Far from dying

Bill KitsonBecause I spend my days in the center of the Cleveland dichotomy – a city bursting with renewal in many areas while struggling with critical challenges in many others – I kept an open mind as I read a recent newspaper column that sharply and unfairly described Cleveland as “dead or dying.”

Dan Shaughnessy, a sports writer for the Boston Globe, is in Cleveland to chronicle the dismantling of his Celtics’ championship dreams by our Cavaliers. The prospect of seeing the surging Cavs step over the Celtics must have put Shaughnessy in a foul mood, for he wrote an April 21 column, “In long-suffering Cleveland, Cavaliers offer a ray of hope,” that bewilderingly misrepresents Cleveland.

I can grudgingly accept that he revels in the schadenfreude of our city not seeing a professional football, baseball or basketball championship in 50 years. But many of his points are not just mean-spirited, they are flat-out wrong.

Cleveland, Ohio “Downtown Cleveland is a sad space with many vacant buildings and boarded-up stores,” Shaughnessy writes. “The city is quiet on weekends and empty on weeknights after the workforce goes home. It feels like the local economy runs on lottery tickets. LeBron and the Cavaliers are important because Cleveland is dead or dying.”

Shaughnessy also hits Clevelanders where he knows it will stir emotion; he attacks our beloved sports franchises. He questions the very survival of the Cleveland Indians and refers to the Browns as a “clown show.”

Those of us who live and work and raise our families in Greater Cleveland know Shaughnessy is not just mean; he is, considering his profession as a journalist, embarrassingly wrong about Cleveland’s downtown. Construction and renovation are the norm, as far as Euclid Avenue stretches through downtown. There are crowds of people visiting for plays, concerts, cultural events and great food.

Shaughnessy makes no mention of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony that made Cleveland the center stage for pop music. No mention that we recently hosted the Gay Games and will host the 2016 Republican National Convention. No mention that Cleveland’s Uptown District is one of five finalists for a national urban excellence award and that the Cleveland Play House, one of our Wraparound partners, has been named as one of the top 10 regional theaters in the country. No mention that Cleveland’s Metropolitan at the 9 has been named a top new hotel Traveler Magazine or that Cleveland made Travel + Leisure’s list of the best places to visit in 2015. No mention of the magnificent new Heinen’s that now anchors downtown grocery supplies.

Yes, there are areas of our city facing tremendous challenges and barriers. The heart of United Way’s work in Education, Income and Health focuses on these areas and the people who make Northeast Ohio the great home it is.

Shaughnessy, in town for a few days with his expenses paid and too much idle time, does not see us working together, striving to make the difference we need. He doesn’t see our supporters donating time, making monetary commitments and lending their voices for advocacy.

Shaughnessy will fly back to Boston with whatever bad temper he brought with him. But we live here, and work here, and raise our families here.

We know Cleveland is not dead. It is not dying. It faces challenges, and is rising to meet them. Isn’t that the definition of life?

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