Barrett: Step outside the bubble for the Cleveland mayoral race

As the summer comes to a close and we find ourselves preparing for classes to begin, it can be very easy for us students to slip into a comfort zone (what is known here as “the CWRU Bubble”) and become oblivious to what’s happening in our environment.

Some who are reading this may be new not just to Case Western Reserve University, but to Cleveland entirely, and you might find that you have no reason to call this place home. Others reading this have been here for quite some time, or, like myself, were born and raised in Cleveland and find ourselves desensitized to and disinterested in the goings-on of our city’s politics. However, Clevelanders are in a situation in which complacency is not an option. By becoming members of CWRU’s community, we also become stakeholders in what happens in our local government. One thing you should know coming to campus this fall is that Cleveland is currently experiencing a highly competitive mayoral race.

There are a lot of moving parts to this race, and even if you don’t know the intricacies of this year’s election, it is still worth knowing who is running and how you can get involved as a resident of this city. Also, if you are interested in any form of humanities, social sciences or law this election might be of some interest to you.

State and national leadership begins with local politics, so for some, this election could be an opportunity to get involved in campaign work. For us as members of an institution of higher education, this election should at least marginally beg the question, “What role does a university play in the well being of the city in which it thrives?”

Regardless of being a student, faculty member or administrator, our response as community stakeholders to local politics can’t be complete apathy. This does not mean that we should put aside our work as scholars to devote all of our time and energy to this race. It does, however, mean you should stay informed about dates and locations of the primary and general elections, make sure that you are registered to vote and ensure that you actually get out to vote. Registering to vote as a student and finding your polling center can all be done online, and you can vote either at your polling center or at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections downtown.

In this moment, nine candidates are running for mayor in the city of Cleveland. They are as follows: Frank Jackson (three-term incumbent mayor), Councilman Zack Reed, Councilman Jeff Johnson, Brandon Chrostowski, Tony Madalone, Robert Kilo, Eric Brewer (former mayor of East Cleveland), Dyrone Smith and Ohio Representative Bill Patmon. The primary election will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 12; the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 7. If you are concerned about missing class to vote, keep in mind that you may be able to vote by mail (keep in mind that a professor is technically not able to penalize you for missing class to vote).

In closing, we are living and studying in the legacy of the 50th anniversary of the election of Carl Stokes, the first black man to be elected mayor of a major city. This is only one facet of a number of political legacies in which we work here at CWRU; we definitely stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Three years ago, when I began as a first-year student here at CWRU, I was disappointed by how few people on campus actually knew or cared about the municipal elections that year. Most of my peers didn’t know when the elections were, much less what would be on the ballot or where their polling center was.

I understand that student life is stressful, but in 2017, can we really afford to not be engaged? 50 years ago, individuals like Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Don Freeman stood in our place and participated in shaping the lives of Cleveland citizens as scholars and activists. You do not have to identify as a scholar-activist, but we can all step up and be empowered as citizens by staying informed, showing up and voting.