An Important Election Battle in Cleveland Heats up, as Mayor Calls 'Defund Police' Supporters 'Tragedy Pimps'

(AP Photo/Phil Long)

The effort to recall Gavin Newsom took up a lot of editorial space on pages across the country for months and the current gubernatorial race in Virginia is sucking up the rest of America’s election focus at the moment.

However, there is an extremely important race happening in the heartland right now that could serve as a bellwether for 2022, and hardly anyone is talking about it on a national scale…and the heat in that race has just been turned up by a thousand degrees.

In Cleveland.

Cleveland is a city of juxtapositions. It sits directly on the shores of Lake Erie and has the lakefront to become a major destination city. The remnants of a thriving upper class smatter the shoreline and sprawl across some truly spectacular open space within city limits. Spacious brick mansions built in the early 1900s that lie behind iron gates remind of a time when some of the wealthiest people in America flocked to the lakeside city to participate in the American dream. Cleveland is also home to the second-largest theater district in America after Broadway in New York City. It has a budding “hipster” scene and it’s not hard to find cleverly designed craft beer breweries and coffee spots and bars where you can drink custom cocktails while playing board games or cornhole. There is a certain vibrance to Cleveland. It hasn’t yet taken in its second wind, but you can feel it in the air when you visit.

And that leads to the juxtaposition. For all of the beauty that is Cleveland, it is also wrought with the issues so many cities have these days. Over the past few years, property crimes and violent crimes have decreased, but Cleveland statistics still reveal it to be one of the most violent cities in America. According to the City-Data crime index, Cleveland’s crime rate is 2.6% higher than the national average and in 2019 violent crimes were reported at about 857 per 100,000 residents. The national average is 205 per 100,000 residents. Their crime rate is higher than 98% of American cities. A drive through some of the more depressed areas of the city brings these statistics to life.

Like in many cities, Cleveland has its fair share of tension regarding police brutality, and particularly in the Black community. Many Black people are angry about how the city has treated the community, but they also want solutions, not platitudes.

Cleveland is a microcosm of what is happening and has been happening in cities across the country since 2020. Just as it’s about to come to a head, a new controversy has enveloped the changing city. The “Defund the Police” wing of the Democrat party has descended and some people are not happy about that.

Cleveland’s outgoing mayor is a Black man named Frank Jackson. The mayoral race to replace him has become a battle between a “defund police” candidate and a pro-law-and-order candidate. Sound familiar? Remember, think “bellwether.”

Issue 24 is a ballot measure that has become the focus of the race and the ensuing controversies. The measure would trigger a number of familiar “reforms”:

  • the creation of the Community Police Commission to—together with the Civilian Police Review Board—oversee police conduct investigations and discipline, report and advise about police-community relations, and oversee police training and recruitment;

  • requirements that the commission be demographically representative of the city; and

  • changes to membership qualifications and requirements for the Civilian Police Review Board to include attorneys with experience defending victims of police brutality, give the mayor instead of the police chief the authority to remove board members, and require the board’s budget to equal at least 1% of the police department’s budget.

It takes the teeth out of law enforcement and that is the point. It is a point not everyone is thrilled about…in Cleveland and elsewhere. It is significant because progressive activists have turned the latest election into a race about race, with Issue 24 being at the heart of the matter.

So it came as a shock to many when Mayor Frank Jackson recently and very publicly refused to toe the Black Lives Matter line on law and order. On a local radio show, The Outlaws, (full disclosure, this radio show is a part of the radio network that produces my podcast), Mayor Jackson excoriated the outsiders from the progressive Democrat wing. In a not-so-subtle rebuke, he described them as “tragedy pimps.”

It’s this kind of mentality and it goes back to that naivety that’s grounded in academic exercises and political philosophy. And those people who have certain political philosophy, they use the legitimate issue of the oppressed, an in this case, black people, to promote their politics, not to assist the oppressed. They just use the oppressed for their own benefit. That’s all that’s about. And that’s Issue 24. You should vote “no.”

host: I’ve referred to exactly what you’re talking about as people manipulating Black trauma.

That’s all it is. Tragedy pimps. That’s what they are. They take our tragedy and they pimp it to their own benefit, as if they care. Get out of my face Get out of my face.

Needless to say, the tragedy pimps were not at all pleased to hear a Black man step out of their perceived line and render an honest opinion.

The issue’s backers organized a press conference Friday outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections where early voting is currently taking place, to respond to the mayor’s attack.

“So now we’re ‘tragedy pimps?’” said Alicia Kirkman, whose son Angelo Miller was killed by Cleveland police in 2007. “It’s unacceptable. We are here to make a difference for the city of Cleveland. We are here to save lives.”

The proposed charter amendment, which appears on the November ballot, would give the Community Police Commission ultimate authority over officer discipline and policies, a dramatic expansion of its current role.

There is no doubt that there are sincere residents who genuinely support the measure, but what Jackson was alluding to is that outside money has been pouring in to influence the results of what Jackson feels is a local matter. That support is agenda-driven and not people-driven. A Washington D.C.-based activist outlet, The Fairness Project, has already dumped over $60,000 dollars into Issue 24. That’s not chump change for a city of under 400,000 people.

As Geraldo Rivera rightly pointed out in an appearance on The Five recently, the current mayor’s race in Cleveland and the battle over police reform and law and order is something we should all be paying attention to. It isn’t just Virginia that is going to tell a story for 2022. Cleveland lies in a state we consider hallowed ground for election victories. If their electorate expresses distaste at the plans Democrats have for cities and law enforcement, it will have huge ripple effects as we move into 2022 but more particularly 2024.

It’s worth noting that so far eleven other American cities have similar measures on their local ballots and some will be voted on as early as next week.

Tragedy pimps or a commonsense approach to law and order? Cleveland decides next week. America will soon follow.