Editorial: Justin Bibb for mayor of Cleveland

Editorial Board

The City of Cleveland faces a historic inflection point this Tuesday, Nov. 2. For the first time in 16 years, we will be electing a new mayor. After four terms of Frank Jackson’s administration, despite some improvements, we’ve seen the city’s population continue to decline and crime rates continue to grow. Cleveland remains the poorest big city in America. The time for change has come.

Justin Bibb is the change this city desperately needs and cannot wait any longer for. We finally have a candidate who promises to actually tackle the bevy of issues Cleveland faces rather than shirking away from them, claiming that they are impossible to solve. The “beast” that Mayor Jackson speaks of—which is a representation of the institutional forces that perpetuate Cleveland’s inequality and disparities—may be unkillable, but for once, we have a candidate who makes us hope that we can tackle it. For the hope, vision and potential he shows, The Observer proudly endorses Justin Bibb for mayor of Cleveland.

Justin Bibb grew up on the southeast side of Cleveland, experiencing firsthand the current challenges that face Cleveland and its residents. While his formative years aren’t the only reason why Bibb could be a great mayor, his experiences clearly drive his passion to make Cleveland better.

One of the most significant parts of Bibb’s platform revolves around safety and justice, especially regarding police accountability, and it is clear that these are issues that the city desperately needs to reform. He plans to introduce mental health initiatives within the safety component of his platform, including adding a mental health option to 911, allowing “mental health support and crisis specialists as co-responders” and broadening the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services’ reach to ensure that the right resources are accessible to the right causes. In situations of drug use, domestic violence and mental health, we have seen situations that went wrong especially due to the unnecessary use of police violence, so Bibb’s promise to reform policing is a heavy, but necessary one. Additionally, Bibb vows to implement more training for police, including gender and racial equity training, to make residents safer. 

However, as a minority himself, Bibb knows that injustices occur even after police reform, so he wants to increase police transparency as well. This includes allowing Community Police Commission members “to speak transparently about issues like police violence and mass incarceration, without reprisal” and posting use-of-force videos within seven days. His endorsement of Issue 24, which would allow for independent, civilian-led investigations of police misconduct, shows that he knows that we can’t have a safe city until we have true justice. Justin Bibb knows that the trust between police and the community is fractured, and he wants to not only reform the institution to increase public safety but also rebuild that relationship through citizen involvement in the police. 

Another one of Bibb’s platforms is modernizing City Hall, which he has highly emphasized. In general, I’m sure a lot of us have experienced frustration with city institutions, whether it is being unable to get in contact with representatives or waiting in ridiculously long lines. To make City Hall as efficient as possible, Bibb has proposed initiatives ranging from carrying out a process to track complaints at every step, to upgrading technology to streamline permit processes, to even appointing a Chief Racial Equity Officer within the Cabinet, furthering his public safety initiatives. It is apparent that Justin Bibb cares about residents, and by vowing to improve City Hall, he offers another crucial course of action to improve our daily lives.

Currently, less than 2% of Cleveland’s budget is distributed to the Public Health Department. However, many residents don’t have equal access to healthcare. Not only does Bibb want to increase funding and vaccine outreach, but he also wants to address food insecurity and food deserts. Another way that Bibb wants to support Cleveland’s community is through promoting climate and environmental justice. He is proposing initiatives to lower electricity bills and increase access to public transportation, both physically and financially, which would support low-income riders and connect more neighborhoods. 

While these are not all of Justin Bibb’s plans to “put people and neighborhoods first,” these are all incredibly important aspects that affect Cleveland residents’ daily lives, and other parts of his initiatives vow to do just the same in other plans of action.

His opponent Kevin Kelley, while having stated some similar ideals and some promising initiatives, represents more of the same politics that have plagued Cleveland for decades. Having been city council president for eight years, Kelley’s experience in government, though important for understanding city systems, does not give much hope for actually turning this city around. Instead, a Kelley mayorship would be another competent administration of this city’s decline. It doesn’t help that Kelley’s record is full of anti-democratic tendencies, from the quashing of ballot initiatives and not allowing public comment at city council meetings until recently to backroom deals that prioritized corporate interests over the voices of his constituents. Whether it be creating a legal strategy to prevent a referendum on the Q Deal, which poured millions of public dollars into sports facilities, or going to our GOP-controlled state government to prevent the passage of a $15 minimum wage, Kelley has continually practiced realpolitik over the needs of the people of Cleveland. Kelley’s rebranding as an actor for change also isn’t convincing. After being council president for almost a decade, why should we trust that he’ll deliver real change now?

What makes Bibb so promising is his willingness to tackle the big challenges our city faces, with some sort of plan for many of them. Cleveland faces many issues, and after generations of no great action being taken, people have lost hope, and our leaders seem to have done the same, being satisfied with incremental improvements. But an unwillingness to face the issues will not cause them to disappear. Bibb has detailed his intentions towards all sectors of the city, with the hopes of displaying innovative thinking and promoting big ideas from all over Cleveland, including potentially transitioning West Side Market to being run by a non-profit and prioritizing more neighborhood-focused development. With his connections across the city and a promise of increased collaboration, Bibb’s platform could be the key to finally making Cleveland a city that serves all its citizens.

As students at Case Western Reserve University, we have a vested interest in the future of this city. The stronger and healthier Cleveland is, the more secure the future of this institution is as well. Not only that, but we make this city our home for at least four years of our lives—we owe it to Cleveland and our neighbors to take an active part in its destiny. By voting in this mayoral race, we have the chance to improve the city as a whole. In truth, we interact with this city every day. Many students volunteer at local organizations, such as the Cleveland Clinic, or spend their time working at local businesses and major corporations in the area. The stronger the region, the better our own opportunities will be and the safer we’ll be as a community—if we want to look at it from a purely selfish perspective. But of course, it isn’t all about that. With this election, we have the opportunity to help shape a stronger Cleveland that benefits everyone. 

We have a direct choice ahead of us—one between a competent but unimaginative administration and one that might bring a vision for a more promising future. Choose hope. Choose a brighter tomorrow. Choose Bibb.

Vote Justin Bibb for mayor on Nov. 2. Our city’s future may depend on it.