A column today by the Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik is a refreshing change of pace for Ohio's largest newspaper and has some parallels to the story in today's Sunday Register about the state of Sandusky's government.
Here's an excerpt from Naymik's column:
"Former Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson should stay retired.
"The 65-year-old city fixture left elected office in the final hours of 2012 to take advantage of favorable public pension terms set to change this year.
"But Johnson, who was on council for decades and was famous among City Hall watchers for rarely showing up for his committee meetings, is thinking about coming back.
"He doesn't want to bother waiting for voters to re-elect him next November. He wants his colleagues to appoint him so he can quickly begin collecting a $74,000-a-year council paycheck on top of his pension.
"Since Cleveland was incorporated as a city in 1836, no council member has ever asked to be re-appointed after leaving voluntarily during a term.
"But that could change thanks to a gutless council.
"The 19-member council hides behind tradition, self-importance and unwritten rules to justify how it fills vacancies within its body, nearly always deferring to the wishes of departing colleagues.
"For too long, as Plain Dealer reporter Henry Gomez detailed in 2008, council members have treated their elected seats as heirlooms to be protected and passed between friends."
That "self importance" and the "unwritten rules" by which the Cleveland City Council operates likely contributed greatly to the city's hemorraging population and the ghost city appearance reflected in some Cleveland neighborhoods today. Cleveland is not the city it was 30 years ago, and it might never again be as strong as it was then.
Be sure to read the articles in today's Sunday Register about similar practices in Sandusky, where the population has remained at a relatively stable number during the last 30 years, especially in contrast to Cleveland. But the makeup of Sandusky's population has been transformed dramatically.
Fewer and fewer homes in Sandusky are owner occupied, with as much as 70 to 80 percent being rental dwellings. That could be almost a complete reversal of percentages from the past, when most homes were owner-occupied.
Bad government is bad government, big or small. The results — in Cleveland and in Sandusky — speak for themselves. I agree with former Sandusky city commissioner Dick Brady, who said it bluntly in a story in today's Register:
"It is my belief that the form of government in Sandusky is fatally flawed."
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