(Plain Press, February 2013) One hundred and twenty residents and stakeholders from the Cudell Improvement service area gathered at Brennan’s Party Center on January 16th for the organization’s 38th annual meeting. They were welcomed to the meeting by Cudell Improvement Executive Director Anita Brindza and Cudell Improvement Board President Daniel Berry. The meeting featured newly elected Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty as the keynote speaker; recognition of several neighborhood stakeholders for their contributions to the neighborhood over the past year; door prizes; and refreshments provided courtesy of the event sponsor, PNC Bank.
Prosecutor McGinty, a resident of the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland, said at one time he lived in the Cudell Improvement service area at W. 106th and Baltic. When he lived in the neighborhood he recalled going to the Madison Theater, eating at Chinese restaurants along Madison and gong to the nearby West Side Irish American Club on Madison. The institutions on Madison that he remembers from that time, are all gone now, he said, except for the fire station. He praised Cudell Improvement and its members for stabilizing the neighborhood and making a difference. “Cleveland is coming back,” he said.
McGinty said the Prosecutor’s office is working to help create a more efficient and more effective criminal justice system. He says this will help to stabilize the community and build confidence. “When people feel safe, they will want to stay,” said McGinty.
Citing success in other cites at reducing crime by focusing on habitual violent defenders, McGinty said the strategy is to “focus on a very small percentage of offenders that commit most of the crimes.” McGinty says a prompt record check will help “recognize this person has been here before.” McGinty says that by concentrating on those repeat violent offenders, which he estimates at about 8% of offenders, the criminal justice system can prevent offenders from being released to commit more crimes. To prevent their release, McGinty says their parole officer can be called to establish a parole violation, the judge can be called to set high bail, attorneys can be involved right away and the offender can be moved promptly into central booking.
McGinty believes involving attorneys right away will also help to place roughly 10% of offenders into the mental health track. He used as the example individuals that break into cars to sleep, as people that can be referred to the mental health system, helping to reserve jail space for habitual violent offenders.
McGinty said he would continue the practice of using regional prosecutors that his predecessor established. He says assigning certain neighborhoods to a prosecutor helps them to get to know people. He says the prosecutors can get together with the commanders of the police districts and discuss the violent offenders they want to concentrate on. Neighborhood stakeholders can monitor the conviction rate of these prosecutors and hold prosecutors accountable for their docket. We can measure success, neighborhood by neighborhood, said McGinty.
McGinty says his office will also focus on juvenile crime, which he says accounts for about a quarter of all serious offenses. McGinty said there were pockets of success in Cleveland. He said these pockets need to be merged together creating greater areas of success where visitors can feel secure. He promised the prosecutor’s office would make this happen by “focusing on people causing the problems and giving them a new home in the Crossfire Hotel.”
The awards presentations followed the keynote speech. McGinty was the recipient of the first award. He was presented with an “Excellence in Government Award.”
Walter E. Martens, Jr. was presented with the Walter and Pauline Martens Lifetime Achievement Award, named in honor of his parents. Martens attributed the Cleveland comeback to strong people who value their neighborhood and its institutions. He made reference to his parish, St. Ignatius of Antioch at West Boulevard and Lorain that “was told it had to close, and is still open.” He also noted that a number of years ago, some alumni at his Alma Mater, St. Ignatius High School were urging the school to move out of the city. Those urging the High School to stay and make a commitment to the city won the day and the school is still at W. 30th and Lorain. Martens, involved with the Cudell organization since its inception over 38 years ago, said the comeback of Cleveland and the Cudell neighborhood is due to the “gritty people who live here and refuse to give up. Awards, like this, honor the individual but also honor all the people who they work with. Keep gritty, and keep fighting.”
Following the award to Martens, State Senator Michael Skindell, Cleveland City Council representatives Dona Brady, Matt Zone and Jay Westbrook spoke briefly.
With Pastor Fr. Jim McGonegal and Pastoral Associate Sister Diane Piunno of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church sitting in the audience, both Brady and Westbrook stressed the importance of the church to the neighborhood.
“Fr. Jim and Sister Diane, without the church in our neighborhood, we would not be held together as much as we are,” said Ward 17 Council Representative Dona Brady.
In reference to Martens’ comments about saying “no” to people trying to close the doors of institutions important to neighborhoods, Ward 16 Council Representative Westbrook said, “I can’t think of a more powerful image of that, than keeping the doors of St. Ignatius open.”
Birgit Hilliard of Cudell Improvement’s staff and Michael McDonald of Safe 16 accepted the Safety Award for the Security Camera Initiative–an effort involving area businesses in using video surveillance to provide security along area commercial strips. It was announced that the Security Camera Initiative was also the recipient of the Business Emergency Professional Planning Excellence Award.
Linda Collins and Tom Hoover of the 98 Great Homes Model Block each received Service Awards for their commitment to helping out when needed in the neighborhood projects.
A number of awards were also handed out for successful completion of storefront renovations. Storefront Renovation award recipients were: Jerry Bird, Cleveland Uniform, 9851 Lorain Ave.: Joe Coreno, The G. Detzel Building, 9722 Lorain Ave.; Claudio Coreno, The Thrift Shop, 9711 Lorain Ave.: William Randolph, Mattress Man, 10106 Lorain Ave; Carlos Gutierrez, Tienda Guatemala, 10108 Lorain Ave.; Ayman El Issa, The Lunch Box, 10126 Madison Ave.; Scott Rosku, Torso, 11520 Clifton Blvd.; Evelyn & Costas Mavromichalis, Constantinos Market, 11022 Clifton Blvd.; and Larry Chopp, Salon Ruberto, 10433 Clifton Blvd.
The meeting ended with Geraldine Lambert, Chair of the Nominating and Membership Committee announcing election results for five positions on the Board of Trustees.