Cleveland: Confused City on a Seesaw
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Up from the Depths, Down Again, Then Up: 1971-1975
When Ralph Perk became mayor of Cleveland in November 1971, his first job was to pick up the pieces that Carl Stokes had left, after Stokes blew his big opportunity to pull the city together. It was strictly a rescue job, to overcome a $13.5 million cash deficit, give a raise to city employees negotiated six months previously without the money to pay it, to get rid of incompetents Stokes had loaded on the payroll, but most of all to start the citizens believing in themselves again. It looked like a Herculean job.
It was, indeed. Perk started to get help backstage from citizens who had advised him during the campaign, who had recognized that he had the formula to win, despite his lack of newspaper support. He wasn't getting any sound advice from the Plain Dealer or Press, but he got some from Louis Seltzer, who helped him write his first speeches after election. He got a lot from Harry Volk, who had in 1970 sold his suburban newspapers to ComCorp., a new group blanketing the entire county, and had moved to France. Volk returned suddenly the week after election, and volunteered to serve without pay as Perk's press secretary. Howard B. Klein, who had sold Burrows Brothers Company to Higbee's the year before and had practically retired from business, volunteered, also without pay, to advise the new mayor on civic developments, about
which he knew more than any dozen men in the city. (Klein had helped raise funds for Perk, after Garofoli lost.)
Perk got Richard Hollington, Jr., from the Baker-Hostetler law firm to serve as law director. He appointed Andrew Putka, a savings and loan executive, as finance director (which did not please the Plain Dealer). He appointed Inspector Gerald Rademaker as police chief, after Chief Coffey retired. But he had trouble firing many men whom Stokes had appointed to civil service jobs in his last days in office, and with the civil service commission itself, which was loaded with Stokes holdovers.
The city seemed on the verge of bankruptcy, without cash to meet all payrolls, so Perk recommended a 10 percent pay cut for everyone. This naturally met resistance, from the police department and from councilmen. On the whole, however, Perk was getting along well with the council, with Edward J. Turk, the new president, and even with the black councilmen. (There were several new ones, whom the black caucus had helped elect.) There was less of the theatrical grandstanding that had regularly sparked council sessions for the news media in the last few months of Stokes, when he had refused to show up at council meetings and even forbidden his cabinet to appear.
Perk's first big rescue job was to send Law Director Hollington, who had been a state legislator, to Columbus, to persuade the assembly to pass an act that would permit the city to issue $9.6 million in bonds to restore the 10 percent pay cut and increase the police and fire salaries to the point required by law. Hollington was persuasive; the salary cuts were restored.
His next big pitch was to appeal for help from the Nixon administration, which was delighted at the first Republican victory in Cleveland in thirty-two years (even though it was accomplished largely by the votes of ethnic Democrats). The presidential election was coming up in 1972, and the help from Washington was soon forthcoming, for emergency employment, Model Cities, police equipment, pollution control, and so forth. He soon got about $3 million, and this helped, too.
Another of his peacemaking administrative jobs was to get the city of Cleveland back to cooperating with NOACA (Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency), a weird creation of bureaucracy, which under federal law had to approve all federally assisted projects. It consisted of two dozen representatives from governmental bodies in seven counties of northeast Ohio. Stokes had been in a continual hassle with NOACA and had refused to let the city contribute funds for its expenses. (He claimed the city ought to have a bigger representation on the NOACA board.) Perk got the council to put up the money and he sent representatives to its meetings. (Klein became the diplomatic agent.)
Perk had a few political conflicts with the county commissioners (who had a Democratic majority) particularly over the newly created Lake Erie Regional Transportation Authority which was to look into the location of a huge new jetport in the lake that had been recommended by a citizens committee headed by Abe Silverstein, the well-respected former director of NASA. This new body was also strongly recommended by the Growth Association president, James C. Davis, and supported by the newspapers. Perk took the position that the city of Cleveland had to have the major voice on it, rather than the county commissioners or suburbs. Eventually peace was established, but it was a sample of the petty quarreling between governmental jurisdictions that had held the community back for more than fifty years.
Two of the ways in which Cleveland had long been at a disadvantage competitively with other cities in attracting big conventions were: (1) no liquor could be sold on Sundays at hotels or restaurants; and (2) existing hotel space was inadequate. The liquor problem had been partially solved by a new law that allowed certain areas to decide via local option whether the sale of liquor should be allowed; most of the downtown area had approved it. The hotel shortage, which had been critical for years, had worsened, now that the old Pick-Carter had been closed since it partially burned down, and the Auditorium Hotel had been torn down to make room for a new Bond Court development. Bond Court hadn't yet de-
veloped; an office building had been put up, but no hotel so far, on the Auditorium site. Mayor Perk got the wheels turning on this, and believe it or not, a hotel developer was found -- Perk's old opponent in the election, James M. Carney, who already was operating the new Hollenden House. The Pick-Carter was being turned into an apartment-residence facility. The new Bond Court would not be open until 1975, but meanwhile a new Holiday Inn was opened at East Twenty-second and Euclid, opposite Cleveland State University, and later another Holiday Inn on the lakefront at East Fourteenth Street in Erieview.
