By Roldo Bartimole
Is Mike White still pulling strings at Cleveland City Hall?
If you look at Mayor Frank Jackson’s war on Cleveland teachers the answer is YES. Oh, boy.
White always had a hard-on for the Cleveland teachers.
And Jackson’s move to ice out the teachers from his “reform” package is vintage White. Only Jackson is just not as nasty as the former mayor.
It’s hard for me to believe that Jackson and White haven’t had conversations about this new strategy. Or more likely, orders from White. Jackson’s top staff is loaded with former White executives.
Both run as Democrats but seem to govern as Republicans. Not good.
White pushed the same brand of privatization. Jackson now does similarly, adopting the Republican line of attack against teachers and all public employees.
If Cleveland and state unions don’t recognize this strategy, they are making a big mistake, undoing the victory earned by defeating Kasich’s Sen. Bill 5 last November.
Jackson doesn’t come off as viciously anti-teacher though his package comes from the same pocket as White’s did.
That’s why he’s an easy mark for Joe Roman and the Greater Cleveland Partnership. And why he’s so cozy with Gov. John Kasich. That’s subversion of workers.
Jackson’s desire for a Cleveland Transformational Alliance – a body that will operate privately and seemingly above the Board of Education – follows White’s advisory committee in the late 1990s. It was co-chaired by Dave Bergholz of the Gund Foundation and Steve Minter of the Cleveland Foundation. Same crew to expect now by Jackson.
If it smells like a skunk it probably is a skunk.
People as Sam Miller of Forest City and Nate Gray, now in jail, and Roman were members of White’s advisory board. Likely, similar people from the business/foundation community will sit on the Transformational Alliance. How the already non-elected Board of Education could allow for this power drain suggests it has no power. It’s a trinket of the mayor.
Of course, Brent Larkin – who never cried for Cleveland school children when tens of millions of dollars in tax gift were being shifted from schools to his buddies, like the late Dick Jacobs – was crying crocodile tears for them in Sunday’s column. He spent the column begging for help for Jackson and Kasich. No problem when scoundrels need a helping hand. There’s Larkin. Such a phony.
White tried to gut the Cleveland Teachers Union back in the mid-1990s. He labeled them overpaid and underworked. He went as far as calling Cleveland teachers – who have the toughest of jobs – “inmates running the asylum.” Not a very positive description of either teachers or their students. He then brought in some thuggish guys to counter teachers in a possible strike. The teachers didn’t take the bait and White’s war backfired.
White and the business/foundation community forced the mayoral takeover of the school governing in 1998 when the elected school board was abandoned for mayoral control of the schools.
If that has worked well I haven’t noticed it. Almost 15 years later, same big problems. Neither White nor Jackson brought real reform or stability to the Cleveland schools.
The mayor’s board of education is less crazy and much quieter than the previously elected board, I’ll grant that. But it’s difficult to see real advancement. You can’t blame the board any more than you can the teachers.
So the problem lies elsewhere.
But the strategy remains the same.
Teacher union head David Quolke told the Plain Dealer: “This is not a plan to educate children in Cleveland. Rather, this is a plan to blame unions and fire teachers.”
This whole approach mirrors what’s going on nationally with Republicans trying to turn the clock back on public service to the 19th Century.
We have problems no doubt but blaming teachers and workers isn’t the way out of the mess we’ve created ourselves. Time to think more creatively rather than just vengefully.
But don’t expect that from thoughtless politicians. Don’t expect much from Jackson either. He’s a very stubborn man. He seems to have chosen an attack strategy. It won’t work.
Jackson, tough on teachers, seems unable to punish others for outrageous actions. The fire department, for example. He’s been there six years. He hasn’t seen the problems! Get your eyes checked, Frank.
All evidence points to an appalling lack of management. Firefighters have been walking away with huge payoffs by rigging their work schedules. They have done it in a manner that rewards them with tens of thousands of unearned dollars. Jackson twiddles his thumbs.
Jackson gives no indication of being upset about this theft of city revenue.
Jackson’s fire chief Paul Stubbs, safety director Marty Flack and battalion chiefs seem dumbfounded as to how this all took place. It should have been apparent. But no one pays a price. You have to assume Jackson simply hopes this whole mess disappear. It won’t. At least it shouldn’t.
We saw similar personnel abuses at the Akron trial. People go to jail for that.
There’s more to worry about. One hears that Jackson won’t allow firings of incompetents – and likely worse – his building department.
The Water Department remains a mess. The city fired a reformer they brought in after a supposed big search, I’m told. He lasted five months in his $175,000 job.
The story I get is that he was too aggressive. But that’s not all that did him in. A city work crew was caught doing private work. The problem: it involved a relative of the Jackson’s top executive. The mayor’s office said the reason he got the heavy-ho: “Not the right fit,” they told the PD. Maybe but not the only reason.
Jackson still has many former White executives in key positions.
“Loyalty” to the boss overrides competence, one frustrated Council member tells me. Another just shakes his head and laughs. Disgustedly. Dejectedly.
Don’t expect much from Council. It’s bought and paid for.
You also do have to wonder what’s happening in the water department with this kind of management oversight. Some 1.5 million people depend upon the city for water. Wait until they see the water bills come this summer when rate raises are in effect.
We have some poor behavior at City Hall. But you’d never know it. The news media are acting similarly as they did for years at the County. You know what happened there don’t you?
I guess Joe Roman of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Cleveland Foundation no problems with much of this. But they do with teachers.
It’s time Jackson’s City Hall was examined critically. The stale signs I see aren’t good. In fact, they’re very bad. That’s what time served does to even good mayors.
They stay too long.
He was a 2004 Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame recipient and won the national Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage in 1991. [Photo by Todd Bartimole.]