Community Development: An Interview – Part I

Everything that Community Development does has been previously approved by the administration and, most times council. “We’re not independent free agents, we’re not able to just go willy-nilly. Development deals are all above the threshold that requires council approval: the sale of land requires council approval, administration approval, Board of Control. So, first perception that we’re these rogue agents just doing whatever we want is definitely misplaced in a statutory city where we are the City of Lorain; we’re not separate and apart, we’re not different. We find it, sometimes amusing, as people say ‘There goes Community Development again, doing whatever it is that they do.”

So said Don Romancak, and with that,  my interview with the group of folks that staff Lorain’s Community Development Department began. I asked for the interview so that a lot of misconceptions and misperceptions floating around could be corrected and/or cleared up, and to be able to write about the responsibilities they have to and for the City.  I have to admit that I felt like a visiting dignitary or celebrity because I believe I met everyone, with the exception of the support staff. Sandy Prudoff, Chris Bauer, Janine Mackert, Don Romancak, Doug Rangel, Drake Hopewell, Larry Mitoff, Howard Goldberg and Rey Carrion, all either sat down to talk or were kind enough to stop in and introduce themselves and offer whatever help I may need in the future.

Sandy Prudoff -“The building in that picture (pointing to a large wall poster) used to be the Tivoli Theater that was torn down, and with Council’s approval, we built that building back in on that parcel. So the City owns that, we lease that. The building to the right of that (another poster) is the Duane Building. If you may recall, that building burned, it was entirely gutted. With City Council’s approval, and the Mayor’s, we loaned Jon Veard about $1.4 million, he put in himself several hundred thousand, and he’s been paying that back. And it’s always been a dream of ours to restore that. A hobo had got in there, and was lighting charcoal on the wood floors to keep warm. And the shellac on the floor caught fire, … that building was almost destroyed. So with Council’s approval, that’s one of the examples of some of the things that we’ve done. What we would like to do is the Black River Master Plan; the City owns all of this here (pointing north out the window) which was acquired in a deal with the Cleveland Port Authority. And we, the City, have a $6 million debt on this site, which is 30 acres. So, eventually we hope to have a development, which would be a mixed-use development on that. But those are the kinds of large undertakings that we do. We do a lot of smaller things in housing. Howard Goldberg and Drake Hopewell go and look for lots. On Reid, between 9th and 10th, we built 6 homes there, sold to private owners.”

Chris Bauer – “That was a focused-impact for housing.”

Sandy Prudoff – “We’re doing that on 10th and Brownell. We bought where the school was, we sub-divided into 9 lots. We have one being built, we have a second one with a commitment (to the lot) to build a house there. Probably by the end of this year, we should have 4, 5 or 6 homes on that site, all privately owned. One thing about Drake, which is indicative of most of the staff here, and Doug doesn’t work for us, he works under contract with us. His agency is independent. He takes care of all the financing and business loans. However, he plays an important role because he helps us structure major developments.

“Drake, as an example, he normally works here 8 hours, he is in charge in the evenings and weekends of all sales. So he’s out weekends and evenings, meeting with people, showing houses. So when we do have it happen, if someone were to break in a house, he’s on call, he has to go out there, and take a look at what’s going on. He’s also in charge of rehab.  We provide probably 15-20 homes a year, or more, we provide to families that own their homes, we’ll loan them up to $25,000 towards the repair of their homes. We do the bidding, we do the spec writing, we present the bids to the property owner, through the Board of Control. All of that is authorized by City Council.

“Something else that Drake did that was off the charts, that was different from this, was that last year, when that sanitary line broke on Oak Point Road, on behalf of the City, as authorized by City Council, Drake monitored the loans from a fund provided by the Utilities Department, to those property owners who had their properties damaged by the sanitary backup in their basements and living rooms and condos on Oak Point Road. So his staff was in charge of all of that.”

In regards to my comment that a lot of people in the city aren’t familiar with what the job or responsibilities of the Community Development Department:

“We used to put, once a year, a full-page, [actually] a number of pages of what we did, in the newspaper. We stopped doing that because it got very expensive. But the public [thought], generally,  is ‘out of sight, out of mind, I don’t understand it.’ It’s really unfortunate because in a declining economy, and it’s tough enough when the economy is robust, in a declining economy we are always struggling in this department to breach that attitude that we need to invest in ourself as a community, to promote development, promote neighborhood stability, that takes an investment by City Council out of the General Fund, to combat, what is essentially, the result of a declining industrial base. Don and Doug, along with Chris Bauer, are heavily involved with IRG, that bought the Ford Plant. Right now there are about four companies that either are, or about to locate in there, totaling about 200 jobs, approximately. Each company that locates out there, almost each company that locates out there, one went out there on their own, but was a referral through here, has a development agreement that City Council has to approve, so we’re heavily involved with IRG. And hopefully, we’ll also be supervising a $9 million clean-up grant down there. Jan worked on, and secured a $3 million grant from the state to be applied towards a $9 million clean-up process.”

