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Comedian Carey Engages Council

The comedian and host of TV's "The Price Is Right" wanted to offer some 'ideas that seemed right', to a dozen assembled city council members.

As a board member of the Reason Foundation, an organization that espouses Libertarian principles of free market capitalism and minimal government intervention, Carey recently hosted a series of six internet documentaries about struggling cities - using Cleveland as the example.

The programs pointed out, in sometimes glaring clarity, what Cleveland has done ...or didn't do, that contributed to its losses of population, of big business, and in some cases - of respect.

Carey - and some Reason Foundation leaders - came prepared to back their suggestions about needed changes, and did so right from the start of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

"I think the goal for Cleveland should be to be the number one business-friendly city in the country. I think the goal for Cleveland should be not to be better than we were last year compared to Cleveland, and not to be better than Brook Park or Solon or something like that, and not be happy when something is within driving distance. I think `Well so what, it should be in the Cleveland city limits' - so we make the money off it."

The documentary also challenged the city to divest itself of anything that could be privatized- Golf Courses, the West Side Market, the sports Stadiums.

And it chided leaders for allowing companies like Eaton Corp - or the Cavaliers practice facilities to leave downtown, for the suburbs.

And the foundation suggests local government should end its negotiations to build a medical mart… saying private business should fund it's own operations.

But while council members were clearly thrilled to be in the presence of daytime TV royalty - they were more in a mood to defend their city than to hear how libertarians think it might be better run; summed up by tongue-lashings to Carey and Reason TV Editor In Chief Nick Gillespie... from Ward 8 councilman Jeff Johnson, followed by Ward 11's Mike Polensek.

"I think that you took cheap shots at our city. T.S. Elliot - "The Wasteland". Using analogies that we're weak, and others are strong. Cheap shots. The simplicity of your solutions does not help me. I'm not in entertainment - what I do is not entertainment. It is real.... life..... things."

"You whacked us pretty good - (yeah) and what I'm saying is, when you look at the condition we're in today, it didn't happen overnight. (Gillespie - and it won't be fixed that way). Not overnight. And all I'm saying - being here - is the people who talk the fight - reinvest. 'Believe' once again."

Carey - who repeatedly expressed his love for Cleveland - and who still maintains a house in Ward 13 - took the chaffing from various members in stride. While never really apologizing, he did express understanding about how some show suggestions offended city residents, blaming it principally on the need to cover various subjects, in too little time.

"It was never meant to be the Bible answer to everything. I can see how it would be upsetting to hear somebody get slapped around when they're out here working, and I said at the beginning I don't envy anybody your job, and I know it's hard lifting."}

Bottom line - the dialogue with the comedian brought issues that the city council admitted need addressing to the forefront, while informing the TV producers that matters in Columbus and Washington should have been faulted for much of Cleveland's malaise.

But all at least seemed grateful that the spotlight allowed them an informal forum to talk so candidly - and perhaps to lay groundwork for more introspection; and for change.

Rick Jackson is a senior host and producer at Ideastream Public Media. He hosts the "Sound of Ideas" on WKSU and "NewsDepth" on WVIZ.