October 19th, 2017

170120 carl stokes dennis kuchinch roldoCleveland mayors Carl Burton Stokes (1968-1971) and Dennis John Kucinich (1978-1979).

When 87 percent of voters of Cleveland don’t bother to go to the polls it suggests a non-caring citizenry. Or worse.

I realize it was a primary vote. But it involved a mayor who wants an unprecedented fourth four year term. It also drew a number of challengers. It didn’t make much difference. They didn’t get voters aroused.

It signals a dead civic town. A community not only uncaring but it is uncared about.

This is a dead town. Except for the cheerleaders.

Its leadership—political, business/legal and civic—lacks straightforward honesty. Greediness reigns. It is a time where those who CAN do and with little concern for the rest. It’s a take society here.

There was some movement on the downtown vs. neighborhoods. But it never got momentum. That was especially true when 20,000 signatures were signed to force a ballot vote on another huge gift to Danny Gilbert and the Cavaliers. And then those who got the signatures withdrew from battle.A serious civic setback.

We are told our condition has changed. Indeed, Cleveland, once again, tells the world it is a progressive city. On the move. A city has bounced back from serious and persistent decline. We believe our own hype.

A dead town allows almost anything to go on. Corruption reigns.

How many voters casting ballots in this general election will be a tell. It will tell us whether we have a live or dead citizenry. I think the mayor primary in September told us the answer.

This November election will tell us if there’s any civic life left.

Does the city have a pulse?

Those who rule this city don’t really want an active, lively city but a docile, sleepy city. The better to make their moves.

We can look back and see what a live town looked like to voters.

In 1967—after tumultuous years following severe civic strife—257,113 voters [Corrected, JH] made their way to the polls. (That is close to the total population of the city today: 385,809). The total population then was some 750,000 according to the 1970 Census.

What is striking, however, is how many people made it to the polls to vote in the past. That energy signaled hope. It’s gone.

The percentage who voted in 1967 was 79 percent! Almost as many as DID NOT vote in our primary. Shameful.

We have been hollowing out Cleveland for years, especially where blacks and/or poorer people live. Urban renewal and land-banking without commensurate rebuilding of housing helped and helps evacuate the city. Out to the inner suburbs. They’ll suffer the results of our neglect.

In the 1967 election Carl Stokes defeated Seth Taft. The vote was 129,318 or 50.36 percent for Stokes and 127,467 or 49.64 percent for Taft, a very close election. Stokes was the first black mayor of a major American city.

The percentage of Clevelanders who made their way to vote in 1967 was 79 percent [Corrected, JH]. The citizenry was mobilized and energized.

Two newspapers then competed for news and unlike today the contestants were covered daily, sometimes more than daily with radio and television. The broadcast media spent time and effort on the election, not cursory coverage they give it today.

Information was the blood to keep the body active. Little courses today.

In 1967, race was a major issue. Many citizens, particularly black, had suffered severely in the preceding years. In three of the four preceding years 50 or more percent of voters did vote.

In another landmark election in 1979 Dennis Kucinich defeated Edward Feighan. Kucinich garnered 93,047 votes, Feighan 90,074.

The percentage of voters who actually cast ballots: 64 percent. Not bad.

Both those elections marked distinct differences in the candidates and in the issues. Clevelanders got aroused. Now they’re put to sleep.

Once again this 1979 election was crucial to people. Citizens were stimulated by the city’s money problems, the first tax abatement and the threatened sale of Muny Light (now called Cleveland Public Power).

People actually thought they had a say.

The fact that only 13 percent of votes showed up in last month’s primary should worry even those who run the town.

It’s a sign that decay spread deep and wide. Long-run it’s not good for any one.

I don’t think this race will attract 50 percent of the electorate. I’d be very surprised.

News coverage has been light and mostly routine.

It appears Mayor Frank Jackson and his backers are somewhat worried.

I think that worry results mostly from the recognition that he has done a poor job for most of his reign. This won’t change.

He lacks the vigor his challenger Zach Reed exudes.

However, I think Reed is a dollar (or more) short and late in taking advantage of the many chinks (or chunks) in Jackson’s record.

The motto is not wait until next year. It’s wait four more years.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. There is an error in the count of total votes in 1967. It should be 257,113, far below the number cited as 356,785. Sorry for the error.

    And the percentage of voters who made it to the polls in 1967 was 79 percent, not 64 as in 1977.

    Roldo Bartimole

  2. Janet Loehr says:

    Please put me on your mailing list.



Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image