Jan Mackert – “The whole process is $11 million.”

Sandy – “So we’ll be monitoring that, and then another division, Rey Carrion’s department, will do the prevailing wage monitoring, and we have a construction division in here that oversees construction and Doug and Don will explain it when we get to the Industrial Park that we now own and are improving. That construction division will oversee the work that’s being contracted out, not just the prevailing wage, but to make sure that the grant that we have secured, and all of the other money that the company is putting in, is done in a manner that follows the contract, and if there are any exceptional or unreasonable change orders, or deviations from that. If there are, then they will have to go back to Council to be approved.”

Next installment – The Departments that comprise Community Development

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17 thoughts on “Community Development: An Interview – Part I

  1. Very good Henery, during my campaign I visited with various City Departments to listen to “The Other Side of the Story”.
    I think more people need to go to the source and discuss. I believe there are two sides to every story and came away with a different perspective after sitting down face to face.

  2. The interview’s done so I don’t have to brown-nose, but Sandy and Co. were quite considerate with their time, explanations, and offers of help in the future if it was needed.

    Learned quite a bit, listened a LOT, and there was a ton to digest. Taking notes would have been impossible, so recording this was a must.

  3. I have to admit that Community Development has stepped up to the plate on many occasions and “filled in” when there has been lapses in leadership in the past as his department has become the catch all. I have met with Mr. Prudoff on this point and expressed my gratitude.

    As quoted “We find it, sometimes amusing, as people say ‘There goes Community Development again, doing whatever it is that they do.” is far from an AMUSING perception. Why is it that so many people have such an AMUSING PERCEPTION of such an important function of our cities government?

    I did not find it very “amusing” that our city “forgot” to file the proper tax exemptions, and I am uncertain if this would even fall under this department. I did not find it “amusing” when council was told that the CRA abatement litigation process started out with the words, and I am paraphrasing, ” this is just a housekepping issue to make the legislation more consistant”. Had I been on council I would have felt “misinformed”.

    Besides that, I think the infill housing program is GREAT. I think several blight studies without a master land use plan is a waste of precious time. Make the owners of the Stoveworks clean up their own damn property and I feel until the area around Broadway, Elyria Avenue, and 21st Street is cleaned up, not much will happen to the north.

    Our planning commission is made up of some really nice people, but do they really understand our cities zoning laws? I am not taking a “pot shot” at them, but I feel that a master land use plan would really ASSIST THEM in making future determinations about our cities zoning. A master traffic use plan, if incorporated into the master land use plan might eliminate the problems that seem to always come up about traffic. Traffic is one thing that is NOT A PROBLEM in most parts of our city that cannot be easliy overcome.

    Why is our police station still in city hall? Why do we keep pouring money into a facility next to the lake instead of a more centralized location? Why is our streets department not located by the steel plant and in a more centralized location? Why is the city buying up other properties for others to develop instead of purchasing properties that would make our city more efficient?

    FORGET ABOUT PUTTING ANYTHING IN THE STOVEWORKS PROPERTY AS IT IS A DEAD HORSE. INVEST OUR TAX DOLLARS IN PROJECTS THAT HAVE HIGH VISIBILITY AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, INSTANT IMPACT!!!!

    I don’t know why I even bother saying these things anymore, I am not even a dim-witted carpenter anymore.

  4. Henery –

    Did you have the opportunity to ask Sandy et al. why, in the face of an overwhelming supply of homes in Lorain, would Community Development move against economic forces and build more homes? That’s the reason why some of the In-Fill homes needed to be auctioned. Was it simply because federal or state funds were there for the taking or do Com Dev’s actions fall under a larger umbrella of reason?

  5. No, Roman, I thought I’d leave that one to you.

    I was there to get info so that people could stop accusing them of things that don’t fall under their responsibilities and to clear up all the innuendo that’s being tossed around.

    I think Sandy would like to discuss some things with you, why don’t you give him a call?

  6. I think this is good and valuable info that many of us know. Com Dev is certainly adept at bringing in grant money.

    Further, Com Dev does many other things well. What I think people are more interested in is things that don’t work. Why the Design Review Board has no teeth, the CRA wranglings, the status of the Fligner/Prudoff lawsuit, the late taxes on the Com Dev owned buildings. I think those are important items to get Com Dev’s perspective on.

  7. First things first, Roman. Let’s find out about what they are responsible for, what they do, and how they help the city. Gotta get the background info and their cooperation, have to understand the workings first BEFORE you drop bombs and make accusations.

