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Issue Date: September 2005 Issue


The Perfect Mayor

As Cleveland gets ready to pick its leader for the next four years, we get the feeling a lot of people are longing for something more. So we talked to a bunch of people in town and asked: Is there anyone, living or dead, local or from somewhere else, who you think would make the perfect mayor of Cleveland today?

If you could stitch together a political Frankenstein, a perfect mauyor made up of the best attributes of various leaders, whose traits and passions would you use for ingredients?

What beliefs, priorities and positions would your perfect mayor have?

Here's what they said.


Lindsey Lelak, Jacqueline Marino, Amber Matheson, Kim Schneider and Erick Trickey

Jimmy Malone morning show host, WMJI-FM

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

Nate Gray. Because that would cut out the middleman.

Stitch together the perfect mayor. For just pure passion, we’d go with Bill Clinton, of course. For honesty, we’d have to go with no one. And someone like [Pro gressive CEO] Peter Lewis for some cash. And Halle Berry. She wouldn’t be any good, but at least she’d be someone better to look at while they’re screwing us.

The Rev. Marvin McMickle pastor, Antioch Baptist Church

Stitch together the perfect mayor. Mike White’s civic vision, the ability to see housing before it is built, to see Gate way long before anybody else saw it and determinedly pursue it. I think George Voinovich has the unique ability to draw the elite of the business community into partnership with City Hall.

Joanne DeMarco president of the Cleveland Teachers’ Union

Stitch together the perfect mayor. I’d blend the dedication of a kindergarten teacher with the patience of a middle school teacher with the knowledge of a high school teacher. Add hard work, in tense drive and a pinch of ruthlessness and we’d have the perfect mayor.

Ted Henry anchor and commentator, WEWS TV 5

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today? Mario Cuomo. The former New York governor ... is sharp as a tack, he’s an historian of great import, and he’s got more fire in his belly than even Dorothy Fuldheim had. He could rebuild Cleveland (or any city) in three to five years. And he’s a successful coalition builder. God knows the many diverse groups that make up our town need someone to successfully lasso them into one big room and to carry enough political weight to insist the exit doors be locked until a good working strategy to run this city was hammered out.

Stitch together the perfect mayor.

I would take Bill Clinton’s intellect and combine it with his next best attri bute, his ease of self expression, and then combine this with Lou Stokes’ humility and add to it former Clevelander George Steinbrenner’s hard-headedness (to be used only in emergencies). Mix in a liberal dose of Bishop Pilla’s soft-spokenness and add a dash of Lee Jordan’s brilliance of intellect, charm and appearance and finish off this concoction with the steely resoluteness of Dennis Kucinich.

Harvey Pekar writer of the comic book American Splendor

Is there anyone who would make the perfect mayor of Cleveland today?

No. Because the system of government in Northeast Ohio is so imperfect. You’ve got a whole bunch of communities that are fighting against each other. They’re doing all kinds of harm to each other. The more affluent communities and people don’t care anything about the poorer ones.

Brent Larkin Plain Dealer editorial page editor

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

You could do a lot worse than if you found a way to bring back Tom L. John son [mayor of Cleveland from 1901 to 1909]. He knew how to lead. Part of our problem today is about leadership. He was someone the public could relate to; he had an enormous amount of respect and affection from the electorate because he was a leader, because he was incorruptible. Leaders have to be willing to take risks, to risk their political capital. I see in a lot of our elected officials a reluctance to take risks. If you’re not willing to spend your political capital, it makes it a lot tougher to get stuff done.

Robert Lockwood Jr. legendary blues musician

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

Ain’t nothing wrong with the one we got. I don’t think we’ve had a bad mayor. White was pretty good. [Mayor Camp bell] hasn’t done anything that hasn’t impressed me. All the things she’s done, I ain’t seen nothing wrong with.

Jack Hourigan comedienne

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

Eleanor Roosevelt. I like her suits and her hair much better than Jane Campbell’s.

Stitch together a perfect mayor.

Clinton’s prowess. Nixon’s honesty. [Former Canadian Prime Minister] Pierre Trudeau’s arrogance and sense of style. Lincoln’s quiet thoughtfulness. Kucinich’s ears — he’s a good listener — and Michael White’s accounting skills. I also like Joe Cimperman’s chutzpah and intelligence, Churchill’s oratory skills, LeBron James’ jump shot and Charles DeGaulle’s modesty.

Jose Feliciano president of the Hispanic Roundtable and partner at Baker & Hostetler

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

Newton D. Baker. He was the founder of this law firm. He was a two-term mayor of Cleveland, he was secretary of war for Woodrow Wilson, and he lost the Democratic nomination for president in 1932 to Franklin Roosevelt. Mr. Baker had the proper balance of economic development in support of business as well as concern for the average guy. He was one of the founders for United Way and the Federation for Community Planning.

Jim Rokakis Cuyahoga County treasurer

What beliefs, priorities and positions would your perfect mayor have?

Vision. Without vision you can’t lead. Courage. Cleveland’s problems are so severe an unwillingness to confront them head-on guarantees failure. Willingness to consider outside-the-box thinking. If you’re not smart enough to think outside the box, surround yourself with people who are. Finally, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to confuse loyalty with competence. Surrounding yourself with what you don’t want to hear is a difficult thing to do.

Daniel Burnham, who came up with the plan for the government buildings downtown, once said, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” It was true back in the early 20th century, and it’s certainly true today. Moreso today.

Bob Cvetichan metallurgist and member of Greater Cleveland Young Republicans

What beliefs, priorities and positions would your perfect mayor have?

Someone that is of high integrity, someone who can command results, hold people accountable, someone who accepts responsibility. Someone who’s a bridge-builder with business leaders, with other government leaders, other branches of government. Someone who’s a visionary. Every now and again I see people who have really visionary plans, and it’s not coming from the political leaders — it’s coming more from academic leaders and business leaders and developers.

Pat Conway co-owner, Great Lakes Brewing Co.

What beliefs, priorities and positions would your perfect mayor have?

A person who tried to operate city government along the lines of private enterprise, where there would be a reduction of redundancy and waste and more attention to streamlining procedures. Right now, there’s a vast amount of waste in city government.

Cleo Busby chairman of the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants (subsidized housing residents)

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today? [Gen.] George Patton, because there’s no discipline in City Hall right now. Have you noticed the way they’ve been tearing up downtown, under the guise of renovation? To where they’re changed the curb lanes into buses only? All they’re doing is making people come downtown even less. [They say,] “I’m not going down there! It’s a madhouse!”

Melissa Law West Side Market produce vendor

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

Somebody fun who knows nothing about politics. If you know politics, then you are swayed one way or the other. If you know nothing, you can do your own thing. Tall and handsome, fun to look at. Someone who has fresh ideas.

George Nemeth blogger at www.brewedfreshdaily.com

Who would make the perfect mayor for Cleveland today?

Creating a more efficient, responsive local government is more realistic than electing the perfect mayor.

During the campaign, [candidates] work to get elected, then when they get elected they ignore their constituency. It’s probably not as sinister as it sounds; what happens is they get caught up in managing the city, whatever job they were elected to. The problem is they lose touch with the people who put them into the positions they’re in.


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