Heights Observer on the Street

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Perception is reality.

Well not really. In theory we understand that what we perceive to be is not always what is so. It’s the reason why job applicants supply work histories and references. It’s why banks look to past credit history and current payment schedules to assess our status. Because what we say, assure and snazz up into a Microsoft Word template can paint a pretty picture, but in the end there is nothing like good, old fashioned hard facts.

But facts are open to interpretation and because we are human and partly emotional creatures, the interpretation of fact is through an impressionable lens. Built into our system are filters and biases and opinions that influence what we want for ourselves and for our families. Being partly emotional also allows us to sense changes in our environments, and this sensitivity is a basic support in our survival instinct. So if our longing is to place our family in a safe area with good schools and safe streets, we look for those sanctuaries, apologetically, because at the end of the day, our biases – our desires for what we want for ourselves – drive and dictate our motivations and actions.

Today, I met Sam. Sam has just relocated from Cleveland Heights to Beachwood.

Is Sam wrong for moving to Beachwood? I can’t answer that question. But what scares me about his choice is the admission that he did not seek out any information in formulating his assessment of the schools. You couldn’t hear all of the audio, but Sam’s choice admittedly came without the analysis of any information other than word of mouth and personal observation. From our continued conversation off-camera, I learned that there was no trip to the Cleveland Heights School Board or to his closest elementary school. He did not seek out the advice of a principal or a teacher of CH-UH school system. He and his wife simply made the decision. In Grown Folk’s World, that and the money Sam has to make execute his decision is all that’s needed to relocate from one area to the other. Maybe it deserved one more comprehensive moment of consideration but who’s to say it hadn’t already been extended?

I did take a moment – five minutes actually – to do a quick search on the areas of Cleveland Heights and Beachwood using Google with search engine terms like “crime statistics” and the name of each city. If I were to make an assessment based upon the data provided in this five minute search, the information listed would leave both as possible choices to consider.

The city of Beachwood’s website gives the appearance that it’s near water. Its pitch as a viable city displays its best selling features in brief bulletpoints. The mayor gives a personal welcome to the city with a bio off the link of the first page. The site clrsearch.com provides basic demographics of the city. Homefacts.com rates Beachwood as below the national crime average statistics and with an A+ safety index.

The city of Cleveland Heights’ website also pitches its best attributes, in longer format. Its first link pops upon a video player that showcases the city’s gems and gives time to personal testimony as the viability of the city. Its “New to The Community” link gives a general overview of information that one would need to more easily integrate into the area. Homefacts.com rates Cleveland Heights as below the national crime average statistic with a B + safety index.

In reality I don’t know what these statistics amount to in any broad perspective because the conduit through which information must travel is too easily influenced by a host of factors that have everything to do with perception. If perception, then, is truly name of the game, the question must be posed – how is Cleveland Heights perceived and what meaningful steps is it willing to take to truly become the safe, progressive, diverse area it claims to be? Is it already there? And how much is it worth to pursue families who perceive that it’s time to leave?

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