West Park Attorney Launches Outsider Cleveland Mayoral Campaign


  • Photo: Andrew Wells / Courtesy Ross Dibello
West Park attorney Ross Dibello announced Wednesday that he intends to run for Mayor of Cleveland in 2021. He has launched a campaign website that introduces himself to voters and lays out an aggressive policy reform agenda.

DiBello's announcement comes only days after Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley formally filed campaign finance paperwork with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, laying the groundwork for his likely run.

The entry of DiBello into an already crowded field of speculative candidates signals that the 2021 race could be a clown car indeed. DiBello is perhaps most easily compared to 2017's Tony Madalone, another millennial white male non-politician whose heart was in the vicinity of the right place. 

DiBello is unknown in Cleveland politics. He grew up in Chesterland, attended OSU and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and for the better part of his career has worked for Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams. In a press release Wednesday, he said he was inspired to run for Mayor both by Cleveland's dismal quality of life rankings and by a desire to hold current elected officials accountable.

“City Hall’s preoccupation with how money will be spent on and against other
candidates in this election has led to a host of significant problems in our city going unaddressed,” DiBello said in the release. “We are faced with unacceptable levels of infant mortality and lead poisoning, the highest poverty and crime rates in America, a broken economy that doesn’t work for its people and glaring racial and gender inequalities that continue to be a blight on Cleveland’s reputation.”

Listing policy priorities on his campaign website, DiBello claimed to want to institute more democratic procedures on Cleveland City Council, including immediately instating public comment, doing away with council appointments and limiting campaign contributions from individuals and corporations. He also believes that municipal elections should be held during presidential years and that term limits should be imposed.

DiBello's policy ambitions span a wide range — gun buybacks, innovation in education, closing Burke Lakefront Airport — but his key motivation seems to be making a statement about what he refers to as stagnation at City Hall.

"With our current system, Clevelanders need to be aware that the Mayor they elect in 2021 could certainly still be campaigning in 2041 with a message that 'there’s more work to be done.' That Mayor will outraise any ordinary, COMPETENT working resident of this city that wants to change it for the better."

In a brief phone call with Scene, DiBello confirmed his intentions and his desire to run based on Cleveland's woes, naming infant mortality, lead poisoning and teen suicide specifically. He also said, as a matter of principle, that he won't be paying canvassers to collect signatures in order to put his name on the ballot. 

DiBello notes in his campaign bio that he is a "lover of games." He has been a professional poker player and is a lifelong fan of the OSU Buckeyes and Cleveland Browns.

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