Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Kind of Endorsements That I Would Like to Read

Voting In-Person on November 8th
  • Find your polling location here.
  • Polls are open from 6:30 am – 7:30 pm. 
  • You will need identification: driver’s license, utility bill, paycheck, bank statement, or some government document with your name and address on it.

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In two days those of us who did not vote early but still intend to make our views count, will go the polls where, hopefully having educated ourselves on our respective local and statewide issues, we will carry out one of our solemn duties as citizens by casting well-reasoned votes for the “best” candidates and the “right” side of the issues.

Too many of us don’t vote. Reasons vary, but include mostly negative emotions like disillusionment, cynicism, hopelessness, disgust. Nonvoters ought to be fined for the disservice they do their communities, principally by giving direct license to public officials to be less accountable. But hey, that doesn’t apply to Real Deal readers, because if you visit this small corner of the web regularly, then you clearly have a keen interest in public affairs.
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I’m going to be setting forth some nontraditional endorsements in this space today for selected contests in a number of communities — Euclid, Richmond Heights, Cleveland, East Cleveland, Warrensville Heights, Bedford Heights, and Oakwood Village. I’m also going to spend a paragraph or so on each of the three statewide issues, each of which should be rejected by voters.

I will not be endorsing any Cleveland Heights city council candidates because I know virtually all of them personally, count several as friends, and am an officer of a partisan group that has voted to support certain of the candidates. I will confess to a modest anti-incumbent bias because long-term incumbents tend to become inflated with an aura of their own indispensability. There is no reason for public officials to become public institutions where there is a strong supply of fresh and capable replacements.

I hope you found the previous paragraph refreshing for its candor because I am going to be putting the wood to the Sun Messenger in a separate post tomorrow for its thoroughly unprofessional endorsements in Richmond Heights. I encourage you to read it even if you are weary of my reports on that beleaguered community.

I struggle constantly in these posts to attain a balance of topics. Some people criticize me for writing too much about Richmond Heights in this space, but I think most of my readers appreciate that my reporting there is important, because nobody else is doing it with any sense of fairness.

Having started to write about what I saw when I first went there in May, I now feel an obligation to continue reporting what some all too clearly would prefer to remain hidden. And I promise faithful followers of that coverage this: some bombshells are coming soon, and better days ahead are coming into view.

A word or two about The Real Deal endorsement process for the sake of transparency, all the more important for when you learn about the Sun Messenger perversions [no, that’s not too strong a word]. My process is non-scientific. I don’t treat all candidates or communities alike for the same reason that an effective and sensible parent or teacher doesn’t treat all of their children alike except in fairness.

Generally, I wrote most every mayoral and legislative candidate months ago seeking basic information. Few supplied it. I went to a variety of council and school board meetings in almost all of the relevant communities. I studied websites and campaign literature. I spoke with some of the candidates and I spoke with community residents in every municipality.

Based on this work, The Real Deal recommends voting:

State Issues

Issue 1: NO
Issue 2: NO
Issue 3: NO

Local Issues

Issue 49: NO [proposed charter amendment to eliminate traffic cameras]
Issue 50: NO [proposed charter amendment requiring approval of Council to appoint and/or remove the director of law and the director of finance.]

Issue 90: YES
Issue 91: NO

Local Mayors
Bedford Heights: Fletcher Berger
Euclid: Jack Johnson
Oakwood: Joe Fouche
Warrensville Heights: Brad Sellers

Local City Councils
East Cleveland: Barbara Thomas, Ward 2; Mildred Brewer, Ward 4
Richmond Heights: Carl Harmon, Ward 2; Nneka Slade Jackson, Ward 4

Area Boards of Education
Euclid Schools:
Evette Moton
Kathy DeAngelis

Richmond Heights Schools:
   Frank Barber Jr., Linda Pliodzinskas [Elect 2]
   Bobby Jordan [[Elect 1 for Unexpired Term Ending 12/31/2013]

Warrensville Heights Schools: [Elect 3]
   Harold L. Burks, Mary Pat Morris, June E. Taylor

