Wednesday, February 05, 2014

No real surprises at filing deadline for May primary; National Signing Day

The usual flurry of last minute filings produced no real news at today’s deadline. Most incumbents eligible to return to their seats [some state legislators are term limited], filed early to allow themselves a margin for error. 

Cuyahoga County leans so heavily Democratic that the Republican Party is unable to field even a single candidate, much less the two or more that would make a GOP primary meaningful.

Meanwhile, much of the suspense on the Democratic side was resolved last Saturday when the Party’s executive committee met at Euclid High School and endorsed candidates for the state legislature, county council, county executive, and county judgeships. Those endorsements are especially significant in primaries where turnout is relatively low, and challengers are usually less well known. The early endorsement process forces would be candidates to declare themselves early if they harbor any hope of winning the party’s stamp of approval.

Thus it may be that the biggest story coming out of last Saturday’s executive committee session is that some incumbents and big names who would normally be expected to snare an endorsement did not. State Representative John Barnes was one such incumbent unable to snare the 60% of present and voting executive members necessary to win endorsement. This result is at least partly attributable to the fact that his primary opponent, former Pepper Pike councilwoman Jill Miller Zimon, has been running hard and smart for months. This House District 12 race is likely to be closely watched for a number of reasons, including the fact the primary winner will have smooth sailing to Columbus, since the seat is one of four General Assembly seats that drew not a single Republican aspirant. The races for Senate Districts 21 and 25, and House District 10 also saw no GOP candidate file, even though both Senate seats will be open, that is without an incumbent. State Sen. Shirley Smith, D-21 is term limited and running for county executive, while State Sen. Nina Turner, D-25, bypassed a bid to retain her seat, choosing instead to run statewide for Secretary of State.

In addition to Zimon’s successful holding action against Barnes, a second noteworthy result from last Saturday was Cleveland city councilman Mike Sweeney’s failure to win endorsement in the race to represent House District 14. He will have to duke it out with two credible challengers.

We will report on the composition of all the races for both parties once the Board of Elections has ruled on the validity of those candidates who filed close to deadline.
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A cautionary tale on National Signing Day

Today was the day on which high school seniors could, with unseemly fanfare, formally announce the college they will attend this fall in order to continue their education and play football.

While we rejoice with the young men whose athletic prowess has opened doors that might otherwise have remained closed in our increasingly unequal society, we nonetheless wish to offer this cautionary reminder of the pitfalls along the road. [h/t to Roger Jones].

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Third Grade Tests may be trap door to Third World Living Standards; Education in America with K D Hale

W. E. B. DuBois famously wrote in his Forethought to The Souls of Black Folk [1903] that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” Half a century later, in a fiftieth anniversary edition of that seminal work, he updated that prescription with an analysis that stands to define the problem of the Twenty-first Century:

… today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance and disease of the majority of their fellowmen …

The issue of inequality, its causes and cures, has become increasingly a part of our national discourse. It has become an elephant too large to ignore.

Whatever the causes of this inequity, and there are multiple causes, it is hard to imagine there are any solutions that do not involve solving our nation’s public education mess.

An understanding that we must find new and different way forward through our education crisis has perhaps helped fuel the strong local interest in the discussion series focused on a new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch. Education writer Jan Resseger has been a part of these discussions, and reported on them as well. Nearly 100 people attended the first session on January 21, 2014. Even more impressive, seventy people showed up for the second session on a day so frigid that schools all across the region were closed for the day. You can read Resseger’s captivating account of those sessions here and here.

Lead sponsors for these community book discussions have been the Heights Community Congress and the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District. The third session is set for Wednesday, February 5 from 7-8:30PM in the Cleveland Heights High School Social Room. It will address Chapters 21-31 of the book, which focus on the role of poverty and segregation in public schools.

This is the first year of mandated “reforms” under which a startling number of area third graders will be forced to repeat the current academic year, if they fail to pass standardized test that will be given statewide in April. The fallout from this outcome is likely to be painful, and could very well have political ramifications in this gubernatorial election year.

Whether you have read the Ravitch book or not [I have yet to], whether you have school age children or not [mine are grown and gone], America’s broken system of public education affects us all. We all need to get involved in the discussion and seek solutions. Our continued failure to do so will result in a punishment far worse than a rap on the knuckles.

