Friday, October 06, 2017

Cuyahoga Politics Today • Activists disappointed with Cleveland NAACP, seek to form second branch

CPT — Cuyahoga Politics Today
Disappointment with local NAACP spurs new chapter effort
Social Justice Concerns Fuel startup of new county NAACP


A core of civic activists is working to create a second National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Northeast Ohio. Their goal is to create a Cuyahoga Branch of the NAACP that would co-exist and hopefully collaborate with the long-established Cleveland branch.
Attendees at information session re formation of a Cuyahoga 
County NAACP branch meet at the County Library branch 
on Green Rd. in South Euclid.

About 35 people, including several with notable community activism resumes, met last night at the county library’s South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch on Green Road to discuss formation of a county-based NAACP chapter.

After an introductory summary of the NAACP’s storied local history, Dick Peery voiced the type of non-partisan support the activists want to build upon. “I am not here representing the Cleveland branch. I am only here as an individual,” said Dick Peery, noted former Plain Dealer reporter and political activist. “Any time people want to do the right work, and especially younger people, I want to do whatever I can to encourage it.”

Peery is a current executive committee member of the Cleveland NAACP.

Leading the new effort is Cassandra McDonald, a recent law school graduate who says she is currently pursuing a doctorate in law at Walden University. She explained the rationale for an NAACP local reboot during last night’s meeting.  “Some of you might get a little uncomfortable about the things I might say, but I believe the truth shall set us free,” she said.

“I sat back and waited and watched, then waited and watched again while all our children — my children — were dying. They were dying not just dying because of gun violence and murder, but because of racism, hatred, ignorance, and a lack of love and support, and souls that were lost.  I watched and waited for consistent advocacy against gentrification, against the school-to-prison pipeline, against mass incarceration, against educational disparities in the urban communities, against self-serving politicians trying to interfere with our right to vote, against poor race relations, against discrimination of those who identify as LGBTQ, against gender discrimination, and I got tired of sitting and waiting. So I got up and took a stand,” McDonald said.

The Cleveland chapter, despite electing a new leadership team about two years ago and initiating an ongoing membership growth and retention campaign, has not attracted the necessary grassroots support to respond effectively in the eyes of many to the area’s most critical civil rights issues. Many citizens were dismayed at the Cleveland NAACP’s support of the Quicken Loans Arena expansion for what seemed to some a [cheap] payoff of $25,000 from Dan Gilbert, owner of the Q’s principal tenant, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland NAACP chapter president Michael Nelson is currently campaigning for election to Cleveland Municipal Court.
A panel presentation at the meeting featured East Cleveland-based telecommunications consultant Zakee Rashid, ex-offender employment advocate Louis Hawkins, Kent State University NAACP founder Dr. Richard Montgomery, anti-racism activist Robert M. Korecky, Minister Ray Greene, and Cleveland chapter Black Lives Matter member Kareem Henton. 

Each expressed gratitude for the past work of the Cleveland NAACP chapter while acknowledging widespread perceptions that dissension had set in and new blood is needed.
Cassandra McDonald and Zakee Rashid
“We appreciate what the NAACP has done in our past and for our future,” said Hawkins, who aligned with McDonald around the still-smoldering issue of deadly force by the City of Euclid police that resulted in the death of Luke Stewart on March 13. That issue was further stoked by the recent automobile stop by Euclid police that ended in the public assault of a motorist recorded on a citizen's cell phone video.

Robert Korecky, left, and Kareem Henton
“But what I’ve heard people say is ‘Where is the relevancy (in the Cleveland chapter)? Is there relevancy today?’,” said Rashid. He noted the need for a renewed focus toward economic empowerment. “(Minorities) cannot continue, I think, in America to just sustain by looking for jobs.  We have to start looking for ownership, primary responsibility, and general contracting as much as anybody else in this country,” he stated.  “Especially in Cuyahoga County, looking at the numbers, we should realistically be able to bid on any contract coming up, particularly in a project like the Q.  I mean, our people were not even figured into that process. So I think that by joining a new organization where there are some new ideas … we can be walking through the process from beginning all the way to the end, instead of running from the end and asking for some crumbs after everybody else has divided up the pie.”

Henton, of Black Lives Matter, who is also a member of the Cleveland NAACP, also offered his support for a county NAACP.  “I have a reminiscent respect for some of the pioneering organizations that really did a lot for us in the past… But we didn’t get to the place we are right now because they’ve been doing their job well.” He said that too often an advocate for a social cause on the public scene “is often a member of a particular board” whose mission undermines that same greater cause.

