Category Archives: Crime

Canton: The Once and Future City

Photo: Jon Dawson

To me, Canton, Ohio, is a place that drips memories. I can see and feel them come at me in great waves as I drive down Cleveland Avenue to the still-beating heart of a once great city. Canton: a place I knew as an outsider from the suburbs; a place where I first saw both the solemn ugliness of the world and the gentle beauty of street life. This is a city of wonder and a city of ugliness. Even at its nadir in the 1990s, you knew Canton was a place that many once cared about deeply. I searched endlessly for the origins of those feelings in the dusty downtown and its many architectural wonders. Few my age did the same. The young of my generation held Canton in low regard—a place to, if anything, enjoy with a sense of irony. When I finally left, I didn’t look back. But in my absence Canton began a transformation. No one can say for sure where that transformation is heading, but the city is reorganizing itself despite long odds.

In many ways, the “Hall of Fame City” is the archetypal shrinking city. The beautiful but bruised downtown is surrounded by an inner ring of worn neighborhoods scarred by vacancy. The struggling manufacturing economy in the city’s core is overshadowed by a neglectful and unconcerned suburbia. Canton is struggling to overcome what Catherine Tumber calls “the growing invisibility” of smaller post-industrial cities.

Canton first became notable for producing agricultural machinery. By the end of the nineteenth century, it had become one of the world’s primary manufacturers of paving-bricks. The city later emerged as a big player in the iron and specialty steel industries. Like so many other industrial cities, the population grew in tandem with the plentiful jobs offered in local manufacturing concerns.

By 1950, 116,000 people called Canton home, and the city’s charming downtown had reached its peak. However, unbeknownst to the city fathers, the long descent was already underway. In the next few decades, tracts of farmland in the surfeit of suburbs started to transform into growing communities. The decentralization of retail soon followed. In 1965, the Mellett Mall (later Canton Centre) arrived as the first challenger to the hegemony of the downtown commercial district. But only five years later the suburban Belden Village Mall opened in Jackson Township. This started the process of drawing retail out of the city into the growing hinterlands.

The Canton I came to know in the 1990s had shrunk to about 84,000 people. With a coterie of friends—some from the city and some from the suburbs—I explored the maze of the city’s streets, apartments, and vacant buildings. We were a generation raised on the idea that the city was a foreign place—a place to be rejected. Instead, I found a city beaten and somewhat unrecognizable, but still vibrant. Local institutions like Taggart’s, a pre-war ice cream parlor/restaurant, introduced us to mixed-use development and businesses that weren’t cut from the sterile cloth of fast food franchisedom. Bars like George’s Lounge gave us a place to crash that didn’t bear the imprint of a sterile chain tavern. As manufacturing began to fade, Canton rebranded itself. Known as the city that birthed professional football, Canton hosts the Pro Football Hall of Fame annual induction ceremony and parade. And every July before the festivities the “clean-up” began—an effort to temporarily hide prostitutes and the homeless who haunted the streets from Cherry to Shorb.

At night, that side of Canton came to life. We might often forget, but the city belongs to everyone, from the banker to the bordello worker. And during those years the city belonged maximum dose cialis per day as much to the working class and the “under-class” as it did to anyone. The McKinley Monument—the burial place of President McKinley—and surrounding Monument Park saw the mingling of ravers, viagra generic hustlers, and the disturbed in the humid summer months. Some unseemliness certainly existed, but nothing like what would come with gradual rise of gang culture. Today, a kind of border fence separates the graveyard from the monument, and the park is heavily policed after dark. Homicides and home invasions occur much more regularly. This devolution, sadly, is symbolic of what’s happened to far too many of the city’s core neighborhoods.

Despite Canton’s declining population, the best of the area’s built environment is still in the city: the beautifully restored Victorian Professional Building; the classical the female viagra brick streets of the inner core; and the stately elegance of the historic Ridgewood neighborhood, whose mix of revival-style houses represent American architecture at its height. And the principal cultural institutions in the county are located in the city—the symphony, the ballet, The Player’s Guild, etc.

I often wandered the half-abandoned downtown of the late-90s. The silent splendor of the neo-classical Key Bank Building and the Neo-Renaissance Onesto Hotel served as guideposts for my travels through the dusky streets. Back then, the downtown offered little. An adult bookstore/video arcade even dominated the main entrance into the old commercial district. Only the grandeur of the nearby Palace Theater, a 20’s era movie house, gave any indication of what a joint the downtown must have once been.

