December 5th, 2015

roldo pontiff jackson 151205

I get the feeling that Mayor Frank Jackson is so taken with himself that he imagines himself a Philosopher King.

He has become the Great Pontificator. You can hear in his talk a belief of his omnipotence. A very risky flaw.

If you listened to Channel 20—the city’s TV outlet—and a program entitled ”Frank Talk,” starring the mayor, you would know what I mean.

I caught – at least twice – parts of a recent officious display of the seemingly mild-mannered Jackson’s performance of explaining the world according to Frank.

Let me tell you, it’s an experience.

With the Cleveland murder rate zooming up, Jackson the philosopher compared the essence of violence here to that of the terrorist events in Paris. And he didn’t leave out ISIS.

The casualness of his vision of extremism’s connection to what is going on in Cleveland crime was shocking to me.

The city has suffered indiscriminate drive-by shootings. They have resulted in deaths of “non-combatants. Particularly disturbing, the deaths of children—even babies. Random victims.

(Murders in Cleveland have gone from 68 in 2011 to 118 as of end of November, a councilman who keeps track says.)

Yet, our philosopher mayor seems preoccupied with sociological speculations of little merit. The same underlying cause of the Paris massacre—feelings of injustice—is the cause of our gun violence, he suggests.

And he talks, talks, talks as an interviewer, a city employee, avoids any cross exam. It’s a one-way conversation. No one else on stage.

Yet the Jackson record is dismal. Incompetence endemic to his administration.

The tragic situation here reveals a lone ranger mayor who keeps the same team pretty much no matter how badly it acts. On many fronts.

This is most shocking with police matters. When he took office I applauded him for saying it was a new day for police and the “use of force.” He said, “Excess force would not be tolerated.”

How quickly forgotten. As I have written before, “I believe he’s become enamored of power.” And so mild-mannered a man.

There is little new, young talent in a 10-year old administration. And it’s highly unlikely that the sour Jackson can attract the kind of vigorous talent this city direly needs.

The sad part for Cleveland is no one attracts young talent. Political figures that draw those with talent and desire, say as a Carl Stokes did, or even a Dennis Kucinich or George Voinovich, aren’t streaming to Cleveland. Despite the ready talk of rebirth.

A real leader would attract talent.

What we experience in Cleveland under Mayor Jackson, first elected in 2005 and expected to run again in 2017 for a 4th term, is mediocrity. A successful election would make him the longest serving mayor in the city’s history. More than half a generation!

What does his record show? Pretty scary stuff.

We’ve had the Anthony Sowell rapes and murders. Eleven women. Sowell was released from prison in 2005. He went unattended.

Mayor Jackson, this is on your tenure.

Ariel Castro kept three women – Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus – captive on Seymour Avenue, a Cleveland street, for eight years of your term. Under police radar.

Mayor Jackson, this is mostly on your tenure.

The 137 bullet & some 60 police car chase resulted in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Willis with the conviction of no police and the promotion of both the police chief and safety director to other jobs. “Systemic failure,” ruled Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine ruled. Jackson vigorously rejected. Only in Cleveland.

Jackson’s response: Promote police leadership: former chief McGrath to safety director at $122,720 and former safety director Marty Flask to special assistant at $121,965. Reward ineptitude. On your tenure, Mayor Jackson.

Then the horrible, criminal shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice. And no by you has paid a price. You dither.

Mayor Jackson, on your tenure.

Your record is replete with failure.

The Federal Aviation Administration fined the city recently $735,000 for not adequately cleaning runways of snow. SNOW—in Cleveland, hardly an unusual aspect of winter to go unrecognized. Possibly deadly consequences. It traces back to you.

Mayor Jackson, this was on your tenure. Again.

We have had ongoing problems with lead poisoning of our children.

The Plain Dealer reported recently, “Over the last 15 years we’ve had 40,000 kids who have been poisoned in Cuyahoga County,” said John Sobolewski, who supervises the county’s lead poisoning program. “That’s a lot of kids.”

“About 80 percent of the children who are poisoned each year within the county live in the city of Cleveland,” wrote the Plain Dealer in a comprehensive report.

Mayor Jackson, much of that has been on your watch.

You can’t say Mayor Jackson that these problems with your dysfunctional health department, as so many other departments, haven’t been brought to your attention.

Dysfunction seems to be the hallmark of your administration.

Services to your constituents seem to continually decline in execution.

Snow plowing in Cleveland should be a routine task. We have winter in Cleveland. It brings snow. No secret. We have trees, too. Leaf pickup in the Forest City should be an obvious city task. Not on your watch.

Only neglect and failure.

