Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cleveland, the epicenter of the political universe

It seems at first an odd choice that the final debate between the two Democratic candidates battling it out for their party's nomination should be Cleveland, my old stomping grounds. But on closer examination, Cleveland might just be the perfect choice to debate the future course of America from the Democrats' perspective. Cleveland is an old city which has stood the test of time through periods of great economic progress and financial distress. During the height of its attraction to the very upper crust, the so-called "Millionaires' Row" of Euclid Avenue sprang up with magnificent mansions, beautiful grounds and huge house staffs to support them. Fast forward to the 1970s and the dual images of the Cleveland River on fire and a very young Dennis Kucinich announcing that his city was going into default seem to jump out. Yet, in the 1990s a period of rebirth kicked off with several strategic plans taking foothold and the city once again began to show signs of definite progress. Today the Theatre District of Cleveland is second in size only to that of New York's fabled Broadway. The arts scene is also impressive with Severance Hall acknowledged as one of the country's most exciting of classical venues and the Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Institute of Music as cultural jewels in the city's crown. The Cleveland Clinic and Univesity Hospital systems provide some of the greatest medical care in the world. The area where the Cleveland River flows downtown now plays hosts to hundreds of birds during spring and summer as they nest near the new NFL Stadium and the eye-catching Rock and Roll Hall of Fame complex. With the blessings of city planners, new developments are being presented to encourage young professionals and others to consider living in the downtown area. The city appears poised to begin to attract many of those young dreamers who previously fled the city in search of better jobs and lifestyles. While Cleveland clearly has its problems still, it has shown considerable progress in reinventing itself from a city whose wealth originally came from steel mills and manufacturing into a much healthier and safer place to raise families. So, Cleveland is the nexus of the political world tonight. NBC's Tim Russert, who is a graduate of John Carroll University (next to where I lived while until last April), will be one of the moderators and will be giving the national debate a little bit of local color, if only for a moment or two. Here's to you, Cleveland. Enjoy your moment in the spotlight and don't let anyone put you down. As I see it, there is no longer a "mistake by the lake."

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