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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GOVERNMENT-WATCHER FANTASY: SIX IN PUBLIC

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 10:46 AM

After last week’s hubbub about secret meetings by the Cuyahoga County transition team, the first open forum on Issue 6-mandated government restructuring takes place tonight: a “public engagement” session at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Public Affairs.

Transition leader Jim McCafferty will be asking for ideas on how to keep people involved during the transition. The restructuring process got off to a rocky start after McCafferty and transition co-chair Marty Zanotti, on a local radio show, said that many transition meetings would take place behind closed doors. Their announcement caused public outcry and a threat from the ACLU of Ohio (ironic, considering nobody seemed too outraged last year when Zanotti and his mystery crew drafted the county’s now-adopted charter in ... private meetings).

Our first suggestion for McCafferty and friends: How about holding work group meetings exclusively in public venues? A run-down of the rest of this month’s transition schedule shows early-afternoon work sessions (sorry, working people) in Forest City Enterprises’ offices and Key Tower. Then again, those venues are probably fitting, considering the corporate fingerprints all over this process (Forest City and its board chairman, Sam Miller, gave a total of $50,000 to the charter campaign; KeyCorp dished out $30,000).

The public will likely get to meet some intriguing players in the county transition on Wednesday night, when the “public engagement” committee faces the community for the first time. The group already held one secret meeting earlier this month, in the Key Center offices of Thompson Hine (which gave $20,000 to the charter campaign).

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One such player to watch is Robyn Minter Smyers (right), an Ivy League-educated corporate/real estate lawyer with Thompson Hine. How interested was Smyers in county restructuring? The Shaker Heights lawyer cared enough to fork over $1,000 of her own money to the Issue 6 campaign.

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Another person to keep an eye on is Randall McShepard, vice-president of public affairs for RPM International Inc., in Medina. McShepard, of Beachwood, was one of 30 people vying for a spot on the charter commission that would have been formed if Issue 5 had passed (McShepard eventually dropped out of the race). McShepard co-founded PolicyBridge, a local think tank that focuses on “urban policy issues and inform regional public policy debates by framing issues of relevance to the minority community."

McShepard’s employer also gave $10,000 to the Issue 6 campaign. RPM gained another foothold in local government this month when Mayor Frank Jackson appointed RPM exectuive Paul Hoogenboom to the Cuyahoga-Cleveland Port Authority board of directors. — Damian Guevara

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