrating community building into a bricks and mortar approach to try to change the culture of public housing in the United States.

MR. NNAMDI: Which eventually became known as the Hope VI project, which is now I think financed at the rate of about $4.2 billion per year.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Six billion.

MR. NNAMDI: Six billion dollars per year. That is the voice of Art Naparstek. He is senior associate at the Urban Institute and the Grace Longwell Coyle Professor of social work at Case Western University. He is joined here at Severance Hall by Katherine Butler of the East Village Council here in Cleveland and Olivera Perkins, who is a reporter with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You, too, can join us, 1-800-433-8850.

When we come back, we will be joined by City Council Member Frank Jackson. We will be right back.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK.]

MR. NNAMDI: Welcome back. From Severance Hall in Cleveland where we are talking about the concept of community building and how it translates into some practical reality where it originated, so to speak, here in the City of Cleveland. Joining us now is Frank Jackson. He is a council member representing Ward 5 on the Cleveland City Council and Ward 5 includes the Central Village, which also includes a Hope VI site which is known as the King-Kennedy Estates and in some part now known as Renaissance Village. If you don't understand all of that, clearly, you don't live in Cleveland. So don't worry about it.

But you can call us at 1-800-433-8850.

Mr. Jackson, I want to get back to a development that is taking place in your ward in the Central Village that it is my understanding is a part of the CCBI. Now, the CCBI attempts to create relationships between people, most importantly, and to get the community involved in identifying its needs, assessing its assets, and trying to bring needs, assets, and services together so that the overall community is improved as a result of this. One of the principles of CCBI is trying to make sure that the residents of a neighborhood in which any such project is undertaken are themselves a part of the project. Yet, I read where you intervened, so to speak, in a development that was taking place in your area because you were not satisfied that residents were being accommodated, that their views were being heard, or I guess most importantly, that they were getting employment out of it. Could you explain?

MR. JACKSON: Well, the system in and of itself does not function according to policy. Theories and concepts are good and most of them sound good and if operated according to the way they sound, they would be good. But that is not reality. The reality is that there are policies made. There are disjointed efforts out there. But when it gets down to it, the system itself will tend to be as it has always been, exclusive. And particularly exclusive of the people I represent.

MR. NNAMDI: Stubborn system.

MR. JACKSON: Not stubborn, it is very efficient. It is just exclusive. It excludes us.

MR. NNAMDI: Well, let's talk about how it is supposed to operate with Katherine Butler and Art Naparstek. You have a village council in Central Village, or in your case, Katherine Butler, in East Village. Tell us what the Village Council actually does?

MS. BUTLER: Okay, I am going to back up a little bit.

MR. NNAMDI: Back up.

MS. BUTLER: I am probably going to lose some points here.

MR. NNAMDI: You might go down to a C or to a D.

MS. BUTLER: To a D. All right, not discrediting or challenging what you said, one of the problems when they established the Central Village is because people—and this is the problem when you don't have residents involved—they sat down with a city map and they drew boundaries. Two things occurred. Number one, the public housing behind King-Kennedy was being renovated. So family residents were being moved out. People do not have time to come to a meeting while they are looking for new housing. The other thing was that part of the boundary included part of the cemetery. So when you are counting heads, dead people don't count. Those were the problems that had to be overcome.

One of the differences between Central Village, and this is where I am supportive of what he is saying, and the Fairfax is because Fairfax has been a stable, residential, owner-occupied, second generation part of the City of Cleveland. Poor but proud and stable. He does not have that fortune. He has a trans-moving type thing. So each village is established and built on what is unique in that village.

MR. NNAMDI: Indeed, that is how CCBI is supposed to operate, that different areas have different priorities. But getting back to Mr. Jackson's issue for one second, it was apparent in your case that CCBI was not operating in the way it is supposed to operate, leading to your intervention.

Art Naparstek, what was going wrong?

MR. NAPARSTEK: Well, first of all, the reason why the village concept was even put forward was because the old neighborhoods, the definitions of the neighborhoods were made in City Hall many, many years ago in the Planning Department. And the people who lived there did not have an opportunity to define their own neighborhood. So we got into the concept of village to give people an opportunity to define it.

