Why Did Councilman Matt Zone Have a Campaign Fundraiser in Los Angeles?

In the Zone. - ClevelandCityCouncil.org
In the Zone.
Almost all of west side councilman Matt Zone's campaign fundraising in the first half of 2017 came from an event in Southern California.

On May 9, according to Zone's most recent campaign finance filing, 18 individual contributors donated $17,050 at the fundraiser, which was organized and hosted by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Zone said.

Zone told Scene that Wesson was from Glenville and lived in Cleveland until his mid-twenties. Wesson reportedly knew Carl Stokes and knew of Zone's parents (both former city council people) and was introduced to Zone through another L.A. Councilman, Joe Buscaino, with whom Zone is close. Scene left a message with a staffer at Wesson's Los Angeles office to confirm.

Zone said that he was in California visiting his nephew, a filmmaker, and that Wesson had wanted to hold the event for Zone when he learned that Zone was running for re-election. It was not directly tied to any event for the National League of Cities, the advocacy organization of which Zone serves as President.

The money raised at the L.A. event forms the lion's share of the councilman's 2017 fundraising. The only other contributions Zone has received this year are a $1,000 contribution from the Council Leadership Fund and a $500 contribution from a west side resident. Zone said that unlike some of his colleagues, he doesn't hold multiple fundraisers each year; he stressed that he has not been traveling around the country raising money for a local council race.

"That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "It's not like I went out there to give a speech or just for the fundraiser. We'd been talking back and forth for about 90 days. [Herb Wesson] wanted to do this for me."

Zone described the event as small and sedate — there was no food or alcohol, he said — and that the gathered guests were eager to hear about Cleveland issues. Some of the guests, who numbered about 15, Zone said, were either from Cleveland or had some interest in or connection to Cleveland. Many of them are also lobbyists and businessmen. One of them, Neil Kadisha, is one of the richest men in Los Angeles and serves as CEO of Ominet Capital, a real estate and venture capital firm.

Zone said he would likely host a local fundraiser closer to the November election, when he'll square off against challenger Alex Karrfalt, a young SEIU-backed candidate.

Zone is in the limelight after he gave a talk Friday at the Global Center for Health Innovation. It was a City Club forum billed as "The State of America's Cities." Zone spoke for 30 minutes and fielded questions from the audience. As the president of the National League of Cities, Zone argued that city leaders can and should be powerful instruments of national change. He said we are entering a "new era" of politics where cities represent "the dominant political force."

He also stressed the need to focus on issues of economic mobility and opportunity. He said he has created a special task force at NLC to address those topics and called the disparity in economic opportunity the "generation's greatest challenge."

"The bottom line," said Zone: "We've got an economy and system that works for some people, but it doesn't work for a lot of others."

Zone called for policies that lift up minority communities, and he challenged listeners to get more engaged in their community's needs. Zone said he had been invited by City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop to deliver the remarks, and that he was happy to do so as the president of NLC.

But Zone also has higher political aspirations. On an episode of the CleCast podcast earlier this year, he hinted that his next term would be his last as a Cleveland City Councilman. In a follow-up conversation, he told Scene that running for Mayor, County Executive or state office were all possibilities. He said that after his next term, he's ready to pass the torch to another leader and that he doesn't intend to be a council "lifer."
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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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