CLEVELAND — Ward 7 City Councilman Basheer Jones announced on Thursday that he’s running for mayor in the City of Cleveland.
The announcement came after his campaign team activated social media pages this week. The councilman plans on announcing his run in person Thursday afternoon.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was first elected to city council more than 30 years ago, just five years after Jones was born. The councilman from Cleveland’s East Side says that’s part of the problem with City Hall.
“I don’t have enough experience to be so comfortable with the lackadaisical, lethargic behavior of City Hall, but I don’t have absolutely no experience where I don’t know where the bathrooms are,” said Jones. “I’m right in the middle.”
After a News 5 Cleveland report documenting how requests for public records can take months, and in some cases more than a year to answer, if they're answered at all, Jones tells News 5 that his administration would be much more transparent for journalists and the public.
Jones already has garnered large social numbers of media followers and says he plans on using those platforms and others to reach constituents quickly.
“We look forward to really just marketing the city,” said Jones. “I think that the Mayor [Frank Jackson] has done some good things, but they just don’t market it well.”
The 2021 race for Mayor comes as organizers are gathering support for bringing public comment periods to city council meetings. Cleveland became a council-style government in 1932 and appears to never have codified public comment.
“We can look at local politics today and see that experience alone doesn’t get us anywhere,” said Jones. “Look at the way this city is going in, we are at a fork in the road and if we continue in the direction that we’re going, the voices of the people will continue to be unheard.”
In his one term on City Council, Jones says he’s made his voice heard fighting for his residents. That sometimes has resulted in heated exchanges during committee meetings with people like the fire and police chiefs.
“A piece of coal cannot become a diamond without pressure and so pressure is necessary,” said Jones. “I think the real problem is people who remain silent, who don’t say anything. I think that’s worse than being a little bit testy, and I think we should be testy about certain things.”
Jones says that includes people in communities of color being overcharged when they interact with the justice system, but also first responders not having the support, training, or equipment they need.
In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Jones took a trip to Egypt which he says had a huge impact on him personally and helped him learn about his own history. He says he was tested multiple times during and after the trip for the coronavirus.
“What’s your message to somebody who says I appreciate the cultural significance of the trip but you shouldn’t have taken it during a global pandemic?,” asked News 5 Reporter Kevin Barry.
“I would say every individual has to make a decision in their lives about what to do to better themselves,” said Jones. “Every person.”
Now, Jones is looking to lead a city where the police department is still under a consent decree while the whole country considers how race can impact how someone lives.
“We want to make sure that our activists have a voice and have a seat at the table,” said Jones. “And at the same time, we want to make sure that our police officers are taken care of as well.”
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