Saturday, November 02, 2013

Political Trail: Barbara Boyd, Eugene Miller

Rep. Boyd to address area Democratic Clubs on Nov. 14

Cuyahoga County’s General Assembly delegation works in relative anonymity, even when they are securing passage of significant legislation, such as last year’s Senate Bill 337, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Smith, D-24 that extensively reformed the collateral sanctions that hindered the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans seeking to successfully reenter society and their communities after misdemeanor and felony convictions.

The relative obscurity in which most state legislators toil is not only because they work primarily downstate in Columbus. It also results from their relative lack of weight most of them have as a marginalized minority. Ten of the county’s 15 senators and representatives are Democrats, which means they have little heft in either chamber, where the GOP holds overwhelming majorities.

State Rep. Barbara Boyd
of Cleveland Heights
So when State Rep. Barbara Boyd did not attend a single session in a whole legislative year — from May 2012 through June 2013 — it escaped mainstream media notice for that entire period. Of course, when her prolonged absence, due to back surgery after a severe fall — did gain the Plain Dealer’s attention, they made it front page news and then followed up their report the following week with an editorial call for her resignation.

We are pleased to be perhaps the first to report that Boyd has returned to Columbus this fall and attended every full session, though we were dismayed to learn there have been only three to date [Oct. 2, Oct. 16, and Oct. 30].

Rep. Boyd will make her first area public appearance this year when she speaks to her hometown Cleveland Heights Democrats Club on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 7:00 p.m. The meeting, co-hosted by the Shaker Heights and University Heights Democratic clubs, will be held at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, 1 Monticello Boulevard.

Boyd is expected to discuss the state of politics in Ohio and her priorities for the current legislative session, which will be the final one of her long public career.  Time will be provided for questions and light refreshments will be served following the program. The public is invited.

Polensek sounds off on council colleague Miller

Don’t ask Cleveland city councilman Mike Polensek what he thinks unless you really want to know.

When asked for his reaction to reports that his council colleague Eugene Miller had accused him of illegally using taxpayer funds to endorse Miller’s opponent in next week’s council race, the combative colleague told a Plain
Dealer reporter, “This is all typical Eugene. It’s no wonder he’s in the jackpot
City Councilman Eugene
Miller at an August 2013
 Board of Elections meeting
that he is in, with another incumbent running against him. He doesn’t get along with anybody, he goes out of his way to antagonize people, and he’s a royal pain.” [Source]

We suspect that’s a sentiment shared by a majority of those who will be voting in next week’s election for city council in the new Ward 10. Miller made news not long ago when his intemperate rants to a 911 operator including disparaging remarks about his constituents.

Miller is known to be a tireless campaigner but veteran councilman Jeff Johnson is expected to defeat Miller in the race. The two incumbents were forced into the same race by a reduction in the size of council from 19 to 17 as a result of a City of Cleveland charter provision that ties the size of council to the city’s population.

In tomorrow’s Real Deal: select endorsements in area races

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nonprofit Thursdays | East Cleveland Library, Women of Color Foundation, ESOP

Library offers East Cleveland Historical Walking Tour this Saturday

In the late 1800s, East Cleveland took root as a small trading post alongside a wagon trail that led from Buffalo, New York, to Cleveland, Ohio. This wagon trail, then known as the Lakeshore Trail forged by American Indians long gone, later became Euclid Avenue. It was the showplace of America during its tenure as Millionaires Row.

The East Cleveland Public Library, in collaboration with Leah Santosusso, is presenting a Historical Walking Tour in support of her new book, East Cleveland: Images of America.

This FREE event will include a light lunch and brief historical discussion before the outdoor walking tour begins. The discussion and walking tour will feature several memorable locations highlighted in the book.

Meet at the library at noon this Saturday, Nov. 2 for the tour. Call 216.541.4128 for more information.
• • •

Women of Color Foundation offer daylong institute next week
Event at Cleveland State to see three area women honored

The Women of Color Foundation will present its 8th Annual Leadership Development and Training Institute and Awards Luncheon next Thursday, November 7 at Cleveland State University.

The event is being co-hosted by Cleveland State University (CSU), and will take place on Thursday, November 7, from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., in CSU’s Student Center at 2121 Euclid Avenue, in the 3rd Floor Ballroom.

