Thursday, May 14, 2015

Update on Shaw Shuttle Yearbook Project

Here is an update on the Shuttle Yearbook Project

On March 23, 2015 I posted  a description of the Shuttle Yearbook Project.  I developed that project with the Director of the East Cleveland Public Library.  The goal of the project is to have a copy of every Shuttle Yearbook posted on the website of the East Cleveland Public Library   

The project requires those of us with copies of the Shuttle to lend those copies to the Library.  The Library will, at their own expense, scan the lent Shuttles onto their website and return the Shuttle to its owner.  There was considerable interest in this when I posted in March.  So far the Library has received 5 Shuttles for scanning.  The Library and I thank those who lent their Shuttles and hope that others will do the same.

The books will be scanned in batches and the first batch will be sent to the vendor in early June.  It isn’t too late to get your Shuttle into this batch.  If you miss this deadline, you could get your book into the next group for scanning later in the summer.

We are looking for Shuttles from the following years:
1918 and 1919
1921 through 1929
1934, 35, and 36
1942, 45, 46 and 49
1952, 53, 54, 56, 57, and 59
1960 through 1968
1971 through 1977
1983, 86, and 87
1993 to the present

If you would like to help with this project, contact :
Ms. Sheba Marcus-Bey, Executive Director
216-541-4128 Ext. 232

Thursday, March 26, 2015


East Cleveland Mayor Supports Merger With Cleveland

The Cleveland Plain Dealer published this article by Brent Larkin today 3/26/15.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton has taken the first step towards the only thing that can save his city -- a merger with Cleveland.  That merger involves a long, complicated process. At some point Norton might change his mind, or the idea may collapse due to lack of support in either of the involved cities.

But, to his credit, it's pretty clear Norton has decided there's no other way out of a dire financial crisis that can't get better, and is almost certain to get worse.  "I have an obligation as an elected official to do whatever I can to insure the best quality of life for the community now and in the future," Norton told me. "Even if it means giving up my current position as mayor."

Within the next week or so, Norton and his supporters will begin collecting voter signatures to place on the ballot a measure asking voters to approve a six-member commission -- with three members from each city -- to negotiate a merger plan.

If voters in East Cleveland approve forming the commission, the Ohio Revised Code dictates Cleveland City Council would then either accept the decision to move forward, or decide against holding merger talks.

Cleveland would almost certainly agree to proceed with negotiations. The six-member commission would have 120 days to agree to a plan. That plan would then be placed before East Cleveland voters in an election.

If voters reject it, East Cleveland would slide into bankruptcy. If voters agree to the merger, Cleveland City Council could either accept the result and approve the merger, or leave the final say with Cleveland voters.

Meanwhile, Norton is inching forward on the merger idea at a time when fringe elements in his city are threatening him with a recall election -- an idea that would create political instability at the worst possible time.  "I am doing this totally aware of the potential political fallout for me," said Norton. "In spite of those potential consequences, this (a merger) is something we at least need to explore."
He's right.

From East Cleveland's standpoint, the evidence supporting a merger is so overwhelming that it's difficult to see how anyone could summon a logical argument against it. Bankruptcy is for cities burdened by huge debt, places like Detroit. East Cleveland doesn't have a debt problem. It has a revenue problem -- the worst, by far, of any local government in the state.
East Cleveland requires about $17 million a year to effectively run the city and provide residents with the services they deserve. Yet the city's annual income is about $10 million -- and declining, forcing it to borrow from nonpayroll funds to pay employees.

From a financial standpoint, State Auditor David Yost has labeled East Cleveland "the worst city in Ohio," a city that scrapes "the bottom of the barrel every payday."  Helen Forbes, an attorney and East Cleveland resident appointed by Gov. John Kasich to the state commission that helps oversee the city's finances, put it this way: "We cannot survive this. It's beyond emotion. It's all about the numbers. You cannot operate this city on $10 million a year."  With about 17,000 residents, the city has lost about half its population in the last quarter century. About 5,000 of those 17,000 are employed, 42 percent of the residents live below the poverty line.  Home ownership has slipped to under 30 percent. And about 1,000 structures are classified as "distressed," meaning they desperately need to be demolished.

East Cleveland is now in a state of fiscal emergency, subject to limited state oversight, for the third time since 1988.  As Benjamin Clark, an assistant professor of public finance at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs, wrote in a Jan. 14. Plain Dealer opinion piece, "The time has come for East Cleveland residents to begin envisioning a newfound sense of pride as members of the newest neighborhood within the city of Cleveland."

