by Frank Lewis
Cleveland Council clerk Pat Britt, the county’s Democratic Party vice-chairwoman, officially took the reins of chairman Jimmy Dimora’s donkey at noon on Wednesday. Don’t expect a quicker clip; it’s clearly the same machine, just a fresher face.
Dimora has that whole federal probe thing to remove from his ass, as well as his now-hyper-scrutinized duties as county commissioner, so he finally stepped aside to let Britt do battle in this year’s 58 municipal elections. Don’t be disillusioned: Jimmy’s hasn’t relinquished his chair there yet, so keep them homemade meatballs and gaming chips coming. (Scene’s cover story this week, illustrating the party’s divide between young visions and old ways, shows Dimora still fighting for party dominance, despite all his reasons he really should keep his big mouth shut.)
After the press conference, Britt sat down with Scene to make clear where her attentions must now lie. “Can things improve?” she asked. “Absolutely, but we have to keep the focus on keeping the party united, working together. Whether you’re black or white or grizzly gray, the job of the Democratic Party is to elect Democratic candidates.”
But which ones? She smiles. “All of them,” she claimed.
Scene’s cover story also displays how the roots of the county reform effort have been buried by Republican opportunistic tinkering, at the expense of many rival factions. Britt agrees: “We have to approach this holistically, as a group. If it’s such a good idea, there’s 88 counties. How about we all reform?”
What about the party? Isn’t it tainted now by the specter of great doubt? “That’s not been my experience. So I don’t really know.”
Mary Devring, the party’s executive director, said the party holds 104 of the 133 partisan seats countywide. She conceded, however, that it could do much better “bringing everybody to the table.”
She’s aware that Lakewood Councilman Tom Bullock, an executive committee member, is gathering support now for county party bylaws reform.
“I see some things that are good in there, some things that are necessary,” she says. She won’t say which reforms might work. She’ll wait to see what comes forward organically. Our guess: The Democratic tapestry of appointed party leaders countywide will continue appointing political successors and yielding to the status quo — no matter how dirty it all starts to look.
Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones was another leader at Dem HQ on Wednesday to anoint Britt’s interim ascension. After the press conference, the actor/politician wanted to try on yet another hat. He grabbed new Sheriff Bob Reid’s drill sergeant’s hat and put it on. “You look good!” Reid said.
“Wanna trade?” Jones asked, and the whole room laughed. “Not on your life,” Devring said for Reid through the merriment. — Dan Harkins