After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor - Episode 1: Countdown

Justin Bibb, Sandra Williams, Dennis Kucinich, Zack Reed, Basheer Jones, Kevin Kelley and Ross DiBello sit on a stage at a candidate forum in Cleveland, Ohio.
The seven candidates for Cleveland mayor at a forum in the West Park neighborhood on July 8. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
Featured Audio

Let’s step back 16 years for a moment.

It was 2005, and Mayor Jane Campbell was running for a second term.

Cleveland was still digging out of the 2001 recession.Thousands weighed in on a massive lakefront development plan. Business leaders and politicians debated where to build a new convention center – and whether to stick the public with the bill. Cleveland saw protests after police fatally shot a 15-year-old while serving a search warrant. They said he had a knife. The ranks of police officers themselves were thinner after budget problems, brewing for years, led City Hall to lay off workers.  

And, in that year’s election, the president of Cleveland City Council said it was time for a change.  

Frank Jackson, after four terms representing the Central neighborhood on City Council, made a bid to become the first challenger in 26 years to upset a sitting Cleveland mayor.

“It’s very important to me that we have a city that works, one that functions,” Jackson said at the City Club of Cleveland’s mayoral forum

“A city where we can educate our children so they can have hope and opportunity for the future. A city where we can do economic development and create jobs so our people can take care of their family, and stability in our community…  And when we do this, we look at these things, and they’re just tools. Tools for what purpose? To be used. To be used to make Cleveland great again,” he said.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell sits listening to Cleveland City Council President Frank Jackson at the podium during a City Club of Cleveland debate in 2005.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell debates Cleveland City Council President Frank Jackson at the City Club of Cleveland in 2005. [The City Club of Cleveland / Michael Schwartz Library Cleveland State University]

That’s the promise Jackson ran on in 2005: To make Cleveland great again. Four terms, two recessions and one pandemic later, is Cleveland great?

Sixteen years after Jackson made his run at the mayor’s office, many of those challenges from 2005 sound familiar. And new ones have reared their heads. The city has a new lakefront plan. Cleveland police are undertaking federally mandated reforms. Some neighborhoods are booming. Others are still struggling to recover after the 2008 financial crash.

And as Jackson heads toward retirement, seven candidates say it’s their turn to lead the city.

In this first episode of “After Jackson: Cleveland’s Next Mayor,” we follow the candidates — Justin Bibb, Ross DiBello, Basheer Jones, Kevin Kelley, Dennis Kucinich, Zack Reed, and Sandra Williams — on the campaign trail as they introduce themselves to Cleveland voters.

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