Near the meeting’s end, after this reporter’s departure, longtime NAACP Cleveland attorney and near-perpetual top Cleveland branch officer James Hardiman appeared. A heated debate ensued during which Hardiman reportedly questioned the authority of those assembled to form a new branch. Pre-publication attempts to reach Hardiman by phone and email for comment were unsuccessful.
Afterward, McDonald held a Q&A session. She said that questions about funding for the organization would be answered at a later time.  She also pointed out that the minimum required membership number was “very close”, but not yet achieved.

McDonald gained some local notoriety last year when she ran for the Ohio House of Representatives as a Republican. After she lost, she announced that she was a Democrat.

Membership dues for all NAACP chapters start at $30. Those wishing to join the new branch or seeking more information can reach McDonald at 216.245.2115 or email her at

R. T. Andrews contributed to the reporting of this article.
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Endorsement Report
• The Cuyahoga Women’s Democratic Caucus updated its report to add its endorsement of longtime Collinwood area councilman Mike Polensek in Cleveland Ward 8. CWDC chief Cindy Demsey indicated in an email that Polensek had been inadvertently omitted.
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Voting starts next week
The last day to register is October 10. Early voting begins next week, starting Oct. 11. Election day is November 5.

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Cuyahoga Politics Today • Around Town this Weekend • Frank Jackson criticized for missing the boat on Puerto Rico

Ten days ago, we wrote about forthcoming changes both to our format and to our reporting. 

Three days later, we posted an exclusive first report of a shakeup in the mayor’s campaign. That post got more hits in 24 hours than we have ever had in a 30-day period! Thank you very much to all who read and shared that story.

Today, we offer a trifecta: our semi-regular feature — CPT-Cuyahoga Politics Today; a new feature, Essential Diversions, that will report on stage, drama, sport, art, etc.; and, a thought-provoking op-ed piece from civic leader Juan Molina Crespo.

Enjoy, and please come back tomorrow to find coverage on new doings in Glenville.


CPT — Cuyahoga Politics Today
Not so strange bedfellows

The reincarnation of former county prosecutor Bill Mason now seems complete with today’s hosting of a fundraiser for County Executive Armond Budish.

Mason, who is now partner-in-charge of the Cleveland office of the politically potent statewide law firm of Bricker and Eckler, used his formidable political organizing skills to win the county Democratic Party’s Central Committee election as the area’s top cop after Stephanie Tubbs Jones left that job to go to Congress. He served as prosecutor from 1999 to 2012, spending more time building his machine than dealing with the outrageous behavior of fellow county officeholders Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo. It took federal prosecutors to take down the rotten county politics of the Dimora era. Reformers and Republicans seized upon the opportunity to install a new form of county government, eliminating most archaic elective county offices like recorder, clerk of courts, treasurer, sheriff, etc., subsuming them under the new office of county executive.

Mason’s machine had enough clout to keep the prosecutor’s office an elected position and to finish his term. Fallout from the corruption scandal had tarnished his brand sufficiently that he chose not to run for re-election, and he resigned his term a couple months early to join Bricker.  Whatever ambition he had for statewide office seemed to end as well.

Now, like a bad penny, the man has returned as a power behind the throne, a gray eminence who has already made book with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and is now further ingratiating himself with the county executive. Whatever the virtues of the election of county councilwoman Shontel Brown’s election several weeks ago as head of the county Democrats, the real story was always the handshake between Mason and Fudge that made it possible.

Our area politics have always suffered by the unholy alliance between the public officials who indulge in the petty perks of office and the business interests who endorse and fund them for their own self-aggrandizement. Sound policy and the people’s interests get taken for a ride along in the trunk.


Endorsement Report
• The Cuyahoga Women’s Democratic Caucus today announced new endorsements in this year’s general election.

In city races, The Caucus endorsed only ten of a possible 16 incumbents, including Mayor Frank Jackson. Newcomers endorsed are Kevin Bishop (Ward 2); Delitha "Gail" Sparks (Ward 4); and Jasmin Santana (Ward 14). The Caucus issued no endorsements in Wards 7, 8, 9, 10, and 16. There is no incumbent in the Council races for Wards 2 and 10.

Other caucus endorsements announced today:

BEACHWOOD: Martin S. Horwitz for Mayor; Gail McShepard and James Pasch for City Council.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS: Cheryl Stephens, Jason SteinMike Ungar, and Melissa Yasinow for City Council.

EUCLID: Laura Gorshe (City Council Ward 8)

NORTH OLMSTED: Chris Glassburn (City Council Ward 2).

OLMSTED FALLS: Ann Marie Donegan for Mayor.

SHAKER HEIGHTS: Anne E. Williams and Robert Zimmerman for City Council.

SOUTH EUCLID: Ruth Gray (City Council Ward 1), Sara Continenza (Ward 3) and Jane Goodman (City Council Ward 4)

CWDC previously endorsed the following candidates:

GARFIELD HEIGHTS: Shayla Davis (City Council Ward 4) and Tenisha Mack (City Council Ward 2)

LAKEWOOD: Tom Bullock and Cindy Marx for City Council at Large.

