As part of Cleveland Magazine's 30th anniversary celebration, the editors have chosen 52 of their favorite stories from the magazine's archives, and wish to share them with you.
A new story will appear every week at Clevelandmagazine.com. It might be controversial, comical, nostalgic or nonplussing. But it will be Cleveland.
From Cleveland Magazine, November 1972
Squire, Sanders and Dempsey is a Cleveland shrine cunningly dusguised as a law firm on the eighteenth floor of the Union Commerce Building.
As the door swings open and you enter the sanctum sanctorum from the outer office, the last things you see are the handsomely framed, near life-sized portraits of the founders, Andrew Squire, William B. Sanders and James H. Dempsey. The solemn visages of the dead men bear down on you as you leave the Early American waiting room with the impressive grandfather clock. This clearly is not a place that suffers fool gladly or takes a viper to its bosom, this Cleveland institution with 125 or 130 lawyers (nobody knows for sure unless they take a daily count), which makes it the largest law firm in Ohio and one of the largest in the nation.
Waiting at the end of the long hall is James C. Davis, senior partner, his 67-year-old face a moonscape of ridges and puches. Off the hall is an orderly network of identical cubicles filled with forensic brilliance and leashed ambition which is also waiting -- waiting to sit where Jim Davis sits: in Office Number One at the end of the hall.
Jim Davis, past president of the Cleveland Bar Association and current chairman of the 84-member Greater Cleveland Growth Association, does not appear worried. Looking at him, the square-built son of a solid Des Moines burgher who made good in Cleveland, the gay splash of errant gravy on the rep-striped maroon and gray tie, the chain-smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes, you get the feeling that it must tear him up inside to have to stop at traffic lights.
Davis, the administrator, served under Generals Eisenhower, Marshall and MacArthur. Newspapers have made much of this but Davis, who did not know the generals personally, does not.
"Thousands of others also served under them," he says. "I was just wearing a brown suit and doing the same things that I've always done all my life, trying to put people and problems together and find solutions for them." In the Army he did it well enough to receive the Distinguished Service Medal and two Legions of Merit. Modesty notwithstanding, he wears all three, welded together, as a lapel pin.
His smile dismisses me. "You going to do a hatchet job on me?" he asks. But it is not a question. It's an invitation to try it. He's a blunt man. He also dismisses some of his peers as exurban fops of matchless ignorance, and I immediately like him.
"They are long on promises and short on performance," he says. "It's great to have your picture in Town and Country but that doesn't do a damn thing for the streets of Cleveland."
I'd not read that one in the public prints, but usually when Davis says something the newspapers immortalize the proclamation in two-inch-high headlines. He "stuns" people, he "jolts" them, he "shocks" them. I was pleased to learn that he also talks, in a magnificent basso profundo rumbling up from a healthy diaphragm. Jim Davis, it is said, is where he is because he gets things done.
And right now he damn well wants a billion dollar jetport built on a diked island five miles offshore, a concept ardently supported by Cleveland's businessmen and bankers, give or take a few interlocking directorships, because it could "turn this town around"-converting an economic Dresden into the Venice of the Midwest.
Nevertheless, the notion persists among a few malcontents beyond hope that the fix is in-that energetic peddling of a jetport by private interests would effect a systematic pillage of public coffers, and that once again the humble taxpayer is being offered his head on a silver salver.
On the other hand, the Growth Association's lofty attitude, second only to that of the news media, has been that anyone who does not think only good thoughts about the Growth Association and declines to back the bold plan for the jetport should be summarily shipped to a slow learner's class.
Davis, more or less, subscribes to the second point of view.
"Well," he says, "I think the truth of the matter runs something like this: first there's a basic desire in the business community, and I think in the community generally, to seek, and, if possible, find some economic leverage to be effective in restoring the economic health of Cleveland. Now that feeling pervades this community. Second, there are, and have been, many approaches of the poultice type. We try to fix this and that, and they don't do it. The only suggestion that has come along in the last few years which is viable and might produce the result desired, is the jetport."
