Friday, February 22, 2013

My new Frank Jackson profile, out now

It’s time to stop underestimating Frank Jackson — that’s the headline of my new profile of Cleveland’s mayor, in the March issue of Cleveland Magazine and online now.

For years, people have dismissed Jackson with clichés. He's not a cheerleader for Cleveland. He doesn't use the bully pulpit to champion causes. He's not inspirational. Not a visionary. Those clichés persist because Jackson belongs to that rarest of species, the introverted politician. We’re used to being governed by glad-handing extroverts.

But seven years into Jackson’s time as mayor, it’s time to judge him by different standards. After his unlikely political victories for school reform and the school levy, it’s time to acknowledge his successes and understand his talents. That will actually help us demand more of him.

My profile explores how Jackson used his shrewd understanding of people’s motivations to get the school reforms and levy passed. It follows him from Glenville to the Cleveland Clinic to City Hall and catches him dropping witty side comments, near-riddles and risky, blunt comments that provoke nervous laughter in audiences. It examines his surprising, up and down relationship with Gov. John Kasich. It explores how his belief in equity and fairness and his instincts for consistency and patience play out in how he governs.

The story also probes the most consistent and illuminating criticism of Jackson in political circles, that he has a small circle of trust, yet can be overly loyal to those he does trust. And it looks at how all those habits and beliefs affect how he’s handling some of his biggest challenges of 2013, including the investigation into the November police chase and shooting and his latest efforts to develop the waterfront.

Meanwhile, 40 pages away in the March issue, our columnist, Michael D. Roberts, offers a different perspective on the mayor. Less impressed with Jackson’s school victories than I am, Roberts argues that the mayor’s record is disappointing and ought to invite a strong challenger when he runs for re-election this fall. Roberts’ column in our Talking Points commentary section, “Inaction Jackson,” is online here.

I’ve often written about the mayor on this blog, but the March profile is my first magazine-length look at Jackson since he took office in 2006. If the conventional wisdom is right and Jackson coasts to a third term this November, he’ll be mayor through 2017. So now’s the time to ask, what more do we expect of him?

If you’d like to link to my profile, please use this shortcut:

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