Another reason Cleveland had started to go down hill economically was the slow but steady departure of business of all kinds, but mostly small plants. In the last ten years more than six hundred of them had moved out of the city of Cleveland. About half of them went to the nearby suburbs, but seventy had left the county entirely and had mostly gone south. This had cost hundreds of jobs and a serious loss of income from taxes. It was depressing to morale, too, since few of the displaced employees moved out of town to work at other jobs for their old bosses. There wasn't much any mayor could do about this, because the land for factory space within the city had become less and less available or useful. Perk tried the old political practice of jawboning, to keep other factories from moving.
The Growth Association had not been notably successful in getting new business or keeping old business, so before the year was out, William Adams, who had come in with such high hopes several years before, was ousted as its director. Cynics had been describing it as the "Cleveland Shrinkage Association." There was reason for this. The exodus from downtown Cleveland was continuing. Stouffer's restaurant at Playhouse Square, which had been a fixture there for forty years, first stopped serving at night, and then closed entirely. The owners of the four big movie theaters nearby, which had been vacant for months, had announced plans to raze the buildings for a parking lot, and were only persuaded to defer
them by a group of starry-eyed young enthusiasts, including Junior Leaguers, who hoped something could eventually be done about reopening the theaters. A few one-night stand concerts at the Allen had drawn good crowds several times, but there was no rush of people to come downtown for entertainment.
One of the almost insuperable obstacles to bringing people downtown was that the main east side arteries, Chester, Euclid, and Carnegie avenues, ran through the city's biggest slum, and citizens disliked driving back through them at night. Several motorists had been held up and robbed when they stopped at traffic lights, on their way to and from the Heights. Everyone feared to drive through there without locking car doors.
The proximity to the Hough and Wade Park slums also was a problem for the Play House theaters, three of which were within walking distance of the area where whores paraded nightly near bars and cheap rooming houses. It was an even bigger problem for three big hospitals, University, Mt. Sinai and the Cleveland Clinic. All of them had big, new facilities which could not be moved away, and had to resort to extraordinary security measures. The slum areas, which had been so long neglected by urban renewal, had now spread far beyond their original boundaries, and despite increased vigilance by the police, homicides, robberies, and often rapes were occurring in increasing numbers each year. Uniformed patrols had helped reduce crime downtown, as Perk added more police, but there seemed no permanent remedy for the hospitals' problems. Their emergency rooms and outpatient clinics were always overflowing with welfare patients from the neighborhood. (The clinic had no outpatient department, something the blacks resented.)
The one notable bright spot during Perk's first year was the creation of a Regional Sewer Authority by Common Pleas Judge George J. McMonagle, who for two years had been hearing lawsuits brought by the suburbs against the city, city against suburbs, and suburbs against each other, which dealt
with complicated problems of water rates, sewage disposal plant expansion, interceptor sewers, and so forth, in the whole county. The city of Cleveland owned the facilities, and had extended service throughout the entire county, without requiring the suburbs to annex, as Columbus had. The result was a hodgepodge of varying rates, and an incomplete overview of the entire situation. Early in the Stokes administration, the voters had approved a $600,000 bond issue for a new sewage disposal plant, but the out-of-town expert, Dr. Edward Martin, whom Stokes had imported, had done little or nothing to get things moving and had even been indicted. Several department heads had come and gone, and the area was having more and more trouble with the Ohio Pollution Control Board, which had often refused to allow sewer and water connections in new buildings. The much-publicized pollution of Lake Erie had not decreased.
It was really an indescribable mess, but Judge McMonagle, partly through court hearings and partly through private, backstage intercession, persuaded the various litigants to agree to the creation of a regional authority. He had the power to order it under state law, and he finally did. The landmark decision required the suburbs pay the city $35 million for the facilities, that rates be raised to pay for long overdue expansion; and that a seven-member authority be created for administrative purposes. The money was to come back to the city gradually. It made surprising sense, and McMonagle was universally praised for his Solomon-like ruling. The Authority started functioning before the end of 1972. Perk went along with the compromise and his utilities director, Raymond Kudukis, became chairman of the board.
Perk was not having the same kind of luck unscrambling the public transportation mess. He had put in one of his buddies, Nicholas Bucur, as chairman of the Cleveland Transit Board, and by the end of the year had made other appointments that gave him a majority, but CTS was in a continual battle to break even, since it had to finance operations out of the fare box. CTS had been running rapid transit all the way to the
Hopkins Airport for five years, and its busses were in better shape than they had been, service was adequate, and experiments to get more people to ride the loop busses for downtown shopping had been successfully tried. The sad fact remained, however, that public transportation in Cleveland, as in most other big cities, was less and less used, and not breaking even, and strenuous efforts were being made to get the federal government to subsidize it.
It was obvious that eventually all the public transportation in Cuyahoga County would have to be merged under one authority. (This would include the Shaker Heights rapid, which had existed for nearly sixty years.) There was law on the books to accomplish this, too, but nothing was being done, at first, anyway.
The new mayor had been trying to do the best he could to add more new buildings to Erieview. (Though this shift of the center of downtown gravity was one of the reasons for the present mess, he had to live with it.) A few new structures had gone up or were going up. The Park Centre apartments had been given the green light, around the corner from the existing Chesterfield. A new public housing development named for Ernest J. Bohn, the housing pioneer who was then still alive and active in Cleveland, had been opened. The new Holiday Inn on the lakefront in Erieview, was in the planning stage. And Perk had got the council to approve a Gateway Project on the lakefront at East Ninth Street, which would include hotel space, offices, and a sports arena. This was not far from the old stadium, opened in 1932, still used by both the Indians and Browns.