That some people may not desire to stake the same result on one glorious roll of the dice, and that others, sad to say, are actually suspicious about the motives of rich men who could get richer with inside information on a public project, appalls Davis.
"I never have been able to understand that point of view, no matter by whom, that espouses the concept that if a given program is good for the general business community, it's bad for the individual.
"Now, there is no good for any individual unless there is a healthy business climate and if the jetport, whether it be in the take or whether it be on land, will produce greater activity, and if greater profits for business can be developed, the individual cannot help profiting thereby."
Therefore, growth, according to the Davis dictum, is essential, and anyone who does not understand this must be brain-damaged.
"Now, to say that we don't need to grow to my mind is ridiculous. And I just say it that flatly because I have spent a reasonably long life trying to learn that nobody stands still, except in physics. There is a law of inertia that says that a body in place tends to remain there; but if it does, it sure doesn't accomplish anything. It produces no energy, no power. Now you either go ahead or you go back. And I hope that we can continue to go ahead."
Accordingly, Jim Davis's law firm assisted in preparing the state law that created the nine-member Lake Erie Regional Transportation Authority (LERTA), a public body which will spend at least $1.2 million on a jetport feasibility study. And to make sure LERTA members were qualified, Davis personally helped public officials select at least five of them. Further, as chairman of the Growth Association, Davis led the campaign to privately raise $400,000 in a successful effort to lock up $852,685 in Federal Aviation Administration funds for LERTA's Phase I study.
And if that is not enough, Squire, Sanders and Dempsey, as the leading bond counsel firm in Ohio, stands ready to assist even more, for one per cent of the total action on a billion dollar jetport that could ultimately cost three or four billion dollars.
"I say very frankly to you that if there are public bonds involved, Squire, Sanders and Dempsey would certainly be interested in passing professionally on those bonds," he says cordially.
"We have no assurance that we would participate, but if we did, fine. That
would be part of the business improvement which the project would bring to the
community which we might enjoy. It's an important portion of our income, but
it's only part of our income. We are a broad, general-based law firm, and we're
interested in the general good of the community."
Thus a hardy handful of men, not trusting a project of such magnitude to the public, have a dream: by 1985 a super jetport in the lake to rescue Cleveland, a stagnant port city that has not claimed its birthright to be great in its favorable location on an east-west corridor of rail and road traffic.
In a coming era of increasing plane passengers and air cargo, it is a dream, they say, that could become a reality and make this town great like other past and present transportation-oriented cities: Carthage, Athens, Rome, and even New York and San Francisco and Chicago.
Advance man for the dream is Russell L. Geuther, vice president of the Growth Association and executive director of LERTA-a dual role that causes skeptics to unkindly call him a hired true believer.
As much as he has been kicked around, you would expect the 37-year-old Geuther to react with the wary caution of a snake-bitten faith healer when discussing the jetport.
But Geuther remains coolly and courteously articulate on his favorite subject in his sixth floor office in the Union Commerce Building. He is uniquely qualified to be an advance man. Before coming to Cleveland three years ago from Chicago he worked in upper echelon association management for the American Bar Association and for consultants advising trustees of the University of Chicago.
Geuther has charts, diagrams and papers of record that say henceforth the public will be deeply involved as the jetport project progresses.
And on his office wall, Geuther, a private first class who served unspectacularly but well as a clerk in a processing center for trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, has a framed reproduction of The National Observer's verbatim reportage of General MacArthur's "Duty, Honor, Country" farewell address to cadets at the Military Academy at West Point in 1962.
Whatever they pay him, Geuther is worth it. He has been accused of conflict of interest -- called a slick public relations man and has been slammed hard as a principal involved in the 213-page flaming orange Pre-feasibility Technical Report, the Growth Association's carrot-on-the-stick publication that last December heralded the peddling of the jetport to 600 selected persons (5,000 were invited) at Hotel Statler-Hilton.
