Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blackwell, Brownlee to face off Nov. 3 for Maple Heights mayor

It's official: 
Brownlee holds off Mitchell, claims second place in Sept. primary

The County Board of Elections confirmed today that District 5 Councilman Bill Brownlee held off former councilwoman Neomia Mitchell by two votes to win a place on the ballot in the November 3 election opposite Annette Blackwell.
Bill Brownlee

Annette Blackwell

The September 8 mayoral primary results between the 2nd and 3rd place finishers triggered an automatic recount, which was completed today by the elections board.  The recount confirmed that Brownlee defeated Mitchell 380-378. All 16 precincts in Maple Heights were rescanned, and 2 precincts were hand counted as part of the automatic recount process. 

“The recount results confirmed our post-election certification with 100% accuracy,” said chief elections official Pat McDonald in a statement released today.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Recount set to determine 2d place finisher in Maple Hts. Mayoral primary

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced an automatic recount to determine who will appear on the November ballot opposite Annette Blackwell to determine who will be the next mayor of Maple Heeights.
District 5 councilman Bill Brownlee held a five vote lead over former District 7 councilwoman Neomia Mitchell in the unofficial count following the September 8 primary. After resolution of issues involving absentee, provisional and contested ballots, Brownlee's margin over Mitchell shrank to two votes, 380 to 378.
The recount, required by law, will take place September 30 at county expense.
Blackwell's official total in the five-way primary now stands at 532.  Fourth place finisher Donald M Grossmyer had 361 votes.  Frank Rives came in fifth with 156 votes.
The elections board announcement was made at its 2pm meeting today.
Early voting for the November 4 general election will begin October 6.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: U. of Cinci police officer indicted for murder of motorist in July 19 traffic stop; VIDEO RELEASED

These incidents practically require a spreadsheet to keep track of. The indicted officer was wearing a body cam but made up a story totally at odds with what was on the video. The video has not yet been released, although news reports say that the video has been shared with the victim's family. 

An account of what the video reveals may be found here.

Video just released: view here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

One City — Two Tales

This weekend’s Movement for Black Lives may frame next year’s GOP Convention

All eyes will be on Cleveland in July 2016 when the Republican National Convention comes to town. Fifty thousand people, including 15,000 members of the media, are expected to gobble up every hotel room for miles around, rent apartments and condos at exorbitant rates, and create an economic impact of some $200 million dollars. The city fathers are absolutely giddy. If recent history runs true to form, the demographics of most of those spending all that money will skew Caucasian, wealthy, heterosexual, Christian. Party leaders hope that their actions will result in one of their own becoming the next President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World, and the Restorer of the Old.

A year prior to this highly publicized event, which is to say starting today, hundreds of black people will arrive largely by car and bus, for a Movement for Black Lives Convening. The demographics of these attendees will be overwhelmingly African American, intergenerational, and omni-sexual, if that term represents the broadest spectrum of human sexual orientation. The economic impact will be slight — many of them will be crashing in church basements or possibly in the homes of total strangers. They will meet in classrooms at Cleveland State University for workshops to learn, heal, organize and mobilize for what they are determined must be a new American regime where Black Lives Matter equally as much as all others.

The backlash of the Civil Rights Movement, the dawning of the Information Age, and globalization are among the potent forces that have produced the growing divide in America between the relative few who have enormous amounts of wealth, liberty, and secure and expansive personal space, and the vast numbers of other Americans who have increasingly less.

While technology has made it possible to create and transfer immense wealth almost by keystroke — the mortgage manipulation that precipitated the Great Recession is Exhibit A — the smartphones and social media that make us all potential eyewitnesses and video reporters have spotlighted the continuing dangers of being black in America.

One hundred years ago Cleveland was the symbol of great wealth in America. It is currently on a run celebrating the centennials of great civic institutions — the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and many other cultural gems in and around University Circle. Nobody looks too closely beyond a point at how the fortunes were accrued that launched these proud markers of civic accomplishment.

The choice of Cleveland as the site of the Movement for Black Lives was made intentionally, because our city has come to represent all of the ills that plague black people nationally: indifference and hostility to women of color, especially members of the LGBT community; excessive and outrageous police misconduct, documented by the most recent U.S. Department of Justice report; economic disparity; a public education system that is besieged on all sides; communities with Third World health statistics; and even Ohio’s status as an open-carry state.

