Justin Bibb attends the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors as snow storms rage in Cleveland.
Less than two weeks after his inauguration and during the first winter weather crisis of his administration, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb traveled to Washington D.C. for three days to attend the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
While cleveland.com reported
that Bibb was "spotted unmasked" in a "crowded D.C. bar" Saturday—a minor scandal indeed, as the event was private, and proof of vaccination was required for admittance—Clevelanders who spent the week negotiating unplowed streets, unnavigable sidewalks and a terrifyingly vulnerable transit system had a more urgent question: Why was the mayor in D.C. in the first place?
According to the city, Bibb's attendance was part and parcel of his commitment to ensuring that Cleveland is represented in national conversations. City Hall communications director Sarah Johnson said that the mayor departed Cleveland Tuesday evening and returned Friday.
"While the storm was (and continues to be) a high priority, the mayor was able to oversee operations from DC," Johnson wrote in response to a series of questions from Scene. "[He] was in constant communications with Public Safety, Public Works and our office to ensure that timely updates were provided and concerns were being addressed."
Indeed, Bibb filmed a video message from D.C. after a wave of complaints about delayed snow removal and a lack of specific communication. He assured Clevelanders that every available resourced had been deployed and that despite inheriting a "broken system," he had registered citizen complaints and would work to improve the response next time.
Despite the severity of the weather in Cleveland, Johnson said Bibb's attendance at the D.C. conference was "significant," especially when former Mayor Frank Jackson sent delegates on his behalf in years past.
"It was important that he was able to show his commitment to advocating for federal grants and money for the city," she wrote.
According to an account of the D.C. trip posted by City Hall
, Bibb secured a letter of support from the Ohio Mayor's Alliance for the Northeast Ohio region's Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant application
, sponsored by MAGNET. He attended a session on climate resiliency, a presentation of the "House America" initiative by HUD Secretary and former Ohio congresswoman Marcia Fudge and a "plenary discussion on building a stronger hospitality industry."
Bibb also attended one-on-one meetings with Dept. of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and with the President of the union representing state, county and municipal employees (AFCME).
Johnson told Scene that the mayor's calendar would be posted publicly Tuesday morning and would thereafter be posted weekly. The City Hall update indicated that Bibb is likely to attend the summer meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors as well. Fortunately for him, that rendezvous is unlikely to coincide with a blizzard.
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