'Plain Dealer Needs to Back off Mayor Frank Jackson,' an Open Letter from Norman Edwards

click to enlarge Norm Edwards' Black Contractors group brought signs to support the Q Deal in a public announcement of new public benefits. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
Sam Allard / Scene
Norm Edwards' Black Contractors group brought signs to support the Q Deal in a public announcement of new public benefits.
Norman Edwards is the loud and imposing figure who years ago founded the Black Contractors Employers Association in Cleveland and who, in 2017, could be counted upon to strike up a solo "ALL IN!" counter-chant anytime activists began choruses of "NOT ALL IN" at public Q Deal hearings.

Today, Edwards dashed off an open letter in defense of Mayor Frank Jackson and sent it to dozens of local public and private leaders in the region, plus, nonsensically, a handful of reporters from the Akron Beacon-Journal and the Canton Repository, and a scattershot assortment of names presumably from his personal address book.

In the letter, copied in full below, Edwards refers to an article in the Plain Dealer about Jackson's inactivity — referring, no doubt, to the recent column by cleveland.com's Mark Naymik or else to Scene's initial coverage — and pleads that his contacts see the article for what it really is, "an unsubstantiated, politically motivated attack."

Edwards suggests that the Mayor's effectiveness ought to be measured by the loyalty of his subordinates — a self-serving assessment, as the letter itself then becomes proof of the Mayor's effectiveness — and that Jackson need not be physically present to delegate authority and move the city forward. Thanks to Jackson's wise and careful delegation, in Edwards' view, the city is operating like a "finely-tuned machine."

The letter is positioned, curiously, as "Pt. 1." We look forward to the remainder of the series, which will no doubt feature similar devotional claims, absent evidence.

Though the arguments in Pt. 1 don't rise to the level of requiring refutation, it's worth considering Edwards' notion that effective leaders need not be physically present to succeed. While I disagree (I think), I'd be willing to read an argument if he'd provided some examples to defend the claim.

On the opposite side, though, readers are invited to read the views of the Cuyahoga County jail corrections officers who spoke to Scene at length in this week's cover story. Comparing their respect for former nursing director Gary Brack with their disdain for former jail director Ken Mills and County Executive Armond Budish is telling. Their views on leadership seem largely based on the extent to which they can see their leaders leading and working.

On Brack: "He was a leader, which is different than being a boss. He put the burden of stress on himself, and he went to council and he spoke, and he thought he was going to be protected. If they were short staffed, he had no shame in doing the low-level jobs of his nurses. If they needed someone to do med cart, he was on med cart. If they were short in the dispensary, he was there. If you look at our leaders, they sit at their desks, they watch their employees on camera. When we're short, they don't help or assist."

On Armond Budish: "I've never seen Armond Budish in the building. This guy's a county leader, and I've never seen him in the jail. You're running a business, and you're getting called to the carpet, wouldn't you say, 'I'm going to go over there. I want full access. I want to see for myself what's going on. I want to know the truth.'"

Here's the letter:
Open Letter Pt. 1:

The article by the Plain Dealer in which they attempt to berate Mayor Jackson and characterize him as an absentee mayor only shows the lack of understanding of the writers of what it means to truly be a leader. No leader who bases his leadership on his continually being in the presence of those he leads is an effective leader. Leadership is not about the physical Presence of the leader. It's about the lasting influence and direction of the leader in regards to those subordinates acting under his behest to forward the mission, purpose and plans of the City of Cleveland.

What determines whether or not Mayor Jackson is an effective leader is the ability of his subordinates, department heads and all related personnel to act in his interest when he is not physically present. When a leader fails to act in accordance with the principles of delegated authority and assumes all responsibility the inevitable result will lead to health issues, stress issues and a failure of organizational goals. However, when the Mayor delegates responsibility and duties in regard to the movement of our metropolis, it operates like a finely tuned machine not dependent upon Mayor Frank Jackson having his finger in the pot.

So please, let's see this attack against Mayor Jackson for what it really is, an unsubstantiated and politically motivated attack not meant to bring the truth to the people of Cleveland but just to denigrate a mayor who has effectively and efficiently trained his subordinates and those who have their own responsibilities to perform their delegated duties whether or not he is in the building.

In an age of technology such as Email, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and a myriad of other instantaneous communication methods, in a time where executives in New York are managing and overseeing international overseas operations, who would require 24/7 presence from someone who does possess and accepts 24/7 “the buck stops here” accountability. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mayor Jackson and his family.

Norman K. Edwards, President
ACEE/Black Contractors Group

About The Author

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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