Mayor Michael R. White Interview, Parts One – Five (video)

white-celebrates-gateway  mike-white-1989

Part One Link is Here

Part Two Link is Here

Part Three Link is here

Part Four Link is here

Part Five Link is here

Michael R. White was Mayor of Cleveland from 1990-2002. He was interviewed for Teaching Cleveland Digital on July 24, 2013. Cameras by Jerry Mann and Meagan Lawton, Edited by Jerry Mann, Interviewed by Michael Baron. © 2013 Jerry Mann and Teaching Cleveland Digital.

Part one covers Mayor White’s formative years in the Cleveland neighborhood of Glenville, living in Cleveland during the election of Carl Stokes in 1967 and White’s election as the first African-American Student Union President at The Ohio State University in 1973.

Part two covers his work with Columbus Republican Mayor Tom Moody, his return to Cleveland, working with and learning from Council President George Forbes and his election to Cleveland City Council.

Part three covers the 1980’s in Cleveland when Mayor George Voinovich and Council President George Forbes were in power. White then speaks about being elected Mayor of Cleveland, and his first challenge as Mayor: the baseball team wants a new ballpark, so White spearheads the Gateway development.

From Wikipedia:

White, who grew up in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, began his political career early on during his college years at Ohio State University, when he protested against the discriminatory policies of the Columbus public bus system and was subsequently arrested. White then ran the following year for Student Union President and won, becoming the college’s first black student body leader. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973 and a Master of Public Administration degree in 1974.

After college, White returned to Cleveland. He served on Cleveland City Council as an administrative assistant from 1976 to 1977 and later served as city councilman from the Glenville area from 1978 to 1984. During his time in city council, White became a prominent protégé of councilman George L. Forbes. White then represented the area’s 21st District in the Ohio Senate, serving as a Democratic assistant minority whip.

In 1989, White entered the heavily-contested race for mayor of Cleveland, along with several other notable candidates including Forbes, Ralph J. Perk Jr. (the son of former Cleveland mayor, Ralph J. Perk), Benny Bonanno (Clerk of the Cleveland Municipal Court), and Tim Hagan (Cuyahoga County commissioner). Out of all the candidates Forbes and White made it to the general election. It was the first time two Black candidates would emerge as the number one and two contenders in a primary election in Cleveland history.

In Cleveland, incumbent Mike White won re-election against council president George Forbes, who ran as the candidate of black power and the public sector unions. Angering the unions by eliminating some of the city’s exotic work rules, White presented himself as pro-business, pro-police and an effective manager above all, arguing that “jobs were the cure for the ‘addiction to the mailbox,'” referring to welfare checks. [1]

White ended up winning the race receiving 81 percent of the vote in predominantly white wards and 30 percent in the predominantly black wards.


George Voinovich Era as Cleveland Mayor aggregation

1 Interview With Senator George Voinovich, Cleveland Mayor from 1980 thru 1989 (video)
2 The Voinovich Collections from Cleveland State Univ and Ohio Univ
3 Mayor of Cleveland: The Comeback City from the Voinovich Collections (CSU and Ohio Univ)
4 Mayoral Administration of George V. Voinovich – The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
5 George Voinovich from Wikipedia
6 Voinovich and Forbes: The Era of Good Feelings (Cleveland Magazine 12/2012)
7 Mr. Ohio
8 The Great Divide – from Cleveland Magazine
10 George Voinovich Biography

11 George Voinovich, former Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. senator, dies 6.12.16

Michael R. White Era as Mayor aggregation

1 The Michael R White Interview (video)

2 Mayoral Administration of Michael R. White from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

3 Michael R. White From Wikipedia

4 Cleveland Reacts to Call For Unity (Philadelphia Inquirer 10/26/89)

5 Stepping Down – from Cleveland Magazine

“The private side of a public man: Michael White” 1990 Cleveland Magazine by James Neff

“State of the City” Address Delivered by Mayor Michael White at Cleveland City Club Feb. 7, 1997 (Audio)



Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – April 16, 1996

Ann Racco and her family are like hundreds of thousands in northeast Ohio who left the central cities during the last four decades for the suburbs.

But Racco is different from most. She is trying to build a link with the people and the communities she left behind.

“I really thought Christians should not be separated by mere logistics, by a few miles or the fact that you live in a mostly white community,” said Racco, a Medina County mother of two.

From her 7-acre slice of Sharon Township, Racco is acting on a Cleveland Catholic Diocese initiative by bridging the eco- HOnomic, social, and geographic distance of her affluent community to the central city neighborhoods of Cleveland.

Yesterday, Cleveland Bishop Anthony M. Pilla and other diocese officials held a news conference to present an action plan on how Catholics can respond to the bishop’s call to “build new cities where children will be able to live in decent homes, have sufficient food, and be properly educated for meaningful employment.”

