Battle to replace Cleveland’s longest-serving mayor heats up at Tuesday debate

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Cleveland mayoral debate

CLEVELAND (WJW) – The battle to replace Cleveland’s longest-serving Mayor Frank Jackson is heating up.

The first of two debates hosted by the City Club of Cleveland and Ideastream Public Media was held Tuesday night and moderated by Ideastream Public Media Senior Host/Producer Rick Jackson.

All seven candidates vying for the position participated in the event which covered topics including, but not limited to, racial equity, public safety, housing issues and health equity.

Due to the pandemic, community questions were pre-recorded and the public could watch the debate in real-time online.

The 90-minute debate began with the issue of public safety.

Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed both promised to add more officers, but also with better training.

“People want to be protected,” said Kucinich, “They’re stretched right now.”

“We need a police force that is going to be proactive,” said Reed.

Current Councilman Basheer Jones talked about a comprehensive approach, but also how officers put their lives on the line every day and how they need to have the proper equipment.

State Senator Sandra Williams, businessman Justin Bibb and current City Council President Kevin Kelley also talked about needing a layered approach to policing that would include support for mental health issues. 

Attorney Ross DiBello called for “accountability, accountability, accountability,” with public safety and all issues facing the city. He said that’s why he’s running.

All of the candidates agreed that there’s a need for better “racial equity” in the city and more “transparency” in government.

Cleaning up “brown spaces” in the city so that they can be used for development and housing was also a priority for the candidates and the need for fair and affordable housing. 

“We need to do a better job with more access to permanent housing, to better support a pathway to having a life with dignity,” said Bibb.

“That’s one of the ways to bring down violence,” said Jones. “When people own their homes, they have a different understanding of their community.”

Williams says something must also be done about escalating property taxes.

“We are pricing people out of the market and we have to stop,” said Williams.

The next debate is scheduled for August 17 at 7:30 p.m. on WVIZ and WCPN, and as well as being live-streamed online.

The planned topics for that debate are education, jobs, the economy, environmental issues and transportation.

The non-partisan primary will be held on September 14.

Early voting starts on August 17.

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