By Editor-in-Chief Kathy Wray Coleman, a-24-year journalist who trained at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio for 17 years, and who interviewed now President Barack Obama one-on-one when he was campaigning for president. As to the Obama interview,
CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM-EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - East Cleveland voters will decide Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016 whether to recall two-term Black Mayor Gary A. Norton Jr. and the mayor's ally, city council president Thomas Wheeler.
Wheeler is Black too, as are the other four council persons of the 99 percent impoverished Black Cleveland suburb, a city of some 18,000 people.
The special election was certified in September by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections after activist and resident Devin Branch, who last month was arrested and charged with allegedly assaulting Norton, submitted more than the required 600 petition signatures.
Branch, a former member of the East Cleveland Library Board, has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor assault charge, which he says is frivolous and politically motivated.
Norton, who was first elected city mayor in 2009 after defeating then mayor Eric Brewer and was re-elected in 2014, says Branch was the aggressor.
The special recall election will cost the city between $25,000 and $30,000, with polls opening at 6:30 am on Tuesday, and closing at 7:30 pm.
Under the East Cleveland charter, Norton and Wheeler could have resigned instead of facing a potential recall, but both refused.
Norton and Wheeler are Democrats.
The mayor has not said if he will seek re-election next year and said that the recall effort is ridiculous in part because of next year's mayoral election.
Those seeking his removal from office say time is of essence.
Wheeler faced a previous recall that he overcame.
At the core of the dispute are controversial merger negotiations with officials of neighboring Cleveland that were initiated after Norton collected the necessary signatures required by state law to start merger discussions.
East Cleveland is nearly bankrupt.
It has a median income of $15,000 and most residents live below the poverty line.
Norton says bankruptcy is inevitable, given the socioeconomic factors of the cash strapped city.
His foes blame him for the economic catastrophe and have been canvassing the community and circulating posts on Facebook seeking the mayor's ouster on Tuesday.
His foes include Cassandra McDonald, an unsuccessful Black candidate for state representative in November for state House District 9, which includes East Cleveland and is currently led by Democratic state Rep. Kent Smith, who is White and supports Norton.
McDonald wants Norton gone, and said so without reservation on Facebook.
Former Cuyahoga County commissioner Peter Lawson Jones of Shaker Heights, Norton's boss when he was his chief assistant for the county before winning for mayor, acknowledges problems with the city but says Norton is an effective mayor and should not be recalled.
"Mr. Jones, with all due respect it is beyond Mayor Norton's performance as the Mayor of East Cleveland," said McDonald, who ran in November as a Republican against incumbent Smith but said after wards that she is really a Democrat and that the county Republican Party would not back her in her race against Smith, and is allegedly racist.
She said that Jones views Norton in a different light as his former boss.
"As someone who has worked with him [Norton], you can surely highlight the good qualities that you experienced and observed during your collaboration," McDonald said.
A Harvard Law School graduate Jones, who is also Black, shot back.
"We agree that something radical must occur and quickly," said Jones. "We simply disagree, in all due respect, that the removal of Gary Norton in part of the solution.
Jones added that "in any event, we'll see what happens on December 6."
Norton and Wheeler want the merger with Cleveland as do some Black Cleveland power brokers, including Mayor Frank Jackson, east side councilmen Jeff Johnson and Kevin Conwell, and George L. Former, a former city council president and former Cleveland NAACP president.
Cleveland, also a majority Black city, currently has 17 wards with roughly 25,000 constituents in each ward. A ward 18 will be added if the merger materializes and will be former East Cleveland, city officials have said.
Among others opposing the merger are some local community activists of both Cleveland and East Cleveland, outspoken East Cleveland Councilman Nate Martin, and retired East Cleveland judge Una H.R. Kennon, now the president of the East Cleveland Board of Education and the longtime president and founder of the Black Women's Political Action Committee.
Though a merger would not include East Cleveland schools, Kennon has said that she is staunchly against the merger and that she does not trust the process, period.