The mayor was trying to persuade Nick Mileti, who had bought control of the Indians from Vernon Stouffer earlier in the year, and who also owned the hockey and basketball teams, to use the Gateway facility, but Mileti had other plans, the main one of which was to put up a new coliseum of his own in Richfield, twenty miles south of Cleveland, near the interstate freeways 1-71 and I-77.
Mileti, a young man famous locally for his mod clothes and
hairstyle, had shot up like a rocket into the sports picture, and showed a surprising ability to attract new money into investing with him. The Indians under his direction had improved somewhat from their dismal state in 1971. He had a new hockey team in the newly organized World Hockey Association, which had become the second "big league," and he had a basketball team in the ABA pro league. He appeared to be stretching his credit to the limit, but his enthusiasm never flagged, and he was acclaimed as the new sports messiah. (Gabe Paul, who had once owned most of the Indians and been general manager for ten years, had sold out and put his money into the New York Yankees, along with some other Clevelanders.)
The main thing that Mayor Perk was doing was creating a good image of himself as a leader, who could draw the quarreling factions of his perpetually fragmented and volatile city together. No private citizen was able to do it. There was no wealthy family, like the Mellons of Pittsburgh, to take charge. The second and third generations of the old families that had built Cleveland seventy-five years ago still had their inherited wealth in trusts. The banks had been reluctant to take the lead in financing new ventures since the Van Sweringens' dream had collapsed forty years ago (although the ice had melted a bit after George Gund died). The banks were now in a period of prosperity, earning well on their stock, and generally expansion-minded; but it had taken them four decades to shake off the spectre of the Vans's collapse.
Perk himself was indefatigable. He was seldom home. Every noon and night he was all over town at meetings, making corny speeches, eating kielbasa, pizza and spaghetti, singing in quartets and choruses, and usually in good humor. He was on TV every day at city hall, even as Stokes had been, giving the impression of himself as a father figure who could not be rattled or hurried, and who was presiding over the city's destiny. He made no major mistakes in his first term. His mop of curly hair, usually uncombed, was his trademark, as Frank Lausche's had been. (Once it caught fire for a second or two
from a spark while he was opening a trade show that involved electrical apparatus, and the picture of this was shown all over the country on TV and in the newspapers.) He got plenty of attention at mayors' meetings, the Republican national convention, and the second Nixon inauguration. After starting $13.6 million in debt, he was going to end the year with a surplus, and looked like a miracle man.
Perhaps he might, in the end, turn out to be the Moses who would lead the depressed, much-maligned city out of the wilderness. He had already done the first thing necessary. He had caused the citizens to start thinking about how to solve their problems, not just moaning and groaning about them. By the end of Perk's first year, the nationwide laughter and ridicule, which Cleveland had been getting so long, had thinned out. The two television editors, William Hickey of the Plain Dealer, and William Barrett of the Press, had suggested to Cleveland viewers that they write the producers in Hollywood complaining about the wisecracks of the standup comedians and the smart-aleck shows. They did write, by the hundreds. The kidding began to diminish, and "Laugh-In" announced it was folding by the summer of 1973. Before it folded, Rowan and Martin awarded themselves the "Fickle Finger of Fate" for having been so tough on Cleveland.
Early in 1973, the Citizens League backed an attempt to reduce the size of the Cleveland council from thirty-three to fifteen through initiative petitions, but it failed in a special election early in May. Incumbent councilmen naturally resisted this, and there was so little support from the forward-looking citizens that only 30 percent of the registered voters took the trouble to cast ballots.
That was not the whole story, however. The motivation for the reduction originated in Mayor Perk's office, and some petitions circulating around the city hall had been seized and destroyed by Council President Turk; this almost resulted in rejection of Turk's appointment to the state Public Utilities Commission. (After much hassling, he was finally confirmed by the Senate, and George Forbes succeeded Turk as council
president.) At this point, the era of no confrontation between mayor and council suddenly ended, and Forbes became increasingly hostile to Mayor Perk. It also appeared that, in order to make sure that the council-reduction plan was defeated, the council leadership had made a deal with the Police Patrolman's Association (an organization that represented some of the rank-and-file cops, but no officers) to increase at once the hospitalization subsidy for police and firemen to that which other city employees had. The police were to urge the voters to see that the council was not reduced and the council would vote to raise the hospitalization allowance.
The council passed an ordinance increasing the hospital subsidy, and Perk vetoed it. The council at first could not muster enough votes to pass it over his veto and an unpleasant incident occurred at the door of the council chamber when an enormous cop, 6 feet 5 inches tall, tried to block Perk's exit and made a sarcastic crack ("Thanks, mayor"). Perk grabbed the giant by his shirt. The cop next day had Perk arrested for assault, which gave Perk an opportunity to get some favorable TV and newspaper coverage. (He was later acquitted in municipal court.) This did not hurt Perk's image with nonpolice voters in the upcoming mayoralty election, but it kept his relations sour with the police and firemen. The increasing confrontation with the council grew worse.
