For Cleveland city councilman Basheer Jones, the second try was the charm. A longtime East Side activist and radio personality, Jones first ran for council in 2013. He lost, but didn’t give up the fight. Four years later, after a squeaker of a recount, Jones won by 13 votes. He now represents Ward 7, which includes the St. Clair-Superior, Hough, MidTown and AsiaTown neighborhoods. Jones marks his first 100 days of service this evening with a neighborhood meeting and reception 5 to 7 p.m. at East Professional Center on East 79th Street. We asked him three questions ahead of the event.
Q: What have you accomplished in your first 100 days?
A: One of the first things I did was I took my community meetings away from Fatima [Family Center] to Rainey Institute. That was a really big deal. Every month I have about 200 people show up to my meetings. I wanted the people to believe that whether you’re in AsiaTown, whether you’re in St. Clair-Superior, whether you’re in Hough, no matter where you are, you’re a part of Ward 7. … We have a high homeless population. We have three shelters, Norma Herr, [Bishop William M.] Cosgrove and the shelter on Lakeside [Avenue]. I took these meetings to all these different locations, letting them know as their councilman that this is your ward. I dealt with homelessness growing up, so no matter what your situation is I'm here to service you.
Q: You are also the first Muslim councilperson in the history of the city. How did you find your faith?
A: My grandparents were Muslim. My grandmother and grandmother were Muslim, which I recall as orthodox Islam, or Sunni Islam. I don't really fall into those categories, but my mom and dad were Muslim. I'm Muslim. My children are Muslims. So it's a faith that really guides me in working with all of humanity despite what religion, despite what sexual orientation, despite what culture, all people deserve to be respected and deserve to live a life of human dignity. So that has been my guide. I'm not the best Muslim, but it is the standard I'm trying to follow.
Q: You've been an activist in the community for a long time, but this is your first time holding a political office. How has it been?
A: Oh my God, man, in 100 days I'm ready to take a vacation. [laughs] This is not the time for it. What I learned was, as an activist, I thought that the mayor wasn't doing anything. That's what I thought, honestly. But coming into this position and having a chance to sit down with him and really see the things that he's doing, I see that he's actually doing a phenomenal job. I think that the city has to do a better job at telling their story, and I told him he needs to tell his story a little bit better. But overall they're doing a phenomenal job.