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White Out

The Mayor cashes-in the chips on his shoulder.


It made for the best of political props: Miles Standish Elementary. From here, Mike White, son of Glenville, had risen to become the most powerful man in Cleveland. It was all so symbolic. Fresh off the school bond victory, White, long criticized as the Downtown Mayor, was here to announce he would run again, this time as the Schools and Neighborhoods Mayor, an image he'd been fashioning for months.

Yet there was unintentional symbolism as well. During most of the school-tax campaign, White hid behind school CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, lest his unpopularity torpedo the drive. After all, his Finance Department was so error-riddled, it looked to be run by poetry majors. He'd lost his council majority, fought with police, The Plain Dealer, and the NAACP, and smitten enemies and allies alike.

His had become the politics of pettiness and dispute. More than a few people were whispering: Had the mayor gone nuts?

But at Miles Standish, White opted for the improbable yet again. This bomb: He would run no more. Supporters swarmed around him in the old gymnasium, enveloping him with handshakes and hugs.

Someone asked if hostility from city council and The Plain Dealer had ground him down. It was an obvious question, for White's aides had just spitefully thrown PD reporters out of the school. But in his least eloquent moment of the day, White dodged the question, admitting only that city politics had not made for a "qualitative environment."

As he thanked his friends and family, he sounded like a lonely martyr who feels the sting of isolation. He talked of fighting "all the battles we were told we would not win." He thanked his wife "for being close to me when no one else would be."

True to the end, he played it close to the vest, invoking the spend-more-time-with-my-family excuse for his departure. Besides, with the airport expanding and the school tax approved, he'd achieved his biggest goals.

He claimed he could've won reelection. Few in town were willing to bet against him. But his personality would've been the campaign's biggest issue. And winning would've meant four more years of vicious brawls -- Hizzoner against the rest.

At one point, White pronounced, "I love this job." But even to Mike, it was clear the job no longer loved him.

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