For more information on the community book discussion or Wednesday’s session, call 216.321.6775 or visit

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A new weekly radio show on education issues has hit the local airwaves.  “Education in America with K. D. Hale" debuted January 22, just a day after the first community discussion session mentioned above. That first show featured Dr. Belinda Miles, provost and executive vice president at Cuyahoga Community College, Dr. Terrence Menefee, principal of Cleveland's Valley View Boys Leadership Academy, and Ms. Annisha Jeffries, youth services manager of the Cleveland Public Library.

The second week’s show featured Phillip Schwenk, principal of Max Hayes Career and Technical High School in Cleveland.   The program focused on career and technical education as a viable option for many young people, as an option to the college prep pathway that is often promoted.

This week’s show, on Wednesday, February 5th, from 6PM-7 PM, on AM 1490 WERE, will feature Dr. Julian Earls, former director of NASA Glenn Research Center. Career opportunities in the STEM arena [science, technology, engineering and math] will be a centerpiece of the program.

K. D. Hale is the show’s producer and host. Hale is executive director of early college & outreach programs at Tri-C, but the program has no affiliation with the school.

Listeners are welcome to call in during the show with questions or comments. The call in number is 216.578.1490.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

An Unsung Hero, Remembered

A large part of Cleveland’s black history left town last month with the passing of the consummate political insider, Arnold Pinkney. The high and mighty joined with the hoi polloi to celebrate his life and achievements. Even the august New York Times, as close as we come to a national paper of record, took note with an 1161 word retrospective of his life and accomplishments.

But the history of a community is not completely told merely through the lives of its headliners. While Arnold’s choices often made him a front page regular during his adult life, there were many others doing the vital but often unsung work of building community institutions essential to helping those marked with a “badge of inferiority”[1].

These community builders often are content to labor behind the scenes. Their sense of fulfillment comes from seeing their work bear fruit in the expansion of opportunities for the group. They may not avoid publicity but they certainly don’t seek it. And after they are gone, we are often surprised to learn what they did for us.

Roosevelt Cox
Such a person was Roosevelt Cox. He died the day after Christmas and was memorialized on January 4. I attended the service as a family friend and in tribute to his legacy as a co-founder of the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, the federated charity that is just beginning to come into its role as a pivotal institution in this community.

Cox, as he liked to be called, started out as a teacher before the civil rights movement inspired him to become a lawyer. He was a hard worker, a shrewd businessman, with a deep sense of family values. He was also, very quietly, one of the last of a now all but vanished breed, a “race man”.

Jay Z                                    Harry Belafonte
The term “race man” can be hard to define, but black folk of a certain age know one when they see one. Hillary Crossley, a contributing editor at The Root, put it this way in a thoughtful column last August that talked about the social responsibilities of Jay Z, Kanyé and other contemporary black celebrities: If there was ever an example of the quintessential ‘race man’ — that earnest, dapper role model unabashedly committed to black uplift — it is [Harry] Belafonte.”

Roosevelt Cox was a race man in that non-exclusionary positive sense. He worked side-by-side with former Lee-Harvard councilman [and later U.S. District Court Chief Judge] George W. White [see here, here, & here] to establish both UBF and its predecessor, B.O.S.S. [Blacks Organized for Social Service]. He also provided critical financial and other support to the fledgling effort organized by local black megastars John H. Bustamante, Arnold Pinkney, and others back in the early seventies. And he was part of the group that bought and developed the land to construct the First Club of Cleveland, an African American golf club located in Lodi, Ohio.

When he wasn’t institution building, Cox was growing businesses, representing working-class people in his law practice and supporting aspiring lawyers with office space and other essentials. Notwithstanding all that, as one of the elder of nine children from Gould, Arkansas, he undertook responsibility for several of his siblings after their parents died, relocating several to the Cleveland area and paying for their collegiate and graduate school education even though he was still a relatively young man himself.

None of this was very widely known about Cox. While he sought no acclaim, he will be missed, even those who benefit from his spirit, effort and vigilance without  knowing he was here.

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Are there others like him in our midst who deserve to be recognized and appreciated? Send your unsung hero/heroine nominees to us at

Are there others like him in our midst who deserve to be recognized and appreciated? Send your unsung hero/heroine nominees to us at rtaATtheRealDealPressDOTcom.

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[1] The phrase comes from the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson that legalized racism in the United States.