Cleveland.com streamed its mayoral endorsement interview live Tuesday morning. Eight of the nine candidates running for Mayor (all but former East Cleveland Mayor Eric Brewer) were present, vying for the endorsement of the editorial board.
The PD/Cleveland.com is expected to endorse Mayor Frank Jackson, and it's unlikely that any candidate made much of a splash with the reporters, columnists and editors in attendance. (Last week, when Scene asked the candidates
to name the dumbest thing the PD/Cleveland.com had endorsed recently, three of the five respondents alluded to the endorsement of incumbents and Mayor Frank Jackson). Even Councilman Reed told Scene after the interview that he fully expects Jackson to win the publication's endorsement.
Both PD Opinion Director Elizabeth Sullivan and Cleveland.com Editor Chris Quinn asked the candidates questions: about big business, the Q Deal, neighborhood investment and safety. In closing remarks, each candidate was asked to state his position on the $15 minimum wage issue. Candidates were given a total of six-and-a-half minutes to speak and frequently inquired about how much time they had remaining.
Of the seven Jackson challengers, Tony Madalone was certainly the most flattering toward the PD/Cleveland.com worldview, which hews closely to Jackson's and the chamber of commerce's. Out of the gate, Madalone objected to the "downtown vs. neighborhoods" narrative and adopted a much more explicit pro-Q-deal, pro-development stance than he has to date. He said he would never support a $15 minimum wage, questioning the effects on low-income workers' Federal benefits, and said Cleveland needed a new leader with a new face to lead and inspire the region. He also called out Frank Jackson directly. Not only did he suggest that Jackson's neighborhood investment plan was nowhere near sufficient, he also brought up Jackson's advanced age (he'll be 71 in October), a comment that other candidates didn't appreciate.
Brandon Chrostowski and Robert Kilo had individual moments of clarity and strength. Chrostowski continued to rail against corporate handouts and, when Chris Quinn asked him what he would cut from the budget to achieve his goals, said that Cleveland had to "get out of the mindset that we live in a nursing home on a fixed income." He suggested cutting overtime and aligning the department of health and human services with the county's. Kilo mentioned that other than Jackson, he was the only candidate endorsed by a major political party (Republican), and stressed the need for urgent measures to address safety in the region.
Bill Patmon and Dyrone Smith remained irrelevant sideshows, notable chiefly for their fashion choices: a bow tie and Jordans, respectively. (Patmon, at one point, suggested a sort of X-ray machine to see if people had guns in their vehicles or something???)
Councilmen Johnson and Reed stressed their familiar bullet points. Johnson was more forceful in the articulation of his vision, calling for the reduction of the income inequality gap and increased contributions from the private sector. Reed was more forceful in his critique of Mayor Jackson. "The problem is, the Mayor has no vision," Reed said.
Reed has been known to get under Jackson's skin — recall the infamous "pimp" episode
— and elicited a rare hostile comment from the incumbent Tuesday morning. Jackson remained sedate throughout the interview, but when Reed pushed the issue of petty politics and council's inability to act because of mayoral obstruction (related to road-resurfacing), Jackson pushed back.
"There's a difference between having an ideal and being able to do something about it," Jackson told Reed. "You do not have that ability."
When asked early on about his perceived coziness with big business, Jackson reframed: "I'm cozy with creating jobs," he said.