Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Judge Jean Murrell Capers, 1913-2017

Jean Murrell Capers, born January 11, 1913, more than a year before the start of World War I, died peacefully this morning at Judson Manor in University Circle. She was 104.

Judge Capers, at Delta Sigma Theta event, Cleveland OH
[THE REAL DEAL PRESS, September, 2015]
Clear eyed and sharp until the end, Judge Capers will be remembered as a unforgettable blend of the assertive and the elegant, the meticulous manner and the feisty attitude, a gentle spirit with a sharp tongue, and perhaps most of all, for her indomitable will and spirit. She was a feminist and role model before either term had currency, a pioneer attorney, city councilwoman, and, ultimately, Cleveland Municipal Court judge.

She is survived by her sister, Alice Murrell Rose. A close family friend advises that that a memorial service will likely be announced in due course.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Ohio Supreme Court issues order to Q expansion deal litigants

Court orders parties to file responses by this Friday

More Late-breaking News: Eric J. Brewer, Tony Madalone, Robert Kilo file more signatures hoping to get on ballot for Cleveland's Sept. 12 mayoral primary

The litigation to determine whether the voters of Cleveland are entitled to have a referendum on the Quicken Loans Arena expansion deal may be headed to a fast-track decision by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Court this afternoon gave Cleveland Law Director Barbara Langhenry and Cleveland City Council Clerk Patricia Britt less than 48 hours to respond to a motion filed by five Cleveland voters on behalf of the more than 20,600 citizens who signed petitions asking for a chance to vote on the Q deal.

The Supreme Court case was initiated by Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson [through Langhenry] and Council president Kevin Kelly [Britt’s boss] last month. Jackson and Kelly, who both support the Q deal, filed the mandamus action, alleging that they did not know whether the referendum petitions should be accepted by the council clerk because the city charter provision ordering their acceptance was in apparent conflict with the fact that the city had already proceeded to act on the legislation the petitioners want to overturn.

The five Cleveland voters, acting on behalf of the petition signers, filed a motion with the Supreme Court on June . They want the Court to throw out the original suit. The petitioners argue the suit is “collusive” litigation cooked up by Jackson and Kelley to delay any referendum vote until after this year’s citywide municipal elections. Jackson and Kelly are both up for reelection, and all 17 council races are contested. Both the mayoral race and possibly as many as 14 of the council seats are slated for the September 12 primary.

Political observers suggest that were the referendum to be on the same ballot as the municipal elections, the increased turnout could very well jeopardize the reelection chances of the mayor and those council members who voted in favor of the Q deal.

The timing of the Court’s eventual ruling on the merits of this case thus becomes almost as important as its eventual decision. Generally speaking, the County Board of Elections orders ballots printed about 45 days in advance of an election. Should the Court rule that Britt must accept the petitions, and her office then finds at least 6,000 or so of them valid, city council would then either have to reverse its vote or put the issue before the voters. Theoretically, at least, if the Court were to rule in the voters’ favor in the next ten days or so, the referendum could come during the primary election, for which early voting starts August 15.

It would be speculation to infer that the Court’s order to all parties to expedite their responses to pending motions indicates a leaning in favor of one side or another. But it does seem to indicate the Court’s awareness that that the extraordinary remedies being sought by the parties have time-related consequences.

It should be noted that while the Jackson/Kelley argument that a referendum would impair contractual rights — the city signed an agreement with Cuyahoga County authorizing it to proceed with construction within hours of Jackson’s signing the enabling legislation — the County hasn’t yet issued the bonds to finance the work, undoubtedly because the potential for a referendum vote creates an uncertainty that bondholders would be unlikely to accept. This reality would seem to undermine the validity of the city’s already tenuous argument that the deal authorization was an emergency measure. All parties knew before the ordinance was passed that the referendum process provided for by city charter would be invoked.

• • •

Meanwhile, the campaign watching continues with reports that three mayoral contenders — former East Cleveland mayor Eric Brewer, 2009 mayoral candidate Robert Kilo, and businessman Tony Madalone — each met today’s noon deadline to file additional signatures to qualify for September’s primary. They must now await petition checks to determine whether their names will appear on the September primary ballot alongside those of Jackson and five other previously validated mayoral candidates: Cleveland Councilmen Jeff Johnson and Zack Reed, state Rep. Bill Patmon, social entrepreneur Brandon Chrostowski, and Dyrone Smith.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

EIGHT candidates file to enter primary against Frank Jackson

Choose your metaphor: politicians and would-be politicians smell blood in the water and are primed to attack a man they perceive to be vulnerable after being the dominant fish in the pond. Or voter discontent with the status quo is so widespread that Minnie Mouse could have secured enough valid signatures. 

