Non-partisan politics in CH

In the December Heights Observer, Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg lamented the loss of non-partisan races in Cleveland Heights politics.

Some of our founding fathers argued against political parties as destructive of true democracy, often devolving into pettiness and narrow partisanship.

When my wife and I moved to Cleveland Heights in the 1970s, we were pleased to learn that voting for city offices at the time was non-partisan. As we moved into our new home on Euclid Heights Boulevard and prepared to vote in our first election for city council, we found ourselves receiving mail intended for the previous owner of the house. Among the letters to be forwarded were flyers from the Republican Party recommending lists of candidates who included Marjorie Wright and her Republican cadre. I called this curiosity to the attention of Richard Weigand, who was a candidate for city council at the time and a member of Heights Dems. So I guess I should confess my guilt in ending the non-partisan nature of Cleveland Heights elections—except that it was the Republican party that abused that neutrality.

Van Kleef and Rautenberg noted that registered Republicans in the city numbered 1,274, against 12,513 registered Democrats, and I suspect that that was probably the case back in the 1970s, where it was to Republicans’ advantage to run as Independents. When one is outnumbered by 10 to one, it makes sense to be unaffiliated.

But they also noted that there were 20,475 registered Independents, which would seem to argue for a non-partisan ballot.

I find a two-part[y] system necessary for fair and competent government. The city of Cleveland could use more Republicans running for office to keep tabs on Cleveland City Council's activities—especially necessary since the demise of daily newspapers, and the retirement of the political watchdog Roldo Bartimole. And our state government needs more Democrats elected to break the ideological hold of gerrymandered offices.

The authors wrote of Democrats' "[b]latant hypocrisy," but I suspect that blind non-partisanship can now be added to gerrymandering, shorter voting hours, limited voter registration, reduced balloting stations, and restricted mailing of ballots as forms of blatant hypocrisy.

Edward Olszewski

Edward Olszewski is retired chair of art history at CWRU, and a resident of Cleveland Heights since the late 1970s.

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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 4:44 PM, 01.30.2024