Sunday, November 03, 2013

Endorsements for Cleveland and Richmond Heights mayoral races, East Cleveland City Council

The juxtaposition of East Cleveland and Richmond Heights may seem odd to many — and distressing, perhaps, to some.  We know some eyebrows were raised, including ours, when Richmond Heights mayoral candidate David Ali said last May his city was “slowly turning into a ghetto” like East Cleveland.

Ali’s comments were of course an insult to the good people of East Cleveland. While there are more $200,000 houses on any given block of Richmond Heights than in the entire city of East Cleveland, this should not obscure the fact many East Cleveland residents possess the civility, savvy and sophistication, and the resources, that would make them welcome additions to any community.

Ali’s remarks were the kind that unwittingly reveal more about the speaker than the subject. To begin with, much of the City of East Cleveland is indistinguishable from the neighborhoods on the eastside of Cleveland where Ali was born and raised as David Johnson. The family gas station on St. Clair Ave. at 117 St. he inherited and ran for forty years is but a few scant blocks from East Cleveland. That family enterprise made him a millionaire and enabled him to drive up the hill every night to his ranch house in a tidy, almost bucolic bedroom community.

Miesha Headen for Mayor of Richmond Heights
The clear choice to lead Richmond Heights for the next four years is Miesha Headen. She has the fiscal expertise to manage the city’s treasury, an understanding of the challenges the city faces, concrete plans to address those challenges, and the courage to lead the way.

Our conversations with Mr. Ali gave us the impression that he would not be running for mayor if the major intersection near his home were not so run down. He seems to conceive of the mayor’s role as that of development director. The fact that he could campaign for the job for five months and yet be wholly ignorant of the city’s budget or how many employees he would be responsible for speaks volumes about his interest and capacity to run a municipal government.

Dave Ali may be an excellent businessman and model neighbor, but he is wholly unprepared to be mayor of Richmond Heights. He has little concept of the job he has been pursuing for the last several months. He shows no comprehension of the difference between running a family neighborhood retail business and governing a diverse city full of economic and social challenges that have been unaddressed for more than a decade.

Finally, there are legitimate questions as to Ali’s motivation to be a candidate. Who would run for an office he knows so little about? And what is one to make of the fact that the discredited Josh Kaye, whose tenure as Board of Education president was inept, vindictive and abusive [see here, here, and here for examples.], has boasted that he is Ali’s campaign manager.

The incumbent mayor, Dan Ursu, is rightly criticized for his public aloofness, but Ursu’s public reticence is purposeful. He intentionally governs almost in secret, as if he were trying to lull city residents into apathy. Unfortunately, Richmond Heights requires leadership that is far more dynamic, imaginative, and sensitive than Ursu has provided over at least the past dozen years. It was telling that he had to be introduced to the principal of the Richmond Heights High School at the League of Women Voters Oct. 16 forum. City Hall is less than 200 yards from the high school, but the only interest Ursu has shown in his challenged school district in the past two years was in doing a photo opp with the boys basketball team after their record-breaking season.

If Richmond Heights wants to reverse its recent decline and begin to take advantage of its tremendous potential, it needs a both a pragmatic mayor and a visionary one. Miesha Headen best represents that combination in this year’s race.

Thomas Wheeler, Brandon King, and Gloria Smith Morgan for East Cleveland City Council
We were stunned the first time we covered an East Cleveland City Council meeting. It was about six years ago. Eric Brewer was mayor and Gary Norton was council’s president. The hostility between the executive and legislative branches was palpable. Norton subsequently challenged Brewer for mayor, defeated him in 2009. While his administration has begun to address some of the city’s key challenges — vacant and abandoned properties, ending the city’s political isolation, crafting a viable development strategy — one of his principal missteps has been his failure to foster any sort of collegiality with council.

Norton’s landslide victory over Council President Joy Jordan in last month’s Democratic primary means that he will embark upon a second term. The only chance for that term to be successful for the city is for a cleansing of the poisonous attitude that has too long infected City Hall. That is why we believe electing the slate of Wheeler, King and Morgan offers East Cleveland residents the best opportunity to move their city forward. The trio should not be expected to provide automatic support for the mayor’s agenda, but such a wholesale transformation of council is the best bet for moving the city out of its fiscal emergency and towards restoring residents’ confidence in their municipal government.

Mayor of Cleveland
Frank Jackson merits a third term as Cleveland mayor. His fiscal leadership has kept the city on an even keel and permitted him to initiate important developments throughout the city. His no-frills, unromantic leadership style turns a lot of people off but it has on balance produced good results for the city. He has made his share of mistakes and on occasion been too tolerant of mismanagement in key departments. The reality is that running the major city in our region is an enormous task.

Watching Ken Lanci try to make a case to be Cleveland’s next mayor has been an occasion for sadness. Like the energetic David Ali, Lanci’s campaign proves that business success counts for little in politics if you have no real appreciation for how to run a municipal government. Lanci has embraced and apparently taken considerable advice from an assortment of political malcontents and blowhards whose collective influence couldn’t carry a precinct. It gives one pause when trying to imagine what sort of cabinet he would have if the sky fell and he became mayor. It would likely make even diehard Republicans long for the return of the Grdina sisters from the Kucinich adminstration.


Anonymous said...

Richard: Please correct "miesha HENRY" to Miesha Headen. thanks

Steven E. Boyd said...

Great work as usual Richard... information and balance... helpful when making decisions.

Richard said...

@ Anon: Thanks for the proofread!

@ Steven: Thanks for the kind words!

Anonymous said...

Miesha Headen is now officially Mayor of Richmond Heights. According to the Board of Elections, she has won, fair and square, with 71 votes from than Dan Ursu.

We wish you the best Madam Mayor! Our city needs a overhaul.