Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jackson vs. FitzGerald: Who has more power?

Right now, who is the most powerful politician in Greater Cleveland?

Many people say Ed FitzGerald’s new job is the most influential political position in town. Voters’ hopes for change are focused on the new Cuyahoga County executive: Their demands for a more efficient government and an end to corruption and self-dealing, their belief that local government can step up and reverse Northeast Ohio’s economic decline.

“The charter has created a position where Cuyahoga County can speak with one voice,” FitzGerald told me in an interview for the Power 100 issue of Inside Business, out now. “To the extent that I can grow into that role, also to the extent that I can build coalitions, it gives me entrée into all kinds of situations I may not have direct control over.”

FitzGerald debuts in our Power 100 list at No. 9, behind business leaders such as Sandy Cutler of Eaton (#1) and Chris Connor of Sherwin-Williams (#3). The county exec also ranks below one other politician: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who drops from #2 in last year’s rankings to #7 this time.

Jackson had a pretty tough 2010, considering his troubles with the LED lighting contract and the water department and his futile endorsement of Terri Hamilton Brown for county executive. But politicos will remind you that a city still has a lot more legislative powers than a county. And people who think about power say it doesn't just come with a new job -- it's acquired over time by leading, cooperating, and persuading. For now, Jackson’s still got more clout than Ed FitzGerald, an unknown quantity. But a year from now? Maybe not.

My “Political Shakeup” piece in the Power 100 package tracks the rising and falling influence of Jackson and other Northeast Ohio politicians. Steve LaTourette moves up from #20 to #16 in our rankings, thanks to the November elections and his friendship with House speaker John Boehner. Sherrod Brown, now Ohio’s senior senator, moves up a bit, from #17 to #15, though we’ll see how he adjusts his senatorial style to divided government.

Don Plusquellic holds fairly steady as he ponders whether to run for one more term as Akron’s mayor. The biggest fall? Bill Mason, who had the worst 2010 of any local public official not under indictment, drops out of our top 100.

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