As the conversation regarding regionalism is set to heat up once again locally, the question is, will those advocates for a countywide form of government take a hard look at what caused the recent failure of a similar initiative in St. Louis. But more importantly, will they learn from that failure — what will be the takeaway?
Black elected officials and their constituencies are being blamed — or praised, according to how one views the outcome — for the flame-out of the initiative there, and a similar scenario could play out here if those pushing the new form of government fail to take some realities into consideration.
First and foremost, if a majority of Cuyahoga County black officials and voters are not on board with the change to countywide government it’s simply not going to happen here. Period. While we blacks don’t have enough power to make many things happen countywide, we do have enough power to stop other things from happening if we perceive they are not in our best interests.
So make us an offer we can’t refuse.
And the way to do that is to understand that while both blacks and whites know this proposed change is a political construct, the white power structure views the initiative primarily through a financial lens, while blacks will view it through a social justice lens.
Certainly, if all 58 or 59 political entities in the county were to combine their purchasing power and say, buy tires for all of their vehicles together, savings would accrue to all taxpayers. Now that’s a gross oversimplification; certainly many other benefits would occur that would put the county in a better competitive position for all to win.
The concerns of blacks (and I certainly am not the spokesperson for my race nor do I pretend to be) has to do with other aspects of governance and education. What if a guarantee was made that the same amount of money that is currently spent in the wealthiest school districts in the county was also spent in the poorest districts under the new form of government? What if real efforts to equalize life expectancies between communities were engaged in? How about birthrates? What if police response times were the same in Mt. Pleasant as they are in neighboring Shaker Heights? What if a plan was devised to ensure that one-third of the judges on the county bench were of color? What if ironclad assurances were made that blacks would not see their political power diluted under a new form of government?
Is the picture becoming clearer now?
In other words, every constituency has to feel they can come away from the bargaining table with a win — and, actually, that might not be as hard as it sounds. As I said, make us a good-faith offer we can’t refuse.
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.