Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson is reappointed by city council after retiring from city council, all of the Black city council members supported it, the vote for or against was along racial lines, Cleveland mayoral candidate comments on appointment process

Cleveland Ward 4 Councilman Kenneth Johnson

By Kathy Wray Coleman, Publisher, Editor-n-Chief, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper(www.clevelandurbannews.com)

CLEVELAND,Ohio- Cleveland City Council on Monday voted to reappoint longtime Cleveland Ward 4 Councilman Kenneth Johnson who just retired after 33 years as a councilman to lock in a yearly cost of living raise from his pension that by a new state law will in the future be based upon the economy.

Johnson, who is Black, has caused a lot of hoopla around the divisive issue, though when Cleveland Ward 11 Councilman Michael Polensek, who is White, did it, nobody seem to care. Nor did they care a great deal when Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson reappointed Safety Director Martin Flask and Chief of Police Michael McGrath, both of whom are White, and a hand full of other top level city hall administrators that also retired only to come back to get more monies from the public coffers. 

Johnson, 67,  got the most votes of any other council person in the 2009 election and he is more popular than Polensek among both his peers and his constituents, data show. He got 13 of 19 council votes with Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed absent from Monday's council meeting and west side council persons Dona Brady and Brian Cummins saying no like Polensek, allegedly because all three, including Polensek, who did what Johnson did,  believe it is an abuse of the power by council.

Other than the absent Reed, the seven other Black council persons voted for Johnson.

The 19-member Cleveland City Council is divided along racial lines where all nine of the Blacks represent majority Black east side wards on the largely Black east side of the majority Black major metropolitan city and Whites represent wards on the west side, give or take a few like Polensek whose east side ward includes the Collinwood area of town. 

Cleveland is divided east and west by the Cuyahoga River and is the second most segregated city following Boston among major American cities. 

Retiring from an Ohio public sector job and working another one afterwards is now legal under state law, though insurance and retirement set asides are not applicable for the new job.

Double dipping is actually illegal and refers technically to getting paid for two public jobs at the same time when no law allows it such as working as a public school principal, whose job is around the clock, and tutoring in the afternoons for the same school district for pay. Retiring from a public job and then getting hired for another one later is not double dipping.

The idea came because of a shortage of public school teachers in Ohio, and not everybody likes the law, some saying that seasoned workers should step aside  and give younger people a shot at employment during a troubling economy.

Community Activist Donna Walker Brown, who said that she will try to unseat Mayor Jackson, a Johnson ally, in this year's mayoral race, said that she has a problem with city council appointing people without community input and the opportunity for other candidates to apply and be fully considered for the job.

"People did not even know the seat was open and what went on is undemocratic," said Walker Brown. "We want the charter amended to require community input and an open process for others to be considered."

Currently the Cleveland city charter gives city council authority to name a replacement for an outgoing council person until a special election can be held.

The 19 city council seats are also up for grabs this year. 

(www.clevelandurbannews.comReach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at editor@clevelandurbannews.com and by phone at 216-659-0473.