Martin Sweeney Bids Council Presidency Adieu, Takes Cheap Shots, Runs Away


Former Council President Martin Sweeney gave his farewell remarks to Cleveland City Council last night and used 20 minutes to thank the administration and then bash his colleagues who complicated his backroom redistricting plan this year.

Listen to the entire speech on IdeaStream's Nick Castele's Sound Cloud. The attacks start revving up at about 13:45.

Sweeney, who was elected council president in 2005, said that the quality of life for Cleveland's citizens have improved since he's been in office. He referenced the advancement of gay and lesbian issues, "urban gardens, chicken bees, healthy Cleveland," (all courtesy of Councilman Cimperman) and downtown infrastructure and development as key successes of his tenure.

As for challenges: Unemployment, the school system, the foreclosure crisis and the great recession. Ho hum!

The central aim of his speech, though, seemed to be "setting the record straight" about the redistricting process, which played out controversially this year. Sweeney, without really explaining the process, said that every council member had a role in some way. He called Joe Cimperman "masterful."

"At the end of the day, I think everyone was satisfied," Sweeney said about the boundaries of the city's southeastern wards. He kept referencing "the process," which seemed to be little more than conversations where Sweeney sat with council members and argued over the various agencies and landmarks and major institutions they wanted to keep within their boundaries.

Sweeney saved his strongest criticisms for Kevin Conwell and Mike Polensek, who both voted no on the redistricting plan (along with Cimperman and Jeff Johnson).

Sweeney concluded his speech on the attack, talking about future historians as they tell the story of Cleveland.

"The five decades from 1970 to '80, to '90, to 2000, to the 2010 decades: There will be a chapter, and there will be not one word mentioned about the councilperson from the 11th district soon to be 8th [Polensek]... You're laughing? The historian's gonna add two words: irrelevant and pathetic. Happy Thanksgiving!"

Sweeney promptly exited the chambers through a back door, returning only briefly to gather his things.

The audio of Polensek's response, also via the intrepid Castele, is available here.

Polensek said that he was shocked at Sweeney's remarks. He said that he leaked the proposed ward map to the media, and that Sweeney should have expected an outcry after not soliciting public comment on the redistricting process.

"Rather than going out as a man, he went out kicking people," said Polensek. "I think that's pretty cheap. I think that speaks volumes of where he's at in his political career."

Councilman Sweeney will remain a councilperson, of the west side's 16th ward, and Kevin Kelley will assume the presidency.

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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