The report, padded out with such readable phenomena as the sex life of algae and the fact that there were no more blue pike in the polluted lake, was greeted outside the hotel with enthusiasm roughly comparable to that greeting a General Motors announcement of next year's models. There were indeed strident but unpublicized cries of "hoax" and "ripoff," although, of course, not everyone was that virulent. After a slide show presentation on the jetport, Dr. Thomas F. Campbell, director of urban studies at Cleveland State University, mumbled, "Superb. I'll take three of them."
Since then, however, Campbell has become a convert, at least to the point where he wants to see a feasibility report with more facts and public involvement and less flack.
"This is why I raised the question of flimflam," he says. "They didn't, at first, even go to City Council-it was not high on their horizon of consultationand I think this is fundamentally wrong."
Nevertheless a sensible and acceptable business practice is to oversell a product to make it appear eminently plausible. Once this is accomplished the salesmen again act rational.
So Davis now says: "This is too much of an iffy thing at the present stage, and it's not the kind of thing that the taxpayers ought to be asked to promote until we see a feasibility report."
And yet the pre-feasibility pitch went like this: "The need is immediate and the competition is intense." The report masterfully packaged assumption, speculation, hope insuch a way that it appeared as fact and was repeated and repeated: new homes, 70,000 jobs, a $500,000,000 payroll, noise abatement, 3,000 acres of recreational land inside the breakwater, an ecological asset, the renaissance of a decaying city -- the possible panacea to Cleveland's problems!
"If there are any obstacles, they will be uncovered by the feasibility report," Geuther says. "We'll then be able to determine whether or not we will be able to improve the quality of life in this city, this region."
On Sept. 15 LERTA made its first call for a principal consultant, inviting bids and proposals for the purpose of "making a need analysis, feasibility and, if warranted, a site selection for a major hub airport to be located in the Cleveland service area."
The consultant is required to study sites other than the lake, including Ravenna and Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, which seems a waste of money and time, since Davis told me: "I know LERTA is bound by law to make an independent study of this thing and I also know that the Growth Association is going to continue to advocate the location of the jetport in the lake; because if that will work, that's far and away the most effective for Cleveland and northeastern Ohio."
And he told a group of officials, business men and other interested citizens meeting in the Mid-Day Club in June: "Now there are some who favor Ravenna, but as far as I am concerned it goes in the lake."
The consultant's work will be subject to scrutiny by citizen reviewers, as called for in LERTA's application for FAA funds. And should the Phase I study approve the lake site, a minimum estimate of an additional $3.3 milliontwo-thirds of it federal money that somehow is never referred to as taxpayers' money-will be available for further studies.
Although cynics suggest that a jetport juggernaut is in motion and that nothing will stop it, Geuther assures that "this project was started with the public in mind, and if it doesn't benefit the public, then it won't be done. We see a good number of community people involved in all phases of the study." He swears it.
Mrs. Ellen Knox, nonetheless, is not impressed. Mrs. Knox, a former teacher of earth science at Laurel School and the founding mother of many Cleveland environmental organizations, recalls a meeting she attended in 1970 in the basement of Trinity Cathedral. She had recently inspected a foul sewer overflow at North Park and Coventry Road, had scratched a cornea on a bramble and was feeling like "a heroine of the environmental wars."
"We were preparing for the first Earth Week activities," she says, "and we were interested in this jetport idea that was kicking around then. Geuther came and wouldn't tell us who his environmental experts were. We kept trying to pry it out of him and got nowhere. It took us about two months to get the names and when we found out who they were we were not precisely impressed."
One of the marvels of the peddling of the jetport has been the manipulation of the media, newspapers and TV news rooms lined up like Roman candles, their heads pointed at the stars and their tails in the sand. When their fuses were lit, they fired the public's imagination with the Growth Association's technicolor flack.
Dealing with elites apparently confused the journalists, causing an unhealthy pressure on the brain, and in the mad scramble of "me too" reporting judgment was trampled to death.
Or perhaps there is a simpler explanation. Thomas L. Boardman, editor of the Cleveland Press, and Thomas Vail, editor and publisher of The Plain Dealer, were members of the Growth Association's board of directors that unanimously endorsed the jetport project.
