By Imani Capri

When it comes to creating the conditions for economic progress along Cleveland’s North Coast, can the city government also balance
the real need for investment in its people and infrastructure?

Mayor Justin Bibb says, “government has a role to play” in solving Cleveland’s problems but that “residents need to also play a role in their own salvation.”
Bibb gathered with journalists from a variety of ethnic and community news outlets, on March 22nd, to discuss issues concerning the city of Cleveland.

The round table, hosted by 95.9 FM WOVU radio, was broadcast live, from WOVU’s main studio, allowing listeners to hear the mayor answer questions in real time.

Dressed in dark slacks, a light green sweater and black vest, Bibb comfortably took his seat in the center of the disc jockey console table, ready to talk with
the journalists who were seated all around. Approximately 10 news outlets were represented, Rich Weiss, executive director of the
Neighborhood Media Foundation, moderated the discussion.

The questions asked covered a variety of topics such as: whether the city of Cleveland will restore its investment of $2 million per year in after-school extracurricular activities per legislation passed in 1995, the Cleveland Black Women and Girls Commission and what it will do to address the plight of black
women, the potential for building a relationship with Puerto Rico and how the city might redirect funds should there be a time when the Browns are no longer based in Cleveland.

There was one question, however, centered on the master plan for Cleveland’s North Coast development and the need for investment in the city’s physical and people infrastructure, that evoked both a pensive physical response and a full-some answer from the mayor.

That question, asked by Imani Capri, freelance journalist and Communications Director for The Cleveland Observer elicited an eight-minute-long response.


“How do you justifyprioritizing something like development along the waterfront, when also paired with issues of the infrastructure of the city and communities within Cleveland…? How would you also address that in a way that also explains the challenges you, as mayor and leadership face to make Cleveland an attractive place to be?”


“That is such a complicated and nuanced challenge. I would say this:

As the chief executive of the City of Cleveland, I have a fiduciary responsibility to do whatever I can to grow our revenue, grow our tax base, grow our population so we have the resources to invest in the basics. So what does that mean? …

I’m the first mayor in history to have a dedicated multi-pronged economic strategy to change the trajectory of Cleveland’s southeast side..over $15 million of ARPA funds that we’ll be leveraging to create over $150 million plus of economic investment coming to the southeast side. At the same time, thinking about the future of our city…

So, in my opinion, Imani, it’s not one or the other; because when we make it a conversation about ‘who’s gonna win, who’s gonna lose? You know where that gets us? More of the same. More of the same.

What has more of the same gotten us over the last 75 years? Historic population loss. Loss of Fortune 500 companies, loss of jobs in our neighborhoods, a loss of confidence in our city. We have to change that narrative…

I don’t have the luxury to pick one or the other because the challenges I inherited, as the first new mayor in 20 years, were so big, stark, and deep that if I had to choose just one thing to focus on, I wouldn’t be doing what you all elected me to do in the first place.

You all elected me to do one thing: bring bold, dynamic, visionary leadership to Cleveland, because Cleveland couldn’t wait. That is the mandate that I have been trying to govern on since I took office on January 3, 2022.

What gets me excited is the fact that, if we make these major investments and big bets now in our waterfronts… I don’t care if you’re black or white, rich, or poor, everyone loves being around the water. Everyone has a story of when they’ve been to Lake Erie to see a sunset on a date, or when they caught their first wall eye, or when they went to that first bar in the Flats when they turned 21.

Water brings people together. Cities that are going to win in the 21st century, are going to be cities that have world-class water fronts.. And I refuse, I refuse not to let Cleveland be on that list.” Bibb said.

He further explained the grassroots approach that he and his team have taken regarding getting community engagement and feedback on his North Coast
master plan.

He highlighted visits to barber shops, churches, libraries and more.

An anecdote Bibb shared of a female Cleveland resident, who was 90 years old, saying that she could “see herself” in the North Coast plan, struck an emotional chord with journalists in the studio.

Bibb said, “giving that woman faith, hope, and optimism that her grand baby will choose Cleveland over Chicago, or LA, or New York when that grandchild finishes college” is what his plan is about.

However, the follow-up question from TCO highlighted another viewpoint.


“For the 90-year-old who saw herself in the plan, that’s great… but my follow- up is for the 16-year-old who is struggling to read, because of the literacy issues here or can’t find a job and then gets into crime because they need something to eat…

What do you say to the members of our communities in Cleveland who don’t see themselves in that development because of the some the other issues I mentioned? How would you address them and their concerns?

“Listen, I would say everything we work on at city hall is focused on the core issues: making Cleveland a safe city, improving public education, making sure our roads are well paved. We’re trying to fix as many potholes as possible. There is not one issue that I am not working on as mayor.

But I will tell you this, if people are relying on the government to be the only source of hope, I can’t save you. I can’t. That’s where you all (referring to the journalists) come in, telling positive stories, talking about the hard issues and how we’re coming together to solve these hard issues.

Government plays a role, but government is not the role, and I am not Jesus Christ himself or herself That is not me.But what I can do is bring people together, try to work on hard issues, try to do what we can to solve these problems, and get the trend line going in a better direction.

Residents have to be a part of the solution. Before I go to the next question, I want to leave you with one final quote, my grandma Sarah would always tell me this when I would get down on myself and say that I couldn’t do anything, whether it be school or sports, she would say : ‘Baby, you’ve gotta be a participant in your own salvation. You have to take responsibility for yourself to make a difference, and everybody in the city has to have that same level of responsibility.’”

Progress and the need for Cleveland to shift to a “growth mindset versus a decline mindset” in order to thrive, were strong themes in Mayor Bibb’s answers
throughout the hour-long round table.

“You don’t get a thriving Cuyahoga County without a thriving Cleveland.” Bibb said, “We’ve hemorrhaged our tax base the last couple decades. We have to
do something different to reverse that decline,” he continued, “… if we do nothing to grow our city, gues what, we’re going to have to keep raising taxes on a lower population.” Learn more at:

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BRIEF BIO FOR IMANI CAPRI Imani Capri, the #1 Energy Elevation Coach, is on a mission to help millions of people around the world to transform their relationship with fear and stagnation by helping them...