The Central Village initially was King-Kennedy. And let me tell you about King-Kennedy. In 1989 and 1990, I could not walk through King-Kennedy without bodyguards and, in fact, had bodyguards. And I was talking to Frank about that before the show. And today there is absolutely no crime at Renaissance Village.

MR. NNAMDI: I was able to go by King-Kennedy and take a look at Renaissance Village last night and it looks, I guess this may not be a very good analogy, but to some extent, it looks like one of several oases in a desert. It is well-lit, there is clearly no significant activity around it. And then just down the street where there are other public housing developments, you see a lot of late night furtive looking activity taking place.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Well, there is no crime. But I don't think that is fair, Kojo.

MR. NNAMDI: Okay.

MR. NAPARSTEK: And I don't think it is fair to characterize that just by one trip through there because there are people living there and there are a lot of children. And, in fact, there is an elementary school right in the middle of King-Kennedy or Renaissance Village and in 1990, the situation was so bad that the teachers blackened the windows so the kids could not see drug deals.

MR. NNAMDI: Oh, don't get me wrong. I am saying it looked good.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Oh, well.

MR. NNAMDI: That is my point.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Oh, okay.

MR. NNAMDI: No, it looked very good. It looked very good.

MR. NAPARSTEK: Anyway, the point I want to make is that what happened was that the residents developed their own covenant that would guide their own standards of behavior and that was the important aspect of it, that their own values governed what went on in King-Kennedy.

MR. NNAMDI: Allow me to read, if you will, a sample of that covenant. It says, "We the residents of Renaissance Village, desiring to live in a secure, wholesome, and drug-free community, enter this covenant with one another as a declaration of our commitment to building a strong viable community for ourselves." It goes on at greater length but just another part of it, it says, "We also commit to maintaining family, to educating ourselves and our children, by being honest and trustful in our relations with one another, to abstain from negative behaviors and attitudes." How important was that covenant?

MR. NAPARSTEK: Very, very important and it made a tremendous difference. And just to give you an example, I was bringing Senator Mikulski into King-Kennedy or Renaissance Village in 1998. And I walked across the grass and one of the residents said to me, "Art, if it was anybody else but you, we would fine you $25" where eight years earlier, I couldn't even walk there without bodyguards.

MR. NNAMDI: Getting back to the issue involving you, Council Member Jackson, it was, indeed, in an article by Olivera Perkins that I read about your intervention. So, Olivera, feel free to jump in at any point to correct any journalistic errors that I might be making in describing what went on. But, Mr. Jackson, why was it that you intervened and specifically what were you looking for?

MR. JACKSON: Well, so that we put it into a proper context. We are talking about two different things.

MR. NNAMDI: I do understand that.

MR. JACKSON: And the article was around I think the home ownership zone, which is a new home construction project in Central, the development of 420 something in Central, for sale market rate stuff. King-Kennedy in the Village of Central, it was a project started in order—that was specifically designed for public housing. So we are talking about two different things.

MR. NNAMDI: Okay, but if I am confused, I guess the listeners might be too, so let's try to clear that up.

MR. JACKSON: Well, I am trying to do that.

MR. NNAMDI: Okay.

MR. JACKSON: And in defense of the people who lived in King-Kennedy in '89 when there was need of bodyguards and stuff like that, I can remember when I was younger, still living in Central, when all the things that this community building is attempting to do now, we already had. We already had a community. We had home owners living with people who lived in public housing, people on subsidy. We had doctors, lawyers, dentists, business people, businesses all up and down the street. So we had a basic community that didn't need to pledge. And to say that people need to pledge, as if they don't know how to live, was rather offensive to people. And so we had all that. That was broken up and, as a result of that, you wound up with a high concentration of poverty in public housing, acres of vacant land and really a depressed area.

