Meet the Men Who Want to be Cleveland's Next Mayor

Watch the Throne

Meet the Men Who Want to be Cleveland's Next Mayor
Illustrations by John G

September is coming. Sept. 12, that is. That's the date of Cleveland's primary elections. And that's the day you'll get to cast your vote for the city's next mayor.

Frank Jackson, like Game of Thrones' Robert Baratheon once did, sits unhappily on his local throne. Despite his riches from suburb-dwelling corporate leaders (the Lannisters), he is no longer an effective ruler, surrounded by sycophants and aging bannermen. He seeks an unprecedented fourth four-year term. Claimants to the throne have mobilized their armies in the East and the West, decrying violence, corporate influence at City Hall, and a lack of investment in the city's neighborhoods.

Councilman Zack Reed, "The King in the East," has become the safety candidate, vowing to reduce gun violence and death. His colleague Jeff Johnson, like Daenerys Stormborn, has marshalled the SEIU and Cleveland's progressive groups (his dragons) to take on the corporate community on behalf of the neighborhoods. Brandon Chrostowski, Tony Madalone and Robert Kilo, are three white men with differing strains of political conservatism. They have presented themselves as outsiders with fresh ideas. They worship a different god.

Scene approached them all — including Mayor Frank Jackson — to ask a series of questions about their policies and priorities. We also asked a few lighthearted questions to give readers a taste of their personalities. Five replied. Their answers appear on the following pages.

Former East Cleveland mayor Eric Brewer, like the High Sparrow, was not interested in our questionnaire. He has catalogued our sins and demanded that we (along with the rest of the Cleveland media) atone.

"I have zero interest in completing Scene's poll," Brewer wrote us. "The questions are immature and irrelevant to the duties performed by Cleveland's chief law enforcement and administrative officer. Scene readers will not be provided with any perspective about the mayor's office and the fitness of each candidate to perform its duties from the questions being asked. My favorite athlete, favorite restaurant or the place I'd like to live besides Cleveland intrude upon my private thoughts and, again, have nothing to do with the performance of the mayor's duties."

Multiple attempts to contact Frank Jackson, Bill Patmon and Dyrone Smith via their campaigns and social media were unsuccessful.

This certainly won't be all the information you need to determine who has a right to rule our fair Kingdom. But hopefully it's a start. (Some of the answers have been edited for length and clarity.)


The Candidates



Political Party: Independent

Neighborhood: Buckeye-Shaker

Claim to the Throne: EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute founder; motorcycle rider; hater of Q Deal and listless leadership.

GOT Comparison: Stannis Baratheon


Age: 59

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Neighborhood: Glenville

Claim to the Throne: Ward 10 (Glenville, St. Clair-Superior) city councilman; official candidate of the SEIU and Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus; defender of the people against corporate interests; rehabilitated extortionist.

GOT Comparison: Daenerys Targaryen


Age: 42

Party Affiliation: Republican

Neighborhood: Ohio City

Claim to the Thone: Former businessman and nonprofit executive; lover of God, America and Sports.

GOT Comparison: Lord Beric Dondarrion


Age: 32

Party Affiliation: Republican / Running unaffiliated

Neighborhood: Ohio City

Claim to the Throne: Fresh Brewed Tees founder; Ohio Homecoming alum; lover of Cleveland and participant in downtown millennial renaissance; college basketball walk-on.

GOT Comparison: Gendry


Age: 56

Political Party: Democrat

Neighborhood: Mt. Pleasant

Claim to the Throne: Ward 2 (Mt. Pleasant) city councilman; hater of violence; lover of safety; no longer drives under the influence.

GOT Comparison: Jon Snow, "King in the East"


Frank Jackson

Claim: Incumbent mayor, waver at cars

GOT Comparison: Robert Baratheon

Eric Brewer

Claim: Former East Cleveland mayor; lover of social media and impolitic remarks

GOT Comparison: The High Sparrow

Dyrone Smith

Claim: Hater of Unions, Capitalists, Socialists, Police

GOT Comparison: Euron Greyjoy

Bill Patmon:

Claim: Former Cleveland city councilman, current State Rep., wearer of bow-ties

GOT Comparison: Mace Tyrell


The Questions

What are your top two priorities upon taking office?

