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Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb releases road map for first 100 days and beyond

Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at Tower City Center in late January. The mayor on Monday released a report laying out the recommendations of his transition committees. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks behind a lectern at Tower City Center

A newly released report from Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb offers a detailed look at the new administration’s early priorities.

From creating a standalone, cabinet-level parks department to upgrading city technology, the report spells out the recommendations made by 10 committees during Bibb’s transition.

“This will be the Bible for my leadership team, my cabinet, all our directors and chiefs to ensure that we are executing on the vision and the mandate that we won on Nov. 2,” Bibb told Ideastream Public Media in an interview last week.

Accompanying the report is an online tool that tracks Bibb’s progress in carrying out key recommendations. City Hall released the document midday on Monday.

The 100-page report can be read here or at the bottom of the article page.

The report is divided into 10 sections, one for each of the transition committees: economic development, education, environment, equity in action, health, modernizing city hall, neighborhoods, open government, public safety and talent.

Some recommendations mirror Bibb campaign promises, such as hiring a lead czar or creating a special cabinet focused on the well being of children and young adults. Some are aimed at specific city functions, like reforming the permitting process. Others – like ensuring citywide broadband access or exploring free transit – are broad in scope.

Although the report was conceived as a road map for Bibb’s first 100 days, it includes projects that will doubtless take longer. The mayor described the report as a framework for his full term in office.  

For instance, the modern city hall committee submitted a diagram streamlining the process for responding to resident complaints. The diagram envisions an “action line app” that routes complaints to specific city departments and allows users to see when the work is done.

“What we clearly found out on the first couple of days in office is the way that we've historically structured constituent services in the city is outdated,” Bibb said. “You see this being a major pain point for many of our council members, where they are so overwhelmed and burdened with constituent calls and resident complaints, they can’t do the job of policymaking.”

Cleveland maintains two lines for constituent service complaints: 311 and the Mayor’s Action Center. Bibb would like to combine them.

“Over the next couple of months, we are going to do a dramatic overhaul of all of those systems to make sure we have a one-stop shop for constituent calls,” the mayor said.

The committee also suggested hiring “directors of constituent experience” to come up with better ways to interact with businesses, residents, visitors and city employees.

Bibb said a standalone parks department – one of the environment committee’s recommendations – was “critical” to ensuring that all residents can find a park nearby. Currently, the city’s park and recreation services are housed in the public works department.

The mayor said setting up an office of economic recovery was a timely goal for his administration. The office – a campaign pledge and economic development committee recommendation – would lead the city’s advocacy for federal money. The second half of the city’s $511 million American Rescue Plan allocation is expected later this year.

Although it isn’t spelled out in the report, Bibb said he wants to get moving on a plan to invest $5 billion over the next decade in Cleveland’s Southeast Side. Big projects like that go hand-in-hand with more workaday concerns, like making permits easier to acquire, Bibb said.

“We can't turn around the Southeast Side if it takes months and months and months to get a permit to build a new business in Cleveland, or to start a new business in Cleveland,” Bibb said.

The transition’s safety committee recommended holding long-term community listening sessions and viewing public safety as a matter of public health. The committee also proposed sharing data more widely, reexamining the city’s community policing strategy and reviewing leadership throughout the safety department.

Also among the safety committee’s action items: reviewing EMS billing practices, taking a second look at fire department shift times, reevaluating the academy process and developing a recruitment campaign in which first responders tell their own stories.

But the report’s safety section did not go into more detail on one early policing challenge facing the administration: building up the force to its budgeted staff of 1,640 uniformed officers and brass. According to Bibb’s budget proposal, the force was at a strength of 1,402 last year.

Bibb has said he would like to increase police pay in order to retain officers. The police union contract is one of 30 collective bargaining agreements up for renegotiation this year, the mayor said.

“Police reform and police accountability is just as important as hiring more officers who can do the hard work of keeping our streets safe,” Bibb said, “and working with our police union to meet that goal is something I intend to prioritize.”

The transition’s equity committee proposed City Hall liaisons for LGBT Clevelanders, a Black women’s equity office, an office of immigrant affairs, an office of Asian outreach and a Hispanic advisory council. The committee also recommended two cabinet positions, a chief equity office and a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The online tracking tool won’t include all of the report’s recommendations. Instead, it focuses on a subset of 100-day items, according to Chief Strategy Officer Bradford Davy. The web page notes whether the items are finished or still in progress.

Davy acknowledged that City Hall’s plans may change with events – such as the paralyzing snowfall that led the administration to release an online snowplow tracker and promise to expand the plow fleet.

Events on Monday drove that point home. Just as the Bibb administration readied to release its report, city officials faced questions from frustrated Cleveland City Council members over the city’s snow removal over the weekend.

“We aren't foolish enough to think that priorities don't change, and that, you know, demands in the moment require us to shift our thinking,” Davy said. “But we want to be able to have one, central place to say, ‘Here's what we said we're going to do, and here's why we either have or have not done it, and here's our progress so far.’”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.