Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Charm School

I received a request from a reader asking for my comments on a controversial program in my city of Cleveland Heights, dubbed "Charm School", recently announced by the mayor.

For those readers who are non-Clevelanders, I will explain the "Charm School" concept as I understand it.

Apparently the city receives many complaints, including phone calls to the police department, over what would be deemed nuisances. Loud music, unrestrained pets, neighbor kids running across flower beds, lawns being mowed at unreasonable hours...You get the picture. The folks who field these complaints noted many of them concerned renters who were unaware of the rules imposed by suburbanites to insure harmonious living. The people at City Hall also discovered that most people would comply once they understood the expectations.
The "Charm School" idea was a pro-active response, as opposed to simply reacting to annoying behavior.
The controversy arose when it was announced "Charm School" would be a requirement for Section 8 (low income) renters. An immediate cry of 'discrimination' erupted from members of the community. The poor were not the sole perpetrators of rude behavior. Bad manners cross all economic strata.
All true.
However, most of the nuisance calls involved renters, many of whom were receiving Section 8 subsidies. The City decided to make the classes a requirement since they noted the people who would benefit most from the information are the ones least likely to attend an optional program.

My response is this:
The idea of a proactive class is great. I don't have a problem with it being required
The Mayor blew it when he publicly referred to the classes as "Charm School". The implied connotation of bad manners is insulting. Had these classes been simply called Good Neighbor Information Sessions, they would have passed under the media radar and there would have been no public outcry.
It's all in the spin.

Post Script:

A reader commented that perhaps the "Charm School" moniker was created, not by Mayor Kelly, but rather by a creative Plain Dealer staffer. Upon further research, I could not substantiate a quote from the mayor labeling the Good Neighbor classes "Charm School". I did find a page from the newsletter Future Heights that may be of interest to anyone wanting more information, and lots of commentary on this subject.


Anonymous said...

Did the mayor actually use the term "charm school" or was it the product of the PD editors' creative headline writing abilities?

marybeth said...

I will have to check my sources, but I do recollect reading a quote from the Mayor, or his office, referring to the classes as a "charm school for new residents".

Dale P. said...

PD staff writer Thomas Ott used the term "charm school" in his June 17 article as did Regina Brett on June 22. However, I did not see the term used by the mayor in any of the articles. I won't accuse either writer of using the term to mean any one particular idea ( I can't speak for them), but they did use it.

Thanks for your thoughts and research.