Monday, May 17, 2010

GE vs. City Hall battle goes before council

The Plain Dealer's Mark Gillespie calls it Mayor Jackson's most controversial proposal ever, and he's right. The deal to make a Chinese company the city's exclusive streetlight supplier is heading for a skeptical reception at city council today.

The mayor says he's using Cleveland's buying power to bring 350 jobs to town: Sunpu-Opto Semiconductor of China will build its North American headquarters here if it's named the city's exclusive supplier of LED lights. GE, watching from its plant in East Cleveland, is furious, demanding a chance to compete. It claims Cleveland is violating a competitive-bidding law. Jackson's lawyers say that's not so.

City council has hardly ever challenged Jackson. The same majority that keeps Martin Sweeney ensconced as council president has also deferred to the mayor on almost every big issue since 2006. I can think of very few exceptions: renewing the tax abatement for new homes and a couple of issues where council, not Jackson, took the lead.

So I'll be watching to see who on council asks tough questions, who sticks with Jackson out of loyalty, and who morphs into the loyal opposition. Mike Polensek, a frequent dissenter, has spoken up. Significantly, so has Jeff Johnson, who's re-establishing himself as an independent force on council. Who else?

The questions the councilpeople ask will reveal their politics. Some may argue with the mayor on nationalist grounds: Why give jobs to a Chinese company? Others will take the practical good-government approach and focus on the legal and technical questions, such as whether Sunpu-Opto's lights are really the best LEDs the city can buy.

Meanwhile, Jackson's arguments illuminate little-seen aspects of his thinking. All his critics who say he's too shy to take bold action ought to love this deal, he says. He's also trying to fight nationalism with nationalism, bashing GE, saying it "shipped jobs overseas." It's a risky strategy that could win him a flawed victory: He could land the 350 Sunpu-Opto jobs while alienating GE and local businesspeople who think GE got snubbed.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I enjoyed for more than 25 years in my computer busines prior to free trade destroying it and about a 1000 computer businesses in just the tri-state area of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. I also was a specialist for micro light bulbs. There is no technology that remains exclusive and Mayor Jackson's deal with Sunpu-Opto is an example of everything that is wrong in the downfall of our local economies. We wrote about the dark side of energy saving light bulbs at

I fought for the last PC computers made in the USA to the end and was a trouble-shooter supplyer for micro industrial computer and cat scan manufacturers who also lost out due to free trade. Just in the Cleveland region alone, about 100,000 workers lost their jobs or business in the computer field.

Now we have a Mayor who is making a no bid exclusive deal with a Chines e company to create only 350 jobs and God only knows what and where all the components come from. Most likely as with other free trade deals and states handing out money to foreign auto assemblers the deal will most likely cost us five to six jobs for every one of the 350 jobs created as Councilman Polensek maintains. The state of Indiana paid Honda about $160 million dollars for Honda to build an assembly plant in their state. It created only 5,000 jobs while 20,000 auto parts workers lost theirs.
See Ray Tapajna Chronicles that forecasted our economic crisis years ago at aand