CLEVELAND — In part 2 of our series "Leading the Land," the candidates turn to Cleveland’s financial health amid COVID-19, how they’ll close the digital divide, and the sticky issue of renovating Progressive Field. All but one candidate, Ross DiBello, agreed to meet us at Cleveland Public Theater for a one-on-one interview.
First up: What’s the first thing you are going to do as mayor to help the city recover from this pandemic?
Kevin Kelley: “If you look at who has really been hurt by COVID, it’s been restaurant operators, street level retail, hospitality industry. We need to make sure, though using American Recovery Act dollars that we support that base of the economy.”
Dennis Kucinich: “I don’t think we can talk in terms of quote recovery from the pandemic because it’s quite possible that we may have this challenge of Covid virus or variant of it with us for a long time.”
Justin Bibb: “Well we have a moonshot moment, an opportunity right now with the relief fund we’re getting from President Biden, over $511 million. You know, if I’m mayor, I want to leverage that investment to a couple billion to make sure that we can have the capital we need to better invest in our neighborhoods.”
Zack Reed: “I take the $500 million that we have and I’m giving it to work with small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeline of our community.”
Basheer Jones: “You know, Mark, you are my favorite”
Mark Naymik: “Yeah, everybody says that about me, so somebody wants something.”
Sandra Williams: “The first thing I would do if half of the $511 million is left over would be to number one, help small business, make sure that they are stable in our community. I was able to just recently bring home $350 million to help clean up our vacant contaminated properties all throughout the city of Cleveland. I would love to create job hubs on those sites to attract businesses.”
Next up: “What else would be your priority with that $500 million?
Basheer Jones: “We will increase affordable housing here in our city. The next thing is we want to have better technology in regards of city services. The city should not take months for a simple business permit. The city has not been good for residents or businesses.”
Kevin Kelley: “So broadband is going to be a place to start”
Dennis Kucinich: “We want to make sure that we use the surplus funds and some of the American Rescue Act money for protecting our neighborhoods.”
Justin Bibb: “Obviously, this Digital divide is a major issue and Council leadership, and mayor missed an opportunity nearly five years ago to take swift action to eradicate the digital divide.”
About Progressive Field: Do you support public funding of the proposed renovation of Progressive Field? Why or Why Not?
Zack Reed: “Oh, yeah. I definitely do. We own it.”
Kevin Kelley: “I think it is critical that we keep the Guardians in the city of Cleveland. I want to keep the team because Progressive Field has been very good for the city of Cleveland financially.”
Sandra Williams: “Yes. I would support that proposal. If you look at the economic benefit that we will get from the investment in the Guardians Field, that’s about $3.2 billion.”
Justin Bibb: “Well, it is great economic and civic asset. The public has not been involved in these discussions yet. Even City Council found out at the last minute and that jus screams to me as a lack of transparency.”
Dennis Kucinich “I am the quintessential Cleveland Indians fan. You may not know this but in 1964, I was first runner up in the Cleveland Indians batboy contest. Wait a minute. I want to go back to this. Okay. Right. No, the lease is a black box. We don’t know what’s in it.”
In Wednesday's part 3 of “Leading The Land,” we take a look at the lighter side of the candidates as they talk about their favorite things in Cleveland. To see the full interviews with each candidate right now, click here.
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