CLEVELAND, OH – The official vote for President of Cleveland city council doesn’t come until January 3, 2022. Chapter 5 and Section 30 of Cleveland’s Charter sets the first regular meeting in January after a municipal election as its date of occurrence.
In Cleveland incumbent returning council members “caucus” with newly-elected legislators after a municipal election before the first regular meeting in January to decide who among them should preside over the legislative body as president. On November 5, 2021 the non-binding vote for Blaine Griffin was unanimous.
The vote trashed a former unspoken “rule” that if an American Negro served as mayor then a Caucasian would serve as council president or vice versa. It limited the body to being presided over by someone less competent simply because of their skin color.
Beginning January 2022 Cleveland’s top two elected officers will be American Negroes with Justin Bibb’s election as mayor and Griffin’s as president of council. That is a history I am confident would meet the approval of the legendary Call & Post Publisher & Editor William Otis Walker.
Bibb becomes Cleveland’s fourth elected American Negro mayor as he follows Carl Burton Stokes, Michael Reed White and Frank George Jackson. He’ll one day have a portrait in city hall’s “Red Room.” Of the nearly 400,000 residents of Cleveland more than half are American Negroes living en masse in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Cleveland is “Majority American Negro” for those too uncomfortable to use the words “Majority Black.” It’s less discomforting for them to use the words “majority minority” which by the numbers makes no sense. Either way Kevin Kelley didn’t have a chance based on his political history, ethnically exclusive consciousness and anti-Protestant religion. He also had the fatal flaw of not responding to phone calls or email.
“Griff” was expected to seek the mayor’s job after Jackson decided to retire … again. He’d served in the Jackson administration as director of community relations and as vice chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. He’d served on council after replacing Mamie Mitchell. Under his belt is the street nickname “The Abraham Lincoln of Weed” for the ordinance Griffin sponsored making possession of nearly half a pound of the plant for personal use a non-criminal offense. He’s generally well-liked with but few caveats from veterans in the political world.
No one saw Bibb coming last year with the early campaign stories about him even before Jackson announced his retirement. The “jump” move Bibb made pushed Basheer Jones to promote his own plans along with State Senator Sandra Williams. With Zack Reed as a fourth American Negro candidate with eyes on the mayor’s office Griffin wisely decided to let them have at it.
Griffin’s selection as council president is politically appropriate for the role he’ll have to play in holding Bibb and his administration accountable. Bibb has no municipal experience so he can forget being supported by a rubber stamp city council. He failed twice to pass the Supreme Court of Ohio’s test for lawyers seeking licensing. Published reports claim his attendance on the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority board was somewhat higher than 50 percent.
Bibb also has unresolved problems with his Ohio Ethics Commission filings for failing to report income. His campaign treasurer, Scott Hruby, misidentified his committee’s post primary election report as a post-general election report for 2020 and not 2021. As a former mayor the devil is in the details of federal and state laws and regulations Bibb and those surrounding him have not mastered; and that could get them into serious “criminal” trouble.
As an example Bibb’s “Deputy Campaign Manager” is an Australian alien, Eden Giagnorio, here on a green card who showed up in America last September to infiltrate herself into a Progressive’s political campaign. Her arrival last year is in conflict with President Donald Trump’s prohibitions on aliens from anywhere entering the nation during the Covid pandemic.
As a recent official of the Australian government, and a green carded alien, Giagnorio may have had no authority to “work” and receive pay in America without “e-verified” authorization from the United States Department of Labor. Bibb’s campaign finance reports don’t show an I-9 form for the Australian alien.
Griffin wasn’t a “Bibb backer” and neither were a majority of the city’s American Negro councilmembers. Councilman Kevin Conwell told EJBNEWS Bibb never met with him or the majority of the American Negro incumbents; and their only interactions were on the campaign trail. He said Bibb met with Caucasian councilmembers and found his exclusions to be offensive. He joined Griffin, Joe Jones, Delores Gray, Basheer Jones and Kevin Bishop in backing Kelley.
Having enough experience to avoid jumping on a candidate’s bandwagon simply because they’re “Black,” Conwell said he endorsed Kelley because he knew and had worked with him. Bibb has too many question marks behind his name.
There’s been only one attempted coup to overturn a council “caucus” vote for president in my lifetime. In 1981 Michael Polsensek joined with Lonnie Burten, Tyrone Bolden and newly-elected councilman and future judge Larry Jones to challenge attorney George Forbes. They caucused and announced that Burten would replace Forbes. George said he wasn’t lifting a finger to undo it. He didn’t. Mike [White] did.
By the time Mr. Walker used the Call & Post to turn them all into sellouts, and the preachers got hold to Jones and Bolden, support for Burten evaporated and George was voted in again to lead. Larry [Jones] was my father’s Ward 10 councilman at the time and I was reporting for the Cleveland Press. He told me of the call he got from his own pastor telling him that George was ordained by God to lead because of his strong and hard core advocacy for the American Negro. Larry said the man had him in tears so he switched. True story. To hear Larry tell it was funny as shit.
There’s no political drama behind the support for Griffin. There’s no expectation that his vote of support will be overturned. His selection is a solid decision.
Griffin and Bibb will be the first two Cleveland politicians operating under public comment during council meetings. It was something I promoted among my desire to see physicians on EMS squads and a return to municipal hospitals during my mayoral campaign in 2017. It’s nice to see Black Lives Matter Cleveland co-founder Kareem Abdul Nafi picked up the issue and joined with others to make it a reality.
The public comment will make them both empowered by citizen input because they’ll know exactly how the electorate feels about matters of public concern in real time. It will also make them vulnerable to their criticism when either the mayor or council fails to follow laws and constitutions.
Both Griffin and Bibb have some catch up reading to do before they take office. Each will be on full public display for the uniqueness of seeing two American Negro men presiding over the city of Cleveland.
Bibb may not know it yet, but the last thing he needs is a “partner” as a council president. Checks and balances requires someone “hard” on the other side leading. The truth of this is found in the biblical book of Proverbs chapter 27, verse 17. It’s a Christian thing.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
The best “friend” Bibb can have on the other side of the government aisle is a well-read and well-prepared Griffin.