Donít follow In East Clevelandís footsteps: Vote no on Issue 26

Cleveland Heights should take a lesson from East Cleveland and vote “NO” on Issue 26 to stop the politicization and destabilization of our city. I’ve seen this show before and it isn’t pretty.

I was raised in East Cleveland, and I was part of the second black family on my street. I remember the days when we had ice skating rinks on Shaw Avenue, dances at the YMCA, and three outdoor swimming pools with tennis courts. I graduated from Shaw High School in 1974, and I gave back by teaching at Kirk Middle School in East Cleveland. My children were born in East Cleveland. I loved East Cleveland, and I still do.

But in 1987 we left it.

In 1986, East Cleveland swore in its first mayor, Darryl Pittman, after voters rejected our council-manager system for a strong mayor by a ballot initiative. Sound familiar? Promises were made that with a strong mayor, instead of a city manager, our city’s problems would go away. They didn’t. Instead, they got worse.

East Cleveland was placed under fiscal emergency under Pittman. The emergency continued under Wallace Davis, whose previous leadership experience included running a funeral home. Then East Cleveland got Emmanuel Onunwor, who spent nine years in federal prison for public corruption. Eric Brewer followed Onunwor, and then East Cleveland got Gary Norton, who was ultimately recalled in a special election and replaced with the current mayor, Brandon King. East Cleveland is a shell of its former self under this mismanagement.

I do not want Cleveland Heights to follow in East Cleveland’s footsteps. I have lived in Cleveland Heights for over 20 years, am a proud resident of the 44112 area, and serve as my Democratic precinct captain. I live only a couple of streets away from my daughters and their families. I love Cleveland Heights, and I want it to stay strong.

Cleveland Heights has withstood the problems that have harmed East Cleveland because our city has been, and continues to be, professionally managed. We have a qualified and non-political city manager, Tanisha Briley, who manages city services and city employment, and is held accountable by our elected council. This is the most common form of municipal government in the country and prevents public corruption. Roads get paved because they need to be, not because a donor lives on that street. People get hired and fired because they’re qualified for the role, not because they’re a political ally’s relative. Does anyone wonder why Frank Jackson hired disgraced former judge Lance Mason, or why Frank Jackson’s grandson wasn’t prosecuted by the Cleveland city prosecutor?

I want to keep Cleveland Heights government accountable. I want to keep politics out of city services and employment. I want to stop the destabilization of our city, and stop us from going the way of East Cleveland. Anyone who says that it can’t happen here is fooling themselves.

I hope that East Cleveland has a brighter and stronger future. I really do, and I am working toward that goal with my fellow Shaw alumni. However, we in Cleveland Heights cannot ignore East Cleveland’s past.

Cleveland Heights should not follow in East Cleveland’s footsteps by throwing out our form of government on the promises of a magic mayor. I urge everyone to vote “NO” on Issue 26.

Jackie Shakir

Jackie Shakir has lived in Cleveland Heights for over 20 years, but was raised in East Cleveland. She is a proud resident of, and advocate for, the 44112 area of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:29 PM, 10.02.2019