Marsha Mockabee
Ellen Burts-Cooper, PhD
The Institute will include an Annual Awards Luncheon, where the Women of Color Foundation recognizes three outstanding women of color.  The recipient of 2013 Professional Woman of the Year (ISIS Award) is Marsha Mockabee, President/CEO, Urban League of Greater Cleveland; and the recipient of the 2013 Young Professional Woman of the Year (STAR Award) is Dr. Ellen Burts-Cooper, Senior Managing Partner, Improve Consulting and Training Group.

 The 2013 Stephanie Tubbs Jones Courage Award, given in honor of the late Cleveland area Congresswoman, will be presented to Charmaine Brown, director of diversity and inclusion at Forest City.  This award is presented
Charmaine Brown
annually by Barbara Tubbs Walker, the sister of the late Congresswoman.   Sarah Buduson, News Reporter at WEWS-TV NewsChannel 5, will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies of the Luncheon.

The Institute also includes three workshops. A two-hour morning workshop, The Estelle Shorter Holmes Lecture: “Rising to the Top:  My  Struggles, Challenges and Successes” will feature a prominent local woman who has risen to the top of her profession and is passionate about helping other women in their career journey to the top.  This annual lecture is part of the 2nd Annual American Greetings Speaking of Women: A Dialogue Series for Women in Leadership.  This will be one of the highlights of the day, said Alexandria Johnson Boone, chairwoman and founder of the WOCF.

Two afternoon workshops following the awards luncheon will include prominent women from northeast Ohio, who will share their experience, insights and expertise with Institute participants. “Women in the Workplace; Our Rights and Responsibilities!” will be moderated by Diane E. Citrino, Esq., Partner, Thacker-Martinsek, LPA and “Emerging Women Leaders in Politics: It is Our Time!” will be moderated by Dr. Mittie Davis Jones, Chairperson, Department of Urban Studies, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at CSU.

The Symposium will culminate with WOCF’s traditional COLORS Networking Reception.

Several scholarships are available for college students and women who cannot afford to pay for the event.  Scholarship applications are available on-line. Registrations are $75 per person, and include the Awards Luncheon, the Networking Reception and all workshops and materials.

For more information on Women of Color Foundation events, including registration, scholarships and/or sponsorship opportunities, please call 216-391-4300, ext. 311 or visit the website at:
• • •
Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People, a non-profit HUD-approved housing counseling agency, is moving its main office over the weekend. The main office will be closed on Nov. 1, reopening on Monday, Nov. 4 at 7000 Euclid Avenue, Suite 203, Cleveland, OH 44103.

ESOP’s phone number will remain 216.361.0718.

Miesha Headen sees potential of a model Richmond Heights

 [Disclosure: I’ve known Miesha Headen for about 20 years. We have worked together on a couple of professional and civic endeavors but we’ve never socialized. I have known her husband Raymond even longer, pretty much on the same basis. I consider them friends.]

NOTE: we had hoped to offer a short video of Headen similar to the opportunity provided David Ali, but were thwarted by technical issues.

• • •

Miesha Headen is both a policy wonk and a serious politician. She is an auditor, trained to follow and account for the money. She likes to analyze an issue or problem, formulate a plan to deal with it, implement the solution, and then reassess. This is a process she follows so invariably that it's become part of her character. Who she is is what she does. What she does is who she is. WYSIWYG[1]

So my first questions to her when we sat down over coffee recently were put simultaneously: when did she decide to run for mayor of Richmond Heights, and why. The first question gave her more pause, because she could not pinpoint a defining moment. In struggling to answer the "when", out tumbled all the "whys".

The Headens moved to Richmond Heights in 2002. They both had grown up locally in stable households, gone away to school [Columbia for her; Williams College, Penn Law, and London School of Economics for him] before returning home to northeast Ohio and planting new roots.
Like many professional couples, they were impressed by the city’s solid housing stock, and an apparent safe, open and tranquil character that augured well for starting and raising a family that now includes two boys, ages 9 and 6.

Over time, as she was acquiring a master’s degree in finance from Ursuline College [with a concentration in socially responsible leadership], Headen’s auditing eye began to detect some red flags in her sleepy suburban community. These included a succession of failed school levies [the number would grow to seven before one finally passed]; a good old-boy network of long-term residents [albeit one with a few women members, perhaps grand-mothered in]; questionable public finance decisions, and changing city demographics to which elected officials and others of influence seemed ignorant or indifferent, if not hostile. And all of this seemed strangely blanketed in the community that comforted itself as being “The City with the Forward Look”.