Brandon Chrostowski

1) I intend to aggressively move toward making the city safer by attacking the gang problem. We can't hope to grow business and increase our population if the residents don't feel safe.

2) As you know, I founded the non-profit EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, which trains formerly incarcerated men and women in the culinary arts. Job training is entirely in my wheelhouse and so I intend on building job training centers in some of our most distressed neighborhoods. These centers would focus on training in the tech industry and the skilled trades so that even those who choose not to go to college still have the ability to provide for their families. I know what works in this space and I know how to put the correct people in place to execute the vision.

Jeff Johnson

1) Stop violent crime in the neighborhoods. 

2) Create jobs in neighborhoods.

Robert Kilo

1) Eliminating violent crime in the city of Cleveland.

2) Dramatically increasing graduation rates for Clevelanders.

Tony Madalone

1) Eliminating waste and making government efficient.

2) Improve morale in the Cleveland Police Department.

Zack Reed

1) Safety

2) Safety

Who is your favorite Cleveland athlete of all time?

Brandon Chrostowski: I would have to say Satchel Paige because of his sheer perseverance. He was a 42-year-old rookie and helped the Indians win a championship in 1948.

Jeff Johnson: LeBron James

Robert Kilo: Mark Price!

Tony Madalone: Eric Metcalf, the GOAT.

Zack Reed: Jim Brown

Rank Cleveland's three professional sports teams in order of your personal devotion

Brandon Chrostowski: Cavs (team, not the owner), Indians and then Browns.

Jeff Johnson: Browns, Cavs, Indians

Robert Kilo: Indians, Browns, Cavs

Tony Madalone: Indians, Browns, Cavs

Zack Reed: I love them all equally.

Was City Council Clerk Pat Britt right to deny the 20,000+ signatures from local petitioners seeking referendum on the Q Deal?

Brandon Chrostowski: Clearly not, and that tells you everything you need to know about what this current administration thinks about the people they claim to represent. The Mayor is scared to let the people vote on this underhanded deal, but there he is in the neighborhood claiming that he's looking out for us. The whole deal has been a sham since the beginning. He should do the honorable thing and start cleaning out his desk now.

Jeff Johnson: NO! Kevin Kelley and Frank Jackson, acting in the name of Pat Britt, were wrong. They denied the people their rightful vote on the Q deal. 

Robert Kilo: No! It's never a good idea to refuse to listen to the citizens you serve!

Tony Madalone: No, the citizens should be able to vote. It wasn't her decision, though. Council President Kelley instructed her (w/ pressure from Mayor Jackson) to deny the signatures because they know that if the deal makes the ballot in November, they may struggle in their bid for reelection.

Zack Reed: Dead wrong, but she was just following Kevin Kelley's orders.

Since None of you supports the Eastside dirt bike track, how do you propose to deal with dirt bike riders in Cleveland? Is this an important issue?

Brandon Chrostowski: Part of my plan for dealing with illegal dirt bike riders is something I call "Catch and Crush." We should use drone technology to follow these riders to their final destinations, arrest the offenders, confiscate the bikes, take them to the scrap yard and crush them.

Jeff Johnson: Provide more investigations that would allow police to ID and locate where riders live to better know who is using the streets illegally. When caught on street riding, confiscate and destroy their dirt bikes. I will also allow for the police to make the decision on when to chase instead of a full ban on chasing riders. Let police use motorcycles, and their own dirt bikes to chase when they think is appropriate.

Robert Kilo: Not by rewarding criminals with taxpayer dollars.  Maybe the real issue here is how we encourage lawful, healthy activities for our citizens and put a stop to the culture of living life with a disregard for the law.

Tony Madalone: A dirt bike track isn't going to keep illegal riders off the street. We need to allow our police to strategically pursue riders– via helicopter, at gas stations while they're refueling, cutting them off and trapping them on bridges, etc. Once riders are caught, they need to be charged with the max and their bikes need to be towed.

Zack Reed: I support cleaning up the site, but speaking to residents about what they would like to see there.

Give the current City Council a letter grade

Brandon Chrostowski: C+: There are a few on council who I believe actually care about their constituents. On the whole, I think they could do better.

Jeff Johnson: D

Robert Kilo: D-: Of the over 12,000 Clevelanders we've talked to in the last few months, it's clear that they do not feel like they are well represented.