The CDWC also endorsed levies for both the Cleveland Public Library Levy [Issue 60] and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority [Issue 59]

• Mayoral challenger Zack Reed picked up a couple of key endorsements earlier this week from the Teamsters and Amalgamated Transit Union locals.

• Meanwhile, looking ahead to next year, the Betty Sutton for Governor campaign reports receiving the endorsement of the Cleveland Teachers Union. The former Congresswoman is one of four announced candidates for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The others: former state rep. Connie Pillich, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, and Dayton mayor Nan Whaley.

Voting starts next week
The last day to register is October 10. Early voting begins next week, starting Oct. 11. Election day is November 5.

“We expect upwards of 75,000 people to vote by mail in this important election that includes the Mayor of Cleveland and two statewide issues,” said county elections board director Pat McDonald in a statement released earlier this week.

There are 60 other issues and hundreds of municipal, school and judicial candidates on the ballot.  “This election will affect the future of our cities, county, and state.  I want to remind people that these types of elections can have a bigger impact on their daily lives than in presidential years,” said McDonald.

Voters are encouraged to submit their vote by mail ballot applications as soon as possible.  To request a ballot application visit:, or call 216-443-VOTE (8683).  They are also available at all public libraries.  The Board will begin mailing ballots to voters on October 11th.

Essential Diversions
What’s happening this weekend?
It’s probably too late to get tickets if you’ve been dithering around about whether to see the fabulously satisfying performance of Simply Simone at Karamu. There are only four more shows [tonight through Saturday at 7:30PM

Add caption
and a 3 PM Sunday matinee]. The diva show began and ended on the perfect notes, and all the ones in between were pretty good, too. The four Ninas are Sheffia Randall, Afia Mensa, Corlesia Smith and home girl Mariama Whyte.

Don’t let me be misunderstood: Don’t you wish you knew how it would feel to be free? Call 216.795.7077.

Across town, previews start tonight for the world premiere of The Family Claxon by once-local playwright Eric Coble. The Cleveland Public Theatre production opens officially on October 13 and runs through October 28. Check it out here.
The Cast of The Family Claxon, opening in preview
tonight at Cleveland Public Theatre.
[PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Wagner]

Also tonight, if you have missed Ava Duvernay’s four-time Emmy Award winning documentary, 13th — about America’s star-spangled prison industrial complex — that film screens for free today at 5:30 PM at the ACLU Cleveland office, 4506 Chester Ave. in midtown. Discussion and light refreshments will follow. More info here.

Finally, the Cleveland baseball team begins its quest for post-season honors tonight at home against the long-hated Yankees. We think this may be the most capable team in the team's history — from the manager to the defense to the pitching to the bats. They start off with a tough test — the better team can be upset in a short five game series — and the opponents will only get tougher from there. But if Cleveland can win eleven post-season games this year, they will be World Champs, and maybe a certain obscene creature will burn up in a blaze of glory, never to receive official sanction again.

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By Juan Molina Crespo                                                                       October 5, 2017

Cleveland misses opportunity to aid Puerto Ricans and Clevelanders

Once again, the statement released by Cleveland’s Mayor and other elected officials, on the devastation of Puerto Rico, to attempt to help soothe the psychological damage among Cleveland’s Puerto Rican community, personifies the historical ambivalence between Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and majority culture leaders. 

It is outrageous that Mayor Jackson thinks that expressing his sympathy, and “thoughts and prayers” is comforting, and enough. 

This is not the time for “ay bendito” or soft, soothing rhetoric. Our community has been devastated. Where is the moral and forceful leadership, where is the action, the substance?

At a time when Cleveland seeks to increase population to stave off the very real possibility of losing yet another Congressional seat, the Mayor and other public and civic officials should be putting out a clarion call welcoming all Puerto Ricans to Cleveland. Instead, we are silent, while Detroit, Chicago, Allentown, Houston, Fort Wayne and the entire state of Florida are aggressively recruiting to their areas.

The economic implications for our region are significant. An authentic welcoming city could create a one-stop shop for new arrivals, with housing, medical care, beds, and access to social workers and counselors to help mitigate the emotional trauma, and very real physical pain.  Over the past sixty years, Cleveland’s philanthropic community along with the Puerto Rican community has created the foundation of this infrastructure.

Mayor, do not include Puerto Rico in a narrative with Japan, adding it to the geopolitical discourse that continues to fuel the ambiguity of its status vis-à-vis the United States, and call into question the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans. The Puerto Rican disaster must not be used to promote fear, resentment or stereotypes. The narrative must be that as a colony, territory or possession of the United States, it is your obligation to act in a manner aligned with the democratic principles of your sworn oath.

Juan Molina Crespo directs the Hispanic Alliance of Cleveland.

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