Most people who look at this picture simply sees a piece of earthmoving equipment parked on a lot next to a pile of bricks, which leads the viewer to believe that something has recently been torn down — and they would be right. But to residents of Ward 7 the image is one of progress since this site is where the iconic 56-suite Alhambra Apartments recently stood. The once beautiful building was the largest apartment building in Cleveland upon its completion in 1902.
Over the years efforts to save the hulking structure — which has been empty for decades — all failed, and about eight years ago part of the building began crumbling to the ground. Yet it sat there, impervious to the wishes of ward residents who have been advocating for years to have the eyesore torn down.
So how did recently elected Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones get the building torn down after he had been in office for less than two months when his predecessors couldn’t accomplish the feat in decades? You’ll have to ask him. And you could also ask him how he got a number of buildings in the ward demolished.
The fact is, Jones goes to the requisite meetings and interacts with the agencies and individuals that can assist in moving Ward 7 forward. This is critical. If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu. The simple fact is, folks from around the city and county realize that our new councilman is serious about his job of making our community a stellar location.
And the spirit and energy is contagious. When Jones held his first community meeting at Rainey Institute (which was an excellent location because people from all over the ward feel comfortable going there) the turnout was amazing, which was to be expected. Folks in the ward wanted to see their new councilman up close.
However, I admit that I was concerned that this was a “one off.” That people would come to the first meeting and attendance would wane at future meetings. Boy, was I wrong.
At the next meeting there was a 50 percent increase in attendance. It was standing room only. To me this meant that the folks from the first meeting told their friends and neighbors about the energy and hope they witnessed, and beseeched them to come.
This second meeting was critical. If the attendance was down it meant that people were only curious. But since it was up dramatically, to my mind it means that people were impressed and wanted to be part of the resurgence of Ward 7. And who wouldn’t be?
Will there be naysayers? Of course. After all, this is a political construct at its most basic level. When one person wins, another loses. But the losers should examine their own behavior instead of attempting to castigate the winner.
After all, one of the easiest things in the world to do is to hold on to office when one is the incumbent. Rarely does the incumbent lose in American politics. All it takes is communicating with your constituency — returning phone calls, meeting with the folks that elected you to office.
If that’s the yardstick, the measure of what it takes to be successful, then Councilman Jones will be around for a long time. He designates one day a month for a sit down with residents: A time when they can come into his ward office for a face-to-face, one-on-one meeting. And while no elected official can solve everyone’s problems, Jones understands that lending a sympathetic ear is the most important thing he can do for the people he represents.
It is this true compassion, this caring about people which is the hallmark of a great public servant. I’ve watched as Basheer Jones as he sat across from ward residents, listened to them, and attempted to solve their problems — or at the very least assure them that someone genuinely cares about them and their concerns.
In that regard Councilman Jones is a better man than I — and probably you also.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.