Kevin Kelly shakes up Cleveland City Council

James W. Wade III | 1/15/2014, 9:23 a.m.
Councilman Jeffrey Johnson, who shared in his comments that Conwell was stripped of his chairmanship because he dared to stand ...
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelly

The new Cleveland City Council President has made his new chair selections for various committees recently. One of the biggest marks comes from his removal of Council Kevin Conwell from the chair of the safety Committee.

This comes at a time when the police are under fire for the shooting November 29, 2012 where 137 shots killed two Black victims. Now where many may say this is no problem the Black community does.

Now with a white safety Director, white Police Chief, where the balance? “It is never about the appointment of the person,” said Councilman Jeff Johnson. Kelly appointed Matt Zone to chair this committee now.

Councilman Zack Reed raised this point after finding out Matt Zone would replace Councilman Conwell. Reed used an easel to display a poster board featuring the faces of nearly a dozen public safety policymakers, all of them white, including U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, Cleveland Safety Director Martin Flask and Police Chief Michael McGrath.

“This is not about Matt Zone,” Reed said. “For over 25 years, I’ve known him to be an honest and honorable man. …. But look at their faces. These are the faces of the people who put forth the public safety polices and procedures here in Cuyahoga County. ”

Councilman Jeffrey Johnson, who shared in his comments that Conwell was stripped of his chairmanship because he dared to stand up against a contentious council redistricting process earlier this spring and form a dissident coalition with Johnson and Councilman Michael Polensek.

Some of the Black Coucilmen feel if you don’t side with the Good Ole Boys you will be punished. It was a shock when they found out Councilwoman Phyliss Cleveland was going back as Majority Leader, seeing everybody expected them to reward Ward 1 Councilman Terrell Pruitt.

Kelley remarks were he felt he made the right choices and he chose chairpersons based on their talents. But Conwell was not feeling the same way and stated he saw the demotion coming but thought that a more logical choice than Zone would have been Councilman TJ Dow, who is black and once served as an assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.

“Even if it’s not me, you want to go with the person with the best qualifications,” Conwell said. “I called (Dow) up and said, 'You should put your name in there, because you have the experience. No one has more experience than you.'”

“We’re at a point where we have to put this stuff aside,” Zone said. “I know I have big shoes to fill. Councilman Conwell did a great job, and I look forward to working closely with him as the vice-chair. But there is a lot of work that needs to get done.”

Councilwoman and Majority Leader Phyllis Cleveland stood up for Kelley’s right to choose his own leadership team. And Cleveland, applauded Kelley for taking the “courageous step” of forming a group 2/3 comprised of black members.

Many feel Councilwoman Cleveland feels that way because she got what she wanted in the redistricting and now appointed back as the Majority Whip, why would she say anything against the move.

Newly appointed Majority Whip, CouncilmanTerrell Pruitt, stated that the city’s public safety issues should not and can not be boiled down to arguments pitting black vs. white or the East Side vs. the West.

The Public Safety Committee needs a leader who has integrity and is adept at facilitating conversation, Pruitt said. And Zone is the right choice for the job, he added.