Going all-in for Heights and the Observer

I admire people like Adam and Susan Fleischer. By opening The Wine Spot on Lee Road, they have gone all-in on their dream and their community.

They’re not alone. For two years I’ve been the volunteer who plugged every new business listing into the Heights Observer’s local business directory. I’m in awe that so many people choose to stake out a future by serving residents of this incredible and quirky area.

They could invest in Solon, Westlake, Mentor or some other hot-hand location with lower taxes and better highway access. Or they could build Internet businesses that serve the world.

But Cleveland Heights and University Heights continue to draw investment from optimistic people who believe in this community’s present and in its future. Each time one of them opens a business, it adds to our increasingly rare status as an oasis from bland national retailers who import goods from China and export money to corporate headquarters.

Three years ago this month, when my corporate job evaporated, I had grown weary of being a visitor in my own hometown. Since then, instead of collecting gold cards to hotels and airlines, I’ve coached Little League, volunteered for community organizations, and enjoyed life within a five-mile radius while working as a consultant from the bonus room of my home.

But I’ve still felt torn in the regular need to set aside work on community projects like the Observer in order to do work that pays the bills. Not anymore.

For the past two years, I’ve written this column as a volunteer, with the goal of providing transparency about how the Observer works. In that spirit, I’m using this space to explain that I’ve taken on the paid role of advertising sales and business development for the Observer.

I will be paid solely on commission, and it won’t be my only source of income. But it does represent an investment in the community, as I’ve chosen to drop lucrative work outside the area in order to do this.

It also represents an investment in the Observer’s mission to foster community dialogue and citizen engagement. The Observer will plateau this year without some new investment. So its owner, nonprofit FutureHeights, is planning to hire a paid editor--something we can only afford if we also make a fuller commitment to developing new products and new sources of revenue. As a volunteer, I couldn’t make time for those initiatives. Selling simply isn’t the kind of thing you can ask people to do for free.

Not least, it represents an investment in myself. I’ll be living a truly local life, working with my neighbors to help the community and its businesses to thrive.

This change requires me to step down from my role as a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors and as chairman of the Observer’s editorial advisory committee.

Over the next month, FutureHeights will name a new chairman, and I’ll continue to remain active and vocal on the committee.

I’m not sure who will write this column moving forward; it could even be me. Whatever decision is made, you won’t be kept in the dark about it.

To express your opinion privately, e-mail Bob Rosenbaum at bob@therosenbaums.net.

Bob Rosenbaum, former chairman of the Observer's editorial advisory committee, wrote this column to provide transparency and understanding about the newspaper.

Bob Rosenbaum

Bob Rosenbaum is a Cleveland Heights resident and former chairman of the newspaper's editorial advisory committee.

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Volume 5, Issue 2, Posted 11:44 AM, 01.31.2012