Municipal Courts
Cleveland Municipal Court [term commencing Jan. 2, 2012: Edward Wade
Cleveland Municipal Court [term commencing Jan. 3, 2012: Pinkey S. Carr
East Cleveland Municipal Court: Sandra Walker
Euclid Municipal Court: Deborah A. LeBarron
South Euclid Municipal Court: Gayle Williams-Byers

Endorsement Notes

NO on State Issue 1
The Ohio Constitution currently prohibits candidates who are 70 or older from running for judge. Almost half the states have age limits similar to Ohio. There is no shortage of qualified judicial candidates in Ohio and no clamor to change the Constitution except from the judges themselves, most of who could continue to serve by appointment even if forced by age to retire.

NO on State Issue 2
Ohio’s fiscal troubles could be improved to some degree by a modest adjustment in the power of the state’s public unions. But the General Assembly, a gross overreach of legislative power, rammed through Senate Bill 5 as part of a nationwide partisan campaign to render public unions as a way of establishing virtual one-party rule.
A no vote on Issue 2 would force Ohio’s governor and legislature to find a fairer way of improving the state’s governance and fiscal problems.

NO on State Issue 3
Issue 3 masquerades as a states’ rights plebiscite on federal health care. Its basic aim is to undermine Congressional passage in 2010 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, often derisively referred to as Obamacare. Passage of the issue would have dubious legal effect, and much more likely to harm health care for Ohio citizens than its defeat.


Fletcher Berger has shown himself to be diligent, adaptable, and reasonable. He has earned re-election without question, especially given that his opponent, councilwoman Wendolyn Grant, is likely running primarily to establish her bona fides to run again in four years when Berger will be term limited.

Cleveland Municipal Court: The Stokes name is the only qualification Ed Wade’s opponent has for the job. She has shown herself fully qualified for retirement. Wade has been an energetic and competent attorney for decades. Pinkey S. Carr has distinguished herself as county prosecutor and is ready for the bench.

City Council: It is little short of amazing that Mildred Brewer is council’s only true supporter of the city’s dynamic mayor, the most forward thinking leader that city has had in decades. Additionally, Brewer is an untiring advocate for Ward 4. Despite an over-the-top manner that occasionally channels her inner Dave Chappelle, she should be reelected.
Barbara Thomas should be retained in Ward 2.

East Cleveland Municipal Court: We like William Dawson and think he can one day be a fine judge. But incumbent Sandra L. Walker has given voters no reason to replace her and deserves a second term.

East Cleveland Board of Education [Elect 3]: This body is absolutely in need of regeneration.
The current all-female board for the most part exhibits an unwarranted loyalty towards the current administration. Abdul Shaheed Jabbaar knows what a successful school district requires. During his prior tenure on the board Jabbaar was instrumental in bringing on the current fiscal officer for the schools and promoting school uniforms. He understands the special issues that confront young black males in today’s society and how to support them without making excuses or lowering expectations. He also brings an understanding of what it takes to succeed in the business and corporate world and how to translate that to students.

Patricia A. Blochowiak is deserving of another term. She is hard working and conscientious. Because she is not a part of the old guard clique that runs the district, she asks questions and pushes for answers. She could be a formidable support for Jabbaar if she’s temperamentally up for it.

We do not endorse Una H. R. Keenon. The former judge is a community icon at this point and will likely win re-election on her name alone. But East Cleveland needs school board members with a drive and vision to match its new mayor. Jabbaar has those qualities to the degree that his supporters might consider voting only for him, to increase the likelihood of his rejoining the board.

Charter Amendments
Issue 49: NO [proposed charter amendment to eliminate traffic cameras]. This issue seems to have voters more hot and bothered than the races for school board or city council, despite the fact that 90% of the tickets generated by the city’s traffic cameras are reportedly written to nonresidents.
Part of the voters’ ire appears to result from camera malfunction. But, given that the cameras generate about $1.5 million to the bottom line of a city strapped for cash, that the cameras have likely contributed both directly and indirectly to a decline in the city’s crime rate, and that key safety and other forces will be laid off if the amendment passes, voters should vote no on Issue 49 and find other ways to express their displeasure that don’t involve cutting off much more than their noses.

