Former Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed will run for mayor

Former Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed will run for mayor

by Bruce Checefsky 

Plain Press, June 2021     Zack Reed, former Councilman, Ward 2, City of Cleveland, announced his mayoral campaign last month. Reed was appointed to the council in 2000 and served until 2017. He ran as a nonpartisan candidate for mayor of Cleveland and lost the election to Frank Jackson by 19 percentage points. Reed campaigned on the position that struggling neighborhoods needed more attention than development in downtown Cleveland. He wanted to hire more than 400 new police officers back then. He doesn’t feel that way today.

   In an online streaming interview with Dan Moulthrop, City Club of Cleveland, held on August 5, 2020, Reed explained his change of mind. 

   “I campaigned on hiring more police in 2017. I don’t feel that way today,” Reed said. “The status quo clearly has not worked. The black community has more police, in fact is over policed, yet it’s the most violent community in the City of Cleveland and around the nation. That approach is not working.”

   “I made a mistake,” he continued. “We’re not going to add 400 police officers on the streets under my administration, but we will have more well-trained police officers in our communities. Anthony Sowell didn’t stop until Anthony Sowell got caught. That’s what killers do. The vast majority of people that are killed in Cleveland, don’t get killed near downtown. We need to find new approaches, not the old stale approaches of yesterday of putting more police in our community, but by finding new organizations and neighborhood groups to support in helping us solve crime.”             

   Reed said that he has a different approach to his current mayoral campaign and points to changes in the social and political scenario as the motivating factor. Getting the pandemic under control tops his list of concerns. He said the leadership coming from City Hall should be emphasizing,on a daily basis, that everyone has to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In a public town hall meeting held by Mayor Frank Jackson last November to discuss the pandemic, Reed found the four-term mayor’s performance and message underwhelming.

   “The mayor said you should get the shot, but he also told people that there’s a controversy over whether or not you should get it,” Reed said, referring to the November 19, 2020, Tele Town Hall meeting where Mayor Jackson talked about COVID-19 and public safety.  

   “There’s no making a decision here,” continued Reed. “It’s clear. Either you get the shot, or you get the virus, get sick, and you might die. If you can get everyone the vaccine shot, then we can start opening up our businesses, churches, and schools.”

   While the scenario is different from the mayoral run in 2017, Reed said his commitment to the city hasn’t changed. Working as Minority Affairs Coordinator with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for the past two years has given him a unique perspective on community building. As Minority Affairs Coordinator, he traveled around Ohio and witnessed firsthand minority businesses working together to create jobs and spur economic opportunity. Last month, he stepped down as Minority Affairs Coordinator to explore his political future. He said the experience was helpful in making a decision about running for mayor. Now, he’s focused on prioritizing the needs of the Cleveland community.

   “I want to take my experience as Minority Affairs Coordinator and bring it back to the City of Cleveland to show that minority, female, and veteran entrepreneurs are out there. They just need more opportunity and resources, and we need new investments to come into areas like the Mount Pleasant, Union-Mills, and Buckeye neighborhoods to rebuild our communities.”

   Reed would like to see the closed and boarded up businesses in these neighborhoods thrive, along with other areas of the city, and give energy and vitality back to the residents of Cleveland, but the COVID19 pandemic is making it difficult.

   “You cannot do it under this atmosphere of the pandemic,” he said. “We have to get this under control in the city.”

   Reed’s campaign platform leading into the election in November is ‘experience you know.’  He has the experience to be successful as mayor, but his biggest challenge may be convincing voters that he also has a plan, according to him.

   “I have a plan to make every neighborhood, community, and ward more viable, moving us in a good direction so that everybody knows they are part of the renaissance going on in the City of Cleveland.”

   Reed believes that violence migrates from one community to the next because criminals see progress in other neighborhoods and not their own. Criminals need to understand that car jackings, burglary, and homicide harms the entire city, not just individual neighborhoods. Failing to believe in a city-wide renaissance undermines everyone’s public safety.

   “I’m the only candidate among those that are running for mayor, or even those considering the race, that’s been in every ward and neighborhood in the city over the last 17 years. I’m ready to go to work on day one at City Hall,” he said. 

   Bringing the community together in the areas of southeast Cleveland that have suffered the most during the pandemic, and even prior to COVID19, with business leaders from downtown, is an important step towards building economic opportunities city-wide. Grooming entrepreneurs is essential to growing the economy for everyone.

   “Traveling around the state as Minority Affairs Coordinator with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office under Frank LaRose, I saw how community building can work in cities like Cincinnati, Akron, and Youngstown. Everybody understood, whether it was the leadership from downtown businesses, grassroots leadership in the neighborhoods, churches, or schools, that we need to have a collective approach to solving these problems. Cleveland hasn’t done that.”

   Reed points to Sam Miller, the late co-chair of Cleveland’s Forest City Enterprise and developer for restoring the Lee Harvard Shopping Center, as a prime example of collective business entrepreneurship. Former Mayor Michael White was convinced at the time that if the shopping center wasn’t renovated, he would lose the neighborhood according to Reed’s account of the events. Originally built in 1949, Lee Harvard Shopping Center was the first African American-owned and managed shopping center in the country. Forest City Enterprise eventually pitched in to help with the renovation. Along with Neighborhood Progress, the development team included New Village, Forest City Management, Amistad, National City Bank, Key Bank and Fannie Mae. Ward 1 Councilman Joe Jones was also a part of the planning process. Excelsior Capital Partners recently purchased Lee Harvard Shopping Center for $13 million.

   “If we all believe that we are in this together, there should be no lack of interest and opportunity to create a better city,” Reed said. “The mayor’s office is the second most powerful political office in the entire State of Ohio. When the Mayor of the City of Cleveland speaks, people listen.”

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