Most Clevelanders, however, in the spring and early summer of 1973 had their eyes focused on the incredible Watergate mess in Washington, rather than their own city hall. What had originally been sized-up as a stupid attempt to burglarize and bug the Democratic national headquarters in the Watergate Building (which had resulted in the arrest of six unknown "burglars"), had suddenly magnified into a national scandal as Federal Judge John Sirica smelled an attempted cover-up and payoff when the men were brought to trial. The Senate created a select committee to hold public hearings, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, and the hearings on nationwide TV on all three networks kept the country bug-eyed for three months. The revelations threatened to completely negate the unprecedented
landslide that reelected President Nixon in 1972, and had already resulted in the ousting of H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Nixon's chief assistants. It even threatened Nixon with eventual impeachment, reduced the power of the presidency, and almost completely destroyed Nixon's credibility with the citizens.
The ramifications of Watergate were so tremendous that few Clevelanders gave much attention to what was going on at home. Nevertheless, some important events were taking place here, which caused problems for Mayor Perk. These were related to the Model Cities program, for which the federal government had granted about $9 million, and which had been a total failure. It was a governmental monstrosity that no one could really administer. It was supposed to give residents of a bounded slum area the power to set up their own mini-government and improve the business and social relations within it. It was one of those woozy dreams of the Great Society, designed to improve the unhappy life of welfare-assisted blacks and great sums were made available for it. But it never got off the ground.
Despite its obvious shortcomings, no one expected the Model Cities program to turn out the way it did -- a mysterious, sordid mess, in which the director of the program, Robert Doggett, was shot in the abdomen by a "hit man" who obviously had been sent to kill him. A few days later, the "hit man" was found dead, floating in the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Doggett survived, and the subsequent investigation by police and federal agents turned up some unpleasant facts about one Ronald Grier Bey, a shadowy figure who had a police record, but who nevertheless had been receiving money to perform some vague services in the Model Cities program on a contract approved by assistants in the mayor's office. The situation was so strange that it motivated County Prosecutor John T. Corrigan to ask common pleas court for a special grand jury to look into it.
This grand jury probe might have had bad effects on Perk's campaign for reelection, for it could have given some ammu-
nition to James M. Carney, the Democrats' candidate for mayor, who had lost to Perk in 1971. But aside from an indictment of Bey for carrying concealed weapons, no indictments materialized until after the election was over. Eventually Michael Rini, one of the mayor's assistants, and Andrew Putka, finance director, were indicted along with Bey himself and his nephew, but the evidence seemed flimsy. (Putka and Bey were later acquitted and the charges against Rini were dropped.)
Perk, meanwhile, was coasting along toward reelection in a situation made to order for him. Though nominally a Republican, he was running against Carney in a nonpartisan election, in which he was appealing to his old constituency, the ethnic Democrats. Carney had the illusion that, being a successful businessman, he could rally financial and editorial support behind him, and being of Irish descent, he could cut into Perk's ethnic strength on the west side, as well as gathering most of the black east eiders who normally supported a Democrat. He misjudged the extent of his support, did not hurt Perk on the west side, and even lost some of the blacks to Perk, who won an easy victory in the primary.
The two might have faced each other in November without the usual minor league candidates, but Carney was ill, disillusioned as well as disappointed, and suddenly withdrew. In an amazingly candid statement, he said that Cleveland is racially polarized, and he couldn't possibly win, since he had been painted as a man who would turn over the city hall to blacks. (Since the blacks were only 37 percent of the total vote, he couldn't have won if he had got all of their votes which he didn't.)
The Democratic troika of chairmen, Anthony Garofoli, Hugh Corrigan, and George Forbes, stunned by Carney's dropout, felt they had to enter a candidate in the November runoff, so they quickly circulated mayoralty petitions for Mercedes Cotner, the longtime city council clerk. Mrs. Cotner never had a real chance, though she campaigned in deadly seriousness for ten days. Nevertheless, she did poll about 33 percent of the total vote.
Despite the fact that the Model Cities mystery could have hurt him, but apparently didn't, and a summer youth-employment program had been loused up by a hassle over whether the city or the school board should hire the young blacks it was supposed to help, Perk seemed to live a charmed life. Perk could not have been defeated unless he had made some three-base error in his first eighteen months in office. These he did not make. He had lifted the city out of bankruptcy. He had skated over the thin ice of the Model Cities mess and had projected a favorable image of himself as a man of the people, by constant appearance on TV and daily press conferences. The newspapers supported him for a second term, and his reelection was easy.
Actually, there were quite a few plusses coming up, not only for Perk but for the revival of the city as a whole. The Higbee Company had announced a $17 million project to redevelop the lower riverfront from Superior Avenue and West Ninth Street, which would tear down a half dozen ratty old buildings and put up new ones that would house apartments, shops, theaters, and a hotel. A group of businessmen headed by Sheldon B. Guren announced a similar project (Tower City) directly back of the Terminal Tower, which would include a new state office building that had been promised by Governor John J. Gilligan, and also some new apartments. The Gateway project at East Ninth Street and the lakefront, where the passenger ships of the C & B and D & C lines used to dock fifty years ago, had been approved by the council, and an office building and a new hotel of 650 rooms were planned there, as well as shops and stores.
