McKinley Wiley / The Dark Room Co.
A longtime employee of the Cleveland Public Library has launched his candidacy
for Cleveland City Council in Ward 4. Erick Walker, a Mt. Pleasant resident, will be one of at least a dozen candidates to replace multi-decade incumbent Ken Johnson, who was arrested by the FBI on corruption charges earlier this year but who retains his council seat — and who has pulled petitions for the current race — nevertheless.
Walker told Scene in a phone conversation Monday that he's running because his neighbors are fed up with Johnson's absent leadership. While the criminal allegations against him are upsetting to residents in Buckeye-Shaker, Kinsman and Mt. Pleasant, Walker said that equally upsetting has been his lack of actual representation.
"He's not engaged," Walker said. "He's not out in the ward."
The 52-year-old Walker said he intends to listen to resident concerns and wants to encourage a culture at City Hall where residents have far more input on the priorities of city leaders.
"We've got to follow their lead," he said.
That's one reason why Walker is such an ardent advocate of public comment. Before Covid, Walker was a regular attendee of City Council meetings and said he could never express his concerns unless he managed to corner a councilperson one-on-one.
The big concern in Ward 4 is poverty, Walker said. And as councilman, he said he would explore creative ways to alleviate the worst social and economic outcomes for residents. One of his ideas is to advocate for a CMSD trade school akin to Max Hayes on the East Side.
"Some young men and women just don't want to go to college," he said, "and we need to teach those people some type of trade, and get them on a path to building wealth."
He also said he'd like to explore formal partnerships with local unions to offer training or apprenticeships to adults.
Walker was born and raised in Cleveland and, since 2017, has lived in the house he grew up in near the intersection of Union and Kinsman, where Wards 1, 2, and 4 meet. He has worked for the Cleveland Public Library for 26 years and served in the U.S. Army Reserves, to help him pay for college at the University of Akron.
Though he has no experience in public office, Walker is an elected board member of SEIU 1199, the union that represents library workers. He told Scene he thinks he has the leadership qualities, and the willingness to listen, that will set him apart from the other candidates in Ward 4.
"I know the potential this ward has," he said. "And this community needs someone who is honest and transparent and who cares about the well-being of the people. There are some challenges, but we are resilient. I want to bring that back."
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