After Jackson - Episode 4: Zack Reed, Kevin Kelley & Ross DiBello

Cleveland mayoral candidates Zack Reed, Kevin Kelley and Ross DiBello at a forum in Cleveland's West Park neighborhood.
Cleveland mayoral candidates Zack Reed, Kevin Kelley and Ross DiBello at a forum in Cleveland's West Park neighborhood. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
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Our series of interviews with the candidates concludes with three mayoral hopefuls: Zack Reed, Kevin Kelley and Ross DiBello.

Zack Reed is taking his second shot at the mayor’s office. Four years ago, he made it out of the primary and took on Mayor Frank Jackson in the general. He lost by 19 points.

Reed spent 17 years on Cleveland City Council, representing East Side neighborhoods like Union-Miles and Mount Pleasant, where he lives. During that time, he was outspoken about public safety and clashed often with Council President Kevin Kelley, who’s also in the running for mayor.

The top issue for Cleveland voters today, according to Reed, is the same one he ran on four years ago: safety.

“You cannot rebuild wards, communities and neighborhoods if people feel unsafe,” he said.

Community policing, violence interrupters and investments in neighborhoods are among his initiatives for addressing the city’s high crime rate.

Zack Reed with supporters outside Cleveland City Hall outlining his public safety plan.

In July, Reed unveiled a ten-point plan to address public safety, an issue he and many of the candidates named as the top issue in Cleveland. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Kevin Kelley has been president of Cleveland City Council for almost eight years. He’s the executive vice chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.

As of the end of June, he had more than $537,000 in the bank for his mayoral campaign – the most cash-on-hand in the field.

Kelley’s campaign slogan is “Forging a New Path.” When asked if that slogan conflicts with his position as a top leader on the city’s current path, he responded, “when you think of a lot of the bold initiatives that have come to the city, they have come from the council and they have come under my leadership.”

Initiatives, he said, including Cleveland’s Right to Counsel program for low-income residents facing eviction and a program aimed at reducing infant mortality.

To help drive development across the city, Kelley says he’s open to changing the city’s 15-year property tax abatement policy.

“There are probably neighborhoods that do not need a full 15-year tax abatement,” he said. “But maybe in other neighborhoods you need 15 or 20 or something to create that confidence that somebody is going to lend and build and move in the city of Cleveland.”

Kevin Conwell, Kevin Kelley and Yvonne Conwell

Kelley has been endorsed by Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell and his wife Yvonne Conwell, a member of Cuyahoga County Council. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Not many people had heard of Ross DiBello when he first jumped in the race for Cleveland mayor, including journalists at Ideastream. When reporters left him out of early coverage of likely mayoral candidates, he let us know that we were missing part of the story. His part.

He spent the spring hitting the pavement with clipboards, collecting signatures to make the ballot. And he did it, with the help of some supporters and a paid canvasser.

A former staff attorney for a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge, DiBello is running as a “change the system” candidate with issues including term limits, campaign contribution restrictions and public comment at council meetings on his platform.

For DiBello, the top issue for Cleveland voters is poverty and City Hall, he says, has the power to make change.

“The budgeting priorities, handouts, consultants, tax abatements, I think that the policy that comes out of City Hall absolutely is the number one factor,” he said. “I think that we have very inequitable policies.”

And one of the ways he wants to address policy inequity is by creating a public bank.

“It could go toward, you know, financing, maintenance, financing public projects, and getting people reasonable rates and small business owners starting up shop,” he explained, following the model of the Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919 and owned by the state.

Ross DiBello collecting signatures in Cleveland's Hingetown neighborhood.

While collecting signatures to make the ballot, Ross DiBello says he relished talking with voters. "I love the one-on-one conversation that I have at the liquor store. You know, 'What are you going to do for me? Why should I sign your petition?'"  [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Follow “After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor” on NPR One, iTunes or on your favorite podcast platform. Or catch it every Wednesday at 9 a.m. on the “Sound of Ideas” on 90.3 WCPN.

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