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Kevin Kelley Reelected As Cleveland City Council President

Cleveland City Council’s Democratic caucus voted unanimously on Monday to retain Kevin Kelley as the body’s president. No other members made a bid for the top leadership spot.

The caucus invoked the “unit rule,” a procedural measure that enforces unanimity when the leadership vote is officially recorded on the council floor Jan. 1. Democrats who break with the majority would not be invited back to party caucus meetings.

All reelected and newly elected council members took part, save Kevin Conwell, who was absent. Councilmen-elect Basheer Jones and Joe Jones voted at the meeting, although their elections could be overturned this month after provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots are counted.

Councilman-elect Anthony Hairston asked if the vote should be delayed until the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections certifies the results of the general election on Nov. 28.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to wait until the 28th,” Hairston said, “so that we can do it once, it’s cleaner, all the scrutiny of how we got here today is behind us, and allows us to set up on a fresh path moving forward?”

Kelley said he wanted to hold the vote before the holiday season begins, in the event that appeals of the general election results stretch beyond November.

Councilman Michael Polensek, a former council president, said the party meeting should have been held at the county Democratic headquarters rather than at city hall.

“I want to recommend strongly to you that we have regular Democratic caucuses once again,” Polensek said, “so we can discuss issues internally.”

He voted against invoking the unit rule, as did Hairston and Joe Jones.

Kelley defended the unit rule in a brief interview after the meeting.

“If I go through and put in place a certain leadership team, and appoint certain people to committees and chairs, and then people elected somebody else, that would be a pretty chaotic start to the new term,” he said.

After the vote, Kelley turned the conversation to policy issues. He said the city faces significant challenges in the coming year, such as the opioid crisis.

“We’re nowhere where we need to be in terms of safety and violence,” Kelley said. “We’re nowhere where we need to be in terms of lead poisoning. We’re not where we need to be in terms of building and housing inspections.”

Councilwoman Dona Brady said members should agree on what should change in city neighborhoods.

“I’m specifically talking about quality-of-life issues,” Brady said. “Safety, housing, abandoned housing, I mean, nuisances, I can’t—I won’t go on. But the administration has got to be receptive.”

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