Saturday, January 24, 2009

The quiet mayor

I’ve had this same conversation a few times in the last couple of months. Hey, when is Frank Jackson up for re-election? someone asks. November, I tell them. Oh, good! they say, with a sigh full of frustration. Then they ask, Who’s going to run against him?

No one, I say.

So they ask about Chris Ronayne (if they’ve been paying some attention to local politics) or Joe Cimperman (if they haven’t).

Nope, sorry. I’ve asked a few of my political sources: Who’s thinking of running against Jackson this year? The word is: no one of any stature.

This prospect -- the mayor coasting to re-election in November -- will drive some people crazy. What’s he done? they complain. But in his own quiet way, Jackson's been pushing regionalism, making deals with suburbs that include promises not to lure city businesses away. He’s flown to Costa Rica, Germany and France to try to attract foreign investment. He’s kept the city’s books in decent shape, while nearby cities such as Detroit are slashing budgets.

So far, Jackson has avoided one of the biggest cliches about mayoral leadership: he is the rare big-city mayor who is not accused of favoring downtown and neglecting neighborhoods. Jackson's years as a ward leader help him with this. I’m hearing that he is quite popular in most city neighborhoods, and that he even went door-to-door this summer to ask random citizens how the city can improve its services. I bet the news that the mayor showed up down the street gets around the block fast.

I’m sure that's why Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle, isn’t planning to challenge Jackson. A year ago, my colleague Andy Netzel profiled Ronayne, wrote about his interest in being mayor someday, and sized up his prospects if he ran against Jackson. But in December, Ronayne told the Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik that he does not plan to run for mayor in 2009.

A lot of Clevelanders remember the buzz eight years ago about Joe Cimperman running for mayor someday. Cimperman is definitely ambitious – just look at his run for Congress against Dennis Kucinich – but I’m hearing he’s more likely to try to move up to a county office next time one opens up.

Naymik's piece explained some of the other reasons that Jackson will be tough for anyone to beat. For instance, he came up with a graceful way to say that black candidates have an advantage because the city’s population is 54 percent black.

The column upset Norm Roulet at RealNEO – check out his funny poll: “Plain Dealer Has Declared Frank Jackson Re-Elected Mayor in 2009... is that what you want?” (Click here and scroll down.)

But I’m hearing what Naymik’s hearing. So another online survey ought to ask, “Who should run against Frank Jackson in 2009?” and, more important, “Who can beat him?”

If you’ve got a name, let me know.

(Photo by Mike Raby, from flickr)

1 comment:

guv said...

Count me among the Jackson supporters!
I did indeed vote for him in the last election and in my opinion, he has delivered on restructuring city police coverage and in the process improved response time. He has delivered on improving CMSD schools with the hiring of Dr. Eugene Sanders, especially in terms of offering niche schools that compete with charter and private programs, a necessary step to build momentum in attracting new students to the district. Less obvious, and much less glamorous, if any of the aforementioned initiatives could be described as such; is his work to restructure the inner workings of City Hall to enable employees to be more productive, while concurrently providing tools to gauge their performance. If this succeeds in motivating even one tenth of city employees, it is a Herculean triumph!
In addition, I appreciate his recent stances on the Innerbelt bridge, even though I believe it is in our best interests to further develop our mass transit system, as well as his qualified support of the MedMart project.
Overall, I'm a proud supporter of this 'quiet' mayor and very much appreciate that characteristic as compared to the bombastic visionary for which so many in this region clamor.