Issue 50: NO [proposed charter amendment requiring approval of Council to appoint and/or remove the director of law and the director of finance.]
It is depressing when a legislative body with important work to do wastes its time and taxpayers’ money with silly measures that impede sound governmental practice while doing nothing to improve the community. No matter what council members may say, Issue 50 was conceived and put on the ballot because the Council majority doesn’t like the mayor. Passage of the issue would not likely be earth shattering, but it could encourage some council members to seek veto power over whether the mayor should part his hair, and on which side.

In many ways this is one of the most interesting and significant races on the ballot in Greater Cleveland this year. There are three candidates with distinctly different personalities and track records. They offer Euclid residents very different visions of the city and approaches to governance.
Incumbent mayor Bill Cervenik is running for a third term, which would be a final term due to Euclid’s term limits. His tumultuous eight years in office have included historic litigation and a recall attempt. After a point he refused to oppose property development plans promoted by Provident Baptist Church that were upsetting to many Euclid residents as an unwanted challenge to an accepted way of life.
The city’s hostile reaction to the church likely intensified a US Department of Justice investigation into Euclid’s electoral apparatus. The Justice Department eventually determined that Euclid’s electoral protocol involving several at-large seats had become discriminatory in operation if not in design.

At a certain stage Cervenik’s pragmatic nature manifested itself as courage when he opposed those diehards who wished to challenge the Justice Department even unto municipal bankruptcy.

On Cervenik’s right flank is Charlene Mancuso, a veritable dynamo of energy and ideas, and an action-oriented, take-charge persona who pledges to drag Euclid into a new day.

There are a couple of flies in her prescriptive ointment, however. One is her history as champion of the city’s reactionary forces in the battles with the Justice Department and Provident Church, battles whose prolongation cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The other major concern is whether this city of raw nerves could hold together under a mayor whose personal style and public agenda seem more likely to incite virulence rather than camaraderie.

The third major contestant in the mayoral race is a black man, Jack Johnson, making his first entry ever into electoral politics. Johnson is a manager, a finance guy, a technician, an analyst. He was finance director in the Cervenik administration and a get it done guy for many municipal projects. He is now seeking to make the transformation from manager to leader.

After a slow campaign start, in which he seemed unsure whether he was actually running to win or just scratching an itch, Jackson seems to have found his political legs. Short on funds compared to Cervenik certainly and perhaps Mancuso as well, Jackson has taken to the web and churned out a daily series of email missives designed to show his ideas and leadership style.

Jackson is clearly the least polarizing of the three major candidates. He comes closest to being the right person at the right time to lead Euclid into a new era.

Jack Johnson should be Euclid’s next mayor.

Euclid School Board
Frankly the differences aren’t huge here among the three women candidates for school board. Kay Van Ho is a longtime incumbent who wants to be in office one more term to celebrate the dedication of Euclid’s new elementary schools. But we think fresh blood could help this challenged system, and under Van Ho’s watch hundreds of families have opted for charter schools. We would encourage Euclid voters to elect Evette Moton.

Our second choice would be Kathy DeAngelis, a mention made necessary because under the terms of the court order in the DOJ lawsuit, voters can select only one candidate even though there are two vacancies.

Euclid Municipal Court: Longtime lawyer and school board president Barry Sweet cited as one of his qualifications his eagerness to expel Euclid school students as the arbiter of last resort. Given the uneven record of Euclid school discipline, he should have been running away from that record instead of embracing it. Why would Euclid voters give this guy unbridled power? 
Judge Deborah A. LeBarron received excellent ratings from every bar association and should be retained.


City Council
The race in Ward 2 is between two political newcomers. Carl K. Harmon is a businessman with a sense of reasonableness and an understanding that change is needed at City Hall. Russell L. Johnson, a retired city of Cleveland police officer, is impatient with his city’s state of affairs.

It’s a close call but we favor Harmon’s more nuanced approach. Cool heads are certainly going to be needed at City Hall over the next few years.

