Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich, who once said he wanted to be mayor for at least a decade before climbing up the ladder into state or national politics, suddenly has found himself the target of a recall attack after only 135 days in office.
Yesterday, a grass roots organization, the 20th Congressional District Caucus, launched a drive to collect 37,000 signatures and place the question of his remaining as mayor on a June 6 ballot.
The caucus represents, white ethnic Westside wards, including Kucinich's own Ward 7, an area that overhelmingly supported him in the November election that made him, at 31, one of the youngest big-city mayors in the nation.
After filing an affidavit with City Council that accused Kucinich of misconduct in office for firing controversial Police Chief Richard D. Hongisto and a range of other charges, the caucus started circulating petitions in front of the downtown statue of Tom L. Johnson, a circa 1900 reformist mayor who Kucinich once said he admires and attempts to emulate.
Recalling a mayor is difficult under the Cleveland charter. The 37,000 signatures must be collected within 30 days and only those who voted in the last municipal election are eligible to sign.
Also, all of the big-name politicians who have been opposed to rebel Democrat Kucinich are on the sidelines, including the Republican and Democratic Party organizations.
Herbert J. McTaggart, caucus president, said the group will field 1,000 volunteers. In their favor is the timing of a special election next Thursday on an emergency tax increase for Cleveland public schools. More than 150,000 voters are expected to show up at the polls, and volunteers will be on hand with recall petitions.
Also favoringthe recall campaign is a surge of public opinion against Kucinich ever since his Good Friday firing of Hongisto on prime-time television viewed by almost 500,000 people.
Kucinich, angrily refuting charges of official corruption lodged against him and his administration by Hongisto, berated the former San Francisco sheriff who Kucinich once said was the best polic chief in the nation.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]papers and television stations. The letters favored Hongisto by 4 to 1, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial writer who said he could recall only two previous outpourings so lopsided. These followed the 1969 news of the Mylai massacre in Vietnam and the 1974 pardon of President Nixon by his successor, Gerald R. Ford.
Hongisto has fueled the public clamor with numerous speeches accusing Kucinich of being more Tammany hack than Johnson reformer. Hongisto's own political stock has skyrocketed to a point where he said he has considered seeking elective office in Cleveland.
It is a strange twist that Hongisto who in San Francisco formed a coalition of minorities that included blacks and gay rights activists, should be embraced so warmly in a city where busing and gun control are widly unpopular issues, where an abortion clinic was recently firebombed and where politicians score election-year points by raiding pornography stores and houses of prostitution.