The eager citizens group that had started out to renovize Playhouse Square had made surprising progress, and had opened a cabaret theater in the lobby of the old State Theater, which attracted young couples so well that it broke records for a continuous Cleveland theatrical run, and which sparked another cabaret theater in the lobby of the old Palace Theater. The State and Palace lobbies, replete with marble stairs and colorful decorations had been regarded as something special when they were opened in the late twenties. They formed an
elegant, though small, seating space. On the other side of downtown the Sheraton-Cleveland Hotel opened a cabaret-dinner show, and riverfront restaurants and cafes, such as Pickle Bill's, Diamond Jim's, and Fagan's, had taken on a fresh lease on life with new entertainers. Unfortunately, there was no big movie theater still operating downtown, and the Hanna was open only occasionally. So the nighttime crowds, though enthusiastic, were relatively small. They were nothing like the crowds that regularly swarmed into the downtown restaurants at noon.
This was the situation early in 1974 when Mayor Perk decided to run for the United States senate, for the seat vacated by William B. Saxbe, who had been appointed United States attorney general. Perk had been warned by his most savvy advisers not to do it; he did not listen to them, but did listen to Robert Hughes, the county Republican chairman, who was eager to have a Clevelander on the state ticket. Perk had no trouble being nominated, since no one of consequence filed against him. However, the moment he said he'd run, his troubles at the city hall began to multiply rapidly. Forbes, the council president, now had a stronger majority behind him (since six new councilmen had been elected in 1973) and was able to override any legislation that Perk vetoed. Forbes was openly hostile, determined to block Perk at every turn, and create as much trouble for him as possible. Since one of Perk's problems in running for the Senate, was to get himself known downstate, he had to be absent often from the city hall. The city administration seemed to grind to a halt when he wasn't there. He gave his subordinates little leeway to make decisions, and grew increasingly testy at newspaper criticism.
Perk seemed to have undergone a character change after his easy reelection in 1973. He appeared to have concluded that the big victory was due to his own brilliance and sterling performance as mayor, rather than because Jim Carney had failed to perceive that he couldn't top Perk in the primary, and that the Democrats had made themselves look silly by running Mercedes Cotner against him in the final. He made the
two mistakes that are always fatal to a politician: (1) he began to believe his own baloney (in barrooms it was described by a more obscene word which also begins with a "b") and (2) he started to run for editor. (This was a phrase that I had coined in columns forty years ago, describing a politician who fought continuously with the newspapers, publicly resenting and denouncing not only editorial criticism but also any news article that did not portray him favorably.) He also showed unmistakable signs of a swelled head, and ignored the advice of sincere friends like Howard Klein and Harry Volk, both of whom had warned him that he was cutting his own throat by running for the Senate. (Perk was especially angry at Klein for refusing to raise funds for him; in fact, Klein told Perk that he was supporting John Glenn, the ex-astronaut, who had beaten Senator Howard Metzenbaum in the Democratic primary.) Volk, meanwhile, had quit working for one dollar a year after the first six months and had been put on the city payroll as assistant director of health, but his influence had obviously diminished.
So the euphoria that existed early in 1974, at a time when the city's characteristic volatility and fragmentation seemed to he fading, suddenly disappeared, even when it looked as if Perk's troubles were lessening. (The problems with the cash flow at CTS had been solved temporarily after the council agreed to let the city purchase $9.5 million of CTS bonds. The Growth Board had come out strongly for a regional transit system, taking in Shaker Heights rapid and several suburban bus lines. The legislature had finally approved the creation of a regional transit authority, with power to offer a tax levy or a sales tax increase to the voters within the jurisdiction of the authority.)
Just as suddenly, the old hassling and bickering were back at city hall, and Perk had become his own worst enemy. He once again vetoed the council's ordinance granting additional hospitalization to the policemen and firemen, but this time the council passed it over his veto. Then he refused, on a legal technicality, to pay out the money, and this brought out a mass
demonstration of three hundred men in uniform in front of the city hall, which blocked all entrances and wouldn't let other employees in. It even stopped municipal court jurors from going inside. The bluecoats were angry, the newspapers and TV were outraged, and Perk's subordinates, including the safety director, were unable to get the uniformed men to disperse for three hours. (Perk himself was ill at home, and no one had the nerve to phone him at first.)
Soon the community was back in the same old rut, with city and county officials bickering, and businessmen and editors deploring. Perk and the county commissioners were in a continuous daily squabble over cost overruns on the new Justice Center; Perk was threatening to withhold the city's share of the funds, and take the new police headquarters out of the complex. The Growth Board wanted a regional transit system and the commissioners favored a county system. Perk was in favor of neither; he wanted the city of Cleveland to control a majority of the regional board, when, as, and if it were agreed upon. Perk was flying around the small towns downstate, trying to shark up some votes for senator, and while he was gone, Forbes was plotting new ways to embarrass him. One of the ways was to get the council to pass a limited gun-control ordinance, figuring that Perk, to appease his ethnic constituents and the downstate small towners, would veto it. The council did pass the ordinance, Perk did veto it. (Forbes didn't have quite enough votes to pass it over his veto, so the question remained hotly controversial, as it had for months.) Meanwhile, some early polls were beginning to show that Perk would get a complete clobbering in the election. Glenn was credited with 60 percent of those polled.
