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Reed is very particular about his word choice when discussing the recall effort.
"I wouldn't use the word frustrating," he says, leafing through the recall affidavit and sipping water at the 9th Inning sports bar at 18th and Vine. "Again, it was a distraction. An unfortunate distraction."
The distraction was not his, but one shared by the community and the district, Reed says. He moves on to the East Patrol project. He says there's a misperception in the Wendell Phillips neighborhood that the city gobbled up the site through eminent domain. He stresses that 15 of the 128 properties were taken by eminent domain, and homeowners underwater on their mortgages benefited from the move.
"I have run into citizens who were relocated from the East Patrol site and have thanked me by saying things like, 'Hey, we didn't understand at the time. It was pretty emotional, but thank you for working with us,' " Reed says. "If it wasn't fair, I'd be the first out there with a picket sign saying it wasn't fair."
He argues that his experience being evicted as a child makes him especially sensitive to displaced residents. "We certainly couldn't compensate them for the time, the histories and the memories and the loss they were experiencing."
After two years of criticisms, Reed still manages to keep his head. He explains his zen nature with a story from when he was 15: A man confronted Alvin Brooks in the Ad Hoc office.
"He's telling him he's going to kill him, he's calling him an old man, and he's saying all this stuff," Reed recalls. "I remember standing there that day, scared, sort of shaking. And Mr. Brooks graciously stood there and told the guy, 'God bless you. God bless you, sir.'
"It's those examples of true servant leadership that compliment my own family values," Reed adds. "It kind of gives me that patience and drive to forge ahead."
As late lunch customers trickle into the restaurant, Reed starts talking about election night in 2011. His campaign watch party was at the Juke House jazz bar. His voice disappears, and he looks out the window with wet eyes.
"I didn't think I'd tear up again," he murmurs. He tries three times to start his story. Each time, he chokes back tears.
"I ended up crying, kind of like I am now," he says. "I remember thinking, Wow. I really won." After his victory was announced on TV, he went into the restroom to compose himself.
"My grandfather and my uncle, we were all in there," Reed says between sobs. "And they just kept on saying you really won and how proud you should be. We worked really hard. I usually don't tear up like this. I am so sorry."
Kenneth Reed Sr. died on March 30.
"The thing that makes me emotional is when I think about how my grandfather really wanted to help during the campaign," Reed says. "His health really continued to kind of get the best of him. He stuffed some envelopes. He had come down to the office; he couldn't do much. But he'd sit around watching. He said he wished he could do more."
After a few minutes, Reed dries his eyes on his shirtsleeve and composes himself. His plans for re-election are already under way. A glass bowl brimmed with contribution envelopes at a May 9 fundraiser held at a Gates Bar-B-Q on East Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard. And he seems poised for the next round of 3rd District politics.