Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley certainly have many differences on a superficial level. They are worlds apart in terms of their level of experience in running a local government, while their personal styles are polar opposites.
But when it comes to their views on many issues - on education, improving city services, investing in small businesses- Cleveland mayoral candidates Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley seem to be mostly in complete agreement. It's hard to find a substantive difference between them on numerous issues. But there is one glaring exception to that rule.
Defunding the Police Is On the Ballot
Their areas of agreement disappear when it comes to the issue that is of most concern to Clevelanders- safety in our neighborhoods. Or, as it is more commonly known, whether Cleveland should go down the road of "Defunding the Police."
It is not disputed that the crime rate has spiked in Cleveland - with more robberies, shootings, and homicides. With a record number of police retirements on the horizon, the possibility looms that crime will get out of control with fewer officers trying to keep a lid on a growing number of incidents. Both candidates have acknowledged the crisis, but have proposed radically different strategies to address it.
Kelley has staked out a strong position against defunding the police and funding more neighborhood police protection, while Bibb is backing proposals that would transfer millions of dollars out of the police budget, leading to - you guessed it - defunding the police.
The issue has come to a head in recent days, with less than a week to go before the November 2nd election. Many Cleveland voters were hoping to hear each candidate explain and defend their positions on defunding the Cleveland Police Department at a recent community meeting hosted by the Cleveland Fire Fighters union. But as reported earlier, Bibb refused to attend the event, angering many voters - even many who were considering voting for him before this snub.
Running out the clock?
There have been literally dozens and dozens of candidate forums, debates, and community discussions this year in the race for Mayor of Cleveland. And yet, the safety forum is believed to be the only forum that Bibb refused to attend.
Some of the Cleveland residents who did attend believe that the snub was intentional. "He's hiding on this issue. He's for defunding the police and he won't come here and defend it,"one irate resident stated. "He's trying to run out the clock until the election is over, and it stinks."
Hiding from voters as the clock ticks down has certainly worked for other politicians in other elections. But will it work this year in Cleveland- especially when it concerns an issue that is literally a matter of life and death for many Clevelanders?
The verdict will be delivered this Tuesday.
If you haven't already, check out the video of angry Cleveland residents at the recent community safety meeting: