November 8th, 2017

The mayoral election is over. The result is painful.

Cleveland shows it is pathetically off course.

We witnessed the obituary of public governance.

Tragedy and farce.

Once again the winner vote was stay-at-home. Of 262,047 the number who voted for either mayoral candidate was 59,622, or 22.7 percent.

That’s 77 percent of Clevelanders didn’t bother to vote for mayor. How loudly does that speak of what people think of their city government?

It says, who cares?

Can we actually drift four more years?

Frank Jackson isn’t going to attract talent.

Change would be welcomed. Sadly, not at all assured.

We can expect the continued employment of too many hacks. The hiring of clearly abusive “friends” seems a policy.

A whole decade and more of lethargy takes its toll. The needs of the city remain in neutral. Developer and major league team owners exempt.


Jackson will not attract the talent we need. He deals in retreads. And not good ones.

It really attests to the truth of Carl Stokes’ “Promises of Power” as a mirage of civic clout never to be realized.

The power resides elsewhere. It is not Power to the People in any respect.

Yes, this is the 50th year since Stokes was elected and there are many celebrations, articles and colloquiums honoring Carl and Louis Stokes, U. S. Congressman.

Carl Stokes walked away from Cleveland rather then run for a third term in 1971. He had had enough of the Cleveland corporate leadership, the Cleveland Police Force and the news media. Who wouldn’t have.

A leading corporate favorite, Fred Crawford of TRW, Inc. had made racial jokes at a dinner meeting of Bluecoats, an organization funded by elites for Cleveland police. At the time the Plain Dealer removed from an article by Ned Whelan a paragraph to that effect. The actual copy was sent to me and I published it in Point Of Viəw.

One incident of many, it spoke of the racial attitudes of Cleveland in the last 1960s.

Carl left Cleveland when he finished two terms as mayor. He was not a happy man with the treatment he received by the local corporate community. His press secretary, Dick Murway, made that clear to me at that time in stark words I won’t repeat but have used in the past.

First, we must separate the two, in my opinion. Louis Stokes won an office Carl created for himself but a court decision didn’t open it until after Carl was mayor.

Louis Stokes was elected and re-elected from a “safe” seat. He did not have the historic imprint that Carl, as the first black mayor of a major American city—and one without a majority black population.

Louis Stokes may be a historic figure in his own right. He may have produced for Cleveland but primarily for the Cleveland that Carl spurned. That’s why Lou, when he left Congress, was hired by Squires-Sanders and given a seat by the Ratners on Forest City Enterprise’s board of directors.

Carl returned to Cleveland, in my opinion, thinking he could pick up politically as he left the city. He wanted once again to be the power broker.

He returned first by campaigning for Dennis Kucinich in 1979 as Dennis ran against George Voinovich. He might have been able to see Dennis re-elected but for the tragic death of Voinovich’s daughter Molly in a car accident.

I remember running into Carl on East. 6th Street when he returned. He invited me up to his new office, which was being redone. He had campaigned for Kucinich at the behest of the United Auto Workers. The union became his client.

Unfortunately, in his absence he had lost the opportunity to be the leading black political figure. George Forbes, then Council President, had tightly secured that position.

The difference in the politics of the two was tragic for Cleveland.

Forbes was solidly the client of the Cleveland corporate community.

Carl was his own operator. He had been able to attract competent people from here and around the nation to the city as cabinet members and in other key positions when he first took office. They were joining because it was obvious that history was to be made.

Irving Kriegsfeld came to deal with housing problems and became director of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority. Stokes wanted what is now Chagrin Highland, city owned-land in suburbs, to become a model integrated city.

Dick Green headed urban renewal and came from Boston where he had worked under Ed Logue, considered a top urban renewal practitioner; Norm Krumholz took over city planning, drawn here from his job as city planner of Pittsburgh. Dick Peters, who had been editor of the New York World Telegram, joined the mayor’s office. The late John Little from Jones, Day became his executive secretary and others from the community with good reputations joined.

(This ability to attract talent from outside the city didn’t always work to his benefit. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Air Force commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airman began to believe press clippings that he’d make a better mayor than Stokes. (See July 1970 Point Of Viəw for the dirty details.

They knew they were employed in the making of city history.

I remember that these top people also drew eager young workers drawn to Cleveland to be part of the history of the 1960s. Some of them remained here in crucial positions.

Stokes, of course, as Barack Obama, faced a hostile white opposition that continued to politically block him, particularly the West Side, led by then Council President Jim Stanton.

So I am convinced that when he returned from New York City Stokes thought he could pick up once again on those heady days.

But the times had changed.

He was left to seek a judgeship, not the spot for such a vigorous pol who knew how to use power. Judges are limited in their ability to work political issues.

The ascendance of Stokes and other blacks certainly have had a positive effect on the black community here. It meant jobs; it meant contracts; it meant positions not previously open to blacks here.

However, Stokes should be remembered as not simply looking to those advancements.

He helped create a power base, then the 21st District Caucus. It was allowed to wither away other than a safe district for a black congressional official, Marcia Fudge now.

However, it has not been used as a power instrument to better the conditions many blacks, especially poor and especially women suffer now, decades later.

Stokes finally had to settle for a judgeship. To my thinking this limited his political ability as a leader. Judges essentially have to limit their political activities.

This came home to me particularly when the Gateway project was proposed, with heavy public subsidy. Carl Stokes was not a principal in the fight against the vote for a sin tax to finance a baseball stadium and a basketball arena. However, he didn’t shy from payback to business interests, which had thwarted him and especially ignored the racial attacks he faced before he left Cleveland for New York.

I’m convinced that he was instrumental in the 21st District Caucus and Rep. Louis Stokes taking a firm stand against the tax. Along with Mary Rose Oakar that opposition actually defeated to tax proposal among city voters. However, suburban voters made up the difference to approve the measure.

This is not to say that Carl Stokes didn’t have personal ambition and didn’t want power. He did.

He recognized the value and power of a political machine to achieve beneficial results. The creation of the 21st District Caucus was a base for blacks not only to use for elective purposes but to steer political policies.

Today what we have are politicians who take orders from a corporate hierarchy and forget those they are really supposed to represent.

We don’t have government of the people, by the people, for the people but a choir of self-interests that favor special interests.

It’s the reason we get a President Donald Trump and a Mayor Frank Jackson, who has lost his compass. At least I once thought he had one.

Elections make a difference. And they should. Too bad some are so negative.

Drift. Drift. Drift. Drift. Four more years.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Walter Nicholes says:

    Your continued clarity of mind and issues
    are remarkable,Roldo. Like gentle hammer raps on the Mind, for persons who read them, they are imprinted.

  2. Thanks Walter. Those words are appreciated.

  3. Hil Hornung says:

    My first job out of the service was in the Stokes administration. What a remarkable guy. Alas, Cleveland will always break your heart.

  4. Hil Hornung,

    I’d Like to know where you worked and what exactly broke your heart.

    Thanks for commenting.

    By the way I can be reached at RoldoATroadrunnerDOTcom

  5. Hil Hornung says:

    Although I worked for the City’s Air Pollution Control Division in 1969-70, my primary Cleveland focus has been transit. Cleveland’s new rapid transit in the 1950s put Cleveland ahead of every other system until County Engineer Albert Porter sabotaged a critical downtown extension shortly thereafter. The rapid has been a pathetic underperformer ever since, tainting every subsequent transit investment. Oh well, sic transit gloria mundi.

    Love your blog, BTW.

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