Now that is when these programs came along that talked about rebuilding urban centers, home ownership zone, all these millions of dollars. And in that is a nice gesture but the practical political everyday reality of life is that it sounds good but the practicality of it is exclusive. So in order to ensure that the people were not gentrified, that they were not displaced as a result of the development of that area, I had to interject and ensure that they participated in it in a way that they themselves helped to build the community. I had to interject. So, I just wanted to put that in that context.

MR. NNAMDI: Okay, Olivera, help me to clarify here because the article that I read indicated that this was a federally-funded home ownership project. Since this was a project that was taking place in Central Village, and we are not talking public housing here, I assumed that this was a project that was a part of the Community Building Initiative. Was it or was it not?

MS. PERKINS: My understanding is that it was not. If that is not the case, someone please correct me. I think that gets back to the initial point that I made about there being a deficit in many of these communities. And I think that Frank hit upon it in terms of the fabric of the community has been so destroyed over the course of many decades. So when you really talk about community organizing or getting the residents together, the level at which you have to start is—you really have to go through some remediation before you can get to a point where you can have a viable organization that really is going to impact change. And especially when you start talking—and it is good that one realizes that and you have to start somewhere, and this is not to speak ill of any kind of program that exists.

Then when you start talking especially about public housing now, there are so many other factors that are coming into play, welfare reform, which, of course, is diminishing the energies of people who live in these public housing units. Also, the issue of even though public housing in Cleveland looks much better now than it did even when I arrived here nine years ago—

MR. NNAMDI: Is that important? Is that important, the fact that public housing now looks—

MS. PERKINS: Yes, of course, everyone wants to have a good, safe, and decent—yeah.

MR. NNAMDI: Well, that is why I wanted to emphasize that, so that our listeners would understand that there has been some visible improvement.

MS. PERKINS: Oh, yes, definitely there has been visible improvement. But at the same time, my understanding is there are fewer units or fewer people able to live in this new and improved housing and that is causing another issue where the national trend is to give people vouchers which they can supposedly use on the open market to rent wherever they want to rent but that never occurs. And a lot of people are being clustered in sub-standard housing in other neighborhoods. And so I am just saying there are a whole lot of factors that are coming into play, and you can't just talk about community building in terms of, "We are getting some residents together to discuss an issue," we have to look at it in the whole context.

MR. NNAMDI: This is Public Interest. I am Kojo Nnamdi. And we will be getting both to our telephone calls and to our audience here in Severance Hall, believe me. But, Art Naparstek, to clear this up once and for all. Was that federally-funded home ownership project, were it a CCBI project, would Mr. Jackson have had to intervene and or would that element of it that concerned him have been taken care of because CCBI is organized to do that?

MR. NAPARSTEK: I would have hoped that had it been a CCBI-driven initiative—

MR. NNAMDI: Correct.

MR. NAPARSTEK: —that the principles of CCBI would not have allowed what happened to have happened. What the councilman, I believe is talking about is that people in the community begin to lose control and get displaced. Ironically, one of the real unintended consequences of initiatives, like Hope VI, is that it does lead to displacement, to some extent. It does lead to some neighborhoods being gentrified. The balance between uplifting public housing and creating tremendous investment in one particular area and allowing for the residents of the total community, the total community, to maintain control is something that has to really be worked on and is often ignored.

MR. NNAMDI: Let's go to a question here from one of the members of our audience here in Severance Hall.

MR. DOUGLAS ROSE: Welcome to Cleveland, Kojo.

MR. NNAMDI: Thank you.

MR. ROSE: This is Douglas Rose from Cleveland Heights. When you said that one of the goals of community building was giving access for poor people to people with money and to power, isn't that one of the functions that used to be performed in the cities by the political parties, in the so-called bad old days of bosses and political machines?

MR. NAPARSTEK: Yes, both unions and political parties often played that kind of role of connecting people, whether they be immigrants, whether they be poor, working poor, or whoever, to the bigger institutions, whether they be schools, hospitals or employment. And part of what we are trying to do through Hope VI, which begins to change the function of public housing in America, is to say to the public housing executive, "It is not enough for you to be a landlord. You also have to help connect the people of your community to the jobs that are there, the mainstream jobs. Connect the people of the community to the educational system.

