Sam Allard / Scene
Rock Ventures' Josh McManus (L) meets the Rev. Jawanza Colvin (R) and members of GCC's Strategy Team in Detroit.
An estimated 120 members of Greater Cleveland Congregations caravanned by chartered bus to Detroit, Michigan, Tuesday to take their opposition to the proposed Quicken Loans Arena renovation deal to Dan Gilbert's doorstep.
On a plaza outside the headquarters of Quicken Loans in downtown Detroit, a lineup of GCC speakers outlined their qualms with the Q deal's public-private partnership as currently constructed and restated their demands for forthcoming negotiations. Chief among them is the creation of a Community Equity Fund.
(Check out photos from the day here
"If [city leaders] can dig under a rock to find $160 million for Dan Gilbert," said Rev. Jawanza Colvin, in a passionate speech that echoed comments he has made in the past. "They can dig under the same rock to find $160 million for Cleveland's most distressed neighborhoods."
The outdoor demonstration, on the month's loveliest day, culminated in the hand-delivery of a letter.
GCC leadership has met with County Executive Armond Budish twice; they have met with representatives from the Cavs, including president Len Komoroski; and they have brought robust contingents to County Council's public deliberations on the deal. And yet their efforts, at the very least to slow the process down, have accomplished little. The trip to Detroit was conceived in part to expand media coverage of the issue. Gilbert is thought to be exceedingly conscious of and sensitive to his image in the community, particularly in Detroit. GCC wants Gilbert to contribute to the Community Equity Fund, which will focus on job training, mental health crisis centers, and neighborhood capital projects.
Though Gilbert did not appear in person, Josh McManus, COO of Dan Gilbert's Rock Ventures LLC, was waiting outside the company's corporate offices to receive the GCC letter. Pastor Colvin and other key members of GCC's strategy team were escorted by security guard from the plaza to the building entrance where they were met by McManus, a personality known by GCC leadership for his man-bun and beard. McManus, who briefly led the Akron offices of the Knight Foundation, was hired to his current position in July
GCC was joined by about 60 members of a similar Detroit-based group, the Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity (DRIVE). That group is not yet an official member of the Saul Alinsky-founded Industrial Areas Foundation, but aspires to be.
At a lunch gathering after the demonstration, members of GCC and DRIVE evaluated their performance. Not only were members of both groups energized and inspired by the event, but leaders were encouraged by the presence of multiple Detroit media outlets.
James Pearlstein, lead organizer for GCC, said that despite the positive feelings, they wouldn't be able to gauge the effectiveness of the action for a few days.
"We'll know if it worked if we're at the meeting table on Friday," he told the crowd, lunching at Detroit's Second Baptist Church. "And if not..."
"We've gotta come back!" Members of the crowd exclaimed.
"We've got to do something," Pearlstein agreed. "If the first punch doesn't land, we've got to throw a harder one."