Off the sidelines and into the fray

Headen decided in 2009 to become part of the solution. In straightforward fashion, she ran for an at large seat on city council. She won [for how, see here] and pretty quickly began to make waves that afflicted the comfort of the city’s entrenched and shadowy governing circle. She started a blog, aptly named Absolutely At-Large, began digging into the city’s finances and uncovering its loose and extravagant financial practices.

Her auditing skills paid off: she discovered that the city had not completed a bank reconciliation of the city’s books in at least ten years. This led to the state’s auditors coming in to examine the city’s books, and to the startling discovery that the city’s finance director had made a double-booking error in excess of a quarter-million dollars. [She later resigned under pressure.]

At Headen’s insistence, the city now acknowledges on its website the nearly forty land parcels the city has acquired under the Ursu administration. She is especially upset with what she sees as Ursu’s pet project, the purchase and maintenance of Greenwood Farms.

Headen’s energy seems to have inspired a number of other Richmond Heights residents to become more engaged in the civic process. A school board that housed a viper’s nest of socially and financially irresponsible members has been largely swept clean and replaced with a more thoughtful and less hysterical majority. And city council itself is flexing, in both in membership and style, towards a new openness. At a League of Women Voters candidate forum earlier this month, all four council candidates, including the incumbent Donald O’Toole, affirmatively responded to the idea of “streaming video of all public meetings so residents could be better informed”.

Tension surfaces as allegations fly

Headen's insistence on financial responsibility and accountability, and transparency, while producing results, have understandably not endeared her to all of her colleagues in city government or her rivals in this year’s mayoral contest. It is probably fair to say that she is the least favorite opponent of each of the other three candidates. The mayor, whom she regularly challenges on policy matters, has accused Headen of “smearing other candidates.”

Another candidate, Dave Ali, grows almost apoplectic when discussing Headen, calling her “racist” and saying, in reference to a June powwow of some black elected officials, that she formed a group to “intimidate” him into dropping out of the mayor’s race.

Headen and others say that the meeting Ali cites was an exploratory meeting designed to get to know Ali and assess his viability as a potential challenger to the six-term incumbent.[2] When it became apparent in their view in the first ten minutes of the meeting that the scope of the job was not a fit for Ali’s skill set [i.e., he was in their view, grossly unqualified to be mayor], they encouraged him to run for city council. He refused and filed his mayoral petitions as soon as the law allowed.

Speaking of law, what really frosted Ali were Headen’s allegations that he and Ursu are in cahoots over a potentially lucrative deal involving public land and public grants. [You can read about this here, here, and here.] Headen may have the last word on this however, as she posted this response from the Ohio Ethics Commission on Monday. As of yesterday, the State Auditor’s Special Audit Task Force had forwarded Headen’s complaint about the land deal to both the State Auditor’s Northeast audit region and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for further consideration.

Headen looks ahead 

Personal questions and conflict of interest allegations tend to overshadow the question of what Headen would do as mayor, and the questions posed at the beginning of our conversation. She says that she’s running to continue to “change the culture” of city government, to make it more accountable, transparent, efficient and open. She wants to modernize the city’s commercial districts, which she says are “crumbling”, and beef up enforcement of the city’s occupancy codes to deal with absentee landlords of both commercial and residential properties. She staunchly supports the reinstitution of various city services, including such recreational facilities as the city swimming pool and ball fields, which she notes are important to attracting home buying families.

Headen said there is an “urgency for new leadership” to accomplish these goals and others. It was only in mid-summer, after the meeting with Ali and her assessment of the other candidates, that she decided, in consultation with many constituents, that she was best equipped to address that urgency.

Headen sees herself as qualified by profession, study, and strength of character to help “lead Richmond Heights into the 21st century”. She promises to recruit an “expert team” that includes many current Richmond Heights residents and reflects more closely the diversity that already exists.

She notes that in a city that is 57% female and that has become home to thousands of new residents since 2000, all fifteen of Ursu’s appointments to the vital governing boards — Planning, Civil Service, and Zoning and Appeals — are males who have lived in Richmond Heights for decades.

Headen sees bright possibilities for her city. Ursu, she says, “no longer sees a better world. … I want to make Richmond Heights a model community. I would love to be the community that shows how to get it right!”

[1] What You See Is What You Get [“Wizzy-Wig”]

[2] This meeting included four members of the Board of Education and councilman Russell Johnson, in addition to Headen. Councilwoman Eloise Henry, who had already declared that she was running against Ursu, was not invited and did not attend. Although four school board members were in attendance, no sunshine laws were violated because school business was not discussed, according to those board members with whom we have spoken.