There was some more bad news that struck the city of Cleveland today and it had nothing to do with its sports teams. That, in itself, is an interesting contrast. United Airlines is pulling their “hub” from Cleveland and our flights from that airline will slowly decline. This should not come as a complete shock to anyone as the airline industry, in their “consolidation phase”, is seeking to screw the consumer at every conceivable turn for the sake of their shareholders. That sounds awful but it is truly the American Way. Any company’s Board of Trustees and CEO are bound to do what they can to enhance shareholder value. That is their duty. Not to make consumers happy or enhance their value unless it concurrently enhances shareholder value. You don’t need to be an economist to recognize that that convergence rarely happens.
Consumer flight costs are going up and our convenience is going way down. Now the industry can come up with some odd constructed statistics where they claim that is not happening, but you only need to be a consumer of air travel to recognize the obvious. Since August 10, 2012, United Airlines stock price has risen from 17.78 to 45.84 as of Friday. That is a rise of almost 158% since the late summer of 2012. Even with the huge rise in the stock market for 2013, it is clear that United has outperformed even one of our most bullish market years. So the CEO and Board of Trustees are doing their job. How can we really complain about that? One reason might be that we are much more likely to be consumers of United Airlines in Cleveland and not shareholders.
It is not surprising that this announcement comes right on the heals of a lavish article in the United Airlines magazine about Cleveland. I suppose Clevelanders should think a well constructed article eases the pain of the loss of hub status. The way our sports teams are being portrayed lately, United probably does think that is a fair trade. If you really think about it, maybe some of the research that went into the article was used to determine that it was time to pull the plug on hub status for Cleveland. A bizarre twist Cleveland area residents should well appreciate.
So, despite the bad news about the United hub and the living hell that is our sports teams, we need to look forward at the positives of the Cleveland area and there are many. These have been well innumerate in other places but I will attempt this brief list as a reminder in these rather difficult times. In case there is any doubt, this is not an attempt to be cute or deferential about Cleveland or to provide comic relief. I honestly believe these things are real and palpable. I believe these things mean something. I believe they translate into improved quality of life and a better place for our families. Other cities might be able to claim more lavish examples and greater quantity but rarely greater quality.
1) Let’s start with the weather. Cleveland is the butt of many jokes and barbs about this by people in Los Angeles and Miami:
Yes, Cleveland gets winter and snow and cold temperatures. But Clevelanders also know how to deal with it and rarely are stopped by it. The streets generally remain open, commerce can continue, and residents know how to stay comfortable at uncomfortable times. Plus, Clevelanders know how to DRIVE in that weather. A fact that is sometimes overshadowed by an idiot on the road but confirmed by far fewer multicar disasters like happened in sunny Atlanta recently.
When was the last hurricane, mud slide, wild fire, Tsunami, tropical storm, earthquake or other similar massively destructive weather disaster in Cleveland? We do have flooding from time to time and certainly have tornados but our level of destruction from those disasters is generally well confined with a few people being devastated but not large populations. The number of deaths is more limited as is the destruction of property. Now I lived through a tornado with 5 homes destroyed in my neighborhood so I am not minimizing the destruction just putting it in perspective.
Our summers may from time to time seem pretty hot and uncomfortable but not nearly at the level of those in most climates where they chirp about our winters.
Clevelanders see the seasons change and the leaves turn and nature renew itself year after year. Some of our smug detractors rarely see such things and marvel when they do.
2) Cleveland area residents live near one of the greatest fresh water bodies of water in the world! There are beaches to go to in the summer that are a few miles away instead of days away. The boating community is alive and well in Cleveland and hundreds of boats travel in and fish our waters throughout the warmer seasons. We have homes overlooking the water and lavish views. No, it is not Hawaii, but I would bet that other areas would love to have Cleveland’s access to water.
3) Another more unusual angle of Cleveland’s access to Lake Erie is the fact that fresh water is probably one of the rarest assets in the world and certainly in our country. It is absolutely essential for life but few large bodies of fresh water exist. Plus, right now, we have abundant rainfall to supplement our supplies. If I were to pick an area likely to survive tough atmospheric times, it would be our area. I know this sounds crazy to discuss, but it is a valid point that cannot be disputed if you dare to think about it.
4) If you are sick, are there many places you would rather be than living in the Cleveland region? Cleveland has multiple major health systems in our area all of which have received huge accolades. Although one system garners most of the press, the medical community knows that there are huge World Class medical assets in Cleveland that reach far beyond the borders on any one system. Research and advances in medicine abound from Cleveland. Some may argue that they are equivalent, but no area can clearly declare medical superiority over Cleveland.
5) Despite huge changes in Cleveland’s automobile transportation connections and suffering through a major necessary change in its highways, Cleveland commerce has maintained and thrived. Yes, there have been major headaches but rarely causing time consuming tie-ups like in Chicago or New York or Washington or Los Angeles. Cleveland residents should be proud of the fact that commerce is rarely withered by our highways and 2 hour commutes. I have been in many cities and it is one of the easiest to both navigate and arrive on time.
6) Ignoring sports for the moment, Cleveland can brag about huge assets in the entertainment industry with our emerging movie making presence, the Theater district, the Cleveland Orchestra, Blossom Music Center, as well as being the home of Rock and Roll. Our cultural assets are all reasonably impressive with quality museums and access to the arts.
7) Being a Midwest community Cleveland can honestly say that it has great places to live and great places to raise a family. Despite our struggles with the Cleveland School District, suburban schools are of very high quality and we have every reason to believe the inner city districts will continue to improve. We have multiple colleges and universities within miles of Cleveland and in Cleveland. Our medical school at Case Western Reserve is one of the best in the country.
8) All around Cleveland are huge agricultural regions with fresh food available throughout the growing season. Tropical foods and seafood need shipped in but much of what we eat can be grown or produced locally. Drive outside Cleveland or a suburb and see how long it takes you to reach miles and miles of farms. It is not long.
9) Avoiding professional sports for the moment, there is no doubt that athletes and athletic events thrive in Cleveland. We have some of the best high school sports events in the country and our college events, although on a more minor scale, are top notch as well. Just ask any Mount Union supporter, whose university is only a little more than an hour away. A normal commute time in Chicago.
10) Finally in my top 10 is Cleveland professional sports!!! And, although I blog about this topic most often, I admit that the luster of Cleveland professional sports in this article is best positioned to simply say that we have three professional sports franchises. This is the one area where other cities can certainly say that they have greater quality as well as in some cases quantity of professional sports. The sad thing is that this is one of the most visible pieces and projects a shadow over Cleveland that is neither deserved nor accurate.
There was a reason why Cleveland was one of the greatest cities in early industrial America. The resources and advantages I have outlined here are many of those reasons. Rapid transportation and a digital society have seemed to wipe out the advantages so desperately sought by our ancestors. But, when you actually look at this logically and not in the squalid light that outsider’s project, you see a fine place to live, a fine place to love, and a fine place to support. No corporate decision or sport’s franchise ineptitude can change that fact. Stay classy Cleveland (as a great newscaster might say) and never forget that we have much more to be proud of than to decry.