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Mayoral candidates weigh in on future of Lakefront, ballpark, West Side Market, utilities

Some candidates considering closing Burke Lakefront Airport
Cleveland Mayoral Primary
Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 18:59:17-04

CLEVELAND — The West Side Market, our stadiums, and our lakefront are not only major tourist attractions, but they are synonymous with Cleveland. So what do Cleveland's seven mayoral candidates have planned for some of Cleveland's most vital investments?

5 On Your Side Chief Investigator Ron Regan sat down with all seven candidates to get specific about how they planned to spend your tax dollars.

All seven candidates support a plan to redesign Cleveland's lakefront.

Justin Bibb said he supports a public-private partnership to manage the long-term planning of the lakefront.

But Bibb, Sandra Williams and Dennis Kucinich said decommissioning Burke should be on the table.

"There are more crickets taking off and landing at Burke then there are airplanes," said Kucinich, adding he would propose building a lakeside park if the people approved it.

Ross DiBello shared the vision for a park, and was the only candidate who said he would close Burke.

"I would start the process of dealing with the federal government and hopefully decommissioning it," said DiBello.

Zack Reed said he proposed tearing down the terminal and developing that land while keeping the airport runways for the airshow.

The two candidates on the city council, Basheer Jones and Kevin Kelley, are the two supporters of keeping Burke.

"Burke is an important part of the Cleveland aviation system," said Kelley.

Kelley said it would be difficult from a real estate perspective to build on Burke because it sits on a former landfill. Jones said there is enough adjacent property to develop and keep Burke intact.

Professional sports teams are a valuable asset, often requiring taxpayer money. Currently, there is a taxpayer-funded plan to renovate Progressive Field.

Jones calls it a "good investment", but like a number of other candidates, called on the team's ownership to also invest in communities.

"The issue is that when you only choose to invest in sports teams and sports arenas and not invest in neighborhoods," said Jones. "We have to be able to do both, that's the key."

Reed said we must continue to invest now.

"We're going to continue to maintain these facilities because they need to be maintained, because we own them," he said.

Williams, Kucinich and Kelley said it's important to keep up with maintenance and keep our teams.

"God forbid if that would ever result in demolition," said Kelley. "That's what we have to think about as we move forward."

Ross DiBello was the only candidate who said it should be up to team ownership to pay for renovations.

"Those with more must do more," he said.

The West Side Market is a Cleveland treasure that's badly in need of improvements.

DiBello, Jones, Kucinich and Reed say improving the market comes down to improving the city's management.

"When you look at the problem with West Side Market, it's not the vendors, it's not the customers, it's management," said Reed.

Kelley, Bibb and Williams said the city should continue to own the market but should consider bringing in another operator to run it.

"We need an overhaul of the West Side Market, and the city does not have the resources to do it," said Williams.

Cleveland's utilities are some of the biggest assets the city controls.

Six of the seven candidates said they were not satisfied with Cleveland Water because of billing issues and tax liens placed on homes for non-payment.

"I have had many of my residents who fear that overcharging in the water department has caused them to lose their homes," said Jones.

Kelley said he was satisfied with the water department and said, "there has never been a foreclosure case that was initiated by the Cleveland Division of Water over a water bill. It has not happened."

Kelley also said the water is "good, safe drinking water" and that "customer service has come a long way."

Reed and Bibb said water department issues stem from a failure in leadership.

"Not having an actively engaged mayor overseeing that asset has been a major issue," said Bibb.

All seven candidates pointed to problems with Cleveland Public Power and agreed that expensive deals with coal-fired plants should end.

"Our rates are too high and our infrastructure is outdated," said Williams. "Your power is going out on a normal basis because of the infrastructure."

Kucinich went a step further saying he would reduce rates by 10%, stating CPP and Cleveland Water are "hoarding money" by "sitting on surpluses."

Kelley and Reed called for existing infrastructure to be used to bring broadband across the city.

RELATED: Cleveland is the poorest big city in America. What the 7 mayoral candidates plan to do about that.