Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stuart Garson: A new job overseeing an old problem.

STUART GARSON'S new political task in Cleveland is a calculated burden by an optimistic man. "I have a good sense of humor," the new Cuyahoga County Democratic chairman told me on the phone the other day while laying out his vision of returning the corruption-decimated party to its once-overpowering role in state and national politics.

Holy Garofoli! Here is a successful 61-year-old trial lawyer who has just succeeded Jimmy Dimora, the party boss who resigned under the ongoing suspicions that he is corrupt. And Garson has now agreed to the unthinkable: Bringing order to chaos.

Garson is well aware of the Democrats' (read: county's) plunge in recent years, not the least of which is a two-year federal investigation into alleged corruption by County Commissioner Dimora, Auditor Frank Russo and all sorts of bribers and bribees ranging through the political, business and intersecting familial universe along Lake Erie.

"Yes," he concedes, "we're battered." But he sees the problem as systemic: heavy baggage that has created an image of a Cleveland that is a malfunctioning incorrigible never more than moments away from vanishing in that lake. (In the past, when I've written things like this, somebody always stands up to yelp without saying why this is an inapt description. And that was long before LeBron left town.)

For one thing, Garson says, the exodus of young people from the city has taken its toll on the city's health - social, enconomic and political. In a few minutes, he is beginning to sound more like a sociologist than a politician. "We've got to turn around this loss of our young people and find ways to keep them here."

But he finds hope in the new charter government that will soon be in place - ridding the county of several major offices (fixtures! ) and assigning the governance to an executive and county council. Or as he puts it: "New management authority on steroids."

Well, a lot of people, namely the Democrats in this state, are hoping that somehow true change is on the way. To support his optimism, Garson will have to have to find the wit and muscle to prevent the boulder from rolling back down the hill.

(P.S. For those in the dark, Tony Garofoli was once a co- chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.)

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