In Ward 11 on Cleveland's eastside, the city council race has a lot of people talking. One reason - there was no primary last month to determine which candidate residents were leaning toward. Also, accusations of "dirty politics" have surfaced - along with the question "do residents care about a politicians past versus the work the candidate can do for the community?" 90.3 WCPN's Tarice Sims examines the campaign trails of two council hopefuls in Collinwood who are doing what they feel is necessary to win votes.
Tarice Sims- For nearly 24 years Mike Polensek has been councilman in Ward 11. In that time population the area has gone up. Latest census data shows there are nearly 24,500 residents in the area - that's up from just under 23,000 in 1990. Cleveland's overall population has dropped. More businesses are also in the community. Tops, Jackie Chen's, and Family Dollar are only a few of the stores that have provided an economic boost for the racially diverse neighborhood. One of the businesses Polensek helped get off the ground is Mark's Time-Out Grille on Lake Shore Boulevard. Owner Mark McGraw established his business seven years ago, while living in Lyndhurst. The Collinwood native came back a year ago, and started positioning himself to fulfill a dream - running for councilman of Ward 11. McGraw says he finally made the decision last June, much to the surprise of the incumbent.
Mark McGraw- He's portrayed me as a friend who's stabbing him in the back sometimes but Mike Polensek doesn't have much of an inner circle in this ward. You know I'm not doing it because I have a personal problem with him; I'm doing it because I'm the better candidate.
TS- Last year, McGraw was acknowledged as "Citizen of the year" by residents including Polensek for, among other things, helping to build a local park. But more recently Polensek has painted a very different picture of his opponent. He makes a point of telling voters McGraw only moved back to Collinwood last year. And the council President says a patron of his Time Out Grille left drunk and drove into a postal worker. Although the mail carrier survived a lawsuit is pending. These are only two of the issues Polensek brought to light. And he says it is all valid information in a campaign race.
Mike Polensek- Why should someone who runs for public office be exempt from having their past on display as my past has been on display for 24 years. See, that's a real moral and ethical issue. For 24 years in this business I've kept my nose clean.
TS- Polensek laughs at the term "dirty politics," saying he's simply spreading the truth. Cleveland State University communications professor Dr. Richard Perloff teaches political psychology and campaign advertising. He describes the term as personal attacks on a political opponent, and says unfortunately it's become more of the norm in politics. But Perloff says a candidate's past is a concern for many voters.
Richard Perloff- What may happen especially in these races where people aren't that concerned, the voters - is they may hear the charges and they may not hear the response. They may, especially if the charges come from a high creditable source somebody that's well known, they may at one level believe it. And unless the opponent beats it back with a stick and argues against it either ferociously or even with humor then the negative campaign charge can stick.
TS- Despite such opinions McGraw has based his campaign on leadership. He acknowledges that Polensek has done a good job, but he says he can make the ward better. He wants to improve economic development and re-establish the presence of a councilman in ward 11. Simply put McGraw says he wants to stick to the issues.
MM- I've been portrayed as all sorts of evil people or evil person that I am but none of it's sticking because people know who I am and I don't think they like dirty politics.
TS- McGraw says he has a lot of supporters because of his presence in the Collinwood area. He adds a large number of police officers and firefighters are among them. Polensek says he still feels he has the upper hand given his tenure and reign as President of City since 1999.
MP- We're gonna have a new mayor. We've got to have a council, what I believe to be a seasoned council, a council that has experienced that's going to hit the road running with the next mayor, because both mayoral candidates, both Jane Campbell and Raymond Pierce have never served in city government. They've never held public office they've never served in an administrative position here or an elected position. So, they're going to be walking on un-chartered territory. And, city hall is not an easy place to operate and to navigate around.
TS- Without a primary election results it's hard to tell who ward 11 residents are going to vote for, which is keeping both candidates on their toes. With a growing community that both candidates say can improve, they are aware that voters will take into account all the information presented to them prior to November 6th. In Cleveland, Tarice Sims, 90.3 WCPN News.