The Diversity of Cleveland Heights

Janet Babin- Census 2000 claims that Cleveland Heights lost people during the last decade. The white population fell, while the number of African American residents increased. The new figures show that more than 41% of the population is African American. About 52% are white, and under 2% are Latino, Asian or of two or more races or ethnic groups.

While Mayor Ed Kelly continues to dispute the Census count, he says the demographic numbers paint an accurate picture of his city:

Ed Kelly- I always say we are the most diverse city in the U.S. There's a little bit of everything here.

JB- Kelly and other officials say the city's diversity is one of its highlights, which feed the flourishing business districts.

The Stone Oven Bakery Shop is buzzing with activity even on a weekday morning after rushhour. The Lee Road eatery is nestled between mixed neighborhoods filled with older, well kept homes. Over coffee, Cedar-Lee Merchants Association leader Joan Costello attributes the brisk business in this section of town to residents looking for a sense of community.

Joan Costello- This is the type of community other communities want to emulate. We have a great diversity of population, close tight neighborhoods -- places you can walk to with your kids.

JB- Cleveland Heights Vice Mayor Ken Motlack agrees.

Ken Motlack- This place is a place where people appreciate other types of folks. We have a great diversity of housing here.

JB- But one of the Stone Oven's owners, John Emersen, says he'd like to see more diversity in his store.

John Emersen- Most of my customers are white, while I certainly have some African American customers.

JB- Emersen's anecdotal observations don't surprise John Logan, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Albany. Professor Logan headed up a racial analysis of the 2000 census data. He found that the Greater Cleveland area, and other Rust Belt cities like Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee, were among the top ten most segregated areas by neighborhood.

John Logan- The very high level of Black/White segregation already felt in these areas fropm the 1940's and 1950's remains virtually unchanged today.

JB- Logan says that while people usually are pleased by the diversity of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, the census numbers are also indicative of segregation.

JL- The concentration of African Americans in Cleveland Heights is correspondent part is the absence of African Americans in other suburbs in the region.

JB- Nearby Shaker Heights population is about 60% white, the rest of the population is mostly African-American. But as Logan predicted, the city of Lakewood, a western Cleveland Suburb, is 97% white, and Westlake is 93% white.

Logan says the saddest part of his data is that in areas where there are a disproportionate number of blacks, services are more limited, schools are subpar, and the crime rate is higher.

JL- African Americans usually live in communities with higher crimes rates and fewer city services. The crime rate is double that of white neighborhoods.

JB- But that doesn't appear to be the case in Cleveland Heights. According to recent (1997, released in November 1998) FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the number of violent crimes in Cleveland Heights was just 38, compared to the similarly-sized, 97%-white-city of Lakewood, which had 163 violent crimes.

Shaker Heights is another example of a mixed-race community that doesn't fit the model. City spokeswoman Leslie Grodin says there isn't always a correlation between integration and crime. Grodin says crime in Shaker Heights continues to decrease, as integration rises.

Since the 1960's several east side suburbs have run housing programs that offer incentives to renters and buyers, if they make pro-integrative relocation choices. Grodin says in 2000, 260 people called the city looking to buy a home. Of those calls, about 25% took part in the housing incentives program.

But the perception that neighborhoods remain divided inside pockets of diversity lingers. Still, Cleveland Heights Vice Mayor Ken Motlack scoffs at the notion that cities could do more to even out the racial mix:

KM- We considered in City Council passing a law that required every other house on every other street to be... if folks tend to congregate one way or another it's really fine.

JB- There's no indication that city integration incentives or programs are really working: Logan's research points out that the average white suburbanite in the U.S. lives in a neighborhood that is 80% white and 7% Black, virtually unchanged since the last census in 1990. In Cleveland, Janet Babin, 90.3 WCPN.

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