    At least, that’s my perspective. I learned from the Desvari situation that before I make accusations and point fingers that I should get as much info as possible. And if you get their cooperation they may be all too willing to answer the sticky stuff.

  8. Here’s my deal, Roman.

    I played the National Enquirer-thing with WoM. Broken down houses, city-stickered vehicles in empty lots, digs at Foltin, and where did it get us? Was the city better for it? Did we really improve anything? We couldn’t even get a dialogue or comments from the Mayor.

    So, the way I figger it, if we want to save ourselves, we might as well cuff the sleeves back and see what we can do to help the city. Dig in, get dirty, and we might get something done. At least then we can say we tried.

    First step, is to help everyone understand things from the City’s POV, and find out from them what we can do to help. Then, if we help and find them going in a different direction or goofin’ things up, we can step back and point a finger and call’em on the carpet.

    I’m a one-man show here. If I can’t get dialogue or questions answered from the City then I end up goin’ back to pretty pictures. Pretty pictures is nice, but it doesn’t do anything really productive.

    KnowwhutImean?

  9. Sounds like a plan Henery. I look forward to having Sandy and team answer some of the sticky questions and learning something new about Com Dev.

  10. Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy….. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of ANYTHING. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductible crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any ‘humanitarian’ progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductible contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool.. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. WAKE UP PEOPLE. THEIR GOAL IS TO WIN THE GAME. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Reaganomics. Their idea. Loans from China.. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit.. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. Brainwash plots on TV. Their idea… Prozac, Zanex, Vioxx, and Celebrex. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed, credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, couch potatoe, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of the above shrink the middle class, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources, and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and politicians. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for any of their ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTIBLE PR CRAP.. In many cases, the ‘charitable’ contribution is almost entirely offset.. Not to mention the opportunity to plug their name, image, product, and ‘good will’ all at once. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. These filthy pigs even have the nerve to throw a fit and spin up a misleading defense with regard to ‘tax revenue’. ITS A SHAM. THEY SCREWED UP THE EQUATION TO BEGIN WITH. ITS THEIR OWN DAMN FAULT. If the middle and lower classes had a greater share of the pie, they could easily cover a greater share of the federal tax revenue. They are held down in many ways because of greed. Wages remain stagnant for millions because the executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, and entrepreneurs, are paid millions. They over-sell, over-charge, under-pay, outsource, cut jobs, and benefits to increase their bottom line. As their profits rise, so do the stock values. Which are owned primarily by the richest 5%. As more United States wealth rises to the top, the middle and lower classes inevitably suffer. This reduces the potential tax reveue drawn from those brackets. At the same time, it wreaks havok on middle and lower class communities and increases the need for financial aid.. Not to mention the spike in crime because of it. There is a dominoe effect to consider. So when people forgive the rich for all of the above and then praise them for paying a greater share of the FEDERAL income taxes, its like nails on a chalk board. If these filthy pigs want to be over-paid, then they should be over-taxed as well. Remember: The richest 1% STILL own 1/2 of all United States wealth EVEN AFTER taxes, charity, and PR CRAP. A similar rule applies worldwide. There is nothing anyone can say to justify that. Anyway, there is usually a higher state and local burden on the middle class. They get little or nothing without a local tax increase. Otherwise, the red inks flows like a waterfall. Service cuts and lay-offs follow. Again, because of the OBSCENE distribution of bottom line wealth in this country. I can not accept any theory that our economy would suffer in any way with a more reasonable distribution of wealth. Afterall, it was more reasonable 30 years ago. Before Reaganomics came along. Before GREED became such an epidemic. Before we had an army of over-paid executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and sold-out politicians to kiss their asses. As a nation, we were in much better shape. Lower crime rate, more widespread prosperity, stable job market, free and clear assets, lower deficit, ect. Our economy as a whole was much more stable and prosperous for the majority. WITHOUT LOANS FROM CHINA. Now, we have a more obscene distribution of bottom line wealth than ever before. We have a sold-out government, crumbling infrastructure, energy crisis, home forclosure epidemic, 13 figure national deficit, and 12 figure annual shortfall. ALL BECAUSE OF GREED. I really don’t blame the 2nd -5th percentiles. No economy could ever function without some reasonable scale of personal wealth and income. But it can’t be allowed to run wild like a mad dog. GREED KILLS. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, Drew, and Bill are not part of the solution.. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH HAS MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

  11. ……..true, what’s your take on Mayor Kraienko’s plan to split the Safety/Service director’s job into 2 full time position’s?

  12. I’m hoping he has a plan for that. With the debt the city has right now, splitting the Safety/Service AND adding deputies to those positions has me scratching my head. I hope to hear from him regarding an email I sent, but word on the street is he’s been busier than all get out.

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