Sunday, January 22, 2006

Forgot to Comment on the Aquarium

WCPN Featured an Hour on an Aquarium in Cleveland

On Tuesday, WCPN dedicated an entire hour of precious public airwaves time to the proposition of recreating an Aquarium here in Cleveland. There were a large number of questions that did not come up that should have. I sure do not want to stop progress or prevent people from boosting the tourism industry, but how about a fair share of resources to those struggling with poverty? If Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in the United States and at least one-third of the populations is living below the federal poverty level, then in a democracy shouldn't we spend public resources to directly benefit the poorest in our community in the same proportion as the population? In fact, the funds that go to the wealthy in our society who do not need public assistance could be redirected to poor people. This small percentage would not have much of impact, but the symbolism is important.

Anyway, the Aquariums that were cited as models Baltimore and Boston are $21.95 and $17.95 for adult admissions. Certainly, not within the budget of the majority of the citizens of Cleveland. So, shouldn't the reporter should have asked, "Is it appropriate to spend public dollars on a tourist attraction in a city with so many huge problems?" Didn't the Boston Aquarium have serious financial problems and have to layoff 20% of its staff in 2003? Didn't the Detroit Aquarium (101 years old) close last year, and they are trying to fund raise to re-open? Can we support two aquariums in the same region in two struggling cities? With the Oregon, Tampa, and Long Beach Aquariums struggling to survive in cities that have oceans, how do we expect to make this work in Cleveland? Anyway, it seemed that there was too much cheerleading and not enough critical thinking about this issue.

The fundamental problem is that when there are a large outlay of public resources the people who pay the piper should be able to enjoy the tune.



Anonymous Gloria said...

I agree that those of us who pay for these amenities should reap the harvest. I believe that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has reduced rates for clevelanders on certain days as well as free admission days for Clevelanders. Also the zoo has free admission until noon on Monday for Cuyahoga County residents. Something like these discounts and free admissions should be included in any discussion that concerns fundraising for existing and future venues. Many of these venues are too pricey for the middle class members of our community and certainly looked at when the viability of these attractions are considered.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Kevin E. Cleary said...

It seems like there a lot of ideas floating around to improve Cleveland that all center around building giant things of dubious value or use. For instance, building a giant convention center or aquarium, etc. The stadiums were built with taxpayer money and they are unaffordable for most of the people who actually paid for them. It seems to me that with so many pre-existing structures, it doesn't make sense to build new ones for some giant silver bullet that may or may not kill the intended werewolf.

Since this city seems to have a problem coming up with original ideas (hey, Baltimore built this, let's copy it...badly), the odds are against most of the things which would draw people that they can't get in the 'burbs. Aside from seeing a sporting event or the Rock Hall, there is little to draw people downtown because people have to pay to park, etc.
What if instead of seeking a silver bullet to raise money we removed some of the impediments? For instance, free parking downtown (on the streets. Private lots could still do their thing). Then the parking division of the Police force could be redirected to the regular force and it wouldn't take forty-five minutes for the cops to show up when you call. Or tax incentives for businesses who want to fill some of the empty storefronts?

6:22 PM  
Blogger Ed C:\> said...

Most of these things are scams to grab state and federal funds - both better spent elsewhere. Look at the Euclid corridor project. Totally unneeded as a "transporation" corridor, a (relatively) small investment on the part of the city and county will result in a huge influx of money.So, whether we need it or not, we get it.

Ironically, in government think mode, it is beneficial to have homeless people. It's like the burning river analogy. Complain to Washington that your river is burning so you can claim EPA funds, then take the hit for the next 35 years as a national joke.

As well, when you are trying to rehab an area, a whole bunch of homeless people hanging out practically screams "blight" and helps justify tearing a block or two down.

If I was an advocate, I'd go back through 20 years of city grant appilications and see how many were based in part on poverty, and see how many of these applications mention homelessness.

Count the dollars for all these projects. Then, like a Catholic High School bragging about how much in scholarship money is awarded to each of their graduates, claim the following:
"Homelessness has been used to justify some $100 Million in grants given to Cleveland in the past 20 years. Despite this,the total awarded to homelessness from these very programs amounts to less than 1% of that amount."

The numbers above are made up, but I'd be shocked if you couldn't make a claim that local government makes too much money from grants using the homeless to be truly interested in resolving the problem.

But then, I'm a troublemaker.

Oh yeah, one more thing - Since they closed the Detroit aquarium, maybe Cleveland is just trying to help homeless fish....

6:41 PM  

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