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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF DENNIS J. KUCINICH

MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF DENNIS J. KUCINICH

The MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF DENNIS J. KUCINICH (1977-79) was characterized by disputes and turmoil as the Democratic mayor survived an attempted recall election and was faced with Cleveland's DEFAULT on its financial obligations. Kucinich's political career began with his election to Cleveland City Council in 1969, where he served 3 terms while completing his B.A. and M.A. in speech communication from CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV. in 1973. Elected clerk of municipal court in 1975, Kucinich held the position for 2 years, then was elected mayor. In spite of the urban populism he espoused and his genuine concern for the workingman, the mayor's confrontational style of politics and the quality of some of his appointments created opposition. His public firing of Police Chief Richard Hongisto precipitated a recall movement by those who felt he was unable to govern the city. By June 1978 enough valid signatures had been acquired to schedule a special recall election, and in Aug. the mayor retained his post by a narrow margin (see RECALL ELECTION OF 1978).

As the city's financial condition worsened, pressure was put on Kucinich to sell the city's municipal light plant to the CLEVELAND ELECTRIC ILLUMINATING CO., but the mayor refused, believing that Muny Light's competition with CEI kept the city's electric rates at a reasonable level. When the city was unable to pay off $14 million in short-term notes owed to 6 local banks in Dec. 1978, Cleveland became the first major American city to default on its debt since the Depression. To provide more revenue, voters approved an increase in the city income tax from 1% to 1.5% in Feb. 1979 but turned down the sale of Muny Light to CEI. In Nov. 1979 Kucinich was defeated for reelection by Republican George Voinovich. At a special election held in Aug. 1983, Kucinich was elected to Cleveland City Council from Ward 12 for another term. In 1985 he gave up his council seat to run for governor of Ohio, but withdrew from the race. In 1994 he won election to the State Senate. In 1996 Kucinich won election to the United States House of Representatives.