While in Cleveland last weekend, with fellow classmates from the Shrinking Cities Studio, I relied on the Erie Island Coffee Co. for my morning cup of coffee. And printed on the cup sleeve at Erie is this quote, “Don’t Give Up the Ship. – Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (1813).” In my opinion, this rallying cry sums up the visit to Cleveland quite nicely.

The purpose of the trip was to see a ‘Shrinking City’ first-hand, and learn about the efforts underway to proactively address Cleveland’s problems with home foreclosures and blighted and vacant properties.

On Friday, we met with people in the planning, community development, and legal fields – all of whom are well versed in the dynamics and needs of a Shrinking City, and are committed to improving the plight of Cleveland.

But I wondered if this understanding and commitment exists beyond this circle of practitioners? I found an answer, the very next morning, in the local newspaper.

There was an article in Saturday’s (10/17) edition of The Plain Dealer about the installation of Ronald Berkman, the sixth president of Cleveland State University (CSU is located in a central Cleveland neighborhood, close to downtown). According to the article, in his address Berkman vowed to not only transform the university but also the surrounding neighborhood. Specifically he said:

“Cleveland State is in and of this city, and the connection and bonds between the two of them must be strengthened…I envision a day soon when faculty and staff will come to live in this neighborhood, send their children to school here and together build a new, vibrant, neighborhood in the city of Cleveland.”

Though I can’t presume that Berkman’s remarks are representative of all local leaders, it’s a promising declaration from one of the city’s anchor institutions. I hope he sticks to it, and that others follow suit. Each statement like this bolsters the work of the folks we met with last weekend, and it says to larger community, “Clevelanders, Don’t Give Up the Ship!”

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