New Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley wants a return to fundamentals. He'd like his colleagues to be on time for meetings, understand what they're voting on and pay attention to testimony. Basics, yes, but discipline and decorum had slipped under previous council president Martin Sweeney.
"We're acting in a more professional manner," says the 45-year-old councilman from Old Brooklyn, whose glasses frame a square jaw, giving him the look of a drill sergeant turned librarian. "I think we're taking things more seriously."
He talked with us about his agenda, why he supports the sin tax for stadium repairs, whether Cleveland should annex East Cleveland and, inevitably, that other Kevin Kelley.
Q. What are your plans for vacant housing?
A. We need to aggressively attack these houses. ... Some homes are candidates for restoration, but what's really causing the devaluing of real estate is the 5,000 we can all agree need to come down. The biggest challenge is not identifying the houses to come down, but identifying the money.
Q. What do you think about talk of Cleveland and East Cleveland merging?
A. It's an intriguing opportunity, but we need to look at the cost of providing services to East Cleveland. The risks are that our budget is very tight. ... [But] there's a lot of gems in East Cleveland. There's a lot of nice old houses, parks, industry — [GE Lighting's] Nela Park is still there. If we come together, and that helps our ability to bond projects, can we be better together?
Q. Why should Cuyahoga County voters support the sin tax renewal?
A. We as a community made a decision through the ballot box that we wanted to build these sports facilities. We own these. We have to make these repairs. It's either going to come out of the sin tax or it's going to come out of the general fund. ... We have leases, we have obligations.
Q. Why not renegotiate the Browns' lease?
A. It's difficult to open negotiations in the middle of a lease. It's very challenging to say, "We've changed our minds."
Q. What was it like to be Kevin J. Kelley when a J. Kevin Kelley in Parma was indicted on corruption charges?
A. There was quite a bit of confusion. A couple of callers to my office were "so disappointed" in me. It was a tough time.