Saturday, July 21, 2007

'Go to Jail or the Cemetery'

Cleveland City Councilman's Letter Tells Teen 'Go to Jail or the Cemetery'

CLEVELAND — A city councilman fed up with crime told a teenager with a record that goes back two years to "go to jail or the cemetery," prompting the young man's mother to complain that the letter was threatening.

Was the letter from Councilman Michael Polensek a threat or a warning from a public official to a thug to get out of the neighborhood?

"I think of it as a death threat to my son. It's real simple," Tonya Lewis, mother of Arsenio T. Winston, 18, said Thursday. She said her son wasn't available for an interview but might be reached at another time.

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Polensek, Cleveland's longest-serving council member with 28 years, wasn't backing down.

"I'm not wrong on this issue," he said Thursday. He said the letter wasn't intended as a threat.

Polensek, who has had four vans stolen, mailed the letter last week after learning that Winston had been arrested in the blue-collar Collinwood neighborhood on July 3 on drug-trafficking charges.

"You are a `thug' and you know what," the letter said. "There are only two places you will end up at the rate you are going — that is, prison or the nearest funeral home."

The letter said Winston "must be dumber than mud" to get arrested, called him "you crack dealing piece of trash" and said "only a moron" would get involved in an alleged assault on a police officer.

The letter was signed: "Go to jail or the cemetery soon — Michael D. Polensek." Polensek said the signoff was meant to highlight the likely outcome of Winston's lifestyle.

Winston, who was charged with aggravated assault in 2005 and spent three months in juvenile detention, was arrested last year in the alleged assault on an officer but the case was dismissed. He is out on bond on the drug trafficking charge.

Polensek and Winston have a history. Polensek told Winston and his companions last year about complaints of broken glass and drug-dealing in a playground and asked them to clean up after themselves.

Winston, then 17, refused to shake hands, told Polensek to kiss his rear end and said he was heading for an NFL quarterback's job, Polensek said.

"I am so glad that you are now 18 years of age, because now you are an adult and can no longer hide behind the juvenile court system, Mr. Quarterback, loser," Polensek said in the letter.

Polensek made sure the letter got maximum exposure, sending copies to the mayor's staff, police commanders and to The Plain Dealer.

Polensek said he often writes blunt letters to troublemakers in his neighborhood and makes no apologies for the one to Winston.

Winston's mother said she wouldn't defend his lifestyle. "I don't approve of anything, any illegal activity," she said.


Anonymous Kimberly F Brown said...

The Un-Suspected Truth about War on Words

For years, the City of Cleveland has suffered tremendous downfalls and illnesses within our communities. From deteriorating neighborhoods, drugs, crack houses and gangs. Prior to this some wards in our city carried positive reputations for cleanliness, great schools and safe neighborhoods where our children could play without weary, and seniors joyfully sat on their porches reading newspapers with perhaps a cold glass of lemonade. But somewhere, some how this once booming city for greatness began to turn evil. Some folks blame this turn on the current “thug culture” blaming parents while at the same time hollering loudly “its takes a village to raise a child” while others who have the ability to dig deep and think observe the political climate of which this city must endure.

Recently Councilman Michael Polensek of ward 11 wrote an atrocious and vile letter to a suspected drug dealer, Arsenio Winston. Media coverage was massive after Winton’s mother Tonya Lewis took the letter to local media outlets hoping to get support but instead she got “beat down” verbally by some media outlets as well as a very small portion of community residents. With the city of Cleveland having nearly a population of 450,000, one could hardly say that most folks agree with his tactics when he (according to Polensek) has received a mere 1500 letters (emails) of support. This is less than .005 percent of Cleveland’s population.

As this story was unleashed, Polensek received national attention for his tough talk of trash talking, disrespect and name calling. Polensek boast about telling an 18 year old drug dealer that if he doesn’t change his ways then he would end up in jail or a cemetery and according to Polensek he could care less about which one of the two come first. Because of the “thug culture” and lack of leadership within our communities, people applauded Polensek simply because of his tough talk and fed-up attitude about the very few young folks who appear to have very little respect for themselves and their neighborhoods. I must add that I too was happy with Polensek’s boldness and apparent leadership, but then my brain began to actually work.

As I repeatedly watched Fox 8 news, I kept hearing Polensek brag about his 29 year old political career as councilman of ward 11. When Polensek initially became councilman of this ward there were very few to no blacks in this community. The Collinwood community was a place where crime and poverty was few so Polensek did not have to use a matter of severe – demeaning recourse to handle neighborhood thugs. If and when youth decided not to be manner-able to adults and authority personnel, they were easily reprimanded by their parental advisors. But since then the community has changed.

The unsuspected truth about “war on words” is this:
1. Polensek has been a city council member for approximately 29 years in ward 11
2. As council man, it is part of his job to take an active role in maintaining a neighboring and safe environment for all constituents in ward 11
3. As a councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched ward 11 deteriorate day by day
4. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched drugs enter ward 11
5. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched drugs develop in ward 11
6. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched drugs manifest in ward 11
7. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched the culture of ward 11 change from mostly whites to now – majority blacks
8. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched the drugs take hold of black families and youth in ward 11
9. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek watched the “thug culture” move in while blacks began to poison one another through illegal drug distribution, and black families began to disrupt in ward 11
10. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek didn’t care about the erosion of the black family institution until the drugs and “thug culture’ began to affect the white family institution in ward 11
11. As councilman for 29 years, Polensek now witness white families and their youth being influenced by the “thug - drug culture” in ward 11
12. As councilman for 29 years, once white families began to speak out and threaten to flee ward 11 or simply “get rid” of Polensek now that their children are being affected Polensek decides enough is enough in ward 11

The war on words between Polensek and Winston was not about a young black boy selling drugs in ward 11. The war on words was not about a racist! Polensek does not appear to be a racist! Polensek is what most see as “today’s” example of a politician – a community leader? The war on words was about a councilman saving his job. The war on words was about a culture of disrespect “thug culture” in a community where white people have become fed up with their council person after seeing their own children and grandchildren began to exemplify behaviors of which America has decided to characterize as being “Black”, “a piece of trash” and “worthless”. Unfortunately and fortunately, Arsenio Winston got what he deserved – a second chance depending on how you examine the situation. At any rate if nothing else, I take a notable review of any leader in this city for taking a risk to improve the community one block at a time no matter what the reason behind the cause of “action”. Let’s take the “ist” out of racist and replace it with “the letter E” which will then spell race – and focus on how we can all improve the “Human Race” to make the City of Cleveland great again!

Kimberly F. Brown
Cleveland, Ohio

Fri Aug 03, 09:53:00 PM 2007  

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