Garbage pickup is essential for good health. It should be a city service. To pick up garbage that has been a city service for, well, forever. You have given it a price tag—$9 a month.

Mayor Jackson, this happened in your term.

The PD labels your Building & Housing department “scandal plagued.” I can vouch myself as a relatively new resident attempting to get some work done. The contractor, thinking it was Shaker Heights but finding it was Cleveland, refused the work. He simply didn’t want to deal with Cleveland’s building and housing department.

Not worth the effort, Mayor Jackson.

Now, I can’t say this happened under your reign Mayor Jackson alone. But it can be said it continues unabated.

For a councilman who voted AGAINST the construction of the Browns football stadium you have become a dutiful servant of sports team owners. They demand. You accede. No attempt to bargain. Just give.

You have given Jimmy Haslam access to hundreds of millions of dollars by your support of a 20-year, $240 million sin tax extension. But that’s not enough. New scoreboard? By all means.

You even gave the Browns access to city parking spaces (some 1,700 a game or 17,000 a season) for a bit more than $4 a spot, a nice price if you can get it. Fans pay much, much more.

You’ve become a disgustingly willing agent to Power and that’s why there’s no complaint about you from the business/civic/media establishment.

Meanwhile, the charges of incompetence rain down on your administration – from potholes to airport safety. Sloth your emblem.

Mayor Jackson, you accept within your administration too much laziness as a standard. You seem not to recognize it. If you did, heads would roll. Consequences would be visible.

I knew you once as the “neighborhood councilman.” Something has changed. Drastically. I believe you have become enamored of power and of yourself.

You have become the Downtown Mayor. So the powers-that- be accept the dismal services because they don’t suffer them. They live elsewhere. Not on city streets. You are taking care of downtown, more now than ever as the city prepares for the Republican National Convention. Spending money you don’t have on Public Square.

All is going well for the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Not for Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland.

Time for consequences, however. And if there were consequences they should say do not to seek an unprecedented fourth term.

I think we’ve all had enough of you.

Two ingredients to induce Jackson to retirement would be the Plain Dealer and City Council.

The PD—with its increasingly limited staffing—has made some effort to put the inadequacies (mildly put) of the administration into clear perspective for voters.

But the message lack clarity, power. It’s too subtle.

The Council leadership, under Kevin Kelley, has been deadly lacking. Council has neglected its purpose as a balance to the administration. A corrective balance.

Even in the lead problems, revealed by the PD, Council health committee chairman and veteran Councilman Joe Cimperman hasn’t held a showdown meeting to challenge the administration.

Indeed, veteran Councilmen as Matt Zone, Tony Brancatelli, Dona Brady, and Ken Johnson continue to keep their heads down and ignore serious problems of the city and their constituents.

It’s going to take instruments of democracy to educate the public to the serious needs that are going unmet in Cleveland.

Too much of the city is suffering.

Yet, it’s discouraging. I don’t see anyone stepping up to meet the challenge and the need for change at the top in Cleveland.

The city remains to absent real leaders. Who will step up?

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. MFiala says:

    So, i’m supposed to thank Jeff Hess for housing/hosting Roldo. So, thanks, Jeff.

    Regarding this post of Roldo’s.

    When Mayor Jackson and so many previous mayors gave away large amounts of tax dollars and subsidies to Developers begging for any development, anything that would look like economic activity, like so many other desperate cities, no wonder we don’t fund lead abatement and trash-pickup.

    A Public purpose is lost on this administration and most urban administrations. It is an ugly business and uglier if someone actually stood up to the power-brokers of Cleveland. One would not likely survive their attacks, though one could go down with some sense of fighting for a good cause.

    My previous comment on Roldo’s earlier ‘$$$ for Sports’ teams’ highlights the alternatives that actually exist, though we hear little of that from Cleveland leaders.

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Good evening MFiala,

    First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and for taking the time to write a comment. We build our communities with our conversations.

    Second, you’re very welcome, but I am the one who is honored and humbled by being able to continue to make Roldo’s writings available to the public.

    When I moved to Cleveland more than 30 years ago, Roldo was already a fixture here. I subscribed to Point Of Viǝw and as a young journalist I was in awe of what he did, and still does. To some his message is repetitive to the point of annoyance and that is a good thing.

    Another of my personal heros was Admiral Hyman Rickover (I served on one of the ships in his nuclear Navy) who famously said:

    Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience.

    Roldo epitomizes that courageous impatience.

    Do all you can to make today a better day,


  3. MFiala says:


    I agree ‘awe’ is the right word for Roldo’s writing. That is what I experience, as i used to subscribe to POV.

