Zack Reed at City Club: "We're Not Defunding the Damn Police"

click to enlarge Former City Councilman Zack Reed on the mayoral campaign trail in 2017: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." 6/1/2017 - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Former City Councilman Zack Reed on the mayoral campaign trail in 2017: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." 6/1/2017
Former Cleveland City Councilman and presumed 2021 mayoral candidate Zack Reed rejected the notion of defunding the police in a virtual forum with the City Club of Cleveland's Dan Moulthrop Wednesday. Reed was the latest in a series of City Club guests whose mayoral aspirations are something of an open secret.

Now working on minority voter engagement for Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose, Reed has been largely out of the local headlines for the past four years. His comments to Moulthrop — about public safety, economic development, and government accountability — were in many cases versions of the same slogans he used on the campaign trail in 2017. His "nothing stops a bullet like a job" message was perhaps the most memorable and resonant of that race, which he ultimately lost to incumbent Frank Jackson in a runoff.

Reed was omnipresent on social media and in the streets in 2017, constantly citing statistics and news reports about gun violence. His solution at the time was to increase the number of police officers in Cleveland. He wanted to bulk up the force by at least 400 officers. That's a belief Reed says he no longer holds. He told Moulthrop Wednesday that he has changed his mind because the status quo has not worked. Cleveland is now on pace for its ninth consecutive year of 100+ homicides, he said, and new strategies for public safety need to be explored.

And yet, he said defunding the police was not the appropriate response. He agreed in principle that more money should be given to neighborhood organizations and rejected the wisdom of federal resources being used in Cleveland as part of the so-called Operation LeGend, but said that instead of defunding the police, Cleveland should focus on better training and recruitment. He still faithfully adheres to a "Good Cop-Bad Cop" mentality in which a "few bad apples" shouldn't be allowed to spoil the barrel. 

Like other presumed candidates, Reed said he wants to make free internet a priority — "The internet is not a luxury, it's a necessity," he said — and operate it as a public utility.

He said the first thing he would do as mayor would be to appoint a "Poverty Czar" and work to improve Cleveland's standings on nationwide poverty rankings. He said poverty was the "number one problem" in Cleveland, in part because its effects lead to so many other social ills: low educational attainment and violence, specifically.

Reed was asked to describe how his administration would be different from Frank Jackson's. He stressed, above all, transparency and accountability. As in 2017, Reed said that he would open City Hall on Saturdays and have regular Town Halls in Cleveland neighborhoods, in general making himself much more available to members of the public. He said that City Hall needs a "complete overhaul," not only in its use of 21st century technologies but in its treatment of residents. 

"I use a restaurant analogy," Reed said. "When you go into a restaurant, they hand you a menu. And the first thing they say to you is, 'What would you like?' What politicians do nowadays in our community is come in and tell you what you want, what they're gonna do. And what happens after you order? The waiter comes back and asks you, 'How was your meal? Is there anything else you'd like?' We don't do that."

Reed did not confirm directly that he would run for Mayor, but gave a stronger indication than prior guests. Reed said he was "leaning towards" running and admitted that he would like to be Mayor, but said it would be up to the voters to decide. In 2017, during the controversial Q Deal negotiations, a "Downtown vs. the Neighborhoods" debate was the dominant campaign narrative. In 2021, views on public safety and racial justice may take center stage.

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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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