East Cleveland Mayor Turns in Signatures for Merger

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East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton submitted 1,600 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections yesterday to begin the merger process with the city of Cleveland. 

If signatures are approved — and N.B.: legitimately obtained signatures were hard to come by in the Frank Jackson recall campaign — the current petition will establish a commission with members of East Cleveland's and Cleveland's city councils to work out an official merger agreement.

Once negotiated, East Clevelanders will vote yay or nay, after which Cleveland will ratify the decision via City Council fiat or citywide vote.

So there's still much to be done, and much that could stall (or derail) the process.  

In the first place, as in the Jackson recall fiasco, a huge number of the signatures may be ruled invalid. If the board of elections determines that those who claimed to have gathered and witnessed signatures did not, in fact, gather and witness the signatures they claimed to have gathered and witnessed, the signatures in question don't count. Also thrown out are signatures from residents who didn't vote in the last municipal election. 

Only 559 signatures are required, which should speak to not only East Cleveland's diminished population but its paltry voter turnout, but Mayor Norton told reporters yesterday he personally went door to door and was, via Cleveland.com's Leila Atassi, "encouraged by the their willingness to sign." 

Gerald Strothers, who helms East Cleveland's in-your-face anti-Norton 44112.news, said that on the streets of East Cleveland, "people think their signature means we're merged."

He told Scene there's so much confusion and so much apathy that residents — who still by and large vigorously oppose the merger — have in many cases resigned themselves to the proceedings. 

"We've been fighting too many battles," Strothers said by phone, referencing also the toxic dump site on Noble Road about which he and others have been clamoring. "Ask people. They think [the merger] is happening, that it's underway." 


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