Door To Door: When You're Mayor, It's All Your Fault

A lectern with microphones at Cleveland City Hall
Cuyahoga County is a lot bigger than just the city of Cleveland, but the top elected official at 601 Lakeside Ave. can have a lot of say in the region's agenda. [Nick Castele / ideastream]


When the Plain Dealer endorsed Jane Campbell for mayor in 2001 – the last time there was an open race for Cleveland’s top job – the paper penned a to-do list for the next chief executive.

It went like this:

Restore competence and civility to City Hall.

Work with business, labor and university leaders to foster a growing economy.

Transform Cleveland's stagnant downtown into a magnet for jobs, retail and residents.

Revitalize neighborhoods as safe and interesting places to raise families.

Bridge age-old racial, geographic and economic divides.

Continue the progress of the Cleveland Public Schools and make sure their $835 million rehabilitation proceeds efficiently.

Engage all of Northeast Ohio on issues of regional interest, including the future of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and lakefront development.

Sound familiar? Plenty of those issues resonate today. The 2021 candidates will no doubt be challenged to explain how they’ll make city services more effective, how they’ll improve conditions in Cleveland’s most distressed neighborhoods and how they’ll better connect the city to Lake Erie.

It might be a lot to expect from a single mayor, but high expectations are part of the job.

“The mayor is the person who sets the community agenda and who is looked at as the leader,” Campbell told me recently.

She was a county commissioner back in 2001. Cuyahoga County government may cover more territory and more voters, but Cleveland City Hall still maintains a special prominence in Northeast Ohio.

So what should be on the next mayor’s to-do list? We are collecting your questions for the candidates.  

We’ll put some of those questions to the mayoral hopefuls in the forums that Ideastream Public Media is hosting with the City Club of Cleveland. 

Your questions also will help us report a podcast telling the story of the 2021 mayor’s race and examining the issues that matter most to voters. 

Please, send in your questions. You can fill out our form in English. Or you can do it in Spanish

Feel free to dream big – or dream tiny. Because people don’t just expect monumental things from City Hall. They expect little things, too. Permits issued on time, residential streets fixed, trees trimmed, vacant lots mowed, dilapidated houses dealt with, you name it. 

Whether fair or not, if something goes wrong, you know whom to blame: the top elected official at 601 Lakeside Ave. 

Before we ended our interview, Campbell illustrated that point with a story. Ten months into her term, she sought advice from the mayor of that bigger city to the west. 

“I called Richie Daley, who was mayor of Chicago at the time,” she said.

That’s Richard M. Daley to you and me, Chicago’s longest-serving mayor, who left office in 2011 after 22 years in the job.

“I said, ‘OK, mayor, I’ve been mayor for 10 months, you’ve been mayor for 10 years. I need some advice,’” she said. 

Daley invited her out to Chicago to meet his staff and talk over dinner, Campbell said. 

“First thing he says to me, he said, ‘So here’s the deal,’” Campbell said. “‘People walk out of their house. They lock the door. Everything else is your fault.’”

Daley’s point, according to Campbell, was that mayors should tune out the noise and focus on their agendas.

But before Cleveland’s next mayor does that, we think he or she ought to hear some more from you. So get in touch

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