Criminal records be damned, Ward 6 council candidates take shots at Cleveland Clinic

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Tuesday night’s candidates’ forum in Ward 6 didn’t dissolve into a debate over Council President Martin Sweeney’s political future, as some had hoped. But the gathering at Antioch Baptist Church on Cedar Road did illuminate some serious discontent in the neighborhood, which includes Fairfax, University Circle, and Little Italy. After 12 years of Pat Britt, the councilwoman who appears to have been known mostly for not returning phone calls, people are fed up. ... Britt stepped down in January to become City Clerk. Six people are vying to replace her in a special election next month, and four of them — James Thomas, Jr., Yvonne Grimes, Ernest Turner, and Billy Walker — made an appearance at Antioch last night. Once you got past the sight of four extremely unpolished people trying their damnedest to sound like politicians—they make Frank Jackson look like Lionel Richie—it wasn’t so bad. Some of them are also battling criminal records, ranging from drugs (Turner) to forgery and theft from the feds (Grimes) to, in the case of John Boyd, murder. But a little homicide couldn’t put a damper on the proceedings. Favorite villains of the night included the new juvenile detention center, which is to be built on a contaminated sight at East 93rd and Quincy Avenue, and the Cleveland Clinic’s ever-expanding reach into the Fairfax neighborhood. No one can argue with the wealth and jobs the Clinic provides, but the hospital’s not exactly popular with the poor, elderly ladies who are displaced by its development. Turner pointed out that the hospital is fighting to retain its tax-exempt status as a non-profit, “charitable” organization, while the evidence of its benevolence is scant. “I think charity begins in your own back yard,” he said. “A lot of us have been displaced.” “As you take our land, we want to see a part of that quality that you’re receiving,” Thomas added. Tough words from political novices. The question is, can they deliver if they ever reach City Hall? — Lisa Rab

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