Pilla’s Church in the City program emphasizes that the fate of central cities affects suburbs, and that suburbanites must be concerned about how their urban counterparts fare.

Through her church, Holy Martyrs in Medina Township, Racco and other Catholics are building a link to San Juan Bautista parish on Cleveland’s near West Side. Last year, they held a joint Mass, a meal, and other functions. In March, the parishes held a joint art show for their children.

Those contacts, though only a beginning, have helped transform how Racco and other suburbanites view their lives as Catholics.

“It has really changed my reading of the gospel,” said Racco, 39. “I can’t read the gospel in any other light than the preferential option of the poor” – that is, that God is especially open to the cries of the poor.

The transformation of Racco and others has come about as the Cleveland diocese tries to translate its Church in the City initiative into a program that Catholics can act on.

But even as the process touches its participants in a positive way, church officials are finding resistance from some who do not yet understand the message that the suburbs and the city share the same fate. “We have a long way to go,” said Pilla.

More than two years ago, Pilla first proposed a role for the Catholic Church in helping revitalize central-city neighorhoods, the former homes of hundreds of thousands of Catholics who moved to the suburbs along with much of the middle class.

To turn the proposal into an action plan, the diocese held a yearlong series of discussions with several thousand of the more than 800,000 Catholics in the eight-county diocese. The intitiative has drawn national attention and is being looked to by other dioceses as a possible model to follow, said Pilla, who is president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The plan calls for the diocese to build affordable housing, promote education for inner-city youths, help provide job training to the disadvantaged, and create other programs that revitalize inner-city neighborhoods.

The diocese also will provide $150,000 in grants to promote the kind of partnerships Racco’s church has developed with San Juan Bautista. One of the main goals, the diocese says, is to break down the barriers between communities that are created when people of different classes and races live far apart.

A major goal of the action plan is to achieve the kind of conversion in others that Racco went through last year. While it has many successes it can point to, the diocese admits the process will be a slow and sometimes painful one for the Catholic community.

The difficulty comes in convincing suburban Catholics that they have an economic and moral imperative to help revitalize the central cities.

The disappearance of the middle class from the central cities to the suburbs since the 1940s and ’50s has weakened inner-city neighborhoods, leaving them with high percentages of poor people who lack the financial resources and the political clout to protect their communities from decay.

To create communities in what was farmland, the suburbs spend more tax money on sewers, roads and buildings, while the same infrastructure in the central city goes to ruin. The economic cost is coupled with an environmental one as well, as the new communities threaten farms and forests.

As the city and suburbs drift apart economically and socially, the affluent communities do not view the inner-city problems as ones they should care about and help solve, the bishop said.

“We had never intended to put guilt on anyone, but what has been perceived by some is that we are blaming them for moving to a suburb, blaming them for trying to improve their family situation,” said Pilla in an interview last week. “We weren’t saying that, but we had to deal with that. We are not done yet.”

To that end, the diocese has created various agencies to educate its members and the general public about how urban sprawl can harm people and neighborhoods, both in the city and in the country. In the next two years, the diocese will initiate a Social Action Leadership Institute to promote the church’s social mission, and it will create a land-use task force to bring more of the urban land issues to the forefront.

That conversion will be a slow one, say others involved in urban sprawl issues.

“What we are asking people to do is to change the way they think about making decisions,” said Kevin Snape, assistant director and project manager of the Regional Environmental Priorities Project, which last year identified urban sprawl as northeast Ohio’s greatest environmental threat. “We are in a mindset, and the hardest job is to get people to look at something in a very different way.”

Pilla said the church could use moral persuasion, linking the initiative to religious teachings, but ultimately the change, for individuals, would have to come from within.

“We’re running counter-culture on a lot of things,” Pilla said. “We are talking about being one people. We are talking about the common good. We are talking about mutual responsibility for each other in a culture that promotes privatism when it comes to religious matters and really exults in the individual. I think we’re really struggling with that.”

Pilla draws hope for the initiative from the response of parishioners like Racco.

For her, the conversion was almost instantaneous. Hearing Pilla speak on Church in the City last year, Racco said she realized that being a Catholic meant reaching out to help others, including other Catholics, in a meaningful way.

She knows the understanding will come more slowly for others in the suburbs.

“I don’t think it is going to be easy, but I see some hopeful signs,” she said. “This is a movement that was not happening in my parish a year ago, and it is being resoundingly supported now.”



Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – April 19, 1998

For five years, Cleveland Catholic Bishop Anthony M. Pilla has pushed his followers to help revive Northeast Ohio’s older cities and to bridge widening differences between urban and suburban dwellers.

