After Jackson - Episode 3: Basheer Jones And Sandra Williams

Mayoral candidates Basheer Jones and Sandra Williams in interviews at the Idea Center.
Mayoral candidates Basheer Jones and Sandra Williams in interviews at the Idea Center. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
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Basheer Jones is relatively new to Cleveland politics. He’s in his first term as a member of Cleveland City Council.

But he’s an experienced public speaker. He did spoken word poetry as a student at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood. For a few years, he was a host on Radio One stations in town. 

And he has almost 30,000 followers on Instagram. He shares what’s on his mind and promotes events. He reacts to media coverage of his campaign. He tells his followers to make sure they’re registered to vote. He’s in a running digital dialogue with his base.

When Jones sat down at the Idea Center to discuss the number one issue on voters’ minds this year, he said it depends on where you are in Cleveland.

“You go to parts of the East and parts of the West Side, they will say safety, safety is a big issue. But you may go to another part and they may say a food desert,” he said. “And I think that the next mayor has to understand that ... even though we are separated by a bridge, we shouldn't be separated by an understanding that we are one Cleveland.”

If elected mayor, Jones said, he would create an Office of Grief and Condolences to provide support for people who have faced trauma and an Office of Youth Empowerment to invest in the city's young people.

Basheer Jones sign

Jones, 36, criticizes Cleveland’s political leadership for being unwilling to hand over power to a new generation. “We step on caterpillars before they get the chance to become butterflies. We don't prepare our young,” he said. [Annie Wu / Ideastream Public Media]

Sandra Williams won her first election to the state legislature in 2006. She worked for State Representative Annie Key, and when Key made a run for the state senate, Williams ran for her House seat.

Williams led the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, and when she was term-limited out of the House in 2014, she won her seat in the State Senate.

Several of her Democratic colleagues in the legislature have endorsed her.

Williams is the only woman in the mayor’s race. If she wins, she’ll be the first Black woman elected mayor of Cleveland.

“Our city needs a woman,” she said at her campaign launch in May. “A woman who has the history of delivering real results to the city of Cleveland. Not somebody who’s going to come up, first time, never did anything for the community, but somebody who’s been delivering for 20 years.”

Before she got into politics, Williams worked as a probation officer and as a jail corrections officer. She served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Like many of the candidates running for mayor this year, she said public safety was the top issue. Williams isn't interested in defunding the police, but she supports partnering law enforcement with social workers to answer certain calls for service.

Sandra Williams campaigning in Cleveland's ward 1

I want everybody to come out and vote because when you vote, you get to set the stage for who is going to be at the head of the table when it comes to decision making. And if you get the wrong person in there, we're just going to have four more years of a disaster, Williams said. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]


Follow “After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor” on NPR One, iTunes or on your favorite podcast platform. Or catch it every Wednesday at 9 a.m. on the “Sound of Ideas” on 90.3 WCPN.

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