Sam Allard / Scene
Dennis Kucinich electrifies the crowd at the Lakewood Women's Pavilion (3/29/2018).
In a likely prelude to a 2021 mayoral run, former Cleveland Mayor and longtime Congressman Dennis Kucinich has called on Cleveland Public Power (CPP) to cut its rates for the 70,000 residential and commercial customers who get their electricity from the public utility.
Citing the city's most recent budget numbers, which show a substantial and growing annual CPP surplus, Kucinich said it was "unconscionable" for the city to be "stockpiling cash." He criticized a consultant's report from 2019 — lately unearthed
by WKYC's Mark Naymik — which suggested raising CPP rates to keep the utility sustainable.
The Mayor's budget estimate showed CPP had an $18.5 million surplus in 2017, which increased to $21.3 million in 2018 and to $26.4 million in 2019. The 2020 surplus is expected to be anywhere from $32.8 million to $36.6 million.
Kucinich believes hanging on to these reserves doesn't make sense, given the economic hardship of customers and the fact that CPP's rates are currently higher than those of its private competitor, FirstEnergy.
"The whole idea of public power is to offer customers lower rates," he wrote in a prepared statement. "The system ought to, at least, break even every year, not sit on large cash surpluses, especially during these hard economic times. The city must distribute most of this surplus back to CPP customers in the form of a rate reduction."
Kucinich has been coy about his mayoral ambitions. And when questioned about his statements by cleveland.com
, he said that public power, to him, was "personal," not political. But there's no denying that a political narrative is all but writing itself, and Kucinich is shrewd to coax it along.
Kucinich was of course Cleveland's tumultuous "Boy Mayor" from 1977-1979. The flagship accomplishment of his single term was his successful battle to keep Cleveland Municipal Light, now CPP, under public ownership.
In the face of the FirstEnergy racketeering scandal — which vividly corroborates Kucinich's maxim that if you don't own the utilities, they own you — a Mayoral campaign rooted, at least in part, on improving Cleveland Public Power would be a natural move for the veteran politician. Among other things, he could portray a mayoral stint late in his life as a poetic bookend to the crusade for public power he began decades ago.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.