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Money Magazine has a new study out about the best places to live in America.  If I’m reading this correctly, Northeast Ohio has a disproportionate number of them – two of the top 25 (Highland Heights and Solon), three of the top 30 (Twinsburg), and four of the top 40 (Medina).  California gets its first mention at #86, Florida at #96.  Hawaii and New York aren’t mentioned.

Personally, I think that’s kind of awesome.

John Thompson

In the May 2009 issue of Conde Nast Portfolio, the “Exit Interview” is with John Thompson.  He gave an interesting answer to a question:

Q: With Barack Obama in office – whom you enthusiastically supported – will we see more minorities and women in top posts in business?

A: If women and minorities work hard to prepare tehmselves, they will clearly be considered.  In the early days of my career, I’d say, “I’d rather play tennis than golf.”  But it was a golfing culture, so why wouldn’t I learn to play golf?  To the extent that they’re willing to embrace the cultural idiosyncrasies of the business, minorities and women have every bit as much opportunity to succeed as their white male counterparts.

I like that answer.

The BBC just had a “quote of the day” about sunny Carrbridge, England.  Apparently the town has a microclimate which is mainly dry, not rainy.  It got me thinking: one of the big complaints that people seem to have about Cleveland is the weather.  People don’t like the rain, or the snow, or the cold, so they blame that for not liking the city.  However, many wouldn’t think twice about geting the chance to move to, say, Berlin, Paris, London, or Stockholm, and would likely be open to Moscow, Tokyo, Helsinki or Montreal.  My girlfriend complains about the cold here, yet expressed interest in moving to Chicago.  This doesn’t make sense to me.  Why move to get away from the weather in one place and then move to another with the same, or worse, weather?  A girl I went to law school with always complained about the clouds and snow.  She was from Wisconsin, and after we graduated she moved to Alaska.

Another complaint: there’s nothing to do.  I’ll paraphrase from the WRUW show Maximum Consumption yesterday: “If you think there’s nothing to do, you’re not in Cleveland.”  As much as I like Cool Cleveland, it only scratches the surface of what is available to do here (I know – I’ve submitted awesome events to them and have been 100% ignored).  I personally love live shows, but I can’t keep up with the Beachland Ballroom, the Grog Shop and the Agora; I can’t even begin to name all of the other live music venues here (if someone can, I’d be impressed).  There are plenty of seasonal activities, museums, playhouses (from Playhouse Square to the Liminis – again, too many to keep track of), house parties, yacht clubs, block parties…it’s absurd how much there is to do!  I just don’t understand people sometimes.  If I was a psychologist, I’d look into conscious blindness.

Budgets are full of problems across the country.  The federal budget is continuing its 8-year trajectory, and we’re still spending more on federal programs without bringing in anywhere near enough with taxes.  Here in Ohio, one fix to the state budget that is getting a lot of criticism is the proposed cuts to the library systems.  I’m sure that Cleveland itself is facing budget constraints – I can’t think of any other explanation for the royal screw-up they gave us by switching the rail lines on the Euclid Corridor project with busses, for example.  There are more houses to demolish than resources to get it done.

Politicians are often blamed for the budget decisions made.  They, of course, are elected to make the tough decisions for us – their bargain in exchange for fame and power is that they will be damned for what they do and damned for what they don’t do.  Elected democracy effectively allows voters an “out” for the bad decisions that must be made; it allows us the opportunity to not be responsible for what must happen.  People protest over library budget cuts, but what if Strickland had instead chosen to cut school funding?  What if roads were left to decay, or child and family services shut up shop and parents had to be trusted to pay alimony?

I would like to see, on ballots, funding priorities listed for people to take a non-binding straw poll on to determine voter preferences.  Better yet, voters should be asked, “which of these state programs should have their budgets cut in order to balance the state budget?”  This would ensure that more single-issue voters would participate, would give politicians guidance in making budget cut decisions (and cover if and when they are attacked for these decisions), and force people to understand the difficulties inherent in the budget governmental budgeting system.  Perhaps these two questions could be combined: people could vote on five things to keep steady or increase and five things to cut.  This would, at the very least, give people an opportunity to be involved, and increase the understanding that sometimes, in running a household, a business or the state, difficult fiscal decisions must be made, not everyone will like the results, but that sometimes we just have to make do with what life – or the voters in a democracy – throws at us.

Last week I found out that the Starbucks and TGI Fridays at Richmond Town Center both closed.  The mall is rapidly imploding, and I’m worried about what it means for the area around it if a mall just disappears.  Now, I wish I’d supported both more; we need more businesses, and perhaps it’s up to us as individuals to create them.  Anyone interested?

Second, I’m coming around to the opinion that Cleveland has two options for dealing with sprawl: collapse the suburbs and aim to concentrate the residents into the Downtown area (a la Youngstown) or have each suburb become a miniature city, complete with Downtowns, shopping districts and concentrated residential areas.  The way things are now – for example, the long areas of Mayfield’s residential/commercial areas – are not sustainable and cannot be permanently successful – or as successful as Cleveland needs – as they’re set up now.  Spreading people out is not the path to economic vibrancy: concentrating them, having people live close to each other and interact with each other, is the way to go.  Look at Little Italy, for example, or Coventry: places where businesses and residential areas smash into each other and are successful.  For contrast, look at the areas just outside of downtown.

I really need to get through The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Los Angeles

This isn’t about Cleveland; it’s about Los Angeles.  Today was Michael Jackson’s funeral, and Yahoo! News had this article about it.  Two things struck me:

  1. A lottery was held for 20,000 tickets;
  2. The city is probably going to spend $4M on the funeral.

I find this objectionable.  First, Jackson did die owing a significant amount of money, but he also had far more significant assets.  The city should not be expected to foot the bill for this.  Second, the $4M could be spent on teachers, police officers or infrastructure; a celebrity funeral should not be their top priority.  Third, the tickets were given away, and then the city asked for donations.  Why were the tickets not sold?  It’s a tribute; I’m sure that people would have paid for the privilege of seeing some of music’s greats pay tribute to MJ.  All of this strikes me as bad government.

Kids.

Kids need to exercise. They need recess and lunch breaks. They need to run around and play make-believe without parental interference. They need to make up rules and see imaginary beasts. When one picks up a stick and it’s a sword, or a gun, that’s not a bad thing – it’s good.

Even though it’s competitive, and someone is “it,” kids need to play tag. They need to learn how to lose. They need to learn how to be nice even with competition.

Doritos do not a dinner make.  (Somewhere, I just blew someone’s mind.)

Kids shouldn’t be watching four hours of television a day. If you feel that you can’t stop them, put a brick through your television. They made it hundreds of thousands of years without Friends reruns; they can make it until they’re 18. Don’t worry – they will go outside to play, they will run around in circles, they’ll dig for treasure – heck, they might even find a book to read and then sit down and read it.

Kids don’t need detailed or expensive toys. Get them things that will challenge their imagination. Again, sticks are great. Rocks are fascinating. Marbles, balls, blocks, odd pieces of wood, string, etc. can make a summer.

They don’t need junk food. Fruit is great.

Dirt. It doesn’t hurt. In fact, it helps build immune systems. Protecting kids from dirt and bacteria isn’t doing them any favors. Heck – constant application of antibacterial lotions or soaps isn’t doing the parents any favors, either.

More later. I’m just sick and tired of seeing kids in the backs of SUVs staring at monitors in headrests, eating chips and drinking pop and sitting down inside, then parents worrying about diagnoses of ADD, ADHD or obesity.

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