In addition, on the "team of 50 recognized specialists and hundreds of their colleagues" were Kenneth L. Bagwell, vice president and general manager of Storer Broadcasting (WJWTV), and John T. Bailey, executive vice president of Selvage, Lee and Howard.
Bagwell and Bailey were members of the "Public Information Committee." Selvage, Lee and Howard, an ad agency, was invaluable in providing moonlighting talent to produce the prefeasibility material.
And Bagwell helped get the ball rolling in a TV editorial (the first of four)
on Dec. 7 titled The Lake Erie Jetport -- A Must."
Bagwell, who in September was named vice president in charge of the CATV (cable television) Division of WJW's parent Storer Broadcasting Co. in Miami Beach, unequivocably asserted: "The jetport is vital to Cleveland's immediate future. And its realization is within our grasp."
"Let's maintain the enthusiasm," he urged.Truly peerless insight inasmuch as Davis is now saying "iffy" and Geuther advises that we wait for the feasibility report.
Over at WEWS-TV Fred Griffith, on Dec. 4, had commentary titled "We Need The Jetport." He told viewers "It looks completely feasible."
Letting the public know that he was looking out for them, Griffith confided: "I have gone over the report very carefully and it looks to me like Dr. Abe Silverstein [director of the project] and the 50 experts who worked with him have come up with a remarkable piece of work."
So had Griffith. Feasibility is one of the key items LERTA is paying a principal consultant to consider.
But at WKYC-TV, journalistic togetherness had a more difficult time seducing incredulity. At first, on June 21-after City Council had endorsed the jetport-Steve Lorton said, "We support a study and the money that it will take to do it thoroughly and, we hope, impartially."
And Lorton made it clear that it was his understanding that "the lake will
not be the only area under study, and Cleveland will not be the only beneficiary."
On Aug. 8 WKYC-TV received a little gift, a picture of the proposed jetport in the lake. A card, signed by Davis, said, "In grateful appreciation of your important contribution to the Lake Erie Jetport Project."
On Aug. 9 Lorton broadcast this message: "To set the record straight, we did
not contribute to the jetport-inthe-lake. All we did was favor a study of the
feasibility of perhaps building a jetport on any one of several sites. We were
assured the Growth Association was not necessarily committed to the lake as
a site. We were assured that an impartial study would be done. But this little
gift suggests we've been flimflammed. We're sending it back."
Councilman Dennis Kucinich, D-7, who denounces the jetport concept as "a hoax -- a bizarre parlor game in which everybody participates but the people," had to steal one of those pretty pictures. Other councilmen received theirs "in grateful appreciation."
Kucinich altered his to read: "In grateful appreciation of the sinking of the jetport."
He stole it at the Mid-Day Club, a private establishment atop the Union Commerce Building, walking in uninvited during the noonday celebration of the FAA grant to LERTA.
George L. Forbes, Council Majority Leader, possibly in jest, nodded at Kucinich, and told those assembled at the club, "When we found out he was against it, we were for it."
"There they were," says Kucinich, "LERTA members and councilmen in the clutches of the Growth Association. I sat down and grabbed some bread and butter and when I spotted Geuther I asked, 'Who's paying for all thisT And he said, 'It's paid for individually.' So I said, 'Who's paying for mineT And at that moment I became their guest."
After eating, he swiped the picture. "Confiscated," he corrects. "Confiscated it in the name of the people."
As an opponent of the jetport and, coincidentally, a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Kucinich held public hearings on the jetport for three days in July at which 39 persons testified.
Davis was invited but he declined politely in a formal letter, saying, "Since Council has'already acted on this matter by an overwhelming majority, and since you have had full opportunity to question me representing the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and to present your views thereafter in public hearings, I see no useful purpose to be served by my attending your campaign hearings."
Although he says he feels strongly about the jetport, Kucinich warns that he doesn't "see this as a lifelong issue. I'm not going to hold on to it forever." Crusading in July is one thing. It is something else again in November, after election day.
