A few weeks ago I was persuaded by a few people to attending the annual stop by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to North Coillinwood. Having been to many a meeting like this before, the thrill has long gone, but I went.
In a room full of Ward 8 and 9 residents, the mayor spoke a few words after a few introductions. “I never take offense unless you get offensive,” he told the audience and added that he’d answer any questions they had; which many in the room promptly did. A number of the questions could have been answered by Mike Polensek but the mayor, himself a former councilman, was more than ready to give an answer. However, one question that perked my interest was when a gentleman asked the mayor why the city still paid for Judge Angela Stokes’ ‘stuff’ as he called it. The mayor went in length discussing why the city did so. Some in the crowd balked when he asserted that she was competent at her job. On the other hand, the Mayor did roll off some impressive numbers; such as the money spent on the demolition of vacant houses. The City of Cleveland has spent over $70 million in demolitions and even ran out of money last year on such projects.
I left a little early but not before more than a dozen had done so as well. As a long time community activist, and now feeling pretty much frustrated, I felt like my purpose there was to fill a seat and listen to people talk and talk about things without being able to get in a word in of my own (more referring a person sitting right next to me than actually the guys up front). Having sent a proposal or two in the past to the Mayor, I knew whatever I’d say would fall on deaf ears.
There was a time that, when he first got elected, Jackson truly was on a learning curve on how to tackle this city’s many problems. I remember discussing with William Denihan (former Cleveland Public Safety Director in the White Adminsitration) at his home this very topic when Jackson first entered office. Therefore, I was not the only one who, at the time, felt Jackson could do good things. Personal feelings aside, one can definitely state that it is difficult for anyone be a councilman in a big city in the Rustbelt, let alone mayor. Frank Jackson has been both. Despite the fact that he hasn’t proven to be the strong mayor I wish he was, and this is only my opinion, I do believe that Frank Jackson cares much more for Cleveland and its’ residents than Jane Campbell did, and he probably deserves to have his name on an elementary school more than Michael White.
It was important that Mayor Jackson showed up at the Collinwood Recreation Center like he did. Also, having sat there with all those people last night, I’m glad that it wasn’t at all a three-ring circus.
North Collinwood is a good neighborhood with a lot of potential in a city that is on a great lake. It’s time people notice.
Photographs by James Valentino.