Either way, it is clear that Frank Jackson's stewardship as Cleveland's mayor over the past twelve years will be dissected and vivisected mercilessly over the summer leading up to the nonpartisan September primary that will reduce the field to two finalists for the job Jackson would like to retain for a record fourth 4-year term. 

The top two primary finishers will face off November 8.

I write this in transit 30 minutes after the Board of Elections released what is likely to be the most hotly contested mayoral primary since Carl Stokes first ran in 1965. Four candidates have had their petitions validated by the Board so far. They are social entrepreneur Brandon Chrostowski, Cleveland  councilman, Jeff Johnson, State Rep. Bill Patmon, and Dyrone Smith, likely the least known candidate in the race. Election officials are checking the petitions of the last minute filers: former East Cleveland mayor Eric J. Brewer; incumbent Jackson; Robert M. Kilo, who previously challenged the mayor; businessman Tony Madalone; and Cleveland councilman Zack Reed.

Fasten your seat belt after you bolt your chair to the floor. The ride to Sept. 12 is likely to contain more than a few twists, turns and loops.

Absentee voting starts August 8, a mere 40 days away, a schedule favoring the best-known and most organized candidates.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Business leaders seeking end to impasse on Q deal

Talks may be on tap as civic leaders regroup in wake of referendum petition filing

CLEVELAND — The Real Deal has learned that civic and business leaders have made overtures to the Greater Cleveland Congregations that may result in negotiations that could allow the expansion of Quicken Loans Arena to go forward.

At this point no one will speak authoritatively for fear of jeopardizing the possibility that a negotiated settlement might be found to end the current impasse. No dates have been set, no negotiators identified, no pre-conditions established. But movement is afoot.

Although both the County and the City of Cleveland have approved the deal, serious questions remain whether the project can go forward. GCC formed a coalition with political and labor organizations that also oppose the deal on multiple grounds. The coalition gathered more than 20,600 petition signatures of Cleveland voters calling for a referendum on the deal.

The city technically refused to accept the petitions when they were presented on Monday, but when GCC leaders adopted a resolute stance that was evocative of 1960s southern civil rights demonstrations, city officials agreed to receive the petitions for “safekeeping”.

Whether or not the petitions are ever officially accepted and forwarded to the Board of Elections for certification, and the issues put before the voters, the coalition that gathered them has made its strength known.

The coalition had 30 days to submit about 6,000 valid signatures from registered Cleveland voters to force a referendum on whether the Quicken Loans deal passed last month by Cleveland City Council should remain in force. By submitting more than three times the number required by the city’s Charter, the coalition demonstrated the immense unhappiness on the part of ordinary Clevelanders over financing the proposed expansion of the Q and cast doubt on the project’s survival.

Deal proponents want the County to issue bonds on June 1 to finance the project and to commence work as soon as the NBA playoffs end for the Cavaliers, which would be June 18 at the latest.

It is unknown exactly who has reached out to GCC leaders or who might have seats at the table. That may become clear over the next several days as talks likely have to begin soon if the Cavaliers’ June 19 project start date is to remain intact.

GCC has maintained all along that it is not opposed to the Q’s expansion but that any deal involving public financing should be fairly negotiated and include well-defined community benefits. These benefits would include the establishment of a Community Equity Fund to underwrite effective jobs programs, create east and west side mental health centers, and invest in neighborhood development. The size of the fund, and how it would be administered are yet to be determined. GCC leaders have disavowed any interest in controlling the fund.

Until now, there has been no willingness on the part of the Cavaliers, city or county public officials, or the business and philanthropic community to give even token credence to the GCC position.

Off the record conversations with civic leaders suggested that some civic and business leaders saw negotiations as the prudent path to finding some sort of middle ground that would allow the deal to go forward and avoid the contentiousness of a referendum campaign. The momentum for such talk likely accelerated after Monday’s confrontation, including the flimsiness of the city’s response.

The talks will likely have an undercurrent of urgency, given the desired construction timetable, and the likelihood that legal questions regarding the city’s obligation to process the petitions will remain unresolved and potentially court-bound.

