January 24, 2022 6:00am

In Cleveland's First Power Poll, Leaders Say Bibb Was Right Choice for Mayor

Like Bibb himself, leaders peg crime as administration's top 2022 priority

Photo of Sam Allard
Cleveland, OH Correspondent

Community Leaders in Cleveland, Ohio expressed optimism, and perhaps relief, about the election of 34-year-old nonprofit executive Justin Bibb as Cleveland Mayor in this week's inaugural Power Poll.

Sixty percent of respondents said they either "Strongly Agreed" or "Somewhat Agreed" that Bibb was the best man for the job.

Bibb swept into office in a landslide victory in November, defeating former Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley in a runoff that came to focus predominantly on questions of public safety and police accountability, dramatized by Issue 24.

The candidates seem to have been onto something, as Power Poll respondents believe overwhelmingly that "Crime / Public Safety" will be the most urgent priority for the Bibb administration to tackle in 2022, notwithstanding the exigencies of the Covid-19 pandemic, (and snow removal, for that matter).

Economic Development and Poverty were the only categories other than Public Safety to receive votes.

After the unprecedented 16-year tenure of Mayor Frank G. Jackson, the speculative question of Bibb's length of service was an interesting one. The open secret among Cleveland's business and community leaders was that Jackson overstayed his usefulness at City Hall. It would have been more prudent for Jackson personally and better for the city overall if he hadn't sought a fourth term in 2017, the thinking goes.

Bibb, who skated through his campaign with minimal negative press, did get dinged for a touch of professional flightiness, a tendency to job-hop in the fashion of millennials.

But Cleveland leaders don't seem worried that Bibb will jump ship before his first term is up. Nor, however, do they envision him staying on the job well into his 40s. Fully 100% of respondents believe that Bibb will serve either one term or two.

"The question regarding the number of terms Justin Bibb will serve is almost impossible to answer until we get some idea of performance," said Michael Stanek, Co-Founder and CFO of Hunt Imaging, LLC, in a follow-up comment. "My choice of [two terms] assumes good performance and then the desire to seek higher office."

Cleveland's first Power Poll was sent to business, community and political leaders on Jan. 18, just as Bibb and his new administration dealt with one of the most severe winter storms in decades. Though reactions to his response were mixed, Bibb has communicated that he inherited a "broken system" and intends to learn from his mistakes. He plans to announce a new winter weather plan as early as next week.

This monthly survey does not have the precision of a scientifif poll and is meant solely to provide some insight into the thinking of influential leaders in Cleveland. Though the response rate was low this month, Power Poll's goal is to increase participation steadily over the next several surveys.

Questions will not only cover local politics, but a wide range of newsworthy topics of interest. (Your suggestions are more than welcome!)

This month, for example, in addition to the queries about Bibb and his future, the poll posed a question about the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland is, after all, a Browns town, and its leaders are, for the moment, confident in the prospects of incumbent starting quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Despite Mayfield's surgery this week and rumors about tension between him and head coach Kevin Stefanski, 80% of respondents believe that he will be the starter in week one of next year's season.

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