by Roldo Bartimole
(Plain Press, December 2016) Mayor Frank Jackson is soft putty in the hands of the corporate downtown plutocracy.
The mayor, from the most deprived area of the city, has allowed and perpetuated for a decade Cleveland’s downtown to become a city within the city—pampered and showered with freebies.
What downtown wants, downtown gets! It has self-determination. It gets what it wants.
Concentrated wealth has been allowed concentrated endowment.
The leeches have become a giant tick on the public teat.
Jackson has become the tool of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. They run the city.
Jackson has commissioned two private corporate agents to determine public matters and continued the shower of scarce public funds for their agenda. The public be damned.
I’ve seen mayors going back to Ralph Locher. None has been as compliant to the wishes of the downtown moguls as Jackson. Even George Voinovich was not as soft on corporate criminals as Jackson has been.
Now, with passage of the city tax increase, as I’ve said, he’s prepared to seek an unprecedented fourth term. The ruling oligarchy will cheer this decision.
The latest move—closing Superior Avenue to public transit is just another Jackson nose thumb to those who need help the most. This time another slap at the needy transit dependent people.
Not to mention the Regional Transit Authority, an agency that could lose millions of dollars when it actually needs public support to resuscitate its funding stream.
The Superior Avenue issue—barring RTA from using buses on a street that separates the new $50 million Public Square redo—could, according to RTA officials, jeopardize some $12 million in federal funding. The money was given to RTA for commitments that require the use of Superior Avenue.
If not able to use Superior in the center of downtown and its bus routes, RTA, already suffering public funding cuts and public (city, state and federal) indifference, will suffer further financial damage. More rate hikes for those with public transit needs.
Brent Larkin of the Plain Dealer wrote a piece this week suggesting strongly that Jackson would run again.
He also noted Jackson’s reluctant rise to power after Lonnie Burten, the former councilman, suffered a young death.
Quoting Jackson, Larkin wrote: “You don’t have many friends in life. You have people you know. Lonnie was a friend. And if he had not died, I would have not been a councilman, let alone a mayor.”
Jackson pauses, smiles, then finishes the thought: “Lonnie used to say, ‘Frank, you gotta speak up more.’ I would say, ‘Lonnie, that ain’t my role.’ But I also told him, ‘At the right time, I will.’
However, to paraphrase, “I knew Lonnie, and Jackson is no Lonnie Burten.”
Jackson has become too enamored with himself. It happens at a time when the news media is at its lowest power point.
I wrote some time ago: The Councilman who proudly showed himself as the man of and with the people is now Mayor and patsy of the rich. A toady to power.
A corrupted progeny of Lonnie Burten. He knows what I mean.
Jackson used one the most comical of reasons to close Superior Ave. to vehicle use. He had his Safety Director Michael McGrath, in a letter to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), claims terror as a reason for closing the street.
He wrote that opening the street could encourage a terrorist to use a “cargo truck” to plow into people.
Why not close the air space over Public Square since a drone could drop a bomb on people? Makes as much sense to me.
This is especially true when you need a reason to do something unreasonable.
I’m not at city hall these days so I don’t know the details that would tell me exactly what’s going on politically in the city. However, I’ve been there and I know that a challenge to a mayor ripe for attack requires someone to begin to prepare the political atmosphere for change.
I don’t see this happening. Not a smart politician in sight.
But it must.
This city needs a shaker up. Badly.
Jackson would deserve it if RTA Chief Executive Officer Joseph Calabrese, a guy who has done an excellent job operating a tough and formerly troubled agency, tells him that this is the last straw: “Here’s my resignation. I’m leaving. I’ll wait until you find a replacement. But count me out. I’m not part of this debacle called Cleveland.”