Tony Madalone: F: If there were a lower grade, I'd use it

Zack Reed: D: Lack of leadership; failure to hold the Jackson administration accountable; not tackling the real issues facing the people in the neighborhoods.

What's one strategy you would pursue to finance long-term sustainability and growth at RTA?

Brandon Chrostowski: I think something we could look at is implementing a slight increase in license and registration fees at the BMV. I've seen other cities use this approach and I think it could work here. I also think that it's imperative the city have an office of transportation that would operate in much the same way as a non-profit, soliciting funds from the philanthropic community.

Jeff Johnson: I will create a Department of Transportation at City Hall and provide city resources for public transportation projects in Cleveland, including planning and funding.

Robert Kilo: Like everything a Kilo Administration will do, make sure the interests of the people of Cleveland are represented.  We need to have a coordinated plan with all levels of government so that the citizens have affordable, accessible, and comprehensive transportation options.

Tony Madalone: Only $7.3 million is allocated to public transit from the state of Ohio TOTAL (split between roughly 60 transit agencies). The RTA serves more customers than Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton combined. As leader of the city, the route to increasing the state's investment in RTA is through relationships with the leadership of the House and Senate. Many of these leaders are from rural districts and don't understand the impact strong transit can have not only in the region, but also to the state as a whole. Building these relationships and advocating on behalf of the city and RTA must be the priority.

Zack Reed: Look at better ways to fund it locally. Elect people that really believe in public transportation.

What's one thing you'd secretly love to do as Mayor?

Brandon Chrostowski: Make the Polish Boy the official meal of Cleveland, assuming we haven't done that already.

Jeff Johnson: Ride on Air Force One. (Note: I would have had more fun with a Democratic President on board.)

Robert Kilo: Work through all the city departments as an "Undercover Boss."

Tony Madalone: Close Burke Lakefront.

Zack Reed: No Comment.

The worst thing about Cleveland in 2017 is ...

Brandon Chrostowski: Innocent people being cut down by gunfire.

Jeff Johnson: Crime and violence in the neighborhoods. 

Robert Kilo: The significant uptick of violent crime is spreading fear across our communities.

Tony Madalone: Our current leadership – Mayor Jackson and city council both.

Zack Reed: The lack of concern for nine people under 18 years old being killed – we just continue, business as usual.

The best thing about Cleveland in 2017 is ...

Brandon Chrostowski: Our diversity.

Jeff Johnson: Citizens who live in Cleveland's 34 neighborhoods! 

Robert Kilo: There is an undercurrent that we deserve more in this city. The feeling I'm getting from the citizens I'm meeting is electric. It's so exciting and it's what keeps me energized!

Tony Madalone: The election.

Zack Reed: Electing a new Mayor.

What's the dumbest thing the PD/ editorial board has supported in the past five years?

Brandon Chrostowski: Check back with me after they endorse for the mayor's race.

Jeff Johnson: Supporting $88 million Q Arena Deal while our city neighborhoods have violence, poverty and high unemployment.

Robert Kilo: Blanket endorsements of incumbents.

Tony Madalone: The endorsement of Mayor Frank Jackson.

Zack Reed: No Comment.

Dream job (other than politics)?

Brandon Chrostowski: Center fielder for the Indians.

Jeff Johnson: Partner at my own law firm.

Robert Kilo: General Manager of the Cleveland Indians.

Tony Madalone: I'm an entrepreneur at heart and wouldn't be doing anything different. I enjoy building companies and seeing ideas come to life.

Zack Reed: Coaching a sports team.

Dream location (other than Cleveland)?

Brandon Chrostowski: Czestochowa, Poland. It's very peaceful, has a beautiful cathedral and my family is from there.

Jeff Johnson: Washington D.C.

Robert Kilo: Carmel Bay, in California's Monterey Peninsula

Tony Madalone: Vieques, Puerto Rico

Zack Reed: Rome, Italy

You're stranded on an island with access to the menu of only one Cleveland restaurant. Which do you choose?

Brandon Chrostowski: I'm going to go out on a limb and say EDWINS on Shaker Square.

Jeff Johnson: The Lancer on 21.

Robert Kilo: First Place: Momocho, Second Place: Minh Anh, and Third: Guarino's

Tony Madalone: Local West

Zack Reed: The new Lancer's. (Love the perch sandwich and bread pudding.)

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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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