Ben Stefanski on Carl Stokes and Environmentalism

The following clip relates to the Ohio Department of Education curriculum for Social Studies education through:

  • American History Content Statement #31 – Political debates focused on the extent of the role of government in the economy, environmental protection, social welfare and national security.
  • World Geography Content Statement #3 – Human modifications of the physical environment in one place can often lead to changes in other places (e.g., construction of a dam provides downstream flood control, construction of a city by-pass reduces commercial activity in the city center, implementation of dry farming techniques in a region leads to new transportation links and hubs).



Ben Stefanski served as Director of Public Utilities in Carl Stokes’s Cleveland mayoral administration from 1968 to 1972. He was instrumental in helping to form the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in and around Cleveland as well as promoting the cleanup of Cleveland’s Lake Erie shore and the Cuyahoga River. In this clip, Stefanski recounts the story of Carl Stokes going to Congress at a time when mayors from across the country were concerned for the survival of their cities and sought Congressional support. He pays special attention to the impact Stokes had as a black mayor advocating for environmentalism.

Potential Classroom Applications

The environment is a topic very much in the forefront of today’s political and social debates. Looking at Cleveland’s first African American mayor as a beacon for environmental protection and accountability sheds some light on how a local politician had a nationwide impact. The clip can also be used to showcase the local political process.

Follow this link for the entire interview: Ben Stefanski Interview, 2005

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