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Cleveland City Council, Ward 4

Term: 4 yearsSalary: $80,133Incumbent Ken Johnson, who has been on City Council since 1980, is being challenged by Gail Sparks, who runs a small business. The pair came out on top in the September primary. Ward 4 comprises the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood, including Shaker Square.
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    Kenneth L. Johnson Sr Ward 4 Cleveland City Councilman

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    Gail Sparks Real Estate Owner/Manager

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Biographical Information

What can the city do to create a more positive relationship between the Cleveland police and residents of the city's struggling neighborhoods? Should city officials do more to support the work of the Cleveland Community Police Commission?

Is there anything the city can do to improve the health of our children--specifically, to decrease infant mortality rates and to stop the scourge of lead poisoning?

What new city policies or actions would help Cleveland increase its population and employment opportunities?

Are there actions city officials could take to combat the opioid epidemic?

Age 71
Education Cuyahoga Community College/ Cleveland State University
Current occupation Cleveland city councilman
Campaign Phone (216) 421-8639
Not really sure what is meant by the term "struggling neighborhoods". I think residents in all of our city neighborhoods need a better relationship with the police after the experiences of the past few years. The city is already undertaking several important steps. First is having residents actually meet police officers and understand what they do; this can be accomplished with police at block club meetings and at events like the annual Night Out Against Crime. Every police district has a monthly community relations committee meeting that is open to the public. The city should make sure that police officers know about the neighborhoods where they serve, and provide training on how to engage the community. Understanding the impacts of poverty and available resources should also be an important part of a police officer's training.

The Community Police Commission is a very important body for the city because their role is to help make the Cleveland Police a true community police force that utilizes community and problem-oriented policing, bias-free policing, and police transparency. We need to be active partners in this work, and to help them develop recommendations for police practices that reflect an understanding of the values and priorities of Cleveland residents.
Children's health is of paramount importance. Much of the solution to both problems is education; it's important to educate people about these issues and the resources to assist them. It also will take collaboration by the City, residents, and other stakeholders to achieve concrete accomplishments to decrease both infant morality and lead poisoning.

Cleveland City Council is a leader in a collaborative effort to reduce infant mortality called First Year Cleveland, which includes the Mayor, the County, area hospitals and health leaders. We need to come up with actions now, especially for the minority community; black babies born in our area are more than twice as likely to die before the age of one than white babies. First Year Cleveland is working on a plan which will detail a more comprehensive approach to lower infant mortality. There have been three priorities set for focus in 2017: premature birth, racial disparities and safe sleep.

I do support the Mayor's efforts to focus on more lead inspections and providing remedies for residents. I also think the new leadership at the Health Department is a sign that the city is moving in the right direction.

In order to increase our population, Cleveland need to see improvements in two important areas, the public schools and job opportunities.

The schools have gotten better; the high school graduation rate keeps climbing as do test scores, although neither is where we need them to be. The city has partnered with the schools on several efforts, like keeping school buildings open after school hours for all residents to utilize their facilities. I think the city should continue to explore where efforts like this can continue. Supporting teachers is also an important step.

Creating job opportunities, especially good jobs that pay a livable wage, is also crucially important to our neighborhoods. The city must continue to work with employers to help retain and expand their businesses. Also important is a job-ready, well-trained workforce, where the schools play an important role along with other partners like Cuyahoga Community College.
Our country's policy towards opioids over the past two decades has had a disastrous result: the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history. Enough opioids are prescribed in the United States each year to keep every man, woman and child on them around the clock for one month. The actions the city needs to take need to be focused and in collaboration with other partners like the county, hospitals, social service agencies and others.

Research says an important first step is to just talk about the disease, give it exposure. Then, education and prevention efforts should be directed at every resident. The development of drug take-back programs, prescription drug monitoring programs, clean syringe/needle exchange programs are good ways to reduce people's exposure to opioids. Our drug court is another important partner to combat the disease.

