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Old 08-29-2006, 12:58 PM   #1
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Default Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

Beneath Cleveland's bright facade, America's poorest city
Sunday, September 26, 2004

By Milan Simonich, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


CLEVELAND -- Poverty wears a mask here.

Visitors seldom see beyond the smooth veneer of Cleveland, its downtown chock full of stores and offices, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the striking stadiums where the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers play.

From that vantage, Cleveland looks as inviting as the bright blue waters of Lake Erie.

Yet this is a city struggling so mightily that it laid off 250 police officers and 70 firefighters this year to help balance its budget.

It is a city where fewer than half the students graduate from high school.

It is a place where city government must try to save older neighborhoods by subsidizing service businesses, such as cafes and even funeral homes.

Add up all the negatives and Cleveland is now America's poorest big city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With this recent, unwelcome designation, Cleveland moved ahead of Detroit, Newark, N.J., and Miami, America's most impoverished city the previous four years.

Cleveland's poverty rate of 31.3 percent is about double that of Pittsburgh, which was 37th on the Census Bureau list. San Jose, Calif., is Cleveland's opposite, ranking as America's wealthiest city.

Outsiders who have seen a baseball game at majestic Jacobs Field or the Elvis tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might be surprised at Cleveland's ranking. Many of its 460,000 residents, though, say the poverty report confirmed what they have felt for years, mostly in their wallets.

"I haven't seen any good times in business yet," said Josh Helman, who two years ago joined his family in running Ruthie and Moe's Diner in Cleveland's Midtown neighborhood.

The diner burned down in 2001, but Helman's family started again from scratch. Now Helman, 29, is working with a special branch of city government to try to reduce his overhead, notably runaway sewer expenses that cut into the diner's profits.

Midtown is one of four Cleveland neighborhoods with pockets where the poverty rate soars from 62 percent to 100 percent. The others are Fairfax, Glenville and Hough.

Ten years ago, all four areas were designated as an Empowerment Zone by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program brought $177 million to Cleveland to reinvest in these faded neighborhoods.

Results have been mixed.

On the plus side is an array of new stores, condominiums and townhouses, and Myers University.

But the high-paying manufacturing jobs that once sustained people in these neighborhoods have mostly vanished.

The old White Motor Co. is perhaps the most vivid example. White made sewing machines, bicycles and, finally, automobiles. It enjoyed a century of success in Cleveland before collapsing and closing its plant in 1980.

The factory remains shuttered. Today, its 32-acre site is used to park school buses, not to employ anybody.

City Council President Frank Jackson would like to see this spot transformed into a shopping center, but developers have balked because the environmental cleanup would cost millions.

Other sections of Cleveland, the ones tourists do not see, are just as desolate.

On 105th Street in the Glenville neighborhood, only 15 minutes from the booming Downtown district, almost every storefront is boarded up.

Anthony Houston, who became director of the Cleveland Empowerment Zone 10 months ago, knows Glenville well. He grew up there and remembers it as the kind of place where thoughtful neighbors would pull him off his bike and call his parents if he ventured too far from home.

Churches, then and now, looked out for the downtrodden. But these days the numbers of unemployed and working poor keep multiplying.

"The loss of jobs with real wages hurts," Houston said one day last week on a tour of the area.

His challenges are staggering, but careful government analysis provides a clear picture of what must be done.

For instance, the city knows that most parolees land in the same sections of Cleveland's depressed neighborhoods. Job centers and counselors are strategically placed there, too, in hope that an ex-convict who is motivated will find the path to employment.

Still, crime and drugs remain obstacles to progress. Budget problems could make those conditions worse.

With the police layoffs this year to help close a $61 million deficit, residents complain that they are getting less for the taxes they pay. Handfuls of officers are rehired when new vacancies occur, but the decline in police protection remains a sore spot.

Perhaps an even greater source of concern is the Cleveland Municipal School District, which says it needs a $68 million tax increase in the November election.

Cleveland schools boast of improvement since former Mayor Michael White seized control of the education system in 1997. With city government in charge, graduation rates have risen from 28 percent to 47 percent. Daily student attendance is up from 80 percent to 96 percent.

But, school administrators say, those gains are fragile, and could be lost without the tax increase to adequately fund classrooms.

Part of the schools' problem is the same one that afflicts neighborhoods. Declining commercial property values helped cause a $100 million deficit for the school system.

Boosters say Cleveland remains an excellent place to live and raise a family. The Downtown district, where tourists roam and storefront vacancies are rare, hopes to increase its residential base from about 5,000 to 25,000.

Older neighborhoods, even those high on the poverty list, see a chance to rebound, too.

"There are no $1,300 efficiencies here," said Houston, who returned to Cleveland from the New York City area, in part because of New York's high housing costs.

But now, with its No. 1 ranking for poverty, Cleveland is on the defensive to a degree not seen since 1969, when pollution was so thick that a fire started on the Cuyahoga River.

An aide to Mayor Jane Campbell made light of the designation last week, rolling his eyes and using his fingertips to put quotation marks around the term "most impoverished city."

But he was Downtown, where all seems well. In neighborhoods such as Hough and Glenville, many in Cleveland are fighting for survival.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04270/385601.stm

Also:

1: Cleveland
2: Newark
3: Detroit
4: Fresno
5: Miami
6: El Paso
7: Long Beach
8: Atlanta
9: Memphis
10: Philadelphia
------------------------
37: Pittsburgh
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

I was in Cleveland last year on business....I missed the whole "mask" thing.....
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

Poor Clowns country.
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:01 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

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I was in Cleveland last year on business....I missed the whole "mask" thing.....
Since when does Lake Erie have "bright blue waters"?
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

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Since when does Lake Erie have "bright blue waters"?
Those waters are as filthy as Erie and Canton are in their AIFL Rivalry.
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

I was at the Browns/Dolphins game in '93 when Marino broke his leg...Cleveland didn't seem destitute to me.
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:24 PM   #7
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

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I was at the Browns/Dolphins game in '93 when Marino broke his leg...Cleveland didn't seem destitute to me.
1993 to 2006 is a considerable amount of time.
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:32 PM   #8
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

Good to see the burgh so far down the list.......
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:50 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

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Since when does Lake Erie have "bright blue waters"?
i think thats just the blue skies reflecting off all the dead fishes scales.

why does the 50% graduation rate not suprise me? their bordering on cincinatti numbers there as the most uneducated city in america
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Old 08-29-2006, 01:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: Cleveland Ranked Poorest Big City

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i think thats just the blue skies reflecting off all the dead fishes scales.

why does the 50% graduation rate not suprise me? their bordering on cincinatti numbers there as the most uneducated city in america

thats a tough number....one of my girls is a high school senior...and I gotta tell ya....they hand out diplomas these days....50%?....wow.....

i remember when you actually had to learn to graduate....
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