Irish Catholic Cleveland city council president Kevin Kelly operates the municipal legislative body like a southern plantation owner who mastered the notorious Willie Lynch theories made widely-known by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan during the 1995 Million Man March to Washington, D.C.
A close examination of Kelley’s political acts in comparison to Lynch’s theories of controlling “African slaves” who were a majority on the plantations reek of efforts to suppress the city’s majority black voting base and political influence. Voter suppression is one of the reasons Cleveland activist Kareem Abdul Nafi, a local Black Lives Matter founder, wants a public comment section during council meetings.
Nafi called Kelley a liar who falsely claimed when he sought the job that he was going to end ex-council president Martin Sweeney’s charter and general law violating tactic of pushing all legislation as an emergency.
Kelley has raised the practice to a new illegal level by falsely identifying legislation requests on official documents as an emergency that has not been requested that way by city department heads.
Emergency legislation takes effect immediately and denies Cleveland voters the opportunity to deliver council referendum petitions within 30 days that would give the city’s majority black voting base and not council the final word on it. Kelley has even introduced alleged “emergency” legislation at council meetings that has never been seen by other council members and orchestrated a vote to pass it.
Kelley carries out his legislation-rigging and vote suppressing schemes all in plain view of city lawyers who under Ohio law have duties to ensure that all public duties are being performed and not evaded by obstruction-minded officials like Kelley.
Nafi and other critics of Kelley and council in general see them as criminally shutting the public, particularly the majority black population, out of discussions about legislation, legislative priorities and how municipal tax dollars are being spent. He said Cleveland’s majority black resident population and voters are the only ones in the state who can’t elect a school board to spend the $1 billion annually that’s being misspent instead of used to educate their 36,000 children.
Nafi is concerned that council and the city’s departments as a whole under Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration are criminally non-responsive to requests for public information as just one of many corrupt practices they’re using to keep the city’s voters intentionally uninformed.
Jackson, as an example, controls the city’s public access channel and high-end television broadcast production equipment. Wiring council’s chamber with cameras to give Cleveland residents access to the legislative body’s meetings would be a simple, permanent and inexpensive feat to accomplish.
The same type of cameras that record and broadcast council’s committee meetings could record and broadcast council’s regular and special meetings. Nafi sees Jackson as thoughtless for not using equipment paid with resident tax dollars to empower them with television access to public meetings about their government.
Nafi says council never conducts public hearings on critical issues of concerns to the city’s residents. High speed police chases. Constitutionally non-compliant policing. Excessive water bill payments. Failing schools. Corrupted city departments. Illegal impounding of vehicles by Clerk of Court Earl Turner for automated camera citations. Health department failure to test and prosecute illegal dumps or to test the sewer district’s mining operation for combustible gas in the neighborhoods. Block grant dollars misdirected from poor neighborhoods.
Discussions around the topics above would seem to dominate the thinking of a majority black city’s political leadership because they’re the issues and complaints coming from “the streets.” Not only are residents of the city shut out of council meetings to discuss the topics that most affect them; council members hold unofficial ward meetings that serve no real governmental purpose and refuse to discuss them. The city’s mayor, Jackson, even charges $75 to hear his “state of the city” address that’s attended by city workers, vendors and few residents.
When angry residents vent their frustrations to their council member during ward meetings police are called. Councilmen like Ward 7’s Basheer Jones, and former councilman Jeffrey Johnson, were and are known for using police to silence critics.
Johnson was the defendant in a complaint Don Bryant filed against him in 2013 for snatching a microphone out of his hand and breaking it when he wanted to address safety director Michael McGrath.
Bryant wanted to comment about 100 Cleveland cops invading East Cleveland and 13 of them firing 147 bullets at unarmed Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams. Johnson was among a group of council members who told residents they could only ask questions and not make comments at “their” ward club meetings.
Jones this year called police on over 200 black men, women and children who’d peacefully assembled at the African American history museum because he saw the agency’s director as a political enemy for supporting the councilman he’d beaten by 13 votes.
Nafi believes opening council’s official meeting to public comment from residents of the city on legislation before they vote, and on general issues of resident concern after the vote, will change council’s legislative direction.
Council, as an example, hasn’t upgraded its civil rights ordinance since George Forbes became the first black to hold the job in 1974. A civil rights-minded council could have easily enacted an ordinance to accept and prosecute citizen complaints of police or public employee and official abuse and criminal acts.
Nafi observes that Kelley’s leadership has resulted in a council that doesn’t discuss known acts of theft committed by ex-councilman Joseph Cimperman to see if other local legislators are conspiring with city workers to misdirect block grant funds from HUD’s intended census tracts.
Kelley was the focus of a criminal complaint filed with the Cleveland municipal court that detailed the acts he took to prevent 22,000 majority black voters from voting on rigged emergency legislation he’d orchestrated to give $88 million in public funds to renovate Quicken Loans Arena for Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers. The Supreme Court of Ohio confirmed that Kelley exceeded the limited authority of the council president when he criminally obstructed the clerk of council from accepting petitions signed by the city’s majority black voters. Despite knowledge from the state’s supreme court that Kelley and Dreyer criminally obstructed the city’s official business, Langhenry didn’t prosecute him and council didn’t discuss it.
Ironically one of the black councilmen who stood behind Kelley and said nothing while he obstructed black voting rights is a military officer who carries the rank of major. Terrell Pruitt was rejected for re-election by Cleveland’s Ward 1 voters.
Councilman Kevin Conwell is one of the members who agree with Nafi’s demand for public comments. He remarked that council’s seating is set up so that the backs of members are turned to the public. Conwell called council’s attitude “disrespectful.”
Nafi intends to continue his push to open council’s meetings. If Conwell and others are serious Nafi said they only need to amend their own rules and add a charter change for voters to make the final decision permanent.