August 28th, 2017

TO: Chris Quinn & “A Greater Cleveland.”
FR: Roldo Bartimole
RE: Slowly building empathy in Northeast Ohio

Your program to use reporters as uneducated social workers has some problems, I think.

First, you are dishonoring hundreds—thousand over the years—of social workers who have been working daily with families in need. It’s their job.

You are also diminishing indirectly the work of countless school teachers who work daily through the school year with the children you want to help.

I’m sure they are happy with the self-satisfaction on your promo, checking their years of fighting these problems. Nice strategy, Chris.

Do none of their efforts over the years really mean, by your promotion (and that’s what it is rather than real journalism) of an attempt to make people believe the Plain Dealer REALLY CARES.

I know you believe you mean well. But you are avoiding your real job—to tell this community, the part that rules—what’s wrong with it and how it’s screwing up.

You say that your program is “slowly building empathy in Northeast Ohio.”

You are wrong. Nothing significant will change until maybe you start to do your real job.

Why doesn’t the PD really do something for low income people, like fighting for tax relief, say eliminating the first $20,000 of a person’s pay check from the city income tax? Instead, the PD backed and promoted an increase in the payroll tax. It hits workers, not the wealthy who earn non-payroll income.

Same with the constant backing of sales taxes, which we all know damages directly low income people. The same with the quarter percent sales tax increase by the County.

All these income-sucking measures get full cheerleading from you and the PD.

So instead, why don’t you tell the community the truth of our city?

There’s a famous quote, attributed to Desmond Tutu, likely among others:

There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river.
We need to go upstream and find out why they re falling in.

Why they’re being tossed in and by whom. Tell that story.

I believe this should be the job of the Plain Dealer and its reporters.

Tell us why there is so much poverty amid so much wealth.

Tell us why tax after tax is conveniently formulated to avoid hitting the wealthy and is directly shot at the rest.

Why don’t we know how much public money has gone into these upscale projects downtown? Why don’t we keep a record and report it to citizens?

Would it make citizens angry? Are you fearful of that, willing to look the other way?

Why don’t we have an update in how much public money has gone into the Flats East Bank that gets glowing coverage? I don’t know how much has gone into the project but here what the legislation promised: Flats East Bank:

Why didn’t you pay and give attention to the so easily given deal to a billionaire Dan Gilbert of new cash to expand a non-taxable, money-making 20-year sin tax expansion. Even though voters – mislead by you—pushed your backed vote for the same people. It gives hundreds of millions of dollars for their sports stadium/arena.

You purposely and conveniently lent yourself to the corrupt action of Mayor Frank Jackson and Council President Kevin Kelley to deny the signatures of more than 20,000 (13,000 plus verified) signatures for a vote on the latest money deal for Dan Gilbert, Cavs owner.

You obviously wanted to avoid a vote, just as the corporate community desired.

That was as shallow a journalistic move I may have ever seen.

You purposely played a cheap political game. Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo would have been proud of you. Your duplicity could be considered an in-kind contribution to Mayor Jackson’s. You endorsed him again Sunday.

Why haven’t we had verifiable details on the development called nuCLEus (silly name play on “New Cleveland Us”) TIF of how much it will really cost the Cleveland schools? I’m told it will deny Cleveland schools (and its children) more than $120 million in tax revenue over 30 years and that is a low-ball figure, I surmise.

That’s $40 million a year on EDUCATION in Cleveland You people don’t even mention how much it will cost the county, city and city library, which all should share such tax revenue over the 30 years.

You lie by omission, Chris. It’s become a policy of the paper.

You and the newspaper have done all you possible could to see city and county resources flow to downtown, to the creative class and its playthings.

Yet you have the nerve to cry for poor children.

If decaying cities wanted to survive, they had to open cool bars, shabby-chic coffee shops and art venues to attract young, educated and tolerant resident. Eventually, the mysterious alchemy of the creative economy would built a new and prosperous urban core.” —Sam Wetherell, a professor writes of how the “gospel of the creative class,” was preached by Richard Florida.

It has been Cleveland’s answer to its problems, too.

Florida gathered followers in cities around the country and has had disciples here, even on your staff. (Check Steve Litt’s work).

We did and are still doing what he claimed would rescue cities.

Wetherell now writes:

Today, even Florida recognizes that he was wrong. The rise of the creative class in places like New York, London, and San Francisco (and Cleveland’s wish – RB) created economic growth only for the already rich, displacing the poor and working classes. The problems that once plagued inner cities have moved to the suburbs.

And in many Cleveland neighborhoods.

But it’s going to take more than creating “empathy” from a newspaper to change the culture we’ve created by feeding the rich with public dollars.

Get real about the city’s problems and forget your promotion, even if well-meaning.


It was announced today at billionaire Dan Gilbert withdrew the plan to expand the Quicken Arena mostly on the public’s dime..

I have to say that this was the worse handled Cleveland/Cuyahoga County project I’ve ever seen. And that covers more than 50 years.

City Hall—Mayor Frank “Failure” Jackson, Council President Kevin “Don’t Know What I’m Doing” Kelley gave the middle finger to 20,000 Clevelanders who signed a petition distributed by the first activist grouping to hit Cleveland in decades. More than 13,000 were valid signatures.

It shows what People Power can do with a little leadership.

The powers that be simply didn’t want voters to have an opportunity to voice an opinion on a matter they should have full rights to endorse or nix.

And they surely didn’t want such a vote when Jackson was running for an ill-conceived fourth term as mayor.

And further disgustingly, the Plain Dealer – which should inform the citizenry—played along with the charade all the way.

Now we await the next gimmick to put tens of millions of dollars into Gilbert’s dirty hands. Stay tuned.

Citizens need honest, credible information or you get the brand of government Cleveland and Cuyahoga County receive. Not nearly good enough.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Carla says:

    Roldo, a sampling of the PD “empathy” series plus this column should be staple reading in Journalism 101. Whenever somebody decides to start teaching it again.

  2. Plubius, I agree that people should read Sam and the Scene.

    Hopefully, Carla, reporters will demand that they be allowed to be critical in their writing. They need freedom to write. It opens your eyes.

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