On the day before the Cleveland municipal primary elections, city council candidate Michael Hardy is knocking on as many doors and distributing as much literature as he can in a final push to reach the runoff in Ward 11, where the incumbent, Brian Mooney, is seen as vulnerable.
Hardy received the endorsement of the Plain Dealer / cleveland.com editorial board last month and has emphasized government transparency and citizen engagement in interviews and public appearances this Summer.
He told Scene Monday that it still shocks him how slowly and ineffectively information from City Hall trickles down to residents in the Jefferson and West Boulevard neighborhoods. In fact, one of the first 'low-hanging fruit' changes he'll make, he said, is publishing a Ward 11 newsletter to publicize city services and ward resources.
"I'm all about communication," Hardy said, moments after finishing up a call to assign volunteers to polling places on election day. "City government needs to be more transparent and more accessible if Cleveland is going to join its peer cities and move into the future."
A long-time educator and an alumnus of the Cleveland public schools, Hardy wants to emphasize education and opportunities for youth recreation in Ward 11. He also wants to increase access to fresh foods, perhaps by establishing ward-based food co-ops, and to ensure that residents without cars have frequent public transit options.
Hardy insisted that he had no personal quarrels with anybody — "I am friends with everyone," he said — but acknowledged that while out canvassing, he has heard repeatedly that people simply don't know who their councilman is. Brian Mooney was appointed in 2020 by outgoing councilwoman Dona Brady and was not a resident of the ward at the time. He'd been a councilman in Brook Park and a Democratic precinct committee member in Lakewood immediately prior to his appointment.
"People don't see him," Hardy said. "They don't see what his agenda is. They see his mailers and say, 'This is my councilman?'"
Like other progressive council challengers, Hardy is skeptical of city council's appointment tradition and other anti-democratic "customs." He said he would have appreciated if former councilwoman Dona Brady presented options to the Ward and let voters weigh in on her replacement.
That's in keeping with Hardy's other prerogatives about civic engagement. He has been a vocal advocate for public comment at city council meetings and said he likes the participatory budgeting model for the allocation of American Rescue Plan dollars.
"The community has to be involved," he said.
His own preferences for those funds would be to use them to expand broadband access, improve digital literary and "reimagine education and job training" to create a workforce of the future that would make Cleveland competitive long-term with cities like Pittsburgh and Columbus.
Hardy said that Cleveland is at a pivotal moment and that he's excited for a new mayoral administration. He has been supportive of three candidates in the race: Justin Bibb, Dennis Kucinich and Basheer Jones.
"I believe that all seven candidates are capable, and I know I can work with anyone on the ballot," he said. "But those are the three who I think would listen to residents and really bring changes to City Hall."
Ward 11 includes a number of small businesses operated by immigrants and those with limited English language skills, Hardy said, and he's eager to work with the new administration to make doing business with City Hall for all businesses more straightforward and accommodating.
"Whoever the new mayor is, City Council needs to work with them," he said, "not as a rubber stamp, but really with them
to move Cleveland forward."
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