Eleanor Bacon, the current head of Hope VI in Washington, D.C., says that Hope VI is not just about the transformation of housing, but the transformation of lives in terms of connecting children and adults. So forging creative and unique partnerships between public housing authorities and Walgreen's, for example, or public housing authorities and other institutions, hospitals and libraries and schools is very important.

If I might just take 30 seconds. In Atlanta, for example, the oldest public housing in America, 1937, Techwood, right across the street from Georgia Tech, no kid from Techwood ever went to Georgia Tech in 60 years. Today, Georgia Tech now runs a lab school right in the middle of the public housing community. And they are controlling and every kid graduating from that lab school will go to Georgia Tech or have the right to go to Georgia Tech.

MR. NNAMDI: Katherine Butler, what changes have you seen in your community since CCBI came about?

MS. BUTLER: Okay, first of all, let's get the record straight. We started off talking about Cleveland Building Initiative program, which is CCBI. Some how or another we have swung into Hope VI, which is a federal-funded program. The concept and the total conversation is turned towards public housing. That is not CCBI's parameter. That is not CCBI's priorities. And that is not what we are about. The program of Hope VI is too large, too government-controlled. The councilman has explained that he had run into. The paradigm of CCBI is to leave that political scene alone, to find residents that have pride in their community, and to work within the community on small projects funded by Cleveland Foundation and other funders. That is why I am saying what I am saying. You are doing harm here tying CCBI into Hope VI.

MR. NNAMDI: Okay, we are going to have to take a short break. When we come back, we will discover whether or not there should be such a tie-in. 1-800-433-8850. We will be right back.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK.]

MR. NNAMDI: Welcome back to our conversation in Cleveland, Ohio about community building where we are joined by Art Naparstek, who is with the Urban Institute, and also the Grace Longwell Coyle Professor of social work at Case Western Reserve University; Olivera Perkins, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer; Katherine with a "K" Butler, resident and president of the East Village Council; and City Council Member Frank Jackson.

Well, we have reached at that intersection in the discussion which tended to confuse me when I started beginning to read about this and that is the point at which Hope VI and CCBI intersect. The point is sitting right in front of you, Art Naparstek, who has been involved in both of these developments and who can explain if there is a connection.

Art?

MR. NAPARSTEK: Well, first let me just say a word about how I met Katherine Butler with a "K."

MS. BUTLER: With a "K."

MR. NAPARSTEK: I believe it was 1993 and I was at Olivet Baptist Church, which is in Fairfax, Katherine's community. And this young woman stood up in the front row and just took on a number of people in that community who were not authentic. And I fell in love with this woman. She is extraordinary. And she really represents the authenticity of those residents.

There is an intersect, if you will, between Hope VI and CCBI only in terms of the Central Village, specifically King-Kennedy. It was a CCBI site and also became a Hope VI site. But I believe what Katherine is raising and what Frank Jackson is raising and Olivera is raising is a very, very important issue. And, first, there is a fundamental distrust of large federal programs and there should be. There is also a fundamental distrust of large federal bureaucracies and there should be. And what we are trying to do is—and my work lately has been more in terms of the reform of the federal government and federal bureaucracies and hoping to get them to do the right thing. And what community building is all about in effect is really empowering residents so residents can gain control of their own communities. And that is what this is about. Whether it starts from foundations or starts from the federal government is relatively unimportant as long as it happens.

MR. NNAMDI: And I should point out that Hope VI, of course, is funded by the federal government and CCBI is funded by a foundation.

Allow me to go to the telephones. The number again: 1-800-433-8850. Here is Dottie in Cape May, New Jersey. Dottie, you are on the air, go ahead, please.

DOTTIE: Hi, I just was so moved because I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. We left in 1973 when I was 15 years old. And it was one of the saddest things for my family and myself. My parents were both community leaders. My father was an Episcopal priest in the town and my mother was a newspaper reporter. And it is still—I am a licensed clinical social worker as of 23 years and some of my best skills came from living in such a rich community. But I watched the community just totally crumble. And as I return back to the Midwest many, many times, it is not a place that I go comfortably.

