Wednesday, October 30, 2013

EAST CLEVELAND Seven candidates seek three city council seats

East Cleveland City Council is certain to have new leadership next year, as its five members will elect both a new president and a new vice president. The choice East Cleveland voters will make next week is just how much to shake up a council that, regardless of its makeup, has feuded almost nonstop with the city’s past two chief executives.

Mayor Gary Norton defeated his chief council antagonist, Council President Joy Jordan, in the October 1 Democratic primary. He will be unopposed at the polls next week.

Jordan, who opted not to run for reelection but to challenge Norton at the ballot box, will leave office when her council term on council expires at the end of December. Meanwhile, Chantelle Lewis, council’s vice president, chose not to run for reelection.

The remaining three council members, Mansell Baker, Barbara Thomas, and Nathaniel Martin, have all usually been found on the opposite side of any Norton mayoral initiatives, even though he was council president immediately prior to his election in 2009.

The most frequent issue raised at most of the candidate forums and debates held in the city over the past two months has been the dysfunctional relationship between mayor and council. With Norton assured of reelection and council’s leadership departing, voters can resolve that issue themselves.

Voters will choose next week among five candidates vying for two at large seats. Ward 3 voters will also pick among three candidates for a representative to succeed Lewis.
City Council candidates [seated L-R] Brandon King, Gloria Smith Morgan,
Genevieve Mitchell, Nathaniel Martin, Thomas J. Wheeler and Vidah Saaed.
Standing at left: Trevelle Harp, executive director of forum co-sponsor 
Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope.

The at large candidates are Brandon King, Nathaniel Martin, Genevieve Mitchell, Ryan Ross, and Gloria B. Smith Morgan. Martin, an incumbent, has been on council since 1999. His serious approach to council is usually overshadowed by his relentless pomposity.  King is a businessman with deep roots in the community. Mitchell is more of a transplant, settling in East Cleveland after service as an elected school board member in East Cleveland. Smith Morgan retired after a 30+year career with General Motors, has been active with her Hanover-Brunswick street club, and cites the late Mildred Brewer as her political inspiration.

The fifth candidate on the ballot for an at large seat, Ryan Ross, appears not to have shown at any public campaign event. We have not been able to reach him.

Ward 3 council election
Three candidates — Vidah Saeed, Ernest L. Smith, and Thomas J. Wheeler — are running to succeed Chantelle Lewis. Saeed describes herself as a community activist and says she wants to transform East Cleveland into a city that commands respect.  Smith did not appear at last week’s candidate forum sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope and the League of Women Voters, but his campaign literature, placed on cars in the parking lot outside the event, claims support from the Black Women’s Political Action Committee and the Carl Stokes Brigade.
Former Cleveland Safety Director James Barrett & lifelong
political activist Burt Jennings of the Carl Stokes Brigade
at a recent candidates forum in East Cleveland

Wheeler, who worked 12 years as a Cleveland police officer, describes himself as an experienced negotiator who wants to end the bickering between the executive and legislative branches. He argues that the city must show dependable civic leadership before private investors will return.

King, Smith Morgan, and Wheeler are running as a team. Should all three be elected they would likely be able to craft a workable council-mayoral relationship that East Cleveland hasn’t had in nearly a decade.

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