The Diluted Talent Pool

The Beachwood Council chambers were packed. The citizenry up in arms. Having squandered millions of dollars, the Mayor and Council had decided to raise the income tax. It was a small increase, just 33%. Our incomes, more importantly the incomes of people who work here in Beachwood but live and vote elsewhere, would be taxed at 2% instead of the current 1 ½ %. But that wasn’t why we had the flash crowd.

In an effort to intimidate the population and force his tax increase, the Mayor decided to close the pool 15 days early. Council, of course, fell in line. The Beachwood Family Aquatic Center, the gem of our little town, turned out to be very important to a diverse group of citizens. We had elderly lap swimmers and parents of small children. We had individuals who were recovering from major illnesses. There were fitness buffs and the occasional waders. All of these people had two things in common. They were all smart enough to know that the city was only saving a grand total of $30,000 by closing the pool. And, they were not going to be bullied.

Baseball fanatics often refer to the diluted talent pool. There was a time, not so long ago, when there were significantly fewer major league teams. The pitchers that made it to the Show were the best of the best. The minor leagues were brimming with talented players trying to break through. Today, with so many roster spots on so many teams, the talent pool is diluted. Many teams, including our Cleveland Indians, are stocked with minor leaguers. They may be nice people. They may be good players. But, there is very little we can identify as great.

I am reminded of major league baseball’s problems every time I look at city government in Cuyahoga County. By having over 50 separate municipalities in this county, we have diluted the talent pool. And like baseball, attendance is down while salaries have escalated.

Beachwood exemplifies this problem. We have very little city leadership. Instead, we have managers, people who have managed to hold on to their piece of the pie long after their skills and interest have diminished. Our elections are seldom contested. There isn’t enough talent to fill all of our slots. Thus, some of our elected officials, like the power pitcher past his prime with a fastball now in the high 80’s, have little left to offer. And like the Indians current third baseman, some of our leaders are just small market kind of guys.

Last Monday the citizens witnessed the Mayor and Council back down. The pool will stay open, but the hastily cancelled community programs like Family Fun Day will not reappear. We were told that four union contracts will be up for negotiation in November. The Mayor and Council elaborated on the fierceness of the unions. They shared with us their fear. Fear. While cities around us have pushed for layoffs and give-backs, Beachwood is still hiring and wages are still going up.

Beachwood was among the leaders in economic development and outreach. But again, the talent pool is diluted. A couple of months ago we sent a Councilman to a biomedical conference in Israel to convince entrepreneurs to move to Beachwood. This is innovative and important. I have been involved in the past. But an attorney who won’t move his practice from a neighboring suburb to Beachwood is hardly the guy to convince someone to move across seven time zones.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce is a volunteer driven organization and I served two terms as the President from 4/1/2008 to 4/1/2010. The city contracted with the chamber to do economic development. I represented Beachwood twice in Israel, once on the chamber’s dime and once I paid all of my expenses.)

We are about to embark on a grand experiment in Cuyahoga County. The new County Council and County Executive could be the first steps to a more logical and efficient government. As our population and resources shrink, it is vitally important that we find the best people, regardless of party affiliation, to fill these positions. This may be our last chance to truly be major league.

7 thoughts on “The Diluted Talent Pool

  1. Yes, Dave, you are spot on. We swimmers are a fearless lot, not to be trifled with. Last year Shaker closed its pool early and Beachwood was kind enough to welcome Shaker’s swimmers to its magnificent (and spotless!) facility until the end of the season. I thought, “This is great! I wonder if there are other things that Beachwood and Shaker could coordinate on to save some bucks?”

    I think at some stage all of us inner ring suburbanites are going to have to face the regionalism issue, and it might not be all bad.

    And didn’t the City purchase a $5 million dollar building in the middle of the city to HOUSE SNOWPLOWS? Come on guys – go back to the policies Beachwood had when it built such a magnificent base. I remember when they used to paint the water tower just to get rid of excess cash in the Treasury. Those times are gone.

  2. Wasting money is an art form and some of our guys are budding Picasso’s. One of our new guys is questioning all of these expenditures, like THE BUILDING. The old guard is visibly angered by this.

  3. It really makes me mad that the cities don’t have their priorities in order. Why not have an independent auditor come in and audit all the Travel & Entertainment expenses the elected officials submit, the mileage, the sports tickets, etc., etc., before cutting programs that are much needed in our current economy? One minute they say seniors don’t do enough and then when they attempt to they get cut off at the knees.

    Suzie you have a great point also. I live in South Euclid which doesn’t have a recreation center. It would seem since SE is so close to Cleveland Heights that maybe they would try to figure out some sort of deal, reciprocity where SE could utilize the CH recreation center. But no, we are stuck with the Y which is more expensive than the new Lifetime Fitness in Beachwood! So I am spending my money there! When will they think logically?

  4. David,

    You left out a reference to the “Peter Principle”. Many local pols get their feet wet running for school board, working their way up to being city council office holders; before becoming mayors. When you add the Diluted Talent Pool to reaching beyond one’s level of competence, you “Again Really” have the major problem we all face.

    Ontario & St.Clair Michael

  5. Sad but interesting point nameless Michael. The school board is the starting point of choice for many of our politicians, as if educating our children is less important than paving the streets.
    Let me take this opportunity to thank so many of you who have responded to this with personal calls and emails. Let me also remind you that this blog doesn’t state that all politicians are incompetent, evil, or even past their prime. That would be silly. Again, we have too many positions to possibly fill with qualified, engaged, thoughtful adults. I will leave it to you to determine who is a “keeper”.

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