Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roldo vs. Naymik on Mayor Jackson

Reading Roldo Bartimole's column has gotten really fun lately. The veteran alternative journalist is back in Cool Cleveland after a sporadic semi-retirement. He's chasing Mayor Frank Jackson with the same fiery tenacity that once inspired George Forbes to physically throw him out of a meeting.

"Is it time for Mayor Frank Jackson to go?" he asked on March 14. Cleveland is suffering from a spiritual depression, Roldo raged. Jackson, he wrote, has botched the LED lighting and trash-to-gas plant deals, hiked trash fees, thumbed his nose at Cleveland teachers, and cut a sweetheart deal with the Browns (this is Roldo talking, so you knew that'd be in there).

Roldo even called out the city's ambitious politicians to run for mayor in 2013:
C’mon Jeff Johnson. C’mon Joe Cimperman. Zach Reed. Nina Turner. You too Brian Cummins. Chris Ronayne. You all know you want it. C’mon Matt Zone. You too Tony Brancantelli. Ray Pianka. Don’t any of you sell yourselves short.
And, by the way folks, Dennis now is available. Whoa!
Since then, Roldo has accused Jackson of being Mike White Lite, cozying up to the Greater Cleveland Partnership, getting too tough on teachers, but not getting tough enough on firefighters. City Hall sources are complaining to him about the sorry state of Cleveland's fire, water and building departments.

It's exciting reading, some of Roldo's best work in a while. And it fits a vibe I'm getting from the local press corps, that with Jimmy Dimora in prison, it's time to swing more of our attention from the county administration building back to City Hall.

But while Roldo provokes Jackson fans, Mark Naymik is probing Jackson's character. The Plain Dealer columnist's March 22 piece is full of insights into the mayor's values and priorities. Some of them even read like responses to Roldo's anger:

Jackson's been a reluctant partner to the business community on many development issues over the years. His partnership with it today is one of convenience. He and the business community both want change within the schools ...

Jackson doesn't need the parties, the business community, unions or any other special-interest group to win re-election. ... His street credibility remains enormous ... Don't believe me? Name someone who is seriously considering running against him.
The mayor "lives by a code," Naymik notes. "It boils down to staying true to your word." This is an important insight, one I noticed when I profiled Jackson just as he took over as mayor. It not only means he'll stick to his promise to improve the schools. It also means he judges people by deeds, not words.

The mayor is judging the teacher's union not by their declarations that they want reform, but their go-slow approach in contract negotiations toward issues such as merit pay. He doesn't trust state Republicans either, but he knows they can give him more leverage to change the schools.

Roldo and Naymik agree on one question: Why isn't Jackson getting as tough with City Hall's most troubled departments as he's getting with the schools? It's a great question to judge the mayor by in the next year or two. And it's a sharper way to talk about him than the usual clich├ęd thinking about mayors.


Roldo Bartimole said...

Thanks for the piece, Erick.

I believe it's very important that more attention be given to city politics.

Jackson is a difficult politician to assess. I reviewed a piece I wrote in December 2003. It noted Jackson's relationship to Mayor Campbell. He was Council President.

I noted Jackson rushing a budget measure for passage "not allowing for another week of probing and/or griping... Then Jackson allowed the hearingto drone on for hours...Jackson typically remans silent as committee discussions drag. He allows meaningless droning to waste time. Jackson seems comfortable with this controllable model. Before he was president, Jackson usually remained - except for the committee he chaired - aloof to the point heoften wouldn't een sit at the commmittee table but elsewhere in the room.

This self-imposed isolation made him somewhata mysteriois almost cult-like figure among some members.

I noted that he stocked the important finance commitee with mostly inexperienced members.After appointing veteran member Mike Polensek finance chair, Jackson shortly dismissed him and took over the commmittee himself. I noted his "closed personality of the strong, silent figure," a technique I believe he has mastered to maintain power.

The news media have afforded him escape from the scrutiny his decisions should have.

Anonymous said...

Roldo, you are a god among men! I'd love to see you sit in on the roundtable on Feagler's TV show and tell it like it is. GO ROLDO!

Erick Trickey said...

Roldo, this is an interesting, challenging angle on Jackson's character -- "closed personality of the strong, silent figure." Thank you for posting.