Mayor of Cleveland: The Comeback City
Responding to the urging of civic and business leaders who were concerned about the future of Cleveland, George Voinovich entered the race for mayor of Cleveland. At the time the national joke on Cleveland was “will the last person leaving town turn off the lights?”, in response to Cleveland being the first city since the Great Depression to default on their bonds. Through a series of public-private partnerships, Voinovich garnered support from the business community and the city earned a new nickname, The Comeback City. Voinovich was elected President of the National League of Cities (NLC) and was America’s cities and towns interface with the Reagan-Bush Administration. In addition, Voinovich and city council President George Forbes worked tirelessly together to improve the city and in particularly focused on improving race relations. During the 10 years Voinovich and Forbes were in office together, the city saw the most peaceful period of race relations in the city's history. Coretta Scott King, wife of the late Martin Luther King, said in a note to Mayor Voinovich, "May [the] words of Martin serve as guiding inspiration to you in your role as leader and exponent of the King legacy...your friendship and support are greatly appreciated".
On his last night as mayor, City Hall was illuminated and Voinvoich quipped, “Just remember when I left the mayor’s office the lights were on and the cranes were flying.”
Voinovich was urged to run for governor in 1986 against Richard Celeste but declined stating he had not finished his job and that Cleveland would lose its momentum. In 1988 Voinovich had an unsuccessful campaign to defeat two term Senator Howard Metzenbaum, a race that some predicted would end his career.
The Urban Renaissance
By the end of Voinovich's 10 years in office, Cleveland cleared all its debt, was named an "All America City" an unprecedented 3 times in a 5 year period, established harmony between the mayor’s office and city council and leveraged $770 million in private investments toward neighborhood revitalization.
As Voinovich was bringing vitality across the City of Cleveland, a major downtown renaissance, entitled Toward a Practical Civic Vision, was also occurring as several prominent companies agreed to build new downtown office space. First in 1982, BP America agreed to build a $240 million skyscraper on Public Square in downtown Cleveland.
Following in BP's footsteps Forest City Enterprises undertook Tower City and Ohio Bell, Eaton Corporation, and Key Bank (then known as Society Bank) built office buildings in the budding business district. The Key Tower and BP Building (known now as 200 Public Square) became the tallest and third tallest building in Cleveland respectively.
Voinovich also oversaw the transformation of the Erieview Tower from just office space to the Galleria at Erieview: a mixed use shopping and business center. During Voinovich’s years as mayor, Cleveland experienced the biggest building boom of the 20th century and his role was recognized by the naming of Voinovich Lakefront Park which provides the best view of the city’s skyline.
Mayor of Cleveland: Major Initiatives
- Government Reform- reduced the size of city council and extended mayoral term to 4 years
- Public Private Partnerships
- Total Quality Management- Operations Improvement Task Force
- Neighborhood and Urban Revitalization
- Race Relations & Fair Housing
- Saving of Cleveland Public Power
- Relationship with the White House and Federal Government