Ward 4 is perhaps the marquee race in Richmond Heights this year. Nneka Slade Jackson became a household name in the city earlier this year for her persistent challenge to the status quo in Richmond Heights schools, initially but by no means exclusively around the crisis involving the unprofessional conduct of the boys high school basketball coach.

We think the young woman has exemplary leadership qualities. If she is able to secure the Ward 4 council seat from the incumbent, it will be a day of victory for the entire city.

Richmond Heights Board of Education
The appointment of Bobby Jordan to a vacant school board seat this past spring brought to light the need for serious change in the district. Jordan speaks softly but his habit of asking questions in public meetings has led to a harsh series of 3-2 votes. Jordan’s arrival seems to have rejuvenated veteran board member Linda Pliodzinskas, and she has joined Jordan in questioning many of the board majority’s puzzling personnel and financial decisions.

Jordan and Pliodzinskas should be returned to the Board. They should be joined by Frank Barber Jr., a college professor with a business bent. Together these three could begin to chart a return to excellence for the district without getting sidetracked by the cronyism and personal vendettas that seem to animate the current board majority.

Issue 90: YES. This is a no-brainer. This charter amendment will permit Richmond Heights to participate in joint service districts to share in service delivery of municipal services. It is the wave of the future.

Issue 91: NO. This proposed charter amendment reduces by 25% the tax credit a city resident gets for income taxes paid to another municipality. It amounts to a tax increase on Richmond Heights residents who work outside the city but not on those residents or nonresidents who work in the city.

The City Council has put this amendment on the ballot without adequate civic debate, perhaps because they have not wanted to force to address deficiencies found by state audits regarding missing funds and irregular reporting.

Richmond Heights leaders are going to have to deal with harsh realities soon in a city where both the government and the schools are short not just on funds but also plans, shared priorities, a sense of accountability and a necessary commitment to greater transparency.

South Euclid Municipal Court: This court needs a judge equipped to deal with the dynamic range of issues in a transitional community. Gayle Williams-Byers possesses the temperament and the experience necessary for the job.


This contest has taken on some unpleasant overtones with scurrilous material being circulated via the US mail and the Internet. [An anonymous letter arrived in our mailbox imploring us to ask a series of questions of presumptive frontrunner and hometown favorite Brad Sellers. We would have, if the questions had had any bearing on his fitness for office or his ability to do the job.]

Fact is, with or without a college degree or domestic bliss, Sellers is the most knowledgeable, capable, imaginative, self-confident, polished and well-spoken candidate in this three-way race for mayor. He has ideas, energy, and much useful experience. The realization of his potential could prove make him the best mayor in the city’s history.

Warrensville Heights Board of Education [Elect 3]: This district school board suffers from some of the same maladies as the Richmond Heights Local Schools, where a three-man coalition holds power, micromanages, undermines the superintendent, and generally runs amok. The battle lines are not as clear here, but the fingerprints are similar.

Warrensville Heights has a strong, talented, and dedicated superintendent who has accepted personal responsibility for improving the district’s substandard performance. She deserves and needs strong board support. Incumbents June E. Taylor and Mary Pat Morris are running as a team with Harold L. Burks to ensure that the superintendent gets that support. That’s enough to get our endorsement. [See clarification here.]

Oakwood Village

I begin by declaring myself a Joe Fouche {“Fu Shea”] fan. I am a friend of Joe Fouche. We worked together briefly on a business venture that did not pan out but I discovered him to be a man of his word. He is candid, smart, and hard working, personable, and honest.

He’s a cop with compassion. He gets along with folks of all ages, persuasions and stripes but he does not suffer fools. He’s not impressed with how much money you have or don’t have.

On top of all that, he’s got a lot of ideas about how to make the village of his birth a better place. A former village councilman, he is one of the savviest political fellows around, knows everybody but chooses to work only with the straightest shooters.

He is decisive without being close-minded, confident without being cocky. Respectful of elders but attentive to the young.

Joe is also a successful businessman. He knows people, politics and government. He should be mayor of Oakwood. If you live in Oakwood Village, a vote for Joe Fouche is a vote for your present and your future.

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