August 16th, 2013

Roldo Bartimole writes:

Cleveland needs a brutal political shake-up. Soon.

The mayoral election this year will be a joke. Mayor It-Is-What-It-Is vs. What’s-His-Name. Yawn.

So here’s one way of shaking the system but it will take the voters and a ballot issue to do it.

But no time like the present to start.

My suggestion: Make the position of Council President an elected post. City-wide. In other words one has to run before all voters to be Council President.

That would take the position out of the hands of weak Council members and chicken-shit politics. And their sickening games. It would be up to the voters.

We wouldn’t have, for example, Martin Sweeney as Council boss. He couldn’t run city-wide and win. At least that’s my thought. He’s trying to keep his job by gerrymandered ridiculous ward boundaries, contrived simply to maintain the status quo. And re-elect himself.

What this would do is make the Council President almost as powerful as the Mayor. Because he or she would always be a threat. Good. This mayor especially needs competition.

This could provoke an open battle of ideas.

It would replace the present “system” of nods from the Stokeses, Pinkneys and Forbeses. Hopefully denting if not breaking the power of the old unwise men.

What Cleveland needs badly at this point in its politics is rivalry.

The political game is presently too uncompetitive. Much too cozy. Much too go along to get along.

Cleveland’s established political leaders have successfully for years blocked and discouraged new people and their energy from competing against the comfy office-holders and their buddies. That goes for the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.

The County has opened up some because of the federal corruption washout of political hacks. The Dimoras, Russos and Kellys are gone.

It’s time the City of Cleveland got cleaned up too. Out with the hacks.

One way is competition.

Back in September 1987 it took a move by then freshman councilman Dan Brady to shake things up. At that time Brady jumped into a petition drive to limit the term of Council President. It was a brazen move.

It was aimed at one person: George Forbes. He ruled with an iron fist.

About this same time, Forbes showed his disdain for the other 20 Council members by trying to thwart a young Council member–Jeff Johnson. Forbes deliberately withheld an $850,000 UDAG for a shopping center in his Glenville ward.

Forbes leaving one meeting after blocking Johnson was challenged:

“You’re not man enough to tell me (why the legislation was blocked,” Johnson yelled at Forbes, who wouldn’t turn and face the challenge. Like tossing a red cape before the bull.

Johnson subsequently told reporters: “The problem fundamentally is this–he has a problem with me stating my independence or (my) disagreements. This is his way, his archaic way of punishing me.”

A challenge to power is like an icebreaker cutting through the ice opening paths.

Forbes made two enemies and it led to his political demise. He couldn’t run again in 1989 and expect to be re-elected by his colleagues. Therefore, he went back on his pledge to Mike White that he’d not run for mayor. As we know, White defeated Forbes in the 1989 election. (By the way, I wonder why there are no questions about Mayor White’s role in the debacle of handling rape cases in the early 1990s when micro-manager supreme White was mayor.)

In any case, it took a shake-up to force change.

Today’s Council seems to be made up, including now Jeff Johnson, with members like Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone, who have been going along to get along.

Council has gone back to the same old, same old as political maneuvering has allowed Sweeney, of all people, to reign supreme over a reduced Council.

And Sweeney has reciprocated for the support he gets from black Council members by his supine support of Jackson.
It all leads to stale government.

We need another bombshell.

Forcing a Council President to run city-wide and consider the needs of the entire city, rather than a small ward, as Forbes did for years, could become that breakthrough.

Is it worth a try? We need something.

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