I consulted my gardening mentor (former neighbor and master gardener Kathy) and she confirmed that my plants have black spot (see earlier post and ugly photo under "Trials and Tribulations"). Her advice was to just take off the worst leaves. Black spot doesn't hurt the plant, but it is ugly. She also suggested to simply cut it down to the ground and wait until next year (and toss in some fast growing seed of some sort just for this year). Kathy said sometimes rudbeckias do that - leaves and no flowers. She said hers did that a few years ago and this year, they are triple everything.
There is hope after all ... but until than I have to look at a barren patch in my front yard. Gasp!