Friday, August 23, 2013

Lanci calls mayor a dirty word – millionaire

It’s an old trick in politics – hit your opponent in the very place you’re most vulnerable.

Ken Lanci’s doing just that in his latest campaign literature. He’s attacking Frank Jackson by calling him – of all things – a millionaire.

Lanci, a self-made millionaire businessman and self-financed mayoral candidate, is trying to out-populist the mayor from the city’s impoverished Central neighborhood. He wants to whip up outrage over Jackson’s salary, currently $136,758 a year. Multiply it by the mayor’s eight years in office and you get to $1 million.

“He will retire on a millionaire’s pension!” Lanci’s flier declares. Jackson’s 36 years as a government employee and his recent salary mean he’ll get about a $100,000 a year pension once he retires.

Lanci’s millionaire jujitsu move is lame – it just calls more attention to his own substantial wealth. He won’t give figures for his own net worth, but it is substantial. He dropped $1 million of his own cash on his 2010 race for county executive, and he says he’s willing to spend $1 million again this year to match Jackson’s campaign fund. He's a flashy guy who’s feuding with Plain Dealer reporters about his very nice car. Clearly he thinks there’s nothing wrong with wealth, or getting paid.

But the flier goes beyond hypocritical millionaire-bashing. Lanci’s trying to argue that Jackson hasn’t earned his salary or pension. The flier also complains that Cleveland crime, poverty and schools have all worsened since Jackson became mayor in 2006.

It’s a potent critique. Education, jobs and crime are the top three issues in any mayor’s race.

But Jackson’s defenders will say Lanci’s attack is simplistic. Mayors don’t control the economy. The Great Recession and the foreclosure crisis hit during Jackson’s first term, wiping out jobs and tearing the fabric of many neighborhoods. The mayor’s supporters will argue that the fairest way to judge him is on how he’s helped Cleveland weather the storm.

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