The moribund and derelict downtown of the 90s is rapidly giving way to pockets of re-growth. In 2003, the city issued the first downtown development plan. Within a few years an arts district was established. Coffee shops, some retail, and a broad range of new eateries followed—including Muggswigz Coffee, which made USA Today’s “10 best coffeehouses in America” list.

The downtown of the late 90s lacked almost any active edges. Few of the streets seemed lively at all. Today, that’s changing. Despite the fact it is too large –with many gaps that prove unfriendly to pedestrians looking for connections between parts of the downtown—some wonderful blocks have emerged. The art galleries on Sixth are a fine example of what revitalized streets should look like. Even the Subway fast-food joint on Market properly conforms to the street, fitting in perfectly with the other gorgeous storefronts. Still, downtown is only fully activated for a small portion of the year. Blight issues in the corridor and competition from the massive suburban shopping center around Belden Village are holding back the next stage of development.

Canton’s best buildings come from the pre-war era and still show the obvious marks of craftsmanship that separate the city from its surrounding communities—like the aptly named Plain Township. The best of these—the Carnegie Library (done by a Youngstown, Ohio native) and the Stark County Court House, among others—are in the Beaux-Arts style. These civic maste
rpieces convey a sense of history and of destiny—that Cantonians were, and are, a capable people made in the mold of the ancients. These buildings remind us of a once great and future city.

I recently drove down 5th Street for the first time in well over a decade. Even then, the area was distressed and considered “unsafe.” I remember driving passed Martin’s Carryout on the weekends, an improvised bodega that was once obviously a residential unit. Every year it looked a little worse. Today it’s boarded up, and the area around it is becoming an urban prairie dotted with tax credit housing. This is one possible future for Canton. The other is the reactivation—already underway—of the city center. Its likely young Millennials will be the ones who will have to complete this job.

Like much in urban life, walking through the center city is an occasion for both a melancholic and memorable experience. The dreariness of recent decades is still obvious, but so is the weight of a more distant past. The long forgotten memories of the stone masons, steel workers, and craftsmen who built the city are so thick and alive that one can’t help but feel them all around. What would they whisper to this generation? What would they expect from those who have inherited this battered city? The answers are swirling in every alley, storefront, and house along the arteries of Canton. They only wait for us to come and find them.

By Sean Posey



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Filed under architecture, Brain Drain, Crime, Economic Development, Headline, sprawl, Urban Planning

Essay: East Side Noel Night in Detroit

Driving home last night, my head was full of blue eyes and good conversation. The taco place, the tree-trimming party, the jazz show, the unexpected commonalities.

I turned the radio up and took city streets home, drove the scenic route of East Warren since it was too late to take a good-mood-victory-lap on Belle Isle. I noticed bars I’d never realized were there, pools of light surrounded by clusters of cars in the dark Detroit night. I drummed on canadian pharmacy keeps emailing me the steering wheel and made a mental note to maybe check one or two of them out some time.

I turned onto The Boulevard and went a couple of blocks before I saw the glowing cloud. For a second I fumbled in my head, groped for another explanation, but once I started to see that the cloud was orange, I knew.

I have been reading and writing lately about all these fires, all these burning buildings. Summer of last year there was this two-week period where I saw so many fires that I got depressed for a while. So I check in with myself: Am I just seeing this because I focus on it? Is it really that bad?

Earlier this week there was a fire on the block of the historic Ossian Sweet house, two doors down. The Sweet House was untouched, but the occupied house was destroyed, and both its occupied neighbor and its unoccupied neighbor were damaged. Two days ago there was an arson on the West Side that killed two very young children.

Last night it was so big and so apparently orange, I thought maybe it was that abandoned rec-center-school-thing over there. Nope: Just north of 94, on Field Street, there were at least two houses and a garage, going throughout. Usually you see a little bit of flame and a lot of smoke, but this was all flame. I don’t know if the buildings were occupied.

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When I got back to my neighborhood, several entire neighborhoods away, I could still see the top of the smoke cialis 5 mg once a day cloud. Damn. I hope everyone’s okay. But what can I do? I went in, sprawled out, texted blue eyes, wrote this.

