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Q&A: Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb lays out ambitious agenda for rest of term

Man in suit looks to his right as he sits at long conference table in suit
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Mayor Justin Bibb listens to a question from a City Council member.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb is nearing the halfway point of his first term in office and stopped by Ideastream Public Media’s studios last week for a conversation about his first term.

Ideastream reporter Matt Richmond joined Morning Edition Host Josh Boose to discuss some of what the mayor shared.

JOSH BOOSE: Matt, when the mayor talks about his time in office so far, what is he emphasizing here?

MATT RICHMOND: The first thing he talked about was modernizing city hall. They created a new website. He’s put in some new policies, HR policies — vacation, parental leave, things like that.

He also talked about the work going on at the Westside Market, which has just been turned over to a non-profit to handle operations.

The city will keep ownership of the building and so we asked him about what the market will look like down the road.

JUSTIN BIBB: A food hall inside the West Side market. More space to dine after hours. Beer and wine sales as well. And really just making it a more modern public food hall market like you see in Seattle or Cincinnati or Detroit or Washington, D.C.

RICHMOND: And, no surprise, the second thing he talked about was public safety. In fact, he had his own version of the old “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.” political campaign cliché.

BIBB: Public safety. Public safety. Public safety. As I've always said, public safety is, in my opinion, the prerequisite to economic opportunity in our city.

And we confronted a lot of headwinds since we took office around public safety. First and foremost, as you know, we are in a national war for talent to attract and retain good officers. We’re down nearly 20% of our budgeted number for police officers.

BOOSE: So, he’s emphasizing efforts to kind of spruce up city operations and assets and make being a Cleveland employee, especially a police officer, a more appealing job.

We’re at about the halfway point of his term now, and he’s gotten the ball rolling on those goals. What did he say would be coming in the next two years?

RICHMOND: First thing he mentioned was the lakefront. The city has created a semi-public entity to oversee development there, and the drawings we’ve seen so far are ambitious to say the least.

There’s more so here’s what he laid out as sort of a to-do list.

BIBB: Making sure we can finally see into fruition the work we're doing around the riverfront and the lake front. And, you know, we want to make sure we have a strong foundation to see cranes in the sky relatively soon. And the southeast side and the second half of my first term, looking forward to the work we're doing on modernizing Hopkins Airport.

RICHMOND: There’s a lot there. The lakefront — which would include a land bridge over the Shoreway and basically a whole new neighborhood surrounding the Cleveland Browns Stadium, not to mention investments in the stadium itself — a transformation of the riverfront by Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse; a terminal at the airport that would likely cost in the billions; and millions of dollars for housing development on the long-neglected southeast side of the city.

These are all projects that are years from completion but Bibb is looking to make progress on a list of projects that would, each one by itself, be a lot for a mayor to oversee.

BOOSE: Very ambitious. So that brings me to the next question — what are Mayor Bibb’s plans for his career?

There’s been speculation that he’s had his eye on the next job almost since the day he was elected, or even announced that he was running. Did he mention whether he’ll be running again in 2025?

RICHMOND: He did respond to a question about that. And I’ll just play the tape.

BIBB: I'm really looking forward to announcing my reelection campaign in 2025.

There's a lot of work to do. When I took office in January of last year, you know, we inherited 75 years worth of challenges. And those problems can't be addressed, resolved in just two years or in just one term.

And so I look forward to making my case to the voters of Cleveland. Why Cleveland still can't wait.

BOOSE: Well, that puts that question to rest.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.