At any rate, Kucinich's hearings soaked up a lot of data, and leached out some interesting observations on the proposed land-fill jetport island. Among them that:
- It isn't needed. That FAA projections of a 12 per cent increase in air traffic annually between 1965 and 1980 were unrealistic. That 51/2 per cent was more like it and Cleveland Hopkins, without expansion, could handle that until 1985-90.
- A 12,000-foot runway was a bit excessive if the FAA bans SST flights over land.
- The jetport would conceivably protect eight miles of shore line while perhaps eroding 40 miles or more east of the protected area.
- A special act from the state legislature would be needed to construct a jetport legally in the lake.
- The pre-feasibility report calculated the average lake depth at 40-45 feet but soil borings suggested that the average depth was 48-59 feet, which might mean that the sometimes unruly lake would lap over the new jetport.
- Members of the Growth Association would profit richly, but few benefits were seen for inner-city residents.
Actually, it was over before Kucinich's public hearings began.
Hurrying to comply with the FAA's June 28 deadline for the $852,685, City Council on June 19 quickly approved emergency legislation assuring Cleveland's participation in the Lake Erie Regional Transportation Authority.
The FAA granted the funds on schedule and Mayor Perk named the remaining four members to the board: Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr., community relations manager for Ohio Bell Telephone Co. (son of former Cleveland Mayor Anthony J. Celebrezze, who is now a U.S. Court of Appeals judge]; Noel C. Painchaud, former director of the city department of port control; Bertram E. Gardner, former director of the city department of community relations and now a vice president of Cleveland Trust Co.; and Robert W. Chamberlin, a former municipal judge and former chairman of the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision.
With even more haste the county had established LERTA in March. County Commissioners Seth Taft, Hugh A. Corrigan and Frank R. Pokorny --ably assisted by Jim Davis -- appointed five members: Board President E. W. (Pike) Sloan, Jr., retired president of OglebayNorton; lawyers Bernard J. Stuplinski, John H. Bustamante and Howard M. Metzenbaum, and business man Maurice Saltzman. LERTA was organized on March 13, the members were sworn in on March 14 and application for FAA funds was made on March 15.
"We had to make the FAA's March 15 deadline for fiscal year '71-'72," Geuther says.
In retrospect, the extraordinary bureaucratic efficiency, without public hearings, seems wondrously odd, considering the calm, methodical, professional way the Growth Association did its homework.
For example, one of those orange brochures proudly proclaims: "The Lake Erie International Jetport Project incorporates a decade of exploration and research and ten months of concentrated planning by a team of fifty recognized specialists and hundreds of their colleagues."
Paucity of public involvement disturbs Suzanne Spitz, director of Ralph Nader's Cleveland office of the Ohio Public Interest Action Group (OPTAG). The office, on the third floor of the Arcade, is two cluttered rooms and a mimeograph machine.
Miss Spitz, of Washington, D.C., a 28-year-old lawyer, is slender, intense and extremely hardnosed, though her nose, broken twice in 18 places, tilts slightly to the left. The first time, she ran into a wall and broke it in four places. The second time, she cracked it in 14 places when a motorcycle she was on ran into the back of a Corvette.
On Aug. 21 WKYC-TV invited her to rebut the station's lukewarm endorsement of a regional jetport. "The real flimflam," she said, "is that the Growth Association has never bothered to show the need for a regional jetport." She read her statement with her shoes off -- her feet were blistered from playing tennis -- while TV technicians in a control room joked lustily about bedding one of Nader's Raiders.
Miss Spitz, who does a commendable job of controlling her innate arrogance for only $7,500 a year, says: "Personally I can't be for or against an airport.""Lots of people are saying that."
"Let me finish, please. I would want to wait until it's done before I give conclusions. But the thing we are most interested in is that the feasibility study is responsibly done -- that there is public interest input, that it's not just a slick public relations job."
"In my opinion," she concludes, "the pre-feasibility study is quite irresponsible."
