(news) District 10 County Council: A job no one else wants?

By Brandon Huffman

Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga County

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, OHIO — Amid the buzz of Donald Trump’s recorded statements condoning sexual assault against women, the sensationalism of a former president’s love life and endless conversations about Hillary Clinton’s emails, it’s hard to remember that this year’s election is about more than just the presidency. Yet all around the state of Ohio, county, state and congressional elections are being held to determine your next representatives.

Here in Cuyahoga County, five of these elusive-yet-real races will determine the next County Council members to represent Districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Or rather, two of these races will determine the next council members, while three of them — 6, 8, and 10 — have already been determined, since they have incumbents who are running unopposed.

Of these three unopposed districts, one of them (District 6) is in an area that’s spectacularly more appealing than the other two: it boasts the highest median per capita income, the second-highest population growth and the lowest rate of poverty among all the districts in Cuyahoga County, according to the county’s council website. The other two, 8 and 10, are at, or, near the bottom of these lists, in every category. And when considering only those five districts up for election this November, they are the bottom of the list.

District 10, consisting of University Heights, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, and Bratenahl, is currently represented by Councilman Anthony Hairston. Hairston moved into this position after his predecessor, Julian Rogers, left his seat on the council to take a job with Cleveland State University. Hairston was not initially elected by the citizens in District 10, but was approved in February 2014 by the county’s Democratic Central Committee, by receiving 35 out of 59 possible votes.

Since then, Hairston has run unopposed in two elections: the one in November 2014, and this year’s Nov. 8 election.

Due to recent oral surgery for Hairston, we were unable to meet in person and could only communicate through email. Nonetheless, the pride and optimism he holds for District 10 was evident in every statement.

“District 10 has one of the most diverse populations in the Midwest, if not the U.S. District 10 is also home to some of the most affluent people in the word and home to some of the finest institutions,” Hairston proclaimed.

He recognizes the problems affecting his district and plans to continue helping the most vulnerable individuals in his constituency. “[We need to] rebuild our neighborhoods, create jobs, provide necessary benefits to the community, protect … and provide access to quality pre-K education & scholarships for high school students attending college in Cuyahoga County,” he said.

Hairston is also well aware of the criticisms that his is a job that no one else wants. When asked about his, his answer suggests that he has said it more than a few times. “With any job, you will always have people who believe they can do better, so I welcome anyone to run if they feel they can,” he said.

Bri Gordy, who asked not to use her real name because of fears it could affect her job, is a community organizer for Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO here in Cleveland, and a lifetime resident of Cleveland Heights. She says she hears talk about Hairston often.

Among the concerns, for Gordy, was a measure passed by the County Council in February of this year, increasing the pay for council members beginning in 2019, and increasing yearly beginning in 2020. Hairston himself voted for the measure, which will increase the pay of the council members from $45,000, to $52,000 per year.

“I wish I got that much for a ‘part-time’ job,” Gordy joked, adding — in a bragging way — something about how she actually gets great pay through the unions in Cleveland, “I just want to see results. I actually live there (in District 10), you know” she added.

There also seems to be some speculation that Hairston (and others) are using their lack of opposition in unappealing seats to bide time and fund a springboard into political careers. Gordy points out that the current councilman for District 1, Dave Greenspan, is currently mounting a bid for the Ohio House of Representatives in November’s general election.

“That happens all the time in local politics,” she adds.

Rumors aside, Hairston is very proud of his time on the council. “I believe I have done a great job since being appointed, [and] then elected to serve the residents of District 10,” he says.

“[We] have been talked about in textbooks, movies and television,” he added. “Increased economic opportunities for residents, revitalization of our housing stock and infrastructure improvements, including robust public transit, are all key as we continue to transform our community.”