–Claire Nowak-Boyd

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Shared Responsibility for Detroit's Woes


As a Michigander for the past 21 years, I’ve heard my share of Detroit criticisms, jokes, and put downs, both from within and outside the Great Lakes State. While fingers can be  pointed at the lack of past civic and political leadership in Detroit, our collective actions (or lack thereof) can certainly share in the responsibility. Some may scoff at such a notion, but here’re a few reasons why:

  • As a nation we elected leaders who adopted a tax code and laws that advocated, promoted, and accelerated flight from cities and suburban sprawl. Many in this nation continue to support such policies. Granted, this affects every city, but that doesn’t mean it was beneficial for them unless they had scads of excess land for new subdivisions or the ability to annex freely.
  • As a nation, we collectively turned our backs on inner cities and the residents thereof many years ago, only seeing fit to reverse course when the notion of revitalization became profitable.
  • As a state, Michigan has some of the most arcane home rule laws that created thousands of 36 square mile “kingdumbs” (pun intended) that fight with each other like cats and dogs and seldom do the right thing.
  • This nation very nearly turned its collective back on the auto industry due to political self-interest.
  • As a state and nation we allowed expressways, poorly placed factories, urban renewal projects, sports stadiums, and other projects to carve up and displace perfectly healthy inner city neighborhoods, leaving a tattered and disjointed landscape.
  • Residents/politicians living in outstate Michigan from Detroit would short-sightedly say, act, and vote as if Detroit was not their problem too.
  • In Southeast Michigan, leaders and residents alike outside of Wayne County often could care less what happened south of Eight Mile.
  • One of the best interurban transit systems in the nation was torn up and replaced by diesel-belching buses that have as many endearing qualities as a lump of coal.
  • Corporations ran away from the city in the ’60s and ’70s…with some finally seeing the light of their actions and returning to Detroit in the ’00s and ’10s.
  • Half of Detroit’s professional sport franchises left for the ‘burbs with one, the Pistons, still playing practically closer to Flint than Detroit.
  • Far too many lenders and insurance companies red-lined inner city neighborhoods.
  • Shady lenders who offered inner city loans foreclosed on homeowners the first chance they got.
  • Absentee landlords let their properties decline into disrepair and blight.
  • Politicians shied away from making the tough decisions, and rhetoric replaced reason in far too many discussions and decisions concerning Detroit.
  • Too many people in Southeast Michigan acted like the city was an island unto itself, when, like it or not, their collective futures have been inexorably linked to Detroit’s fate.
  • Up until recent years, the national media tended to solely focus on the bad news  about Detroit. There are many great things about Detroit, and piling on does nothing to reverse problems: it only reinforces misperceptions and stereotypes.

Shall I go on?

– Rick Brown


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Filed under architecture, Crime, Economic Development, Featured, Great Lakes, Politics, Public Transportation, Race Relations, Real Estate, Sports, sprawl, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty

Serial Killers and Cleveland's Image

Now that ANOTHER serial killer has been apprehended in Cleveland–well, actually, East Cleveland–the city is laser-focused on what’s most important about this story: whether women feel safe in the city’s poorest neighborhoods the city’s image!

Will the fact that poor women are being preyed on and murdered/imprisoned/raped by calculating lunatics hurt tourism? Channel 5 investigates!


My friend Christine had this to say about the story:

Night or day… it doesn’t matter. In the late ’90s/early 2000s I used to wait for the bus in the same area that Ariel Castro was prowling, and dozens of men would ask me if I needed a ride. He might’ve been one of them, for all I know–he’s pretty ordinary-looking. I learned a lesson from all that: there are people who assume you’re a throwaway person if you’re hanging around a certain area, no matter what time of day.

I wonder where the hell would they get that idea?


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Video: East Cleveland Middle School Students Respond to a Police Shooting

Late last year, at the culmination of a long high-speed chase, 13 Cleveland police fired 137 rounds into a car in East Cleveland killing two unarmed people.

State and local authorities are currently investigating the case: why the chase — which violates official department policies — occurred; why police thought the fleeing couple was armed.


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department. None of the 13 shooters was black, but the victims were.

Anyway, one of the more upsetting elements of this case is that the shooting took place basically on the grounds of a school in East Cleveland, although not during school hours. Some local filmmakers interviewed students at that school, Heritage Middle School, about their thoughts on the case, below.

Pretty tough environment these kids are living in. It’s interesting to hear their opinions.




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Burned: A Photo Essay on Arson in Toledo

Above photo by Sam Ricker

Editor’s note: The following photo essay come from Lori King’s photojournalism students at Owens Community College. Click here to view their photo essay.


Above photo by Lynn Redding

Burned: The Rust Belt on fire

A photo story by the Intro to Photojournalism class at Owens Community College
By Lynn Redding and Miranda Molyet

Arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Of these fires, 30 percent are in structures, including homes. Fire officials estimate that 50 percent of all fires may be intentionally set, yet it is difficult to determine the actual number of arson fires because many of them go unreported.