An important step is for the city to train and supply the police and fire departments with the opioid overdose reversal drug, Naloxone/Narcan. In addition, the city should provide front-line employees who work in municipal buildings and who are most impacted by opioid overdoses with training on how to recognize and respond to an overdose, including how to administer Naxalone/Narcan.
Age 54
Education • (DPA): Doctorate in Public Administration specialization in Public Administration Expected (08/15 - 08/19), Capella University, Minneapolis, MN; • (MPA): Masters in Public Administration specialization in Public/Business Administration (05/13 – 05/15), Notre Dame De Namur University, Belmont, CA; • (BA): Bachelors in Arts of Science (08/10 - 05/13), MAJOR: Psychology, MINOR: Nonprofit Administration, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH; • (AA): Associates in Liberal Arts MAJOR: Psychology (06/08 - 05/11), Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH
Current occupation Real Estate Owner/Manager
Qualifications for office I am an experienced manager with close to 30 years of accomplishments in community-based settings. Early in my career I served as the Department Manager of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Women’s Health Care Center where I supervised a staff of 24 and collaborated with community partners to ensure best practices for my clients. My government-related experience includes nearly a decade with the Board of County Commissioners in Cleveland; first as an Eligibility Specialist and later as a Case Manager with responsibility for the effective coordination of budgets and services for the County’s most vulnerable citizens. For the past 20 years, I and my husband, Brian, have owned a realty company that specializes in providing decent housing to low income renters. Most recently I operated a handbag boutique on Larchmere that I used as a forum for women entering or reentering the workforce in connection with Dress for Success. I hold a Master’s in Public Administration and am a Doctoral Candidate in Public Administration.
Campaign Phone (216) 372-3828
Email address gail@sparks4council.com
Twitter @Buttergl
The city can require that all police participate in an 8 hour cultural competency and a 40 hour mental health first aid training. The trainings would help the police in their response to working within the community. Recruit new cadets from area high schools. Hire more African American officers. Require that all officers wear a camera that cannot be turned off. Equip all police vehicles with computers. Fully fund the police mini stations in each ward.

Yes the city of Cleveland must fully support the work of the Cleveland Community Police Commission to insure that all of the requirements are met to create a system void of the systemic bias and violence in our communities.
Lead poisioning of children is an epidemic in lower income areas, particularly in the burnt out, boarded up areas of Cleveland, that have very old poorly maintained housing stock, and which are largely African American. The rate of death for black babies is nearly 3 times that of white babies. African American women with college degrees are more likely to see their babies die than those that haven't graduated from high school.

The city must work with small community agencies that have been doing the great work in the community to fund education programs and put the community to work these steps are so important to the reduction of health disparities. Addressing the unemployment rate of African American men between 16-65 years of age can reduce the rate of infant mortality, studies have shown that employed African American men are more likely to be married. Two incomes households are less stressful than households headed by single moms. Reducing stress and racism is paramount to tackling the infant mortality issue.

To combat the lead poisoning crisis the city has to stop using our babies as lead detectors. The lifetime cost of the behavioral and health issues that lead to chronic disease, disability and early death are to high a cost to pay. We can continue to pay for doing nothing or we can work with Councilman Jeff Johnson (and his successor) to insure that his lead safe ordinance is placed up for a vote in council.
Change the focus of spending tax dollars from development of property and retail to attracting and starting businesses that create good jobs at livable wages. Ensure that local residents are working on whatever development projects are started by investing substantially in job training in the building trades, and require that the Building Trades Unions eschew requirements that keep many unemployed men and women out of the union.

In addition, we must work to improve the number of students that not only graduate from high school but have tangible skills that will help them in the workforce. The current graduation rate of 33% is unacceptable and is not a draw to families with small children that want to move back into the city, Teaching entrepreneurship is important to moving the men an women from unemployment to creating a job market where no one is left behind.

Everyone is not going to attend college and we must be willing to figure out other ways to transition students from high school to employment. We need job training centers and additional vocational schools. Finally, I want to work with Cleveland City Council and business leaders to make sure that every youth that wants summer employment are able to work. Studies show that employed communities are safe communities and safe communities are places where people at willing to put down stakes.
The city of Cleveland has served as a trendsetter in the issue of addiction for more than 20 years. The Free Clinic now Circle Health has housed a Harm Reduction Program to combat the impact of heroine addiction. In addition, the city must make sure that EMS, Police, Fire and City Clinics, Schools, Community Centers and Recreation staff are prepared to handle overdoses by making sure that narcan is available and that the staff know how to use it. The schools, community centers, recreation centers and clinics are great partners to teach children and parents about the dangers of addiction.

However, we cannot ignore other factors that impact opioid use. Opiod abuse has long been a problem in lower income communities where unemployment and crime is rampant, and other health problems abound. The supply of opioids is directly related to the criminal trade of such drugs and is the result of a high rate of poverty in Cleveland. We must also hold accountable the drug companies and others that facilitate the supply.

In the opioid crisis we cannot forget about the other risky behaviors and the impact on the community. As a public health emergency we must make sure that we have foster care services, treatment services, health services, housing services, and everything that would impact a persons overall health available to people that are seeking services.

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