Norton deserves support from the entire Greater Cleveland community as he tries to save his city. Despite this avalanche of evidence crying out for a merger, a vocal minority inexplicably opposes it, as do perhaps a majority of council members.  My family's roots in East Cleveland trace back to the early years of the 20th century. Many of the best days of my childhood playing baseball were spent at my grandparents' home at 13404 Fifth Ave. Nevertheless, some opponents to the merger are quick to play the race card when outsiders who care deeply about the city suggest any effort to fight the merger is essentially indefensible.

That twisted logic suggests whites have no business telling residents of a city with more than a 93 percent black population how to conduct its affairs.  This isn't a black/white issue. It's a green one.
My guess is a solid majority of the people who live there have already figured that out.

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer's editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.

The interesting fact is that a merger of East Cleveland with Cleveland would not immediately effect the schools or library. The East Cleveland School system is separate from the City of East Cleveland and already includes part of the City of Cleveland Heights. There are other examples of School systems which include multiple cities or portions of cities for example Cleveland and Shaker Heights. The East Cleveland Public Library Board is appointed by the East Cleveland School Board. So a merger would have no immediate impact on the Library.

Monday, March 23, 2015


The Shuttle Yearbook Project

The East Cleveland Public Library was a major influence in my life and I’m sure in the lives of all of who grew up in East Cleveland.  I’m here to tell you that the library is alive and thriving under the leadership of Executive Director, Sheba Marcus-Bey and her very capable staff.  The wonderful original Carnegie Library landmark building has been expanded over the years to better serve the East Cleveland community.  One way the community is served is through the state of the art computer services they offer.  Those resources are also available to those of us who no longer live in East Cleveland through the Library website  

An important resource for me in my research about the history of East Cleveland has been the Shaw High School Yearbook (Shuttle).  In preparation for writing this blog I visited the library to review back issues of the Shuttle on file there.  Unfortunately their collection was small at the time.  When I was President of the Friends of the Beachwood Library, a box of Shuttles from the years 1978 – 1992 was donated to our book sale.  I immediately removed them from the sale and contributed them to the East Cleveland Public Library almost doubling the size of their collection.  I recently discovered that the Library has put complete copies of all their Shuttle yearbooks onto their website: . These copies can be read on line or printed out on your home printer.

Knowing how important Shuttles are to those of us who lived in East Cleveland or are studying East Cleveland history, I contacted Director Marcus-Bey with a proposal.  My proposal was that I would lend her copies of my Shuttle yearbooks, which were not included on the Library website.  I further proposed that I would encourage everyone I know who owns Shuttle yearbooks not on the Library website to also lend them to the Library for copying to the website.  Ms. Marcus-Bey enthusiastically supported my proposal.  She has agreed to post any Shuttle lent to the Library on their website and return it to the lender.  The Library will support the cost of copying and uploading any Shuttles lent to them for that purpose.  Our goal is to have a copy of each Shuttle yearbook on the East Cleveland Public Library website.  You can help with this project.

Anyone with a Shuttle for the following years is urged to contact the East Cleveland Public Library to support the Shuttle Yearbook Project.

Missing years are: 1918, 1919

                              1920 through 1929

                              1934 through 1936

                              1942, 1945, 1946, 1949

                              1952, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1959

                              1960 through 1969

                              1970 through 1977

                              1983, 1986, 1987

                              1993 to the present

If you would like to help with this project, contact

Ms. Sheba Marcus-Bey, Executive Director

216-541-4128 Ext. 232


Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Momentum toward a merger of East Cleveland and Cleveland has increased.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that two prominent Cleveland City Councilmen have suggested that serious efforts to study the possibility of a merger be undertaken.  At this time the Mayors of both cities have spoken in favor of a merger but spokesmen for the East Cleveland City Council have spoken out against it.  Cleveland City Council President, Kevin Kelley and Cleveland Mayor, Frank Jackson have asked the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University to assist in their study of a possible merger of the two cities.

This blog first suggested the need for a merger back in September 2012.  The issue heated up in November 2013 when former Cleveland City Council President spoke in favor of merger.  Reaction to my initial suggestion and my recent posting about the issue has been mixed.  One of the readers of this blog states, "I don't see the advantages of being the bottom of Cleveland".  Most readers of this blog remember the East Cleveland, which existed during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  We remember a well managed community with great economic resources.  Unfortunately that situation does not exist today.  East Cleveland needs help from its larger neighbor to maintain the remaining assets and develop more assets in the future.  If handled correctly, a merger would be a win win proposition for both community s.