The FBI estimates that four out of the top 10 cities in the United States for arson crimes reported are in Ohio. The fourth spot on the list is right here, in Toledo. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal reported that the six common motives for arson are: excitement, vandalism, crime concealment, revenge, extremist/terrorist and profit.

For our team community service photo story project, the Introduction to Photojournalism class at Owens Community College visited a few arson fire sites in the Central Toledo area.

Why should we, as a community, care about arson and its impact on the Rust Belt?

Arson is a felony crime. It is a crime against people, and every year firefighters are killed in responding to open-air fires. Then there is the cost of the fires, including the cost of supplies to fight the fires, the value of the property destroyed, the loss of tax revenue, and the fact that firefighters must be paid. In spite of the fact that arson is a crime, the real reason we should care about the growing arson problem in the Rust Belt is the fact that while firefighters are away battling an intentional and needless fire, they cannot respond in the event a real emergency should arise. The cost of arson is more than money; it is putting lives at risk.

To learn more about  Lori’s class and their work, check out the class blog here.

Above photo by Paula Taylor

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Filed under Crime, Economic Development, Featured, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Media, Urban Poverty

Returning to a More Hopeful Buffalo

After nearly three years in San Francisco, I threw in the towel and came home to Buffalo. I wasn’t proud of my decision to boomerang back to my parents’ house, but I had quit my job at an unnecessarily stressful and ineffective nonprofit to return to graduate school and travel, and had the better part of a year before school would start. Staying in my studio apartment was out of the question. Even if I were to start freelancing right away, it was costing me $1,400 a month, and I just couldn’t afford it.

Then there was the added fact that despite really liking the new friends I’d made, the many beautiful sights of San Francisco, and the cache of being in one of the coolest cities in the country, I was claustrophobic. City living just wasn’t working for me, and I longed for my parents’ forty acres north of Buffalo. Of course, I knew I was romanticizing the place, but that didn’t change the fact that I just wasn’t happy where I was.

San Franciscans seemed baffled by the fact that I was going back to some forgotten backwater, identical in their minds to the jobless, dying– and above all Republican– places they had fled from. But they tried to be understanding, especially because they all dealt with the ridiculous cost of living there and had seen many friends go because of it.

I came back home to nothing like what they imagined. The Western New York area, my Rust Belt home, has weathered the economic crisis well enough, with a relatively stable housing market. It’s not all rainbows and puppies by any means. Unemployment, while still above the national average, is falling. Crime rates aren’t very encouraging, with violent crime rising but property crime falling.

But there’s hope at a real grassroots level, and more of it than I recall seeing when I left. The Buffalo Barn Raisers, for example, have a calendar full of interesting social projects, including a Sunday Soup, the micro-granting phenomenon that has spread throughout the country.  Then there’s the explosion of environmental organizations like the Clean Air Coalition, in a nascent stage before I left and now a force to be reckoned with. A lot of the older social justice organizations are still here and going strong like the Coalition for Economic Justice.

Friends are starting their own businesses, including most recently a historical preservation and research consulting company, Old Time Roots. I have heard more stories of entrepreneurs here than ever, and that is a very good sign. There are many people who care about this region doing great work, and what I’ve mentioned here is just a drop in the bucket.

Even though I came back in November just as it was getting cold—the absolute worst timing, for sure—I caught up with old friends who expressed cautious optimism for WNY despite the brain drain that had claimed many of our mutual friends. They told me about the houses they’re rebuilding in the city. They told stories of people they’d met who had just left a draught-stricken South, underwater on their mortgages, and come here as what amounts to climate change refugees.

I don’t want to paint over the serious problems we face here, from poverty to pollution to a failing education system, gentrification and more. But I do believe that this region is on the rise, and not just because of the hopeful things I see around me. Another big factor is that we are right next to the largest source of surface fresh water in the world, and as climate change becomes more severe, we’re likely to see a reverse in our population decline and our brain drain. If we can prepare for this eventuality and clean up our lakes, WNY stands a good chance of being a great place to live in the coming decades.

I’ve also heard a lot fewer people trash-talking Buffalo, saying nothing ever happens here, or that they need to get out and can’t find work. And I’ve even found work! Just some consulting, including for a great new environmental organization. But still, it’s better than nothing. Even living with my parents hasn’t been that bad, and the social stigma of it doesn’t really seem to be too bad here.

When I lived in San Francisco I felt like I was in a liberal haven where loads of other activists were doing all the tough work for me, and I could sit back and just go to a protest or two a year. Here, I feel again like I need to be doing things, even though I’m not sure I’ll be staying very long. Either way, this place is special, and beautiful, and on the rise despite its problems.

By Buffalo boomerang Irene Morrison


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