At this point, it suddenly dawned upon everyone that the city of Cleveland was on the verge of being bankrupt. During the previous year, it had begun to receive some of the $35 million that the suburbs were ordered to pay for taking over the sewer system, and it had also got a large chunk of revenue-sharing funds from the federal and state governments. Much of this had been used to hire about one hundred additional po-
licemen and buy new cars and radio equipment for the police. Not much money could be expected from the sewer buy-out in 1975, and it was by no means certain that the federal funds would be forthcoming, either. (The situation in Washington seemed even more confused than in Cleveland, since Nixon in August 1974 had been forced to resign as president, rather than face impeachment. Gerald Ford had been sworn in as president, and within a month had pardoned Nixon. Nixon's principal aides, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and John Mitchell had been indicted for the cover-up and Nixon himself named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Several others -- Dean, Magruder, Kalmbach, Krogh, and Colson, notably, had pleaded guilty to lesser offenses, and the trials of the men who had not pleaded guilty were scheduled to come up late in the fall.)
Since the city of Cleveland had to get funds to operate in 1975 from somewhere, the council voted to place a 1-percent additional city income tax on the ballot, and Perk asked for an additional one-half percent to subsidize CTS (part of which would pay to allow senior citizens to ride free). Perk, ever since he had been mayor, had insisted that he would never ask for additional taxes, but he was now forced to do so. Forbes, meanwhile, was chortling to himself. He felt in the catbird's seat, for he knew that the tax was doomed from the start, that the councilmen, though voting to put the issue on the ballot, would do nothing to get it passed, and that the defeat would put Perk behind the eight ball on the same day as he was to get the beating of his life by Glenn.
Things looked so dismal for Perk about this time that he seemed to lose touch with reality and was making three-base errors, which he had previously avoided. He was defending Nixon publicly in his campaign speeches, right up to the time Nixon resigned. He had sent the new president, Ford, a telegram urging him not to appoint Nelson Rockefeller as the new vice-president on the very eve of the day Ford announced Rockefeller's appointment. (Why? Because Rockefeller favored legal abortions. Perk was campaigning against abortion downstate, reportedly on the advice of his pastor.) He was
campaigning only at Republican meetings, even though when he was running for mayor, he had stayed aloof from identifying himself as much of a partisan. Identifying himself as a partisan, in the year when every Republican candidate had the Watergate scandal to carry on his back, was like buying a ticket on the Titanic.
The predicted multiple disaster happened on election day, 5 November. Glenn beat Perk by more than a million votes, carrying every county in Ohio. Perk even lost his own ward. The proposed city 1 1/2-percent income tax increase was slaughtered. (At the same time a proposed library tax levy was beaten; two black library trustees had resigned, claiming the branch libraries in the central city were being neglected.)
In mid-November 1974, after election, the situation in fragmented, divided, polarized Cleveland was about as depressing as it was possible to be. The city would need an additional $19 million for operations, which it did not have. The mayor announced that he would have to lay off 1,200 employees at once, and cut the budget drastically for 1975. He said 150 policemen and 100 firemen would be among those laid off. Garbage and rubbish could be collected only fortnightly, not every week. He, Perk, would make a valiant effort to get the federal government, Uncle Santa Claus in Washington, to come up with several million bucks, from its emergency unemployment funds, to put all the laid-off policemen and firemen back as well as most of the rubbish collectors, in a few weeks. (He finally got the funds.)
By this time, Cleveland, like the other big industrial cities, was throat-deep in the sudden recession, which had laid low the automobile and appliance industries. Cleveland was nowhere near as badly off as Detroit, since Cleveland made mostly auto and airplane parts, machine tools, paints, and had other diversified industry, but the layoffs hurt badly, and the lines at unemployment offices grew longer. The first week in November, an unexpected new disaster smote the hapless community, another newspaper strike, which put both the Plain Dealer and Press out of business all through the busy
Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas season and did not end until 21 December. It put a tremendous crimp in all retail business and entertainment. Coming on top of the big layoffs in factories, it caused everyone to tighten his belt all the more, and worry about what further trouble winter would bring, in shortages of gasoline, oil, natural gas, and electricity.
Actually, the newspaper strike should not have been so unexpected, for the heat had been building up among Plain Dealer editorial employees ever since the fall of 1971. It began with the firing of Joe Esterhas, who had been the fair-haired boy of the reportorial staff for five years, but who had finally turned sour against his bosses. After a series of jolting personal disappointments, he had sent to Evergreen Magazine, a rather far-out antiestablishment publication in New York, a long bitter article, in which he largely blamed his employer, the Plain Dealer, for the misfortunes which befell him when he and a former GI photographer, Ron Haberle, tried to sell color photos of the massacre of civilians at My Lai, Vietnam. The Plain Dealer had first published the pictures as copyrighted exclusives in black-and-white, with the agreement that Esterhas and his friend could personally sell further color prints to magazines, press associations, and so forth. (The Associated Press had been forbidden by the Plain Dealer to distribute them, because of the copyright.) Esterhas and Haberle felt sure they could sell the color prints for big dough, perhaps as much as $100,000, in New York. Unfortunately for them, a London photo-news service stole the pictures by photographing the PD first page, and a Japanese photo service also sent them out. So by the time Esterhas and Haberle started to negotiate in New York, the New York Post had already printed them on page one, and their value had greatly diminished. After days of frustrated hassling, they finally sold their prize to Life magazine for $20,000. Esterhas was completely browned off.