But for Cleveland residents who feel their neighborhoods have been neglected in favor of downtown and select other interests, news that a community equity fund may lead to some much neighborhood transformation has to be cause for at least guarded optimism.

• • •

Monday, May 22, 2017

CPT | Latest on status of the Q deal referendum drive, Ward 14, Marcia Fudge, Jeff Johnson

CPT: Cuyahoga Politics Today

Confrontation looms as citizen’s coalition files more than Twenty Thousand Signatures to put Q deal on ballot

City Council leadership signals legal strategy to avoid referendum; issue may soon be in court

UPDATE: Today’s lead item was written with the understanding that a citizen’s coalition would file petitions today so that Cleveland voters could decide by referendum whether or not to support the Q deal. Before we posted it, word came to us that City Council leadership, meaning the mayor and those who call the shots in town, had refused to accept the petitions on the grounds that the City has already signed a contract to go ahead with the project and that it would be an unconstitutional interference with property rights to allow for a referendum at this stage.

Council's clerk subsequently received the petitions but the City's position is now clear. The battle lines have now been more sharply drawn and the matter will undoubtedly be decided in court. The importance of Councilman Cummins’ 12th vote in favor of the deal now stands in sharper relief: it is clear that the insiders’ strategy all along was to shut down the people’s right to vote on the Q deal.

I won’t venture an opinion on the outcome of the impending lawsuit, but the brazenness and contempt of our public officials for the voice of the people is evident. I expect that attorneys for both petitioners and the city began weeks if not months ago to prepare for the coming battle.

We have thought for months that the Q expansion deal would heighten interest in this year’s citywide election for mayor and all 17 council seats. Today’s action guarantees it.

CLEVELAND — This morning's filing of over 20,000 signatures of registered Cleveland voters moves into a new phase the very public discussion on whether the public should spend $282 million to expand Quicken Loans Arena.

Proponents of the deal cite the necessity of maintaining the competitive status of the publicly owned facility and the Q's importance as a major driver of local economic activity.

Opponents say by and large they don't oppose maintaining and even improving the arena but have major reservations — economic, pragmatic, and moral — about this deal, which appears to have been agreed to with great nonchalance by city and county officials, most especially County Executive Armond Budish, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and their respective council presidents, Dan Brady and Kevin Kelley.

While downtown interests are all in for the deal, most city voters are troubled by the sense that these glittering large scale projects have few if any benefits that trickle down to their neighborhoods.

Typically, and this deal exemplifies the process, the little folk have no seat at the table, are not even in the room, and in fact have no knowledge a deal is even being cut until the fancy power point slides have been created and the sleek website designed. Testimony at early county council meetings seemed to suggest that the negotiations were even more of a charade this time, with little if any energy expended by the public's representatives to secure any community benefits.

This might be baffling if it weren't simply the extension of a well-established pattern. Entrenched power has a natural appetite for expansion until it meets resistance. When resistance appears, it is usually episodic, unorganized, inchoate, marginalized, bought off, or otherwise rendered ineffective. 

That business would proceed as usual was no doubt the expectation at the time of the mid-December press conference rollout announcing the deal, which was presented as a fait accompli, all wrapped up and tied with a big red bow in keeping with the festive holiday season. Pictures of the occasion showed participants still basking in the aura of our World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, contemplating the promise of a new season, the super-sizing of a downtown jewel, and even the cherry on top of an NBA All Star game. Tipped off in advance, the Plain Dealer obligingly had a full color spread celebrating the inevitable success of this project, the latest pearl in a string that included the NBA championship, the 2016 GOP convention, the remaking of Public Square, the Indians' World Series run, and a spate of new hotel and restaurant openings.

But over on the side, a voice could be heard, asking questions, expressing concerns, urging caution, and framing the deal in a larger context.

That voice was dismissed. As I write this, it is showing up at City Hall with 20,000 + signatures calling for a vote, saying we will be heard.

A new phase in the dialogue now begins. Stay tuned.


Speaking of new voices, and petitions, we believe this Q debate is pivotal for our community in ways both macro and micro, communal and individual. When the dust settles, the landscape will be different.

A harbinger of that change may come tomorrow at noon over at the Board of Elections where Jasmine Santana will file to become a certified candidate for Cleveland City Council. She has her sights set on the Ward 14 seat currently
Jasmin Santana
held by Brian Cummins, who is a part of City Council's leadership team and who, by virtue of his very public and critical flip on the Q deal, whereby he became the crucial 12th vote in favor, perhaps claimed the biggest bull’s-eye on his back for incumbent council members.