I have been to Cleveland though and it is beautiful in many places. So if this kind of program can revitalize these incredible cities, it would be wonderful to see this happening. And I do believe that you do have to do it on the community level. You have to be able to own it as a neighbor, it is your neighborhood, not the federal government's. It is very necessary that people are neighbors and communicate and love and enjoy and are safe in their areas. And I am so glad you are doing this report.

MR. NNAMDI: Dottie, I think, frankly, that is what everybody wants but sometimes when you raise questions, you tell things about yourself. If you were 15 in 1973, we know now you are 42.

DOTTIE: There you go. Absolutely, and I am proud of that.

MR. NNAMDI: Thank you for your call, Dottie.

DOTTIE: You are welcome. Thank you for your program.

MR. NNAMDI: But the issue Dottie raises, Frank Jackson, gets back to one of the things you were talking about earlier and that is these are the things people want to happen. And, obviously, that is what community building and CCBI wants to happen. As a politician who has to deal with the practical reality of how to get things done, you seem to feel that there is a kind of a pie in the sky element about this, that it is in some respects dreaming, that when it comes into contact with reality and bureaucracies and heads of departments, it tends to fall apart?

MR. JACKSON: No, I just think that there is a whole picture of which this is a part. And I think that they do an outstanding job. It worked better in Fairfax than it did in my ward in Central and that was because of the people involved in it. But what concerns me is that we try to impose upon people a definition of what empowerment is, and what they should feel in terms of them being in power while we hold a different definition for true power in this country at large. We live in a capitalist society where power is measured by the ownership of means of production, contracts for goods and services, access to capital to be able to do these kinds of things. And we deny systematically those opportunities to people so that they can rebuild and build their lives. And then we say to them that they should measure empowerment for them in terms of a job when in fact that does not translate if you are going to measure true power.

MR. NNAMDI: Allow me to go to our audience member in Severance Hall. Ma'am, you are on the air, go ahead.

MS. GOLDIE ROBINSON: Thank you. My name is Goldie Robinson. I am from Cleveland Heights. I rise to address a slightly different paradigm. In support of our neighborhoods, what can we do to prevent for-profit companies, like PHS, from closing full-service community hospitals in depressed areas or in ethnic areas as was the case in Slavic Village when St. Michael's and Mount Sinai East in another area, for example. These closings deprive citizens in these areas of more than health care. These community hospitals provide a sense of security. In addition, these closings create a serious domino effect in limiting services available in other hospitals, such as Metro. Thank you.

MS. BUTLER: I would like to address that.

MR. NNAMDI: Sure.

MS. BUTLER: Okay, first of all, you are using us as a platform so I will play your game. I am well aware of the problem that the closing of Mount Sinai Hospital and the fight that went on to keep St. Michael's up. Like I said, my grandmother used to drag me to Marcus Garvey meetings and unless you are over 80, you don't even know who I am talking about, okay.

MR. NNAMDI: But I know who Marcus Garvey is.

MS. BUTLER: Good, fine. All hospitals are not trauma certified. That means St. Luke's, Mount Sinai East over on Wade Park and Metro are trauma certified. Cleveland Clinic and all the rest of them are not. That means if you have an emergency, gunshot, poisoning, terrible automobile accident, you cannot be treated at those non-trauma-certified hospitals. They are not equipped. Once they closed Mount Sinai on Wade Park, we lost one. St. Luke's is being phased out. And this is the reason why I spoke as hotly as I did when you tying CCBI into Hope VI. That is the problem, that is not CCBI, but that is a problem that is being addressed by the residents of the Fairfax area. And because we are organized, that we don't have to wear somebody's umbrella or claim somebody's baby, not CCBI's baby nor either Hope VI's, but as interested citizens in that area that are being deprived of services that we are entitled to.

What can you do? You have to get organized. Not put federal money—coffee clicks over the fence, people that you know. That is what CCBI's paradigm is about.

MR. NNAMDI: Allow me to interrupt, Ms. Butler, because we do have another member of our hall audience here raising an issue.

