CLEVELAND — The statistics are staggering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Cleveland is the poorest big city in America. Thirty percent of Cleveland residents live below the poverty level, and half earn less than $20,000 per year.
During our wide-ranging interviews with all seven candidates, News 5 asked each how they plan to bring jobs to Cleveland.
Justin Bibb said we need to invest in education and affordable workforce housing to "create a better middle class."
He said Cleveland has a reputation as being "one of the hardest cities in America to do business with."
To fix this, he would partner with the county to create a regional economic development cabinet to serve as a "one-stop shop and one concerted effort to make sure we have a distinct value proposition to attract good quality jobs in our community."
Ross DiBello said Cleveland needs to build itself "from the ground up."
He supports programs to get residents involved in carpentry, electrical and other trade work. He said a focus on trade jobs would support other Cleveland priorities like eliminating vacant homes and creating affordable housing.
DiBello also proposed creating a public bank to provide low-income residents with an opportunity to obtain a low-interest mortgage, a home repair loan, or a small business loan.
"If you want to get off your feet, we've got to get you those legs", DiBello said.
Basheer Jones pointed to his own track record of bringing jobs to his ward.
"I was an ambassador and champion in my neighborhood," said Jones, who said he highlighted the positives to "let them know this is the place to do business."
He also worked with MidTown Cleveland and the city to offer tax incentives.
Jones said he wants to work with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to create the next generation of a talented workforce.
Kevin Kelley said Cleveland's biggest problem is finding and training qualified workers.
"Businesses will come. We will send a message to the nation once we’re able to match our citizens with available jobs," he said.
"Right now, I see that as the biggest weakness with our economy. The mismatch between available jobs and the skills of our citizens,” he said.
Kelley said we need to provide the education and training to provide the workforce that's needed today.
Sandra Williams plans to partner with Cuyahoga Community College to provide workforce training.
"We have over 5,000 open jobs in the City of Cleveland," she said. "We have more than 5,000 people who are looking for work or don’t have work. And it’s really about matching those individuals up."
She also called for an increase to the minimum wage.
"We are setting people up to fail. We're saying its good enough to pay people eight dollars," she said.
Dennis Kucinich said he would start with environmental reclamation.
"We can get people cleaning up neighborhoods, cleaning up streets, planting trees, cleaning streams that are running through the city," he said. "These are things that can be done."
Kucinich also said, "America must not lose its presence in manufacturing." He would work with his contacts in Washington, D.C., to help with job creation in Cleveland.
Zack Reed says jobs are tied to public safety.
"Where we had those surveillance cameras and where we had those officers walking the beat-- we saw crime dropped by 70 to 75 percent," said Reed.
"What happened after we saw crime drop 70 to 75 percent? We saw businesses start to come in,” he said.
He also said he supports increasing the minimum wage.
"It's not only enough to have a job, you got to be making a good wage," said Reed.