November 21st, 2017

Okay, now who can tell me who ran against Mayor Michael White in 1993 when he sought his second term?

It’s not a trick question. It does relate to today.

It’s the last time Cleveland voters turned out—or should I say failed to vote —in numbers similar to Frank Jackson’s recent victory for his unprecedented four-year fourth term.

Jackson told one Councilman recently, “I got the message. People want change.”

Problem is Jackson so far hasn’t moved. I don’t see the urgency. He doesn’t show a real spirit of leadership.

And the situation calls for some quick, strong action.

Jackson needs to clean out the dead wood. I don’t think he’s up to the job. I don’t think he wants to do it.

In October 2012, I wrote:

There were too many reasons why Clevelanders voted slothfully in the recent mayoral runoff election:

1) Its citizens are a dispirited, dejected constituency, and they further do not believe it makes a spits worth of difference who is mayor.

2) The major outlet for news (hint: PD) held up its nose at the candidates and decided they were not worth serious coverage, so the paper of record avoided its duty and made the race even more irrelevant.

There has been a long, long process of killing democratic predispositions in the Cleveland community for the benefit of the few.

Cleveland has been an institutionally dominated community for so long that it may be impossible to revive the city’s democratic status, once praised by Lincoln Steffens for its muckraking spirit.

Those comments could be written today. Little has changed.

The situation is worse. And on the decline.

Back in 1993, Mayor White won easily some 76,000 votes to 14,000 in the general.

Now, there are interests that want to further diminish city participation in Cleveland’s government. They want to cut city council from 17 as far down as they can. That’s a mistake because occasionally a council member is elected who really does want change. Or at least sees it as a stepping stone to higher office. Few can be bought more cheaply also.

The poor showing in this November’s election—slightly less than 23 percent of Clevelanders voting—screams “Something’s wrong here.

In 1993, in what could be called an election few should have cared about, the turnout was 33 percent. It was the lowest since 1965 when Mayor Ralph Locher held his seat over Ralph McAllister. Neither one was a very popular politician. Locher had had no opposition in the previous election though 50 percent of Clevelanders still voted. In the next election he was eliminated in the primary. The general election drew whopping 79 percent of voters with Stokes defeating Seth Taft by a couple of thousand votes.

Now, who did run against White in 1993? A character named David Lee Rock, a pretty much unknown. Rock drew some 14,000 votes to White’s 76,000.

We owe it to ourselves to see that this low turnout never happens again. Schools, libraries, social media and maybe some real citizen action should pick up the slack of the city’s only semi-daily newspaper, which seems dispirited itself.

Or new and converted buildings will not revive Cleveland. We have to do it the old fashioned way. By ourselves.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Ken Lumpkin says:

    Good article, I think you make the mistake of thinking Mike White ever left, he is considered by many to be the Shadow Mayor, Look at all the people in positions at City Hall and then identify those the Mike White bought in during his reign….then examine the business community masquerading today as the downtown Cleveland partnership. The same people creating policies that systemically advance policies and programs that promote health, education,income and wealth disparities in helpless neighborhoods, paving the way for the rich to continue to get richer….Anyone whose platform is too REALLY drain the swap in Cleveland, would be marginalized before they could get started

  2. Good to hear from you Ken.

    I don’t disagree with you. I think White has sway over Jackson but White would have made people he employed WORK.

    Jackson doesn’t have the ability to see that difference.

    I’ve been saying til I’m blue in the face that the same old corporate/foundation structure has been the real rulers of Cleveland. Hasn’t changed since you were in Council.

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