MR. JIM AMOSLANGRAFF: Hi, Jim Amoslangraff, actually, it is from University Heights. My question is I see CCBI as a very positive force, if not a very strong force, in your community just from seeing you, but I am wondering what impact it has on the surrounding communities. And I saw, as Kojo said, it seems like an island. But I am wondering if it does have more of a positive attribute in the surrounding communities?

MS. BUTLER: Yes, it does. Okay, it started in 1993 with a community meeting where I met Art at Olivet Church on Quincy, 89th and Quincy. This is the strength of the Fairfax area, that we have partners that involve pastors, churches, Cleveland Clinic, art museum, health museum [sic], all of those are partners, businesses, stakeholders, and residents who are members, okay. How does it affect it? When they were first talking about bringing in money with wherever it came from, HUD or whatever, they had decided that they were going to build ranch-style houses, which takes up two and a half lots and high-rise, multiple dwelling properties. And we said no. And we bought it.

So how does it help the surrounding ones? Take a look at Beacon Place at 79th and Euclid, condominiums, single houses, high income. Adjacent to that is going to be Woodhaven, single homes. Your neighborhood cannot be stabilized if you have owner-absent or rental tenants. They don't have an ownership. It is spreading out. Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Foundation in University Heights, University Circle have budded right at 107th and Euclid and you are going to see some wonderful things come in there with the universities there.

Did I answer your question?

MR. NNAMDI: This is Public Interest.

MS. BUTLER: That is Public Interest.

MR. NNAMDI: This is Public Interest. I am Kojo Nnamdi. On to Charles in Cleveland, Ohio on the telephone. Charles, you are on the air, go ahead, please?

MR. CHARLES GUEST: Hello, my name is Charles, Charles Guest, and I live in Central Park Place. And I am in Frank Jackson's ward. Okay, Central Park Place, it was originally, back in 1972, when these places were built, they are multi-family homes, and we were like paying—in other words, we were paying rent and we were paying on a mortgage. And under that, we would be paying into the corporation. And then by us living here, then eventually we would be home owners.

And I have been here since what, 1972. Both my mother and father they lived here. And, in fact, most of the people who lived here originally, they were working people—

MR. NNAMDI: We are running out of time, Charles. Could you get to your question or your point, please?

MR. GUEST: Well, I am just saying that this is not public housing but yet still they have changed the rules, and they changed it to something else, I don't know what it is. But now—in other words, I believe next year most of these people, they won't be here. They will be one of the people with those vouchers trying to find somewhere else to live. I believe that.

MR. NNAMDI: Okay, Charles, thank you for your call. Art Naparstek, why should Charles not believe that?

MR. NAPARSTEK: No, I think he should be concerned. And I think it is a real challenge. It is what I said earlier, I used the word "gentrification" meaning the residents change. And people who live there do lose a sense of control and are forced out. And I am working on that issue right now. And that, quite frankly, is one of the unintended consequences of revitalizing communities.

MR. NNAMDI: We will have to keep our comments brief after this. Frank Jackson?

MR. JACKSON: Yes, I just have to interrupt.

I don't want people to assume that you're dealing with some frontier or some uncivilized area, uncivilized people. There's a culture there, and there're people. As devastated as parts of these areas, there're people there who are good people; there's a culture. And it's not necessarily—with all due respect, it's not necessarily someone else's business to come in and tell us how to, what should be our values and what should be our definitions of things. And what you find is that these government policies, even though well-intended, tend to do that. And that it becomes our responsibility on the local level to try to fashion this thing in such a way that it does not do all this harm that they're saying it intended not to do, but, in fact, it winds up doing.

MR. NNAMDI: Well, I'm afraid we're just about out of time. It is clear that community building, as an idea, a concept and, in Cleveland, an initiative, has the intention of putting community residents in charge of changes in that community. Obviously, there are still some problems to be ironed out. Just as obviously, there have been improvements as a result of community building in this city and, frankly, as a result of Hope VI.

I'd like to thank you all for joining us, of course...



Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods


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