Miss Spitz, who came here last February to open the "advice resource center," has taken off her glasses and is flipping them deftly in my direction, acute movements like exclamation marks for her non-conclusions. I once told her that her manner reminds me a little of Pike Sloan.
"Who's he?" she asked.
"The president of the LERTA board."
"Oh," she said.
"What you must understand," Miss Spitz patiently explains, "is that we are not giving Miss Spitz's or Mr. Seaton's point of view. When we talk to somebody it's the coalition point of view."
Mr. Seaton is Jay Seaton, age 24, of Detroit, a former VISTA volunteer who came here with his wife to work with the Consumers Education and Protection Association (CEPA) and stayed to join OPIAG, which was not the easiest thing in the world to do. Nader's Raiders are mostly lawyers who sometimes get touchy about whom they work with.
"Well, you know lawyers," says Seaton, a political science major. "But Suzanne really fought for me and I went to Washington for the big interview. They really know the law, but you have to deal with the folks, too, you know."
Seaton, who gets $5,000 a year, was not attracted by the money in public interest work. Money, for instance, could not begin to buy the satisfaction he felt when he walked in on a LERTA meeting in August in the Clevelander, a private club atop Erieview Plaza.
He had about a dozen of his coalition people with him, some of whom were members of such radical groups as the League of Women Voters and the Junior League.
"They were shocked out of their minds when we walked in," says Seaton. "They were still eating lunch, so weafter they secured chairs for us-sat around and watched them eat before the meeting began. Geuther developed a twitch."
Although a pleasant diversion, commando raids on public meetings in private clubs are notably unproductive and Seaton knows it.
"We got to play the game with facts, data and beat them at it," he says. "We are trying to play it above-board with these cats because that's the way we do things. If they say the public scratch is to study other sites when they got cats on that board who are connected with the Growth Association in a tangible way, then we have to bring it UP."
"We are following Harris's work and expanding on it," he says.
Harris is Robert H. Harris of Nader's Washington-based Corporate Accountability Research Group. He came into town last summer, served on the fivemember panel that heard testimony in the sessions chaired by Kucinich, wrote a 27-page report and sent it to Cleveland to assist those who were treading water in a treacle of conflicting jetport statistics.
"Perhaps the most visible caveat in the jetport planning process is the lack of public interest representation," Harris wrote.
"Although the dictates of big business interests pre-empting the desires of the people is slowly becoming an anachronism in America, it apparently is occurring at a snail's pace in Cleveland.
"The Greater Cleveland Growth Association cannot continue to ignore the cries of opposition; for if they do, plans conceived under the best of intentions may never surface in the wake of confusion and mistrust following what is certain to be abasing debate."
He suggested the study review team would be an excellent place for public interest representation to begin.
As originally proposed by LERTA, the study review team appeared to be slightly stacked, with LERTA represented by the board president and another member, plus eight others from city, county, state and federal agencies likely to be highly in favor of a jetport in the lake.
Geuther, however, has a new chart that calls for representation from universities, labor unions and environmental organizations, among othersa review board directing six review teams, each of which will have from five to 15 members.
"It gets confusing when you start inviting a lot of people," Geuther says, "but we want the public to be involved."
And to assure that he would be talking to people who talked to the public,
Geuther in September invited Miss Spitz and Seaton to breakfast at the Cleveland
Athletic Club. Afterwards he said, "I think they are misdirected but they are
bright. I would like to have them work for me."
The sign at the west end of Burke Lakefront Airport said "LERTA" and an arrow pointed towards a hallway to the left, under a sign that said "MEN." Cables, snaking through the hallway, were plugged into electrical outlets in the public men's room with ten-cent pay toilets. There were 18 cases of camera equipment in the immediate area. Suddenly I sensed that this was not going to be a simple, spontaneous outpouring of public concern at a Sept. 11 meeting of LERTA in a small room with plastic seats and kleig lights just beyond the men's room.
The camera equipment belonged to Richter-McBride Productions, a New York firm that had won the right, wi