Feagler for Mayor
Unlike the ads from last year's exhaustive political season, this column is not authorized in any way by Richard H. Feagler, nor will it be approved by whatever law firm he might engage as a result of it.
If Feagler knew in advance that I was writing this column, he would be disconsolate, apprehensive and angry. Readers need to understand that this is a usual circumstance.
This message cannot be authorized, because I am nominating Richard H. Feagler as a candidate for the mayor of the city of Cleveland against his will. There is an election for this office next November, and we need a candidate with a fresh approach to solving the city's problems.
This approach is known as common sense.
For years, Feagler's column has carefully deconstructed what appear to be complex and convoluted social issues by simply raising the same question a reader would ask.
For instance, he once wondered why NASA Glenn Research Center employees were given time off to study hieroglyphs, observe an Indian rain dance and celebrate Bodhi Day, while, to respect diversity, Christmas carols on the public-address system were canceled. What, he asked, did any of this have to do with space?
His political savvy extends well beyond the bounds of our city. He summed up the 2004 presidential election as "all just a mud-wrestle. And somehow, the mud splashed on all of us."
You can bet that Mayor Feagler would spend a lot of time contemplating why there are not more jobs here, why more planes are not landing at Burke Lakefront Airport and why we should spend millions to move a perfectly good port.
In fact, no candidate will wonder more than Feagler.
A few weeks ago, the daily newspaper chided a mayoral candidate for knowing little about the city. They can't say that about Feagler. He knows Cleveland so well that he once described it as the one town in the universe where pain is unavoidable.
Feagler is far too reticent to volunteer for office himself, but in these desperate hours we need to call upon him to step forward. He has lived off the city's foibles in his newspaper columns for the last 40 years. Now, it is his duty to repay with public service the place that has given him so much prosperity.
On the official ballot, R-I-C-H-A-R-D - H. - F-E-A-G-L-E-R will be more mayoral than just plain "Dick." The nice thing about the Feagler name is that there are not 10 or 12 candidates running under it — like O'Malley, Corrigan or Russo — yet it is recognized enough to attract votes.
Richard H. Feagler and I have been friends for many years and I do not want to drop him off alone at City Hall. I would agree to be his campaign manager and, together, we would make this a better and safer place to live.
We would be for good times, too.
However, I must admit it will not be easy managing a Feagler for Mayor campaign. For one thing, he does not like to come downtown.
Another drawback is that he gets bored at city council meetings and most assuredly would refuse to attend. He never has been much good at suffering through painful and foolish proceedings such as executions and legislative hearings.
The fact that he does not return telephone calls is another challenge, especially when it comes to financial contributors who would want to know what they can expect for their money.
This attitude may have long-term implications. Instead of the expensive oil painting that hangs in City Hall to commemorate a mayor's service, Mayor Feagler might have to settle for a Polaroid.
Critics may say Feagler's work ethic does not stretch from sunrise to sunset. But in politics, this minor flaw will never be noticed.
He's suited to the political world in other ways. His appearance, for instance, is quite in keeping with the profile of the classic Cuyahoga County statesmen. Slightly overweight, slow in response and with a somewhat rumpled wardrobe, he will fit into the genre without an expensive makeover.
Feagler is friendly, too. Maybe not in the manner of a bartender or siding salesman, but he will say hello in a way in which his lips seem to move. I think he has problems with names, though.
Because he has worked so long as a newspaper columnist and television commentator — and, most recently, as an actor in little theater — Feagler, like Ronald Reagan, has superior communication skills that will complement his common sense. These two qualities will comprise the soul of our campaign.
He is an honest candidate, too.
The candidate will tell anyone who cares to listen that he does not want the job and, if elected, will not work hard at it. But he will be accessible.
Since he still enjoys smoking a cigarette or two during his day, the public will be able to meet him outside City Hall even on the coldest afternoons. These smoke sessions will replace press conferences and neighborhood meetings.
Although unhealthy and politically incorrect, there is something very democratic and blue-collar about smoke. It's symbolic of the mills and shops that gave jobs and futures to Clevelanders during the past century.
"Bring Back the Smoke" will be the campaign slogan and the administration's economic-development program. Instead of lawn signs, smoke pots would send a sooty signal from those who support Feagler. We have weighed the environmental vote and will chance the consequences.
The Feagler campaign platform will be simple, straightforward and designed to solve many of the seemingly impossible problems confronting the city.
A Feagler campaign will not support moving the Shoreway so that residents will have greater access to the lake. The campaign will promise to close the Shoreway as well as I-77 South.
Access has actually hurt Cleveland: There is so much access that people have moved elsewhere. The Feagler campaign will call for the closing of these highways so that people who work in the city and live in the suburbs have little access to their jobs. We will call this plan "human renewal," since it will make people move back to the city.
The Feagler campaign calls for a dramatic solution to funding the city schools that will draw everyone's attention. It calls for shutting off the water supply to surrounding suburbs one morning without warning.
Since Cleveland owns the water system, it makes sense that a city can bargain for a price to educate its children. If the people in Solon and Shaker Heights don't like the increased cost of water, the administration has a press release ready suggesting those suburbs find their own lake.
Of course, there will be cries of blackmail and hostage-taking, but when you don't want to run for public office again, what does it matter?
Unlike other candidates, Mayor Feagler will not express surprise that poor people live in the city. Richard never had any trouble finding poor people to write about in his column. Since Cleveland is leading the nation in this category, the administration will take advantage of the situation and create the National Center for Poverty with federal funding.
Scholars, politicians and reporters could spend a week here, eat on food stamps and live with an impoverished family. Tourists could see actual poor people shop and go to school. Those enrolled in Leadership Cleveland courses could spend a weekend in poverty before returning to their homes in Chagrin Falls and Westlake.
In turn, this tourist business would create jobs in the inner city.
Judging by his previous newspaper columns, the campaign will probably not support a convention center. Feagler does not think the city needs another large, drafty building built at taxpayer expense. He has wondered publicly why people would even want to come to Cleveland in the winter.
Finally — and this may be the best part of the platform — Feagler will not serve if elected. That way, the city can save on the salary of a position that has long gone unfilled anyway.
Please remember that this message is totally unauthorized by Richard H. Feagler, candidate for Mayor of Cleveland.
12:00 AM EST
December 15, 2004