For one observer, this week's Movement for Black Lives convening evokes the spirit of the old Chambers Brothers anthem, Time Has Come Today, first released in 1967 ["I don't care what others say. Time has come today!"]. One spokesperson told us the convening is inspired by this spirit of creative resistance, righteous resistance, prophetic resistance.

More than 800 people are expected to register for this weekend’s programs. Registration is open, inexpensive, and begins at 8am. Information is available online at

Friday, July 17, 2015

NEWS BULLETIN: Elections Board Verifies East Cleveland annexation signatures

Issue could be on ballot in March

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has completed its review of petition signatures submitted by Gary Norton, the Mayor of East Cleveland, on Wednesday, July 15, 2015.

The Board has verified that the petitioners have reached or exceeded the minimum required number of 559 valid signatures. Of the 1,613 signatures submitted, 827 of the signatures (51%) were certified as valid. Ohio law requires the signature was valid only if it was that of a registered voter who had actually cast a ballot in the November 2013 General Election.

According to Board of Elections director Pat McDonald, elected officials of the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland are now responsible for moving the annexation process forward. “There are many steps still remaining in this process for both cities. The earliest that this issue could be on the ballot would be the March 2016 Presidential Primary Election.”

Provided below is a brief summary of the next steps of the annexation process, as contained in a statement released by the elections board:

● once the certified petition is presented to the City of East Cleveland, the City has 30 days to appoint three commissioners who will be responsible for negotiating the terms of the annexation with the City of Cleveland.
● The City of Cleveland will then have 30 days to appoint its own three commissioners to negotiate annexation terms.
● the six commissioners will have 120 days to negotiate annexation terms. Only four of the six commissioners must agree upon the terms in order to proceed.
● once terms are agreed upon, both cities will have 30 days to certify the issue to the Board of Elections.
● If the Board of Elections receives the issue by December 16, 2015, it will be placed on the ballot for the March 15, 2016 Primary Election. If received after December 16, 2015, the issue will be placed on the ballot for the November 8, 2016 General Election.

If all of the requirements for annexation are met, the Cleveland City Council has the option of putting the issue before their voters or approving the annexation by a vote of Council.

This issue has implications that go far beyond the respective borders of Cleveland and East Cleveland. We'll tell you what they are and why in our post on Monday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced this afternoon that it has received approximately 1,600 petition signatures for the East Cleveland annexation issue and has begun the work on their verification.  According to State law, at least 559 valid signatures are required to initiate the annexation process that would conclude with the City of East Cleveland becoming part of the City of Cleveland.

Pat McDonald, Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections expects the signature verification process to be completed by the end of this week.  In order for a signature to be valid the voter must have cast a ballot in the last municipal election and be a resident of the City.   “If the number of required signatures is reached and certified, it will then be up to the elected officials of East Cleveland to move the process forward,” said McDonald in a statement released by the Board.

According to McDonald, the process East Cleveland officials must follow includes (this is just a summary there are some actions and possible scenarios that are not included):

·      Declaring their intention to go into negotiations with the City of Cleveland to be annexed
·      Appointing members of a commission from both cities who would negotiate the terms of the annexation
·      Following negotiations, ballot language would be created
·      Each voter would be mailed information concerning the conditions of the annexation
·      The annexation question would be put to voters during a Primary or General Election

If all of the requirements for annexation are met the Cleveland City Council has the option of putting the issue before their voters or approving the annexation by a vote of Council.

If the effort falls short of collecting the 559 signatures state law does not allow the petitioners to gather additional signatures to reach their goal: (R.C. 3501.38 (I)(2)(b).   However, they may choose start all over again with a brand new petition Drive.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Powerful Citizen Action Unfolding in Tamir Rice case

I write this from Washington DC, where I have just viewed the powerful video presentation of the Committee of 8, a diverse group of Greater Cleveland citizens who have written a potent public manifesto calling upon local public officials to demonstrate equitable procedures by arresting the two police officers who rolled up on 12 year old Tamir Rice last November at a public playground and shot him to death within two seconds of their arrival.

No charges have been filed as yet against the officers involved, although, among other salient facts: 

1. The county sheriff has submitted a lengthy investigative report;

2. There is a videotape showing Tamir being shot within less than two seconds of Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann [the shooter] and his partner, Officer Frank Gamback [the driver] driving directly within a few feet of Tamir;

3. The video supports the indifference of the police officers to Tamir by documenting the four minute period during which they failed to administer any medical attention to Tamir; and 

4. A well-respected local judge, the Hon. Ronald B. Adrine, following long-established Ohio law, ruled upon a petition filed by the Committee of 8 by examining the evidence and ruling that there was probable cause for the arrest of the two officers. 

