Kucinich Vows to Cut Cleveland Utility Rates by 10 Percent

click to enlarge Dennis! joins 2021 the race for Cleveland mayor. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Dennis! joins 2021 the race for Cleveland mayor.

Cleveland mayoral candidate Dennis Kucinich has issued the latest element of his campaign platform: a promise to cut utility rates by 10 percent by dipping into growing surpluses. 

Kucinich, who launched his campaign in late June with a focus on public safety, has been incrementally releasing additional policy priorities. Like other candidates, he used a power outage at the West Side Market this weekend to promote his solutions there. (Kucinich's idea: retain public ownership with better, more attentive management. First step, on day one, is a backup generator.) Tuesday, he released his utilities pledge, aimed at the 70,000 residential and commercial customers of Cleveland Public Power and the Cleveland Water customers who reside in Cleveland.

"They’re sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars that aren’t earmarked for any specific capital or maintenance projects while a huge percentage of Cleveland residents are having difficulty paying their bills," Kucinich said in a statement Tuesday. "I find that unconscionable, and I will make sure these public utilities begin acting in the public interest."

Last year, Kucinich called on CPP to slash its rates after WKYC unearthed a 2019 consultants' report that recommended raising rates to keep CPP sustainable. He called that unconscionable too.

"The whole idea of public power is to offer customers lower rates," Kucinich said at the time. "The system ought to, at least, break even every year, not sit on large cash surpluses, especially during these hard economic times. The city must distribute most of this surplus back to CPP customers in the form of a rate reduction."

Last year, the mayor's budget estimate showed that CPP's surplus had been rising substantially since 2017. It is currently hovering at around $30 million. Kucinich wants to use those surplus dollars to lessen the burden on ratepayers.

“We can use part of that surplus to lower electric rates to First Energy levels, thereby making CPP more affordable and more competitive and open the door to add more customers and begin growing again,” Kucinich said. "In addition, lowering CPP rates will dissuade First Energy from increasing rates for fear of losing additional business."

Kucinich also noted that water rates have been rising since 2010 and even as the department's surplus has expanded. He advocated cutting water rates as well. And he said that if elected, he would apply pressure on the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to cut their rates as well.

He characterized all of these rate cuts as "fiscally sound and thoroughly do-able."

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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