September 1st, 2017

Fifty years ago this headline appeared in the Plain Dealer:


Things don’t change much in Cleveland, do they? Not in 50 years anyway.

Unless you truly understand—they do change. They get worse.

I wrote that story for the PD in 1967.

I wrote:

The United Pastors, a group formed by Negro pastors … agreed not to meet with Saul Alinsky, a militant consumer advocate when he comes to Cleveland next month.

They didn’t want change. They apparently, like now, enjoy keeping control of those with dire needs.

This Thursday the United Pastor (now with added “Mission” to its name) worked a deal that undercut 20,000 signers for a vote on the Quicken Arena dirty deal to finance an expansion with public funding in the tens of millions. A dirty political deal against their own.

They sabotaged community action as they played a change role that never changes.

Alinsky, who died in 1972, was the great organizer of communities for people who needed help. His organization was called the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Conservative author William F. Buckley Jr. said in 1966 that Alinsky was “very close to being an organizational genius,” according to his Wikipedia citation.

He was genius enough to stay away from Cleveland. But his old organization has organizers working here now for the Greater Cleveland Congregations.

They helped gather the amazing number of signatures that shocked Cleveland political, business, religious and non-profit establishments.

But they were undercut from within.

In the three-page letter from the Cavalier (Dan Gilbert) organization withdrawing its proposal for the Quicken deal noted sarcastically that the Alinsky group organizers for the GCC had delayed the project by its collection of signatures forcing a referendum vote.

What dirty business—democracy.

Alinsky did visit Cleveland. I covered that meeting for the Plain Dealer when it was a newspaper, not a propaganda outlet.

In another article I wrote that Alinsky visited here but refused to come to Cleveland to organize.

“Cleveland has a reputation of having a beaten Negro population,” he told a crowd of some 700 people.

He said further, “its leadership is pretty much bought out. That’s your reputation.”

He didn’t gloss over the situation. He didn’t like what he saw here.

I wrote:

Alinsky said he views this Cleveland effort as an attempt ‘to operate in terms of a cosmetic cover-up instead of surgery.

Again, just like today.

Fifty years ago Alinsky said, “Cleveland has a reputation of having developed welfare colonialism.” He went on to attest that what is now known here as the black community as “docile… and not particularly militant or organizational minded.”

My, how slowly we change.

I remember calling two of Cleveland’s corporate elite at the time.

Ralph Besse, formerly of Squire-Sanders and head of CEI, told me Cleveland “doesn’t need an agitator,” which meant that’s exactly what the city needed. Jack Reavis of Jones-Day said it would be a “tragedy” if Alinsky came to Cleveland.

Now we have manipulator Fred Nance of Squires with the same attitude and a central figure in financing sports here.

Alinsky wrote Cleveland off. The Council of Churches prompted him to come here and had the intention of him helping organize the black community. But Cleveland corporate interests, just as with the Q deal, undercut the effort.

Of course, Cleveland in this period was experiencing uprising in our ghetto. Today, we have lots of crime but within these communities so the pressure is off the pols and business elites.

Now the GCC employs members of the old Alinsky group. They, with others, did an amazing job of collecting more than 20,000 signatures, really in opposition to welfare, not for the poor, but for a multi-billionaire Dan Gilbert.

It showed the community might be more awake than 50 years ago, or more aware of its subjugation.

But they got sold out.

Alinsky must be shedding tears somewhere today.

What a sellout!

How GCC can be trusted at all, on anything, seems remote.

GCC allowed the United Pastors, the same group that dissed Alinsky 50 years ago, to destroy one of the first successful fights against corporate domination in Cleveland with a dirty deal to go ahead with heavy financing of the Q’s expansion for little in return. In exchange for some pledges of little help from Cuyahoga County, in debt for $100 million and spending like a drunk on convention center, hotel and an arena.

Alinsky said in 1967 that he organized around principals that called for sort of “political guerrilla warfare” because to be effective his tactics “have to be outside the experience of the enemy.”

The enemies here are Mayor Frank Jackson, County Executive Armond Budish, City Council president Kevin Kelley, County Council president Dan Brady and the United Pastors.

It’s a pity but blacks have been sold out again.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Carla says:

    Once again, Roldo hits the nail on the head. Cleveland’s head. Our heads. Keep swinging that hammer, Roldo. One of these days, you’ll wake somebody up.

  2. Carla: That at least gives me a laugh.

    Today’s PD editorial proves Sullivan and crew are first-rate sellouts.

    Shameful newspaper, actually getting worse. Like the President and Congress. Yes, that bad


  4. JOSEPH BIALEK says:

    On Monday Jun 26, 2017 I had the opportunity to attend the Mayoral Forum sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and the Ward 14 Democratic Club at the VFW on West 61st Street in Clark-Fulton. I’ve since attended most of the other forums as well.

    Of all the candidates present at the event the one that caught my attention was former East Cleveland Mayor Eric Brewer. He was the only one who appeared to have a true grasp of the issues concerning Cleveland combined with a positive track record to validate his claims. He comes across as someone who chooses to be a statesman rather than a politician. This combined with his intelligence, charisma and burning desire to serve the citizens of Cleveland makes him the ideal successor to soon to be former Mayor Frank Jackson. Frankly, he is the only candidate taking this election seriously.

    Contrary to what the media and his opponents would like the public to believe Eric only appears to grow angry at two things. One, when he is falsely accused of something and two, with the rampant injustice that pervades the City of Cleveland. Just as with Eric I am not satisfied with the performance of the Cleveland Schools and its inability to teach our children the basics of reading, writing, speaking and listening. I am not satisfied with the anemic job growth in Cleveland especially the blown opportunity of failing to land the Amazon Fulfillment Center which ended up in North Randal. I am not satisfied with the lack of discipline and training in our police department resulting in the unnecessary deaths of Cleveland citizens when it clearly could have been prevented. I am not satisfied when Cleveland is ranked at the top of the list in poverty while crime is rampant in our city. I am not satisfied with the catering to owners of sports teams by Cleveland officials when they know in their own conscience it is the wrong thing to do.

    I believe it is time to get the City of Cleveland moving again. We have stagnated for the last 12 years under a political philosophy of “it is what it is”. Never let it be said that this was the time the tide ran out on Cleveland but rather was the time the tide finally came in. Eric Brewer is that tide and represents the pro-active change Cleveland needs during these challenging times. Right now Cleveland is a ship without a captain {and a rudder as well}. Eric Brewer will be that captain if voters make the right choice on September 12, 2017 {my 54th birthday}.

  5. Happy birthday upcoming, Joe.


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