CLEVELAND — In just four weeks, the Cleveland mayoral race will be narrowed down from 7 to 2 candidates. Early voting is now underway at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. On Tuesday, all of the candidates sounded off in a last-ditch effort to appeal to primary voters in a debate hosted by Ideastream.
The candidates answered questions from the residents of Cleveland for about an hour and a half, the topics covered included education, jobs, housing, and the environment.
Like last Tuesday’s debate, not every candidate answered every question, but they all answered at least one question in each category.
Here’s some of their answers regarding how each candidate believes they can better Cleveland’s economy.
Q: What is the biggest problem facing Clevelanders in terms of jobs and making a living wage?
Former Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed:
“The first thing is that you've got to put somebody in public office that understands that making $ 15.00 an hour is the way to go. The wages in the city of Cleveland, as it relates to having a good job, are just too low. One of my opponents literally stepped up to the plate, went to Columbus and got the people in Columbus to ensure that the people in the city of Cleveland could not make $15.00 an hour and I oppose that. I oppose the fact that you would go to Columbus and do that. Secondly, the thing we've got to do is, like I just said, we've got to ensure that we got an educational system that is second to none. If we put an educational system that is second to none, then these individuals in our wards and in our communities, business leaders, they will know then that a person that graduated from Cleveland Public Schools now is ready to go to work in your business, and then they're ready on day one to be able to go to the next level as it relates to working and making a business a better business. But first of all, we have to ensure that we have good wage.”
Attorney Ross DiBello:
“In 2012, I was working at the casino. They told us we signed up to $6.00 hour plus tips. The tips were supposed to be there. Our first biannual paycheck came and there were no tips for my coworkers. They went to their supervisors, were crying their eyes out, didn't know where they were going to go next. All four of those coworkers, black females. We do not have an economy set up for Clevelanders. We give away millions of our tax dollars to millionaires and billionaires, all for the promise of 700 jobs here,1,200 jobs there. But it's not me, you and our neighbors that see those jobs, right? So this crony capitalism has to end. We have to fund small and new businesses in the outer neighborhoods with our tax dollars not increasing the wealth of a select few so we can get reelection after reelection. We need more than service industry jobs down.”
Councilman Basheer Jones:
“It’s one thing about talking, but you got to walk it, and that's the problem is that a lot of people just talk, but it's no action behind it. When you talk about economy, there is no economy without education and that's why I want to make sure that I am going to be an education mayor. Not only is it important when it comes to economy and making sure that people all with the living wage, but you also have to make sure you are attracting business. We have to make sure that we have a city hall, a city hall that is prepared to bring in new businesses and that's what I've done in Ward 7. Pay attention to what we've done in Ward 7 and in only 2.5 years, take a year away from COVID, and the fourth year is not even done until January 2.5 years,” he said. “We brought in Cleveland Foundation. We brought in CrossCountry mortgage, over 700 new jobs to brand new hotels. Dave's Supermarket. If you want to be successful in this city, we must be collaborators. It is not you versus me. That's the only way we're going to take the city to the next level.”
Non-profit Executive Justin Bibb:
“As we claw our way out of this pandemic and fight for more equitable economic recovery, we need a mayor who understands how to put our people back to work, number one. We got to have a modern and responsive city hall that is business-friendly. Right now, we are one of the worst cities in the country to do business with, that has to stop. We've got to change that. Secondly, we have to better invest in youth employment programs that get our children back to work and invest in programs to address the adult literacy issue, to ensure that our adult workforce has the skills they need to compete.”
Q: How can Clevelanders be better skilled to work positions that are open?
State Senator Sandra Williams:
“Listen, there are programs available through the state of Ohio that we can utilize to help employers, train workers or potential workers for those jobs, number one. But number two, as the mayor of the city of Cleveland, I believe it's very important that we take money out of the city budget and work with those employers who need to match employees and employers. That'll be a part of my responsibility as mayor. And also, you know, I've talked to businesses around the city of Cleveland about this and they said they can't find workers. Well, I can. I can find a lot of employees or potential employees. So, I will have a program where we will sit down. I will bring the employees and the employers to the table and we will match those individuals up. But to really get to the root of the problem, the root of the problem is that we're graduating people who are not job ready and so the program that I have that I have been talking about will make sure people are trained and ready for school as soon as they graduate from high school for in-demand jobs.”
Former Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich:
“It’s time that we focused our educational system on preparing people for work that they can do immediately after leaving high school. The trades programs, at one time, in the city were very important and today the mismatch between skills and jobs available is pretty severe. Our people have the ability to be able to do the work with a little bit of help, a little bit of coaching, a little bit of training, that's why we need to reinstitute jobs for specific adult education classes through the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and use those schools after school, so that after people come back from their work, they can have an opportunity to better their skills. I mean, this is something that should have been done for a while. But I think that I agree with Senator Williams in terms of an approach that has to be structured and that can be successful if we have confidence in the people and they know the programs exist.”
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley:
“This is the most critical issue facing our city and the future of our economy, that's why I put forth my Jobs Now program, where every Clevelander who wants a job, we need to make sure that we reach out to them and let them know that there is opportunity waiting for them. This is a clear your desk moment. We have thousands of open available jobs in health care, and manufacturing, in the skilled trades, and information services, yet the industry can't find the people to fill them. Yet, we have unemployed and underemployed people within the same square mile of these institutions, that is not a condition that we should accept. We need to make sure that we are working with industry, with labors, with the schools to train our citizens for the jobs that are available. We cannot fail kids K thru 12 and then think that there's a program that's going to fix it. We have to go back deep. We have to start with the fifth, sixth grade, that’s one part of the Cleveland Career Pathways Initiative we need to solve this problem.”
To hear more from the candidates and their viewpoints on topics like housing, education and environmental issues-click here