He is quick to admit his vision of regional harmony and rejuvenated cities is still far from reality. Pieces of that vision, however, have come into focus.

The broad, ambitious initiative Pilla launched in 1993, called “Church in the City,” has been translated into concrete steps by many in his flock.

For example, Church in the City has spurred Catholic parishes to participate in house-building and renovation; begun a program to teach teens the importance of revitalizing cities; formed a committee to promote regional planning to help older cities; and collected $150,000 in diocese and private grants for groups that promote Pilla’s vision of regional unity and city revival.

And, in what the bishop believes may be the most encouraging sign of success, Church in the City has started partnerships between suburban and city churches – partnerships that range from a Brecksville and a Cleveland church uniting children in choirs and sports activities, to five Akron-area churches forming a job-training program for unemployed city residents.

Pilla, through Church in the City, has tried to call attention to the racial and economic gaps created between cities and suburbs as Northeast Ohio’s population moves farther out.

The church’s interest is both moral and practical. Pilla has used Church in the City to prompt suburbanites to examine their moral responsibility to help create a better life for less privileged city residents.

From the practical standpoint, urban Catholic parishes have shrinking populations, dwindling finances and aging churches, while booming growth in suburbs has demanded new churches and larger parish staffs.

But have the early results done enough to rejuvenate cities such as Cleveland and Akron? Are suburbanites universally heeding the bishop’s call not to turn their backs on urban centers?

Pilla knows the answer is no. But for the spiritual leader of nearly 850,000 Catholics in Northeast Ohio, the returns thus far are cause for enthusiasm.

“We still have a long way to go,” he said last week. “But we’re seeing great signs of hope.”

Tomorrow, to honor the five-year benchmark for Church in the City, the diocese is holding a symposium on issues such as regional land use and redevelopment in urban centers. Corporate, academic and community leaders will join Pilla.

The location of the symposium, The Temple-Tifereth Israel in University Circle, is an indication of Pilla’s desire to have his movement influence people of all faiths, not just Catholics.

“The bishop’s vision never was strictly a Catholic vision,” said Rabbi Ben Kamin, leader of The Temple-Tifereth Israel. “The moral implications of it apply to anybody. I would like members of our community to study it and consider what we need to do to become involved in it.”

On Friday, many of the same land-use and urban-revival issues will be tackled by another group. The First Suburbs Consortium, a collection of mayors and city council members from the older suburbs surrounding Cleveland, will hold a conference in Shaker Heights with their counterparts from cities around the state.

Members of the consortium, formed by the leaders of such cities as Euclid and Lakewood, are concerned they will increasingly face issues of poverty and blight – as Cleveland has – if people continue to move farther from the center of Cuyahoga County.

The brainstorming session is on how to remain economically healthy. The goal is to build a strong, statewide coalition of inner-ring suburbs.

The timing of the conference, in the same week as the Church in the City symposium, is coincidental. But leaders of the First Suburbs Consortium acknowledge they and Pilla are allies.

“Bishop Pilla has made a moral argument,” said Judy Rawson, a Shaker Heights councilwoman and consortium member. “We have agreed with that analysis and said, `OK, let’s talk about remedies – practical, economic and political remedies.’

One of the obstacles Pilla and the inner-ring suburban leaders face is skepticism from many residents in outlying communities who feel they are being unfairly made to feel guilty.

Pilla insists no one is blaming people who have left city life behind. He said the key to stemming the migration is to provide strong schools, good housing and safe streets in cities.

“The answer is not to beat up on the people who live in suburbs,” Pilla said. “The answer is addressing the situation that caused them to leave.”

To that end, Pilla has called for unity among Catholics – whether they live in Cleveland or Medina – to combat blight and poverty in cities.

One example of Pilla’s mission is a partnership between Divine Word Catholic Church in Kirtland and St. Phillip Neri in Cleveland. The churches are working together to turn a former convent at St. Phillip Neri into a home for foreign refugees in Cleveland. Church members also have joined for fund-raisers, retreats and social events.

“The Church in the City programs are sometimes perceived as the suburban parishes going to help the city parishes,” said the Rev. Norman Smith, pastor of Divine Word. “Our goal is the two parishes working together.”

Since Pilla launched Church in the City, about 85 Catholic parishes and schools have formed partnerships, said Sister Rita Mary Harwood, the diocese’s secretary for parish life.

As for the future of Church in the City, the diocese has a plan for broadening current achievements and taking on new roles, such as raising funds for affordable housing projects, encouraging parishes to get involved in planning in their communities, and trying to involve people of other faiths in the initiative.

“This is about building relationships, about raising awareness, about asking, `What is my responsibility?’ Harwood said.