Will Cleveland vote for change or the same?

Cleveland's mayoral race: When is change gonna come?


By R. T. Andrews


Area voters are heading to the polls today to participate in what could be a transformative election both locally and statewide. It is a great misnomer to call this or any other non-presidential year an "off-year" election. Believing that democracy has off years or even off months, is a prescription for its demise. Back in the day when civics was taught in public schools — hell back in the day when there were common public schools — we learned that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

There is no shortage of communities in Cuyahoga County where cities face a key choice: keep on doing the same thing or chart a new course. Of course the biggest local race is Cleveland's mayoral contest between 12-year incumbent Frank Jackson and longtime city councilman Zack Reed. 

It seems clear that Cleveland voters want change from top to bottom. Jackson has accumulated a ton of baggage over his three terms: an abysmal record on lead abatement; virtual silence on matters of public safety, even in the face of outrageous police misconduct; a school system stagnant in too many areas; an unconscionable failure to apportion city resources equitably among city neighborhoods, most conspicuously between downtown and the more traditional residential neighborhoods. 

Throw in his advocacy for a dirt bike track, his coziness with the rich and powerful, his disdain for any real effort to make himself understood, and his general aloofness, not to mention his willingness to deny the people a voice on whether to expand Quicken Loans Arena deal, and it would be an open and shut case for voters to show him the door.

But to open that door and kick Jackson out means to select Zack Reed as his replacement; many voters are uncomfortable with that choice. They perceive Reed to be all churn and no butter, too unreliable and immature (even at age 56) to replace the old man and manage the billion dollar enterprise of city government, even though he seems to have effectively confronted and thereby corralled his acknowledged alcoholism for the last several years.

This race was Reed’s to win or lose. For better or worse, the voters are tired of Jackson, ready to kick him to the curb. We heard that pre-campaign polling showed a majority of likely voters didn’t even want Jackson to run again. So Reed's task was to demonstrate his capacity to govern and his readiness to lead, to make people understand his passion for public service, to show how he gained the reputation as city council's hardest worker, and to get buy-in for his vision of a better Cleveland.

Whether Reed successfully did enough to define himself and achieve those goals, or was beaten down by the hot tarring of relentless pro-Jackson assassins, is the question of the day.

We say if Reed wins, Cleveland will have a stronger champion for equity and a more attentive voice in City Hall. If he proves unable to close the deal, the cold hands of the Jackson Administration will carry the city's pulse for another long four years.


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