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[image-1] A group of nine Ward 4 residents and activists met Saturday morning in an apartment on Shaker Boulevard to map out a plan to reclaim their community after revelations of sustained misuse of public dollars by Councilman Ken Johnson.
The group included Rowland Mitchell, who ran against Ken Johnson in the 2017 election, and former municipal court judge and Cuyahoga County Council President C. Ellen Connally.
Calling itself the "Committee to Reclaim Ward 4," the group has established three key objectives: to remove Ken Johnson from office, "one way or another"; to ensure that the incumbent councilman does not get to appoint his successor; and to include all residents of Ward 4 in the process of deciding who will represent them moving forward.
Organizer Michelle Jackson told Scene by phone that the committee represents disparate organizations with different missions. "Not all of us have the same individual goals," she said, "but we all want better governance."
She said that the committee felt it was critical to capitalize on the "unprecedented press attention" to build a grassroots coalition across all 21 ward precincts, 17 of which are currently led by Johnson loyalists.
She said it would be foolish to aggressively pursue a recall in the short-term, especially when mobilizing volunteers "in the dead of winter" is a challenge. But organizers will be working their contacts among the clergy and small business owners with the goal of building a strong grassroots coalition for the spring.
"It would be presumptuous on our part to think that we speak for the entire community," she said. "And we know we can't form consensus until we start having those conversations in every precinct, even those that have been overlooked."
Jackson is confident that there's sufficient momentum and anger in Ward 4 to pursue a recall election in the spring if Johnson has not resigned or been removed by then. One of the Committee's first tasks is a letter-writing campaign to city council, apprising Council President Kevin Kelley and others of residents' displeasure and their ultimate aims. They also hope to inquire about council's willingness and ability to remove their colleague.
"We really want to build a grassroots coalition," Jackson said. "But we cannot deny the elephant with the 70s pimp tail and a track suit in the room. [Johnson] has got to go, and residents of Ward 4 need to have a say in who the placeholder is until the next election. This man has used this ward as the Ken Johnson Employment Agency for too long, and letting him appoint a successor would be an insult to the community."
The Committee to Reclaim Ward 4 has another meeting planned before the end of the month, at which they intend to put together a more detailed organizing road map for 2019.