Further, according to attorney Subodh Chandra, a former law director for the City of Cleveland who has recently become counsel to Tamir's family, Judge Adrine's ruling may not have gone far enough, and warrants should have been issued for the arrest of Loehmann and Gambeck.

The Committee of 8 may be in the vanguard for showing how concerned citizens can find effective ways to press public officials and build public support for equal justice in local communities and across America. 

Read their letter below and watch their collective reading here.

“The People Will Not Stand for Less than Equal Justice:

Open Letter from the Cleveland 8”

(Video Version:

Reform of the criminal justice system cannot solely focus on transforming law enforcement. It also must ensure that procedural justice – the fair evaluation and administration of legal procedures, the decision-making process, and quality of treatment – is upheld to avoid both the appearance and the existence of partiality. 

On Tuesday, June 9, we, a group of activists and clergy here in the City of Cleveland, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, filed citizen affidavits calling for the charging and arrest of two officers in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. In a letter dated June 18, we called upon the Cleveland Law Department to uphold the law and Judge Ronald Adrine's findings of probable cause by issuing warrants for the arrests of officers Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann. 

The City of Cleveland law director Barbara Langhenry and Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty have said that they support reform, yet their inaction on this issue sends a signal to the people that they are not upholding the very laws they want the people to respect.

Following the probable cause findings, the county prosecutor continues to state that he will bring the matter before a grand jury and leave it to them to decide whether there is enough evidence against these officers to bring indictments.

The actions by chief law enforcement officials in the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are clear examples of abuse of discretion and the unequal administration of law that breeds distrust in our criminal justice system.

First, the decision to not issue warrants for the arrests exhibits an arbitrary and selective application of the law. By ignoring the law, the state is acting contrary to the interests of the people. While Judge Adrine's findings were not acted upon with regard to arrest warrants for Garmback and Loehmann, his and other judges’ consideration is regularly sought and acted upon against private citizens as we see with search warrants. This is unacceptable.

Second, the county prosecutor’s approach of using the grand jury as a forum to determine whether charges will be filed in the Tamir Rice case is not only another example of disregard of the judiciary, but also an unequal application of the grand jury process. We are not trying to circumvent the grand jury process for Garmback and Loehmann. However, a step is being bypassed. It is not the grand jury’s role to file the initial charges. For the vast majority of people, charges have already been filed against them prior to a prosecutor seeking an indictment before the grand jury. 

When the prosecutor uses the grand jury as a body to determine probable cause for charging and indicting, it is problematic in two ways: (1) It gives police officers the opportunity to provide exculpatory (exonerating) testimony without cross examination, as took place in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson and the Eric Garner case in Staten Island. This approach suggests a ‘secret trial’ out of public view, which, while serving the interests of the officers, does not serve the interests of justice. (2) The idea that rules of the grand jury can be altered at will depending on who is suspected of committing a crime is itself unconstitutional and discriminatory against every other individual subject to the grand jury but without the apparent entitlements that come with wearing a badge. 

Thirdly, the fact that the county prosecutor has stated he needs to conduct his own investigation raises the question of what else is required to file charges and whether he deems police officers as a special class exempt from being subject to normal criminal procedures. Here is the evidence the county prosecutor already has in his possession: 

(1) a video of Tamir Rice being killed at close range in less than 2 seconds and being left for more than 4 minutes without any first aid; 

(2) a detailed report by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's department resulting from a five-month investigation; and 

(3) a finding of probable cause by a respected judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court with more than 30 years on the bench. The county prosecutor may have his own rationale for proceeding in this manner. However, regardless of his reasons, none would truly seem fair or equitable considering that the ordinary resident or citizen is not granted such deference. 

If we as a community and a nation are going to truly transform our criminal justice system, the public must see the system as legitimate and trust that elected and appointed officials will abide by the law and apply it equally throughout the legal process. This goes not only for police officers, but also for judges, law directors, and prosecutors. We the people should not, and must not, stand for anything less.

Respectfully Submitted,

The Cleveland 8

Rev. Dr. Jawanza Colvin
Rev. Dr. R. A. Vernon
Bakari Kitwana
Edward Little
Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams
Julia A. Shearson
Rachelle Smith
Joseph Worthy