Today, we are going to slightly change up the Proper Noun of the Week Series. Rather than feature a new person answering my same old slate of Cleveland-centric questions, I thought I'd bring you something a little more substantive. Today is Election Day, as I hope you all already know, and while writing a blog isn't exactly being a regular editorial writer for the New York Times, I like to think it carries with it at least a tiny bit of public responsibility. I'm a person who cares deeply about the communities where I live, and now that I've finally moved into the neighborhood that feels like the one where I belong (the Waterloo district in Collinwood, Cleveland), I find myself more and more interested in the local political leadership. Part of that is because I feel like I have more roots down here than other places I've lived in the aread (W. 25th & Lorain, Cedar & Lee in Cleveland Heights), and part of it is because there is a serious leadership deficit in place.
Cleveland and, even more so, Cuyahoga County has long had a reputation for poor public leadership, but more and more it seems like the civic failures can be isolated on particular individuals. We have a budget competent mayor in Frank Jackson, plenty of hard-working folks on the council (i.e., Joe Cimperman, Matt Zone) and at the county level (Jim Rokakis) and some serious efforts at work in Washington (Marcia Fudge and Sherrod Brown, though he represents the entire state, continuing on the path that the late and much missed Stephanie Tubbs Jones earlier trod on our behalf). But we also have some officials whose mere presence on the stage hurts the city and the neighborhoods they represent. The current Ward 11 incumbent is one of those, a man more concerned with making racially tinged public spectacles and trying to intimidate through volume and bellicosity than actually get things done. And, after all, this incumbent has been on the council for longer than anyone else. If anyone is to blame for the city's leadership deficit over the past decades, it is the individual who has been there the whole time.
So when I first started preparing to move over here from my last home and met Curtis Thompson at our neighborhood coffee spot, it made an impact on me in a number of ways. Not only was here a good person with positive and ambitious intentions, but it was also a solution to the leadership problem plaguing the ward. Quickly I lined up on his side and have been watching carefully as the election season has played out.
I'm proud of the effort Curtis Thompson has made this campaign, and even more hopeful he'll be our neighborhood's next representative to the City Council. In honor of that, and to do my own small part on this election day, I'm reprinting a Q&A that Curtis Thompson has done elsewhere, the Observer I believe, with a much more serious focus. A seriousness, by the way, that I think appropriate given the stakes. 1. Who are you? I am Curtis L. Thompson II, a Governmental Interactive Developer. I was born and raised in the Greater Collinwood Community on Green Road in the Euclid-Green area; I am the youngest of three children. Throughout my life I have been a Government Official, Student, & Athlete. My parents divorced during my teen years, I then moved with my father to Woodmere OH and spent my last year and a half at Orange High School. In high school I had the opportunity to successfully represent the State of Ohio and the Midwest Region of the United States on the national level. My efforts also allowed me the opportunity to represent the United States in international competition as a Sports Ambassador in New Zealand and Australia. All of these experiences helped to broaden my horizons and jump start my understanding for other cultures and how people are all similar even in our differences. My dad was born a sharecropper in Byhalia, MS and was one of 18 children his mother and his siblings moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was 13 years old. As a youngster I would have to sweep floors and clean his office. My father also taught me how to operate heavy equipment such as a back hoe and dump trucks. My mom, was the third of 11 children and was raised in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. As a young person my mom often kept my sister and I involved in political campaigns saying, “This is how you make a difference”. I’ve canvassed, completed mailings, answered phones, read scripts, and marched in parades. My mom also spoke of education as being a means to an end and with that I learned hard work. She was a wife, mother, and Graduate Student. My sister and I have always been extremely close and it is because of that I have felt, observed and heard of all her struggles as a teen mother and single mom today. I have seen my sister toil between being a parent, a college student and ultimately earning her Master’s Degree several years ago. I value all of my lessons as they have allowed me to understand the value of hard work. I earned a college scholarship; and to keep that scholarship I woke up at 5:30am for the 1st of three daily track practices. Briefly, my day included practice, a full course load, working for the State Trooper Association Office, practice, as well as late night study time which often ended at midnight and being involved in the community.
2. Where do you live and how long have you lived there? I was born and raised in the Greater Collinwood Community on Green Road close to the Green and Euclid area, near the Green Light Shopping Center. I lived there for the first 16 years of my life, until my parents divorced; and I spent my last year and a half at Orange High School. During my Senior Year, I won the Track and Field State Title and successfully represented the great state of Ohio in national competition and the Entire United States in international competition. I also received a proclamation on behalf of the 11th congressional district for my hard work and from the City of Cleveland on behalf of our Collinwood Councilmen of both Wards 10 & 11. I earned a full scholarship to Alabama State University (ASU) and traveled the entire Southeast region of the United States. Upon my return to Cleveland, I moved back to Collinwood and bought my first home on E.172nd Street and Grovewood. My perspectives on community and social values have been broadened by the many cultural experiences I have encountered in my travels and activities in the United States and abroad. These experiences have allowed me to return to Collinwood, with a wealth of knowledge that will provide more impactful leadership in the Collinwood community.
