Tuesday, February 16, 2010

State Senator Nina Turner files today to return to Ohio Senate

Regular readers of this space have no doubt observed that The Real Deal is an evolving blog. Last week we offered our first commentary on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Today we offer our first news scoop, not a biggie as scoops go, but perhaps a harbinger of things to come, especially for followers of the Cuyahoga political scene.

We learned just a few moments ago that Nina Turner, whose name has been bruited about as a possible candidate for the new post of Cuyahoga County chief executive, filed today to run for a full term as state senator representing the 25th District. Turner was appointed to this position to fill the unexpired term of Lance Mason, who resigned in 2008 to accept an appointment by Governor Strickland to be a common pleas judge.

We think this represents the sound move for Turner, who rocketed to local political prominence last year as one of the few black elected officials to endorse Issue 6, the successful ballot measure creating the new form of county government that takes effect next January 1. Our guess is that she realized that popularity with the Plain Dealer and Issue 6 proponents would have been of little avail in a run for county executive against opponents who plan to raise and spend the estimated cost of such a campaign.

While the Senator could still file to run for county executive before the June 24 deadline, the idea is improbable given the May primary for the race she has just entered. She would either have to abandon her supporters if she won, or file to run for a bigger office after being unable to hold the home base seat to which she had been appointed. In neither instance would she be displaying the sound political judgment she has shown at this stage in her relatively young career.

Her return to the Ohio Senate is by no means guaranteed, as she may face substantial challenge from foes eager to punish her for her Issue 6 stance or hoping to capitalize on her perceived weakness as a result of carrying the Issue 6 banner in one of the very areas where the issue was rejected by voters.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Past as Prologue

             It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence—
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy,
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution.
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness—not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfillment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning.…
—T. S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages

Today is the halfway mark of African American History Month. Last February, there was spirited debate among many Americans, some of whom — in the wake of the Barack Obama’s election as president — questioned the need for continuing an annual four-week Black History observance.
Most of the discussion, though entertaining, was silly, as if the perfect convergence of circumstances resulting in Obama’s victory proved that we had entered a post-racial era in America.
We Americans tend to be spectacularly ahistoric. This trait has worked to our advantage as the nation was built. We focused on the practical as our nation was built. We explored, we cleared, we built, we invented, our eyes focused always on the possibilities of the present or the promise of the future.
The country had no history to study at first. We were once the world’s newest nation, in a hurry to achieve our manifest destiny in the most bountiful and expansive land known to civilized man. History was what Americans left behind in Europe, where folks were mired in a past of religious, royal and feudal castles and tunnels. We had frontiers to tame.
Our most energetic tamers were often people who disdained tradition. They blazed new paths. When they encountered failure, they shrugged it off, moved west, and started anew.
Having subdued much of the continent until there was no more west, we moved overseas, proselytizing, conquering, annexing. The first President Roosevelt established and pursued an expansionist policy with a clear eye. We became an imperial nation as a matter of presumed birthright, though our national fable of exceptionalism still blinds most contemporary Americans to that reality. But you could look it up.
We are not casting blame or pointing fingers here. Readers of this column have probably already supplied some missing pieces in our two-paragraph condensation of U. S. foreign and domestic policy: the all but complete eradication of Native Americans; the dispatch of Mexican Americans back to earlier points of origin; and the theft of Africans from their original homelands, cultures, languages, families, and histories.
Whether we understand it or not, our past catches up with us. As the Eliot passage suggests, if we look back at where we have been and what we have done, we often see a pattern different from what we thought we were doing at the time.

[Real Deal Confession: I wouldn’t know any other T.S. Eliot passage from a hieroglyphic. I know this one as a frontispiece to the memoirs of former Under Secretary of State George W. Ball.]
Acting locally, if we understand the pattern of our past as a community, it can help us make better decisions moving forward. It can help us to make sense of otherwise incomprehensible situations, such as the current plan of Cleveland schools ceo Eugene Sanders to close nearly a score of schools, many of which had recently received hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovation and repair expenditures, or last year’s near-unanimous opposition of black political leaders to the new form of county government.

We have a tendency here in Cuyahoga to reduce all discourse on public policy issues to personality-driven motivations. But while it is true that for many public officials, as for most people in general, where they stand depends upon where they sit, it is also true that human motivation is seldom linear, and that governing is complex. It may be helpful to keep this in mind as we begin to assess chief executive and council candidates for our new county government.