From left: Cleveland Mayoral Candidate Ken Lanci, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and Community Activist Art McKoy, founder of the community activist group Black on Black Crime Inc.
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News.Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com, Ohio's No 1 and No 2 online Black news venues (www.clevelandurbannews.com) Reach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at email@example.com and by phone at 216-659-0473
CLEVELAND, Ohio-Cleveland Mayoral Candidate Ken Lanci took on Black elected officials and Black leaders, both locally and nationally, and the local mainstream media, including the Plain Dealer, at a community forum held last night at Black on Black Crime headquarters in East Cleveland, a neighboring majority Black and impoverished suburb of Cleveland. And the 63-year-old Italian American multimillionaire and businessman who grew up in a housing project on the largely Black east side of Cleveland was at ease with a packed room full of aggressive community activists and others from Cleveland, East Cleveland and elsewhere that came to hear his political pitch prior to the November 5 general election, a non-partisan election that pits him against fellow Democrat and two-term Black Mayor Frank Jackson.
Jackson, 67, a former Cleveland City Council president, also grew up in the ghetto on the east side of the majority Black major metropolitan city of some 400,000 people.
"Why is it that they want to keep you down and out?," Lanci said of Black politicians and other Black leaders.
Lanci said that Black leaders like the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, former Congressman Louis Stokes, and Mayor Jackson have gotten rich while the Black community is deteriorating, and that he last week pledged $5,000 to help pay for a building roof for the Cleveland African-American Museum in Cleveland's Huff neighborhood in Ward 7, partly because Black leaders would not help. He said that the mainstream media, including television stations and the Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, were bought and sold by the Jackson for Mayor Campaign.
He said that all public policy makers and other elected officials and city leaders have to do to improve the quality of life for Cleveland residents is to do the right thing.
"You can be very successful just by doing the right thing," said Lanci.
Jackson spokesperson Maureen Harper said that she cannot comment on the campaign and Plain Dealer Editor Debra Adams Simmons could not be reached for comment.
The likable multimillionaire who owns and operates a graphics and printing business on East 30th St and Payne Avenue in Cleveland said at the activists forum that if he wins for mayor his appointed police chief and other top law enforcement brass will be selected in cooperation with the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, the rank and file union of the Cleveland police which has endorsed him.
A married father of three with six grandchildren, Lanci said that
"activists will not have to picket City Hall because they will have an office at City Hall if I am elected mayor."
Asked his views by community activists on the 137 shots fiasco by Cleveland police that left two unarmed Blacks dead late last year, the mayoral candidate said that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty had decided not to charge the 13 police officers that did the killing, none of whom are Black and all of whom are back on the job, and that he would not second guess him. He pledged efficient plans for better safety, more jobs, and improving the city's public schools. He called for a moratorium on foreclosures after Community Activist and Clevelander Marva Patterson asked what he will do to minimize foreclosure fraud and the theft of homes in Cuyahoga County by officials.
Lanci said that he will hold Cleveland schools principals and teachers accountable.
Lanci said that "our school system is worse than when he [Mayor Frank Jackson] came in [as mayor] eight years ago."
Jackson controls the city schools pursuant to state law.
Most activists at last night's gathering backed Lanci. But activists like retired Plain Dealer reporter Dick Peery questioned his stance in not demanding that the police officers involved in the 137 shots tragedy that began with a car chase in Cleveland and ended in East Cleveland with the deaths of unarmed Blacks Malissa Williams 30, and Timothy Russell, 43, on November 29, 2012, be disciplined.
A few, but not many, said his criticism of Black leaders was uncalled for.
"People like Rev Sharpton, Mayor Jackson and Congressman Stokes have done some good things for the Black community but they cannot be all things to all people all of the time, and neither can President Obama," said Community Activist Amy Hurd of Cleveland, who said she skipped the forum because Black women are often silenced by male leaders of Black on Black Crime, a grassroots group led by group President Ernie Harris and founded by Community Activist Art McKoy.
Both McKoy and Harris support Lanci for mayor.
Donnie Pastard, an activist member of Black on Black Crime and the Carl Stokes Brigade, said that she agrees with Lanci on his stance on Black leaders and elected officials and she said that they have "sold out."
Activist and entrepreneur Mary Seawright wanted to know if Lanci could help as to the rape of incarcerated Black men in prisons in Ohio. And another member of Black on Black Crime asked if he would promote an African-Centered
school curriculum for the majority Black Cleveland schools children.
Black on Black Crime Vice President Al Porter, who lives in Ward 10 in Cleveland, told Cleveland Urban News.Com after the forum that "Ken Lanci highlighted what leaders are not doing to help the community."
Longtime Community Activist Ada Averyhart, a Clevelander and Lanci supporter, applauded Lanci for his donation to the city's struggling Black museum.
"What are Black leaders doing to help the museum and Black people?" asked Averyhart.