The Evergreen article not only told about the negotiations with Life, which had bid $90,000 before the Post published the stolen pictures, but made some snide, unflattering re-
marks about Tom Vail's personality, and went on at some length with egregious inaccuracies about the way the PD had treated copy-reader Robert Manry, who had made history in 1965 by sailing alone across the Atlantic in his thirteen-and-one-half-foot sailboat, "Tinkerbelle." (The inference was that the PD had done Manry wrong; actually the exact opposite is true. I know, for I was the executive editor then, and put him back on the payroll after he had taken a leave of absence to depart surreptitiously on his unbelievable adventure.)
Esterhas was fired, mostly for disloyalty, and the Guild filed a grievance procedure, which went to arbitration that lasted three months. The arbitrator ruled that the firing was justified, but that Esterhas should have some back pay. Most of the reporters sympathized with Joe, feeling he had received a bum rap after so many years as the unquestioned trusted star reporter, and that he had a right to disparage his employer. Rebellion was in the air, the kid reporters hated the Vietnam war and felt themselves "new journalists."
Morale on the editorial staff had begun to deteriorate, and many abrupt changes in the editorial high command did nothing to quiet it. Bill Ware, who had increasing problems with his health, took early retirement after the Esterhas incident, and was succeeded as executive editor by Tom Guthrie. (Guthrie was succeeded as assistant to the publisher by Alex Machaskee, who had been the promotion director.) Russell Reeves retired as day managing editor (and died two years later). Ted Princiotto had resigned as night managing editor after a dispute with Vail over his authority, and David Rimmel, who had been Sunday editor, replaced him. A few months later, Rimmel was moved upstairs as assistant to Guthrie, and Wilson Hirschfeld appointed managing editor. The city desk was in a state of flux, too. Russell Kane departed from the desk to become Sunday magazine editor, and William Treon from the Washington Bureau came back as city editor.* Shortly after that, Michael D. Roberts replaced Treon, who became an editorial writer. Then Roberts quit to become editor of Cleveland Magazine, and soon took reporter Edward Whalen with
him. All these city editors were young men in their thirties, so after Roberts left, William R. Diem, a middle-ager who had been an editorial writer, was given the hot spot and remained there until after the 1974 strike, when David Hopcraft, who had been state editor and Columbus bureau chief, took over the city desk (he was also a young man).
During Hirschfeld's regime as managing editor another brief strike had occurred for two days, when the Guild contract expired in the fall of 1972. Guild pickets had appeared in front of the building and some scuffling had taken place. Hirschfeld phoned for police to restore order, but when the cops came, they were mounted police. The horses infuriated the Guildsmen (although Hirschfeld hadn't asked for them). From that moment on, there was constant friction between Hirschfeld and the staff, and several months later, he was given an indefinite leave of absence, and Robert Burdock, who had been Columbus correspondent and news editor, was appointed managing editor.
This long period of ill will between the Guild and management continued throughout 1974, until it was time for new contract negotiations. It was exacerbated further when Robert Dolgan, a feature writer, was demoted to the copy desk because of inaccurate reporting of a speech by Paul Walter, a prominent lawyer-politician, for which the Plain Dealer had apologized. The Guild called a unit meeting to discuss a grievance over Dolgan, during early evening working hours. At that point J. Stephen Hatch, who had been an irritating Guild activist, stood at the front door and tried to divert the night staff away from the PD office to the meeting that was elsewhere. Next morning Hatch was fired, the Guild filed a grievance about that, and that case went to arbitration.
The arbitrator, Harry Dworkin, still hadn't rendered his decision when the old contract expired, and the PD Guild walked out 1 November. The Press continued to publish past election day, under a joint masthead with the PD (and carried a few Plain Dealer features for five days) but on Saturday, 9 November, the Press announced it was shutting down, too.
(The two papers were negotiating jointly on the new contract.) So the situation was reversed from that of the 1962-63 strike; at that time, the Guild dispute was with the Press, and the PD was dragged in unwillingly. This time it was the Press editorial employees who were bitter at being locked out.
From then on, the strike degenerated into an endurance contest. For nearly six weeks the negotiations got nowhere. The Newhouse labor expert, Leo Ring, refused to raise the original wage offer, and most of the debate centered around restoration of Dolgan and Hatch to their jobs. Bitterness increased as time went along, as it had in 1963, and eventually dissident groups in both PD and Press circulated petitions to accept the management offer. Finally, after a couple of meetings, a majority in both units ordered the Guild boss, Jack Weir, to accept the wage offer and go back to work (the teamster boss, Tony DiPalma, meanwhile, had been encouraging a back-to-work movement if Weir should not give in).
