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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Frank Jackson is Frequently Absent from City Hall Because He's Caring for His Sick Wife. Thanks Cleveland.com!

Posted By and on Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 2:50 PM

THE CITY CLUB
  • The City Club

Scene's cover story
 last week documented Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's frequent absences from City Hall and noted observations gleaned from a close study of his 2017 and 2018 daily calendars.

Today, Cleveland.com's Mark Naymik published, in his CLE Chatter column, the background information which led to our story: Jackson is frequently absent from City Hall because he is now a caregiver for his wife Edwina, who is seriously ill.

click to enlarge CLEVELAND.COM
  • Cleveland.com
This is an open secret at City Hall, but no one would speak with Scene on the record about it for our story. City Hall hates when we publish unsubstantiated rumors, though, so our approach was to examine not the cause but the effects of Jackson's absences the best we could.



(For the record, we asked explicitly about the health of the Mayor's wife for our story and received no response. This is now standard practice under Jackson.)

Jackson's notorious preference for privacy, which in public life, as we wrote last week, "means a preference for concealment," has safely insulated him from criticism on this issue. But the situation has become untenable.

We can and should feel sympathy for the man, but we're also talking about the mayor here. Jackson's inactivity in 2018 speaks for itself. Cleveland is ostensibly a major American city, and residents must not accept three more years of a part-time Mayor, whatever the cause. One could make a serious argument for him to step down, and this news should fuel the nascent recall effort.

There is no shame in resigning for personal reasons. In fact, it would be refreshing for "personal reasons" to connote what it's intended to, instead of merely serving as a euphemism for behind-the-scenes conflict. 

It's worth recalling that the Jackson situation is a familiar one. Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell, whose health was in decline for some time before she abruptly vacated her Ward 6 council seat before the 2017 summer recess, was protected from negative press coverage during 2016 and 2017. Council leadership plead with reporters not to write about Mitchell's worsening dementia, surely because they didn't want to embarrass her.

But the result was the facilitation (if not orchestration) of Blaine Griffin's controversial appointment, keeping Mitchell in her seat during a pivotal legislative moment (the Q Deal hearings), and long after she was able to perform the required duties of her office. 

The Jackson situation is troublesome for the above reasons but also because of the late-arriving coverage by the city's major news operation, Cleveland.com, whose editor and president still meets with Frank Jackson monthly and may even qualify as a member of his "inner circle."

Cleveland.com now has an explanation for the mayor's persistent absences. The explanation is a personal one, which makes it unpleasant to report, but Frank Jackson is the mayor of Cleveland and the explanation is undoubtedly major news.  Why, then, have these extensive absences not been news until now? Why is the explanation appearing as a tidbit in a gossip column and not as the substantive news story that it is? Why haven't his absences been touched by Cleveland.com for the last 10 months? What of the effect on his job performance? What of who's been charged to step up in his absence?

Moreover, Chris Quinn surely knew of the situation. And if neither Cleveland.com's City Hall reporter nor its ace metro columnist were instructed to report on what is, once again, a significant news story affecting the most powerful elected leader in Cleveland, and by extension, his entire administration and the residents he governs, why not? If the information was shared in those off-the-record meetings, what good are those meetings if but to pass along news in a situation and environment that almost guarantees a sympathetic ear with no ensuing headlines?

Cleveland.com keeps proclaiming, via the public relations services of Robert Falls Communications, that "We are the stories we share." Let this be yet another reminder they are also the stories they don't share. 

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