Council President Martin Sweeney lost two of the most loyal members of his East-Side-heavy majority on Thursday when his majority leader, Glenville’s Sabra Pierce Scott, and South Collinwood’s Roosevelt Coats announced in tandem that the end of the month was their end of the line.
According to a few Council members, Sweeney was taken completely by surprise.
“It was a complete shock to me,” said Ward 11 Councilman Mike Polensek, a three-decade veteran. “And I can tell you, when Marty called me last night at 8:15, I truly believe he was as shocked as anybody. I have no reason to doubt that. Every indication was that they were running.”
Just last week, Pierce Scott, 50, told this reporter “bring it on” when asked about how it felt to have former political heavyweight Jeff Johnson running against her. But she admitted on Friday that she was just joshing.
“I said to myself, ‘He’s going to think I’m crazy,’ but I know what I’m doing. I knew I wasn’t going to be running. But it’s true. He can bring it on. I don’t care who’s in the race, I’m going to do what I can to ensure a victory for Sheri Cloud.” Pierce Scott has recommended Cloud, the executive director of a nonprofit arts organization with no political experience, to succeed her.
“This community deserves 110 percent representation,” she said. “You gotta be able to bring it every morning you wake up. I’m 50, and that’s not old, but I’m still a little shy of that 110 percent, and I’m not going to let this community down. My tour of duty has come to an end and I appreciate their support and their participation.”
Coats, 60, said he is recommending state Rep. Eugene Miller to take his place and that he would run to replace Miller. If unsuccessful, Coats said he would enjoy the break. “Over the last 21 years, I’ve been blessed to represent some of the finest people in the city,” he said. “But now it’s time to go and do something different.”
Both said they weren’t worried about how the sudden news might look.
“She was leaving, and I shared with her that I was leaving too, so we decided to announce together,” said Coats. “It just happened to be [a coincidence], and we began to plan how we were going to do it.” They said that their replacements — who Council will approve — would need time to file petitions and campaign.
In a statement Friday, Sweeney called Pierce Scott and Coats “tremendous assets” with the “opportunity to recommend their successor.” Miller and Cloud, he continued, “are both new, fresh and energetic possible additions to the Council land we look forward to working with them.”
And surely they’ll be looking forward to needed infusions from the cash-heavy Council Leadership Fund, which allows members in good standing to avoid arduous fund-raising duties and concentrate on other things — like staying comfortable.
Though some members, like Polensek, don’t believe the sudden defections will affect Sweeney’s majority hold, others wonder. Longtime Council observer Roldo Baltimole said, “I think it puts [Sweeney] in a vulnerable position if they can’t elect their own people to those seats. They’re two seats from the black community that he’d counted on as totally loyal.” — Dan Harkins