During the strike, not only were the Cleveland dailies shut, but for a couple of weeks, citizens were unable even to get the New York Times and certain magazines that were distributed by the G. R. Klein agency (another branch of the teamsters had struck against Klein). A few hundred copies of the Toledo and Akron papers were sold on the streets downtown. The principal source of news became the Sunpapers, which published three times a week, instead of once, until the strike ended. Jean Gerlach, the editorial vice-president, hired about forty of the out-of-work veterans from the PD and Press, and they set up shop in a vacant building near the ComCorp offices in Valleyview. They covered local and state news, and sports, and ran editorial advice, local columnists, and TV logs, but they had only a smattering of national and world news, and no comics or features. Nevertheless the additional issues on Tuesdays and Saturdays sold about one hundred thousand copies from news stands, and provided a welcome meal ticket for some strikers, just as Harry Volk had done in 1956 and 1962. The Sunpapers were run off in Lorain, Mansfield, and Dover, on the presses of publisher Harry Horvitz, and their
size was limited only by press capacity and newsprint availability. During November and December, Cleveland stores were practically beating down doors to buy ad space to dispose of their large stocks of Christmas goods.
In the late sixties and early seventies, the Press, too, made some big changes in the executive suite, but mostly in the business office. The Plain Dealer had gone far ahead of them in total advertising, and before the strike had a lead of about forty-five thousand in daily circulation. Herbert Kamm had been sent over from New York to be associate editor, next to Tom Boardman; Kamm had been named as the editor of the merged Sunday World-Journal-Telegram, but it never got off the ground because of union trouble. George Carter retired as business manager of the Press, after long service, and James Couey, who had worked in Honolulu, Tampa, and Birmingham, was announced as his successor; but a couple of days later, Couey sent word he would not take the job, so Arthur W. Ardizone, who was about to retire as assistant business manager, was reactivated and became business manager for several months. After that, Robert Hartman was appointed business manager.
At the Plain Dealer business office, F. William Dugan retired as vice-president and general manager, and was succeeded by Roy O. Kopp with the title of business manager.
Shortly after the 1974 strike ended, Arbitrator Harry Dworkin ruled that Steve Hatch, the principal bone of contention between Guild and management, deserved to be disciplined but that firing him for performing Guild business was going too far, and that he was entitled to back pay and should be reinstated. He was put back on the police beat and Dolgan was reassigned to the local writing staff.
In the midst of this glum newspaperless November, the transit crisis surfaced again. Some action had to be taken to create a regional authority before 31 December, the date the enabling legislation (which had passed the legislature in a surprising burst of cooperation between legislators, Growth Board, city, and county) was due to expire. At once, the usual
bickering began. Perk wanted the city to have a majority on the nine-man board. The county commissioners thought it more sensible to have three for the city, three for the county, and three for the suburbs. The suburban mayors objected to the city controlling the board. Much backstairs negotiation took place. Perk agreed not to insist on the city having a majority and Councilman Dennis Kucinich agreed. Forbes (who had returned from out of town) proclaimed that the city had to have a majority or the council would not agree to sell CTS to a regional authority. The situation was unusually chaotic, since the newspapers were not publishing and radio and TV seemed unable to make the public understand the complexity, and it continued so until almost Christmas. Finally, with the editorialists back in business 21 December, a compromise was reached. The commissioners agreed to choose as one of their appointees a person who had a residence within the Cleveland city limits. The council agreed, right on the deadline, to join the regional board, and so did the commissioners. Thus ended the characteristic nitpicking. The specific details were left for lawyers to iron out by 16 February, when a "memorandum of agreement" would become effective.
The proposed layoffs of city employees did proceed, and there was much grumbling in the city when the rubbish piled up because the shortened work force could not collect it at the usual time. Police and firemen's fraternal organizations filed suit to stop their layoffs, and the courts were awash with restraining orders and appeals. Finally, Perk got the laid-off bluecoats back after two weeks. However, the situation in general was far from encouraging, since the municipality was depending on Uncle Sam and the state of Ohio to furnish 33 percent of its funds for operations.
In this sort of climate, it appeared at first that Perk might be heading for another defeat in the upcoming municipal election. The Democrats seemed to be counting on it. But following his humiliation by Glenn, another character change seemed to come over Perk. His swelled head shrank. He listened again to Klein, Volk, and his other nonpolitical ad-
visors. He came down off his high horse, was more subdued in his daily press conferences (standing beside the American flag), and began to tidy up his administration, which had been neglected all fall. He appointed Andrew Putka ports director, with instructions to modernize the Cleveland-Hopkins airport (funds were available, but the planning had been poor, the baggage handling and traffic control were a mess, the concourses needed some form of kiddie-kart transport to avoid a guartermile walk to the terminal center). He appointed Warren Riebe, who had been his chief assistant when Perk was county auditor, as finance director, and Vincent Campanella as budget director. He named James B. Davis law director to succeed Herbert Whiting, who had been elected domestic relations judge. He prepared to campaign for the one-half percent additional county sales tax that would be necessary to get the merged transit system going. He said he was going to run for mayor again, and not take a federal job.
* Mr. Treon reports (April, 2002) "I was city editor (1969-1971) before I went to the Plain Dealer's Washington Bureau (1971-1973), not the other way round, as Porter wrote. I returned to Cleveland from Washington in 1973 to become an editorial writer. I resigned from the Plain Dealer in 1983 and moved to Phoenix, Arizona." We thank him for the correction.
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