Profiles In Cleveland Politics: Frank G. Jackson
Office: Mayor, Cleveland, Ohio
Political party: Democrat
Term of office: 2006–Present
Preceded by: Jane L. Campbell
Succeeded by: Incumbent
Date of birth: October 4, 1946
Frank George Jackson (born October 4, 1946) is an American politician of the Democratic Party. He was elected the 57th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio on November 8, 2005. He is the first sitting member of Cleveland City Council to become mayor since Stephen Buhrer in 1867.
Jackson was born of an interracial marriage. His father, George, was an African American factory worker while his mother, Rose was an Italian homemaker. Jackson grew up in the neighborhoods of Kinsman and Central, a section of Cleveland that has became more known for crime and proverty than its achievements. He struggled in school and, when his father became sick, his mother took a job as a cleaner at St. Vincent's Charity Hospital to support the family. After graduating from high school, Jackson served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. After his discharge, Jackson completed his education at Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University, earning a bachelor's degree in Urban Studies and History, and a Master's Degree in Urban Affairs.
In 1975, he married his wife, Edwina. When the couple met, she already had a daughter, Janeise. Now Jackson's family includes a granddaughter Janesha, a grandson Frank, two great-grandsons Donald and Javon, and a niece Diamond Frazier.
Jackson entered politics with the influence of former Cleveland councilman, Lonnie L. Burten . Burten represented what was Ward 12 (encompassing the Central neighborhood) from 1975 until his murder in 1984, an event that Jackson still gets choked up about today.
Jackson first worked as a night clerk for the Cleveland Municipal Court while putting himself through law school at the Cleveland Marshall College of Law. He passed the Ohio bar exam and started his legal career as an assistant city prosecutor. In 1989, Jackson won a seat on the Cleveland City Council for Ward 5. As councilman, he delivered approximately a half billion dollars of economic and community investment to his ward, and worked to clean up and stabilize it. He fought for the redevelopment of Arbor Park Place, the construction of the only Home Ownership Zone in the city, and worked with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority as CMHA began to rebuild its estates. He became an active critic of the mayoral administration of Michael R. White, who vowed in his campaign to clean-up neighborhoods but ended up dedicating the bulk of his tenure to downtown development. Jackson's progress in Ward 5 helped him get elected Council President in 2001, succeeding Michael D. Polensek. He was noted for his low-key but generally effective leadership style.
2005 Cleveland mayoral election
As Council President, Jackson became increasingly frustrated with the leadership of Mayor Jane L. Campbell. Campbell, he felt, was inconsistent in her policies, did not deliver on her promises, and lacked responsibility for governing Cleveland. As election season approached, he announced his candidacy for mayor on April 7, 2005. During his campaign, Jackson said that if he "didn't restore hope to the ailing city within 200 days of taking office, [he] would consider himself a failure." He received endorsement from several notable Cleveland and Cuyahoga County politicians, including Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, County Auditor Frank Russo, County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, and most of his colleagues on City Council. In the October 4 mayoral primary, Jackson was the top vote-getter, ahead of the incumbent Campbell. Other candidates in the primary included former Cleveland public safety director James Draper, former Euclid mayor and businessman David Lynch, former councilman Bill Patmon, and Municipal Court Judge Robert Triozzi.
In the days leading up to the election, Campbell began what many considered a mudslinging attack against Jackson, accusing him of failing to do his job as a member and president of council, and of opposing Campbell-backed projects just to score political points. These attacks seemed to backfire. When Campbell began criticizing Jackson during their final debate, he said, "Your former allies, the people of the City of Cleveland and I cannot trust you. Now despite what you say, or who you blame, or the lies that you tell, we are worse off today than we were four years ago." In the November 8, 2005 general election, he was elected mayor with 55% of the vote, while Campbell received 45%. At 11:25 p.m. (EST), she conceded to Jackson.
On January 2, 2006, Jackson was sworn in as the city's next mayor at East Technical High School in Cleveland. Among those in attendance were Congresswoman Tubbs Jones and Bishop Anthony Pilla of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. In his inaugural address, Jackson vowed to make Cleveland a city "where we are one people, that we are one community, living and working together, joined that there will be respect and equality and justice." He also promised improvements in the city's school system and better relations with Cleveland's neighboring suburbs.
Jackson's election brought new hope to Cleveland citizens. In an interview aired during the night of the general mayoral election, former Cleveland Mayor and current U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich, vowed that he would personally "mentor" the winner of the election. Voinovich aid will most likely go to Jackson.
After the November election, Ward 20 councilman Martin J. Sweeney was elected to succeed Jackson as Council President. He has spoken with suburban mayors on regional issues, particularly the economy. On December 1, he announced that he will appoint the city's first point person for regional issues.
On December 15, Jackson announced the appointment of his former opponent Triozzi as law director (under the city charter, the law director becomes mayor if the elected mayor is out of the city, resigns or becomes incapable of serving). From the former Campbell administration, Darnell Brown will retain his position as the city's chief operating officer. Valarie McCall, who previously served as Clerk of City Council, was appointed chief of government affairs.
Shortly after being inaugrated, Jackson began working with the Cleveland Police Department. He introduced a new force policy that clearly states what previous versions only implied: "Excessive force shall not be tolerated." Jackson also personally joined police from January 12 at 8:00 p.m. to January 13 at 1:00 a.m. on an undercover prostitution sting. By 10:00 p.m., police arrested three women for solicitation for prostitution, one man for solicitation, three men on felony drug charges and four men on misdemeanor drug charges. Jackson stated that he "hoped by inviting the media to the sting that people looking for prostitutes in the future would stay out of Cleveland."
On January 18, the Ohio House passed a bill that will eliminate residency rules passed by local voters. This included the amendment to the Cleveland municipal charter that restricted city workers from living outside the city, approved by voters in 1982. Ohio Governor Bob Taft signed the bill by the House on January 31. In response, Mayor Jackson and law director Triozzi threaten to take the issue to court. Jackson contends that if the city's residency restrictions are overturned, Cleveland will suffer the ill effects of city workers fleeing the city, and its related effects on the economy and city safety. "This is about the issue of home rule," Jackson said at a City Hall news conference. "They are attempting to usurp our constitutional rights, and we are defending our rights." The Cleveland Fire Fighters Association Local 93 and four individual union members filed a complaint on January 30 with the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals to block any actions that Jackson, Triozzi, or the city may take on the matter. The police and fire unions are against the residency requirement, considering it a matter of personal choice.
The Plain Dealer, October 23, 2005. Though Private About Family, Jackson Says He Lives City's Ills by Olivera Perkins.
The Plain Dealer, October 25, 2005. Jackson's Lifelong Code Drives Run For City Hall by Olivera Perkins and Mark Naymik.
The Plain Dealer, November 9, 2005. Jackson Wins by Olivera Perkins.
The Plain Dealer, January 6, 2006. Jackson Tightens Police Use-Of-Force Policy by Gabriel Baird.
The Plain Dealer, January 13, 2006. Jackson Takes Part In Prostitution Sting by Joe Guillen.
The Plain Dealer, January 19, 2006. City Residency Rules In Peril by Reginald Fields.