Cleveland's Leaders are 'Old and Not Smart' and Other Weaknesses of our Civic Culture


L-R: Michelle Jarboe, Bethia Burke, Don Graves, Blaine Griffin, Brian Hall, (8/24/18). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • L-R: Michelle Jarboe, Bethia Burke, Don Graves, Blaine Griffin, Brian Hall, (8/24/18).
During a deep-dive discussion at the City Club Friday about The Two Tomorrows report, an in-depth regional economic development assessment and road map published earlier this year by the Fund for Our Economic Future, attendees were asked to name the strengths and weakness of Cleveland's civic culture.

The discussion occurred prior to a City Club Forum tackling regional economic development issues, which was billed, at least initially, as a follow-up to lawyer Jon Pinney's "Dead Last" City Club talk in June.

Guests at the morning session forcefully declared that they are impatient with Cleveland's leaders, whom they regard as aging and territorial and resistant to change.

City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop asked attendees to log on to a live chat and polling software. That software was developed by Remesh, a startup that relocated from Cleveland to New York City because of a lack of local tech talent. The chat allowed respondents to suggest answers to questions Moulthrop posed and vote on the answers anonymously and in real-time.

The technology's strengths include providing tons of immediate data, and allowing people in multiple locations to participate. Its weaknesses include sucking energy and volume out of a live discussion. People became a lot more engaged with their devices than with each other.
But Moulthrop posed some good, albeit general, questions. Below are the top 11 answers on questions about Cleveland's greatest civic strengths and weaknesses. The responses to Cleveland's civic weaknesses are especially striking because virtually all of them have to do with poor leadership.

If these are any indication — garnered from the audience of 80, most of whom were under the age of 44, and about a quarter of whom were black — a day of reckoning may be on the horizon for our crop of "old and not smart" dudes in charge.

Q: What's the most significant strength of our civic culture?
  1. Engagement and passion of those involved.
  2. People care deeply about Cleveland, more so than in other cities.
  3. Philanthropic generosity.
  4. Diversity.
  5. Strong work ethic.
  6. We have a rising set of young leaders.
  7. Lots of institutions doing good work.
  8. Willingness to engage.
  9. Our commitment to self-improvement.
  10. Variety of institutions.
  11. Diverse cultural backgrounds!
Q: What's the most significant weakness of our civic culture?
  1. Lack of collaborative, inclusive leadership.
  2. Old Boys Club.
  3. It's an insiders club.
  4. Lack of power in diverse communities.
  5. Old and not smart leaders.
  6. Lack of inclusion.
  7. Lack of change in leadership.
  8. Leaders won't step aside and let new voices take the role.
  9. Silos and territorialism.
  10. No actual action that engages populations most affected.
  11. Apathy among wealthy and powerful.

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