Santana, at 38, would likely reshape Council chambers in several ways. If elected she would be the first Latina on city council, and the first Hispanic to serve in that body since council was reduced to its present 17 member size. Hispanic leaders with whom we have spoken see her as an agent of change in a City Hall that clearly needs it.

And while ethnicity is no reliable predictor of change or politics — some of City Hall's most ossified fixtures are African American — Santana's election would likely mean that persons of color would hold a majority of council seats for the first time in history.


Speaking of color, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge made several ear-catching statements over the weekend. One of the most intriguing was her reference to the commonplace but erroneous assumption that black members of Congress represent only black people. She noted that her district was at 50.1% just barely majority black. She repeated that statistic later when she suggested she might be the last black person to represent the 11th District.

Fudge was participating in a community conversation sponsored by the Western Reserve Chapter of the Links in conjunction with their 30th anniversary.

Finally, the petition challenging the legality of Councilman Jeff Johnson's right to run for mayor owing to his 1998 conviction is on the agenda for tomorrow's 3:30pm Board of Elections meeting.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

CPT: Cuyahoga Politics Today: Jeff Johnson and Dan Gilbert

Jeff Johnson and Dan Gilbert: Peas in the same pod?

CLEVELAND — Roldo Bartimole, who even in his senior senior status remains by virtue of his long institutional memory and his ability to follow the money the scrivener scourge of the local ruling class, recently revisited some of Cleveland's sordid political history. It was an effort to provide context to Brent Larkin's weird column last week. Larkin expressed a false empathy for the struggles of Councilman Jeff Johnson to distance himself from his extortion conviction nearly 20 years ago. But halfway through the piece he abruptly switched to his true topic, a direct assault upon the SEIU and the Greater Cleveland Congregations.

SEIU and GCC just happen to be the leading voices in the ongoing struggle to achieve justice and equity for this city's poor and largely minority residents.

Nobody stands in opposition to the desires of our local oligarchy to recreate our shrunken city into a hip burg with cool eateries, a bustling downtown, a high tech vibe, an immigrant magnet, and world-class entertainment venues.

But some of us do look around and see people working two and three jobs trying to make ends meet, amidst Third World infant mortality, thousands of vacant and abandoned structures, a malnourished public transportation system, public schools under relentless attack from private profiteers, real job opportunities separated by insurmountable barriers to entry, and a police force infected with a rogue and reckless deadly virus that has been out of control for generations.

All that makes some of us wonder whether Clevelanders should pay to transform an arena far newer than just about all of our shelters.

We need to have real change in our community, not just the ‘transformation’ of a serviceable public building. When will we stop rearranging and painting the deck chairs and have a real conversation?

• • •
A sit-down I had yesterday with an aspiring young office seeker has surprisingly led me to have some sympathy for Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert. With the light afforded by Roldo's column, I can now appreciate how Mr. Gilbert could have come to town and, after observing how the elites here operate, said to himself, “I can excel at this game.”

He was right! We soon gave him two casinos for life, in our hunger and low self-esteem excusing his promise to build a fabulous new casino on our crooked river.  We bestowed adulation upon him when he first dissed our home boy LeBron for taking his talents elsewhere and then later embraced the return of that enhanced talent in a way that further filled the Quicken coffers.

Given that sort of uncritical and generous treatment, along with the renewal of our regressive sin tax for his sports fraternity, why wouldn't he think that we would happily fork over another $282 million or so just to keep him around another seven years?

GCC and its burgeoning alliance are saying "Let's slow down. Let's be equitable. Let's talk about this."

Whoever advised Gilbert not to have that conversation should be put on irrevocable waivers.

Dan Gilbert has the clout to convene, directly or otherwise, the dialogue of community powers responsible for creating the ecology he so comfortably slid into. He cannot be pleased that GCC and others are raising a ruckus, but he would be wrong to blame them for giving voice to the voiceless. His upset should be directed to his peer group and their political intermediaries, who clearly were caught unawares that even gravy trains have cabooses.
Unless there is a community dialogue that can forge a new and true community partnership, proponents of the ‘Q Transformation’ will likely hear their plan end with a Referendum Serenade that is familiar to basketball fans everywhere: "Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey, Hey, Hey! Goo-ood Bye!”

Not the best theme song for the Rock and Roll Capital of the World!

• • •
P. S. Tonight in Boston, game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals! GO CAVS!!!