Next Tuesday voters will decide whether to renew a levy that for years has supported operations at the Port of Cleveland. In this new era of development centered around a service and tourism economy in Cleveland, is industrial shipping the best use of that lakeshore property? Civic Commons took up that question this past summer in one of its online forums. Andrew Samtoy of Civic Commons Cleveland talks about it with ideastream's Bill Rice.
The levy dates back to 1968 and has been continuously renewed since then. Many view the port as an important driver of the region’s economy, financing major capital improvements in the county and beyond, providing a gateway for goods in and out of Northeast Ohio, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining the Cuyahoga River for transport of materials to and from the Arcelor Mittal steel mill.
But in this new era of development centered around a service and tourism economy in Cleveland, is industrial shipping the best use of that lakeshore property? Civic Commons - now Civic Commons ideastream - took up that question this past summer in one of its online forums.
Bill Rice: Welcome Andrew…
Andrew Samtoy: Thanks, glad to be here.
BR: Tell us who participated in that forum and what were some of the points of debate or disagreement over the port.
AS: Well, as these forum discussions usually go, we had a panel of thought leaders who led the discussion and answered questions. People like Will Friedman, the head of Cleveland port; Fred Hunger, the CEO of World Shipping, Incorporated; and Joe Cimperman - the councilman whose ward encompassed downtown and the port. And people from the community were able to participate in the discussion. Anyone could ask questions and give comments.
BR: So let’s talk about that lakefront land that the port sits on. There are differing opinions about that – did those come out in the forum?
AS: Yes. Most of the people who were involved in the government or business here in Cleveland agreed that the port is critical to our economy, that it makes all sorts of things possible, from steel manufacturing to imports and exports, and that the port is one of the strongest drivers of economic growth in the area, and could do even more in the future.
Then there are others who feel that land should be opened up to more of the kind of development that would attract more residents and tourists to the city – you know, walkable, bike-able, maybe some retail and restaurants. Some want to see what we now see in Chicago on our lakefront, and they see the port and Burke Lakefront Airport getting in the way of that. Some people want to see the Port moved somewhere else altogether.
BR: And in fact, several years ago the Port Authority considered actually moving the port up the coast a couple of miles to E. 55th Street, but that plan was eventually abandoned.
AS: Yes, and so the response to that suggestion from Will Friedman and others was that they recognize the concerns of the community, but they also have a duty to the city, and a lot of commerce and jobs depends on the port. And most people on the forum did not want to see the port closed or fall into disrepair. However, there is a general sense that the port could make better use of the assets it has - Joe Cimperman said we need to to "utilize the Port to its full potential and build more development surrounding it." And Will Friedman acknowledged that the Port of Cleveland has some work to do getting its story out into the public.
BR: And that forum exists online – for anybody to go and read, especially if they’re weighing whether to support that prt levy renewal on the ballot next week. Tell us how to find that.
AS: Yes, that’s at www.theciviccommons.com or on Twitter, @civiccommons.
BR: Andrew Santoy, of Civic Commons ideastream, thanks very much.