Here is a link to the Plain Dealer article:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


 This posting is a bit of a digression from the history of East Cleveland during the 1940s and 1950s with which I am more familiar.  However, I believe those who follow this blog would also like to stay current on issues affecting East Cleveland today.  In previous postings I tried to avoid much discussion of current issues, because for the most part I only know what I read in the papers.   My current knowledge of East Cleveland has been gained through research I have done at the East Cleveland Public Library and occasional visits to my old neighborhoods.

Like many of you who grew up in East Cleveland and then returned to visit, I am shocked by the physical deterioration of the town.  Whole blocks of houses and apartments have been abandoned or burned out and boarded up.  Those housing units, which are still occupied, tend to be in marginal states of maintenance.  Most housing is not owner occupied.  The population is the poorest of the poor.  Many of you have commented on my blog about how depressing it is to see what has happened to our old home town.

There are those who will blame the current state of affairs in East Cleveland on the racial change, which occurred starting in the 1960s.  I have received comments to that effect on this site.  I lived in East Cleveland during the early 1960s while attending Western Reserve University.  I studied sections of the City as part of an Urban Sociology class project in 1962.  Later in the decade, I walked all the streets of East Cleveland meeting people as a candidate for State Representative.  I met many of the new African-American citizens and found them to have similar values, hopes and dreams as I and my long time East Cleveland friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, White flight, encouraged by real estate block busting tactics, moved too fast to allow the development of a stable integrated community.

East Cleveland became a stable majority African-American community by the 1980s.  It was still a community of middle class values, which encouraged strong families, home ownership and property maintenance. Unfortunately, the transformation of East Cleveland into a majority African-American community coincided with the major economic decline of the Cleveland region resulting in what we know as the rust belt.  This combined with the flight of the middle class (both White and African-American) from the inner ring suburbs left East Cleveland with a different population.  The difference was not African-American or White.  The difference was economic class. 

Merger of East Cleveland with Cleveland

Back in 2011 I started this site with the following comment: “An argument could be made that East Cleveland had no clear identity of its own.  Each part of East Cleveland is like the community it borders.  On the North it borders the Collinwood section of Cleveland.  On the West it is adjacent to The Glenville section as well as University Circle and Little Italy.  Finally, on the South and East is Cleveland Heights.  In many ways the socio-economic groups, housing etc. in East Cleveland were quite similar to those in adjacent communities.”  I went on to argue that East Cleveland did, in fact, have an identity of its own and went on to describe that identity in detail.

In September 2012 I made the following comment in my presentation to an urban history class at Case Western Reserve University:  “As much as it pains me to say it, there may not be a reason for the City of East Cleveland today.  In fact the very existence of the City of East Cleveland may be a barrier to solving the problems of the area known as East Cleveland.  I already pointed out the similarities of sections of East Cleveland with the neighboring cities.  The problems of the economically depressed population of East Cleveland are more appropriately the problems of the entire Cleveland metropolitan area.  If the area of East Cleveland were a part of Cleveland and/or Cleveland Heights, the current concentration of economically depressed people could be absorbed by the larger tax base of those communities or Cuyahoga County.  The barriers to land development within the current boundaries of East Cleveland would be lowered.  I even believe that East Cleveland as it exists today is no longer a viable power base for the African-American political establishment, if it ever was in the first place.”

Since my presentation in September 2012, there has been considerable discussion in the media and the community of East Cleveland about the possible merger of East Cleveland with the City of Cleveland. 

In fact, the mayors of the two cities have come out in favor of that merger.  Former Cleveland Council President and former head of the NAACP, George Forbes seemed to initiate this discussion.  There have already been examples of mergers of some city services with those of Cleveland including the Water Department.  A strong movement to merge the East Cleveland Public Library with the Cuyahoga County Public Library failed due to opposition from a small but vocal group of citizens even though the Library Board had recommended the merger.  It now seems as if the greatest impediment to the final merger will be the East Cleveland City Council.  It will take a vote of the people to finally decide the future of the community. 

Last night I watched a 40 minute program, which describes the heartbreak and despair felt by current and former citizens of East Cleveland.  That heartbreak and despair is similar to that which many readers of my blog expressed, when seeing what has become of East Cleveland.  The difference is that most of my readers have been White former citizens, who lived in East Cleveland, when I was there too.  The people you meet and hear on this program lived there during the 1990s and later.  They are all African-American.  The hopes, values and sorrow they express are the same as mine and those of most of my readers.