Desperation drives merger in East Cleveland

On Wednesday, a different kind of “regionalization” plan was kicked off in Cleveland:

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton took the first step Wednesday toward a possible merger with the city of Cleveland – submitting petitions in support of the initiative with about 1,600 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Source: East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton submits petitions seeking merger with Cleveland | cleveland.com

For those of you who don’t know Cleveland well, it’s a lot like Dayton- a sprawling center city- with a first ring of suburbs- and then exurbs that stretch a long way.

One of my earliest memories, living in East Cleveland, is looking out our 8th floor apartment windows- at a burning skyline. It was the riots, and it wasn’t pretty. We had armed National Guardsmrn outside our front doors in the aftermath. East Cleveland overlooked Hough, Glenville and Collinwood – all of which burned at one time or another between 1966 and 1970.

East Cleveland, by the time I was in high school at neighboring Cleveland Heights, was predominantly black. Cleveland Heights was probably 25% black when I graduated in 1980, and by 2000 was close to 90% black.

Yet, each suburb had to support its own infrastructure. Schools with School Boards, City Halls with Mayors, Managers and Police Chiefs. Finally, someone realized, we’ve got way too many chiefs for the Indians to keep supporting:

“We know that the costs of running the city infrastructure continue to go up, while revenues continue to diminish,” Norton said. “In these elected offices … we must understand that the analysis will sometimes show us that the best way to provide an acceptable quality of service is to have someone else do it.”

Damn. Gary Norton, you get it. Because electing people without any possible way to do the job isn’t really public service- it’s public debt load.

This kind of regionalization would make a lot more sense in Dayton, if we only had some competent leadership. Why Moraine hasn’t merged with Kettering? West Carrollton with Miamisburg? Or Trotwood with Dayton is beyond me. Just cutting the duplication of services and consolidating offices would probably add a decade or two before the inevitable bankruptcies occur.

To watch in today’s paper as Moraine, which can’t afford to give away any taxes:

“Moraine has offered the direct mail company that started in the mid-1980s a five-year forgivable loan to move to the Dryden site”…

In return, the company would be “incurring payroll subject to income taxation by the city in the aggregate amount of $2 million per annum, continuing during each of the next five years,” according to the contract.

“What they would be doing is bringing over their existing jobs,” Moraine Economic Development Director Michael Davis said.

And voila- shrinking taxes for Dayton, and Moraine gives away an undisclosed amount- because Dayton Mailing Services “might add jobs.”

This isn’t sustainable. It isn’t in the best interests of the region. And, it gives Dayton Mailing Services an unfair advantage over other mailing houses (the few that are left) who aren’t getting handouts.

We have too many jurisdictions, too many different rules, too complex a system that costs way more than it should. Unfortunately, with term limits on Statehouse offices, we’ll never be able to give someone enough time to re-work the patchwork mess we have now into a logical quilt of right sized jurisdictions.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in East Cleveland. It won’t be interesting to watch the doomed proposition for merging Dayton with the county.