    While it is repetitive, Cleveland’s failed strategies are repetitive as Dan Kerr documents well in Derelict Paradise, with Cleveland trying to make itself a tourist destination in the 1930s in response to the Depression, and hosting the RNC AND the hobo convention, though the latter fact is ignored by our current tourist peddling.

    You’d think about 100 years of failure to make Cleveland a tourist destination on the part of the revolving city leadership might be enough evidence to go another route. But the lack of memory (historical and institutional) seems endemic to the pandering and the setup we have.

    But i’m not sure how we build communities w conversations and what you mean by that, though we certainly need to tell our stories and reflect on what we’ve learned and need to do together. Maybe it’s so embedded in my daily life that i just assume what is so essential. And in that, i may be very very blessed.



    • Jeff Hess says:

      M Fiala,

      My experience is that we incorrectly accept the general idea that any group of people living in close proximity to each other is a community.

      Proximity should not be the deciding factor; interaction, hopefully more positive than negative, is what creates communities. While interactions can take many form, verbal communication is perhaps the most vital.

      In another, face-to-face, conversation with my brother Cavana Faithwalker, we talked about the importance of walking the streets of a community and saying hello to people.

      In the case of my own, oft-use, phrase, I’ve built on a line I used to use: that’s what it’s all about. I grew as a writer to greatly dislike our use of the world it because too often we use the word without fully understanding what the it we use is. I did a lot of thinking about what I was really trying to say in that phrase. We build our communities with our conversations was the result.

      While enjoying Roldo’s writing is certainly sufficient, I do hope you find more here as well.


  4. Thanks for the kind and encouraging comments, Jeff and M Fiala. Most appreciated.

    I do consistently follow the same Cleveland institutions, which act in the same way to attain the same results. So repetition is necessary and impossible to avoid.

    But I find the comments encouraging and thank especially Jeff for providing me a place to continue to watch these events.

  5. I agree that Frank Jackson is a scary problem, leaving a scary legacy, but wish Roldo would take the gloves off on two of Jackson’s cohorts – Rokakis and Frangos. Roldo, for some reason, spares them any scrutiny, though these two con artists have been scamming the City of Cleveland since Rokakis “invented” Housing Court and Frangos “invented” the Land Bank. With control of the City of Cleveland thanks to the Council Leadership Fund and former Councilman John Zayac serving as bagman for special projects conducted throughout the City by the various council-controlled CDCs – you have the disaster we live with today.

  6. Thanks for reading Laura.

    I thought Rokakis and Frangos were your missions in life.

    Happy holidays, Roldo

    • My comments to your posts when you published at The Leader were deleted. Maybe your editors had a hand in that. In any case, I agree with your points, especially regarding leaves and snow—obvious service needs in Northeast Ohio. Leila Atassi ran an excellent piece covering the so-called legacy achievements of Frank Jackson.

      You might also contact her—she is working on a story on those two former council colleagues of Frank Jackson.

  7. LouR says:

    I’m going back and reading your blog posts, Roldo. Didn’t know where they were being posted after the Cleveland Leader went under. You’re usually very insightful and provide a lot of specific details that never find their way into the Plain Dealer or

    While I also primarily agree with you in this post, there happen to a few assertions made by you that are rather silly. For example, you’re actually blaming Jackson for the actions of a serial rapist/murderer and for the actions of a kidnapper/sadistic sex freak? Come on, man.

    Yes, Jackson has been a morass of leadership weaknesses and major contradictions since becoming Mayor Frank Jackson. But I’m fairly certain every Cleveland mayor has had their fair share of serial rapists and freaks on the loose on their watch, too. I’m also fairly certain that it wasn’t the fault of any of those mayors.

    No amount of bureaucratic policy orders or additional funding is going to change the reality of urban environments. Serial rapist/murderers and kidnapper/sadistic sex freaks sometimes operate in the suburbs, too. That’s not any mayor’s fault.

  8. Roldo Bartimole says:

    Lou: I think you make a good point. However, I stick with my criticism of Jackson. Mayors take credit for the good things that happen even though they may have had nothing to do with them. So they have to take the criticism for the bad. But more than that police were to both those houses at some point and nothing was done. The signs were there. Recently I published figures from the city that in 2015 (not the complete year) the city provided 34,173 hours of police time to the three sports facilities. Of that total 7,788 were overtime hours. That means those police forces were not in the Cleveland neighborhoods that desperately need those services. You may think what I said harsh and undeserved. But the mayor is at the top and he’s the guy who has the responsibilities. We have a very sorry administration and it isn’t paying attention to the needs of its people. I can’t be anything but harsh.

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