May 18th, 2017

170518 ford drop dead roldo daily news

For the past 10 years or so Mayor Frank Jackson’s message to Cleveland’s most needy neighborhoods has been seen by many as: Drop Dead.

Back in 1975 when New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy President Gerald Ford delivered a speech essentially offering no federal help to our largest city.

The New York Daily News the next day summed up his message with blazing front-page headline: Ford to City: Drop Dead. He lost re-election a year later.

That’s what Cleveland’s poverty neighborhoods have been hearing from Mayor Jackson by actions, not words: Drop Dead.

Jackson hails from likely the most impoverished inner city neighborhood but he’s concentrated—until very recently—on the downtown agenda of Cleveland’s corporate community.

Zack Reed, one of a number of his mayoral opponents in the upcoming September runoff election, has apparently gotten under Jackson’s thin skin.

So much so that the mayor, angered by Reed’s attack on his $2.3 million dirt bike plan—seems to have a raw nerve hit.

Indeed, when questioned by Channel 19 Carl Monday at a press conference the day following Reed’s attack on the floor of the Council regular meeting, Jackson seemed to lose it.

He called Reed a “pimp.”

The Plain Dealer reported: “He can say anything, whatever he thinks is to his advantage,” Jackson said, responding to a question at a news conference.

“There are pimps in every world,” the mayor said. “He’s pimping this situation … exploiting it for the purpose of his own interests.”

When asked if he really meant to say that, Jackson repeated the slur.

Jackson looks old and tired.

For a politician of few words, he used the wrong ones.

This outburst suggests that the pressure is building and taking its toll.

He has two aggressive, younger councilmen nipping at his heels and he obviously doesn’t appreciate it. He seems to think he’s owed his job.

Reed and Jeff Johnson are two young black politicians who have decided, unlike the past few elections, they aren’t waiting in line anymore.

It’s been traditional, particularly among black politicians of recent history, to “wait your turn.”

But Jackson going for a fourth four year term made it improbable younger pols would stand aside.

Further, this community is restless. It sees the bounty given to downtown and the finger given many neighborhoods.

The Quicken Arena deal, which I’ve written about often recently, has become a defining issue for not only politicians but citizen forces that have been quiet for some years and without any leadership.

Mayors going back to George Voinovich have been corporate cooperative.

The $282 million price tag on the “expansion” (there’s no other word for it) of the Q for a billionaire team owner makes the issue clear and loud—you’ve gone too far.

The issue came at the same time the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a movement of various religious and other groups, and the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, a progressive formation arising out of protests last year, began to point out the inequalities under Jackson’s reign.

Both Johnson and Reed have notches in their records—Johnson a criminal conviction and Reed a number of DUIs.

But these handicaps are likely to have little effect on the election when contrasted to Jackson’s corporate favored record.

Of course, you can bet the Plain Dealer will be backing the mayor and slanting its news, editorial and columnist coverage. It’s already apparent.

The tensions in the community are evident in the criminal activity and other serious problems.

Some dismiss Reed as a legitimate opponent for Jackson.

I don’t.

I underestimated Reed once; won’t do it again.

When he first returned to town he was appointed to a council seat. He attended Golden State University in San Francisco. Then he worked for Mayor Willie Brown.

When Council was reduced from 33 to 21 he ran against two Council members—Odelia Robinson and Tyrone Bolden—finished third but caught the eye of former Mayor Michael White.

When Robinson retired, Reed was named to her seat.

But he had to run against probably the most powerful political name in the city—Stokes. Cordell in this instance, the son of former Mayor Carl Stokes.

I remember laughing at Reed, telling him his council tenure would be rather short. The Stokes name seemed too powerful to me.

But Reed defeated Stokes and proved he’s a pol with ability to win an election many thought he couldn’t.

Now he’s gotten under Mayor Jackson’s skin and upset the mayor’s equilibrium. Something Frank Jackson at 71 years with a political career of more than a quarter century cannot afford.

Reed slammed one of the mayor’s pet projects—a dirt bike park—that he’s willing to spend some $2.3 million to build.

Reed feels that many in the neighborhoods believe the mayor is making this large expenditure simply because his grandson rides a dirt bike and has gotten into trouble, as have others who use the bikes, sometimes dangerously, on city streets.

He apparently hit a nerve.

Jackson has allowed himself to become labeled as a downtown mayor and has, according to Reed and others, forgot where he came from—Lonnie Burten’s old impoverished neighborhood. Jackson replaced his friend Burten, who was becoming a major political figure. He died much too young. The Case-Western Reserve U’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland described him this way: “Outspoken, unconventional, and determined to provide decent housing…” for his neighborhood.

Jackson seemed to follow, maybe more quietly, Burten’s path.

It went on to say: “Burten’s political style put him at odds with Council President George Forbes. In 1976, Burten was suspended for one week without pay for refusing to heed council rules. In 198l, Burten led an unsuccessful campaign to replace Forbes as Council President. Burten rose above controversy to give his constituents the kind of grass-roots, personal representation needed to rebuild the community. At age 40, Burten collapsed with a fatal heart attack while he was dismantling his home.”

Jackson, with less drama, continued Burten’s work.

Now, however, his strong support of the corporate agenda has weakened his stature as Cleveland mayor.

The deal for the Quicken Arena where the city agreed to give Dan Gilbert, a billionaire, $88 million of the city’s admission tax receipts, has angered many. And it brought organized opposition by forces that want a vote on the issue.

This give-away comes after other taxes and fees—a hike in the city income tax, a renewal of a school tax and a garbage collection fee on residents and other county taxes that weigh heavily upon those with little cash.

Many neighborhoods, especially in the black east side area, continue to suffer grave neglect and are beset by rising crime.

Reed believes that Jackson simply rejects the possibility of being replaced by either him or Jeff Johnson.

But the time has come. Finally.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Gloria Hanson says:

    Why do politicians and many older leaders want to hang on to power for so long? Jackson has had his time, and now he should turn it over to the younger ones.

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