3. What is your experience and/or educational background? Over the last few years, my professional career as a Governmental Official has been in the capacity of a System Administrator or Webmaster. I spearheaded the www.EastCleveland.org Project, which won an International Award of Governmental Interactive Media, which was the first for any city in the Northeast Ohio Region. I also managed the Finance Department’s Traffic Citation System. This system, lead to the increase in City revenue, which helped to stabilize the General Fund for the City of East Cleveland. As a result of its implementation, the city was able to hire more Police officers; leading to a 45% decrease in Crime. This 45% decrease was the largest reduction in Cuyahoga County over the last two years. I also created the city wide marketing plan for the Parks and Recreation Department to advertise for the new City Youth and Senior Programs. These programs led to the participation of hundreds of youth in city recreation programs instead of turning to the streets at night. I also worked with the Community Development Department and managed the City’s Reutilization Program. There, I streamed-lined the property purchase process and identified a new neighborhood advisory committee. Scholastically, I attended Alabama State University on a full scholarship and earned a Degree in Computer Information Systems. Computer Information Systems is a modern day hybrid degree dealing with finance, accounting, economics, marketing, management, business law, data structuring and interactive development. As a student, I traveled to all major cities in the Southeast Region of the United States and have seen how these growing cities have utilized their natural resources to grow and stabilize their economy. My strides in city government and education have lead to increased financing, less crime, and the reengagement of young people and seniors. These experiences have effectively prepared me to make an impact on the growth of my home, the Collinwood area.
4. Why do you want to serve on/continue to serve on Cleveland City Council? I want to grow our community by first developing a strong legislative record on the issues of crime prevention, economics, and community engagement. I believe by creating solutions to these issues and creating ways to connect the community to all development projects in our area we will be able to enforce community participation laws and grow the economic status of our community’s residents. This will allow our local businesses to grow and the property value of our residents to increase, giving homeowners more equity in their homes. I see our community as one that can set the tone for all the rest of the wards on the east and west side of Cleveland. I see our community as one that can create an energetic spark that can help spur growth in the Northeast Ohio Region; we have the resources and we have the know-how. I see Collinwood as the catalysts that can lead Cleveland into becoming a destination location once again. I see the business district of E.185th growing and bustling with commerce, I see Waterloo stabilizing and fully growing into an artistic mecca. I see us addressing the youth problem and getting them involved in their community, in local government, in green technology and most importantly their own pursuit for higher education; so that they can compete for the jobs of today and can become productive members of society. I see Collinwood for what we truly are, the community that can and will never stop pushing for growth.
5. What have you done within the last 2 years or more years to improve the quality of life for the people of Ward 11? I am currently a mentor for the Jobs Partnership Program which has a success rate of 93% in placing people with jobs and this number includes ex-felons. This is an important step in putting people directly back to work to fight against the unemployment rate. I serve on the Community Relations Council for Job Cops and I am a member of the Cleveland Women’s Council. As an active member of the Cleveland Women's Council I have proactively partnered residents of Ward 11 with Realty professionals and have saved the homes of people facing foreclosure. I am the Cuyahoga County Young Democrats’ Media Chairman which is a political committee aimed at getting young people involved in the political process, so that they may affect change in their communities. I am also a member of the Northeast Shores Development Corporation Marketing Committee, which is the local Community Development Corporation for the North Collinwood area. I am a mentor with the Parents of Collinwood which is a local Cub Scout troop and have begun a chess program to expand the creative thinking of the young scouts.
6. What is your top priority for Ward 11 going forward? How do you intend to address it? The issue of Economic Development is the lack of foresight in dealing with area changes which has allowed increases in blighted storefronts and joblessness. We have to create new venues that attract businesses to this area. We have to address the issue of over 25 vacant and abandoned storefronts on E. 185th street. I’ve already started the work, I’ve spoken to the key players in lakefront development and they support creating a new project on our beach right here in Ward 11, in an effort to help regain the stability of our community and spark growth in Northeast Ohio. The work begins with stabilizing our business districts by making politics make governance work for the people of Collinwood. We have to make this a destination location once again, but it starts with new ideas. We need to begin thinking outside the box and find ways to better encourage growth in our community so we can help spread progressive energy throughout the neighborhoods that border us and throughout our fair city. This won’t happen over night, it is a long hard road, one that is well worth the travel.
7. What would you like to say to the people of Ward 11? I have been a long-standing member of the Collinwood community and have humbly and proudly represented my neighborhood, family and friends across state and inter-national borders. I have been a registered and active voter since I was 18 years of age and have voted in every single presidential election since. I have already started the work to develop our beach so that it serves as a destination location for Collinwood and all of Cuyahoga County, I have already started the work in helping the good residents of ward 11 fight foreclosure and want to work even harder to save more of the beautiful housing stock in our community. The tradition in Collinwood is one of pride, strength, and growth. I see our community returning to those traditions using methods of today. I believe in our community; I believe in what we are; and I believe in what we can be. Through redirecting our efforts, I can see Collinwood growing into a community that pushes for progressive change and provides an example of growth that our city desperately needs. I humbly ask for your support and I ask for your vote on November 3rd 2009. Together, we can grow Collinwood.
For those of you reading this outside of the friendly confines of Cleveland's Ward 11, file this name away as one to pay attention to in the future. Through my line of work and through just plain social interaction, I meet a fair amount of folks that want to get involved in electoral politics; Curtis Thompson is one of the very few that makes me both optimistic for his career prospects and for his future constituencies.
For those of you who do living in Ward 11, if you haven't voted already, I urge you to vote for Curtis Thompson. His opponent has been around a while, many of you might know him better personally, but the incumbent is not the man for the job. Curtis Thompson IS the man for the job, and I'd stake every bit of any respect or affection you might have for me on it.
Moving to Cleveland a couple years ago for work, I soon learned how rich the cultural community around town was. Whether rock shows or poetry readings, edgy gallery openings or string quartets, Clevo has it all. I do my best to bring you some coverage and advocacy about what I think you should check out, support, and exploit.