Sam Allard / Scene
Basheer Jones announces his candidacy for mayor, (5/6/21).
Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones formally filed petitions to run for Mayor Thursday afternoon at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Jones said he had gathered upwards of 5,000 signatures, holding his boxes of signed petitions aloft, and energized a crowd of supporters with a launch speech that outlined his vision.
His administration would be enthusiastic, bold and transparent, he said, and would focus on reforming public safety, improving education and building an inclusive, equitable economy.
Jones has represented the neighborhoods of Hough and St. Clair-Superior on Cleveland's near east side for a single term on council, having narrowly defeated incumbent T.J. Dow in 2017. He said he has managed to remain his own person over four years at City Hall and vowed that voters would continue to have "one of [their] own" representing them.
"I am you!" Jones called out during an emotional moment in his 15-minute speech.
As an orator, Jones stands head and shoulders above of the current competition. Only Dennis Kucinich will likely be able to hold a candle to his charisma and personality behind a microphone. Jones' emotional remarks Thursday included biographical material about his own impoverished upbringing, his love for Cleveland and his belief in the city's greatest asset: "its world-class people."
"Did you know that during slavery, the Underground Railroad's code name for Cleveland was Hope?" He asked his supporters. "Station Hope. Hope is ingrained in the very fabric of this community. And we, as Clevelanders, continue to carry that ideal with us to this very day, whether it's the hope that the Browns win the Super Bowl, or the hope a mother has that her Black son will come home safely."
Jones invited all those gathered to join him on his journey and stressed the grassroots nature of his campaign and his future administration. He said that as an activist himself, he would work to ensure that Cleveland is a city where activist voices aren't silenced. (Jones has been one of the more vocal advocates for public comment on City Council.)
He was emphatic about his topline policy prerogatives. He repeated three times that he would be "an education mayor" and vowed to put the full weight of City Hall behind the schools. Jones has also, in recent interviews, been one of the only candidates to entertain the idea of defunding the police. He has suggested using funding as a bargaining chip with the powerful police union. Thursday, he said he supported a co-responder model and said that in general, public safety needs to focus on "rehabilitation, not incarceration," a comment that met with an immediate round of applause.
But the clear aim of Thursday speech was to invigorate his base. There were roughly 100 supporters gathered at the Board of Elections, and Jones said he was is eager grow his support over the next several weeks by hosting a kind of listening tour across town. He said he wants to solicit ideas about how to improve all aspects of Cleveland from city stakeholders from Ward 1 to Ward 17.
"Are you ready for a better Cleveland?" He asked his supporters. And when their response wasn't loud enough, he coaxed them on. "Let them hear you in Hough!"
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