Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Will Zack Reed win reelection from jail?

So Zack Reed is guilty of his third DUI. His long reign as councilman for the Warehouse District has finally caught up to him. He’s headed to jail this time, for somewhere from 10 days to six months. He’ll be sentenced Sept. 5 – five days before the city council primary.

Is this the end of Reed’s political career? I don’t think so. We may be about to witness the spectacle of a popular city councilman getting reelected from the Cleveland House of Correction.

While he's still a free man, Reed’s running hard. Sunday, he tweeted that’s he’s got 500 yard signs planted in his ward. WKYC’s man-on-the-street interviews yesterday in Ward 2, on Cleveland’s far south side, found many residents ready to reelect him. People like his fiery, fighting style. His three challengers have nowhere near his name recognition.

“Drunk or not, Zack outworks the rest of them,” says local political activist and commentator Mansfield Frazier (who lives in Hough). “I’ve been to meetings at 7 a.m., and there’s Zack.”

Reed sounded contrite in an interview with WKYC’s Tom Beres. “I need to abstain from alcohol, and I will work to ensure that happens,” he said.

“The credibility of my family’s been lost. The credibility of my friends have been lost. And now the credibility of my constituents have been lost,” Reed said. “And now I’ve got to go back out to work to get that credibility back again.”

That humility is probably what his voters want to hear. Redemption stories play well in city politics.

City council president Martin Sweeney has called on Reed to resign. But Reed has no intention of quitting. So how much farther will Sweeney go?

The council can boot Reed out if he misses ten council and committee meetings for any reason, including an extended jail stay. But why kick him off council if voters are going to send him back in January?

Even if visiting judge Larry Allen gives Reed the maximum six months, would council kick him off twice, in 2013 and 2014? Not likely. Expelling a fellow member is a hard vote for a councilperson. It would bring up tough questions. Mike Polensek has already protested that other council members have skipped meetings without punishment. Others may ask why Sweeney ally Eugene Miller hasn’t been kicked off for his address snafu.

It looks like Reed will ride out his jail stint and stay on council through 2017 -- even if he has to get to City Hall by bus.

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