In November 1977 Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich, 31, bubbling with youthful exuberance and flashing a confident smile, told his inaugural guests, "Cities are not unngovernable."
"I know that city government can work," said the mayor. "We must work to expand economic, social and political opportunities for young and old, rich and poor, black and white alike."
The speech was vitamin C for this undernourished city that has no immunity to the contagious urban ills plaguing northern industrial cities.
For years, Clevelanders had seen an exodus of white population and business, a screaming increase in demand for social services and an alarming decrease in the tax base. During this period unemployment has soared especially in the city's black neighborhoods.
Clevelanders grew impatient with the traditional politicians last November, as they rejected machine candidates in favor of the fiery, rebellious Kucinich, who has portrayed himself as a child of Cleveland's troubled streets.
Kucinich was free of cumbersome alliances with the political and business establishments, and was in a position to shake up the lethargic city. He promised to fight what he called downtown robber barons who, he said, were gobbling up the poor city's meager resources at the expense of deteriorating neighborhoods. It was urban class warfare, a day for the have nots.
Yet, in less than six months, the city shows signs of tiring of Kucinich as he faces the most serious recall threat in the history of Cleveland. The initial stage of the recall campaign is only 3,500 names short of the 37,500 signatures needed for a summer vote, and the recall committee has until May 28 to make up the difference.
Kucinich has dismissed the recell drive as the work of his political enemies and special interest groups who, Kucinich says are bitter because their grip on City Hall and the $360 million a year budget has been broken.
He also has blamed the news media for exaggerating the criticism of his administration, especially the media's preoccupation with former San Francisco sheriff Richard D. Hongisto, whom Kucinich recruited as police chief then unceremoniously fired on prime time television on Good Friday.
Kucinich's detractors respond that the mayor has failed to stabilize this city of constant turmoil, has not demonstrated leadership and has hardly been the shining knight of reform he portrayed himself during the election.
The criticism of Kucinich's performance would not have been as sharp had Kucinick not raised the level of public expectations to unreasonable heights, according to both friends and foes of the administration.
As an example, one official said that Kucinich promised to clean up the snow on the streets to "make them look like summer." But when a major storm ripped the city, the snow-removal fleet was crippled and, though Kucinich personally commanded the clean-up operation, he later admitted it was atrocious.
Kucinich promised improved police and fire service, repairs to sewers in flood-prone areas, an assualt on unemployment and better health care and recreational opportunities, but the reality, according to City Council budget experts, is that the city would be bankrupt, possibly by September, without austerity.
Kucinich promised a psychological uplift for a despondent city, but the political turmoil has hardly improved the morale of the citizenry and has degraded the city's national image.
"We're been in chaos for five months," said John J. Lynch, who represents a West Side ward that is a part of Kucinich's political power base.
"The whole thing is a psychological nightmare," wrote Thomas Vail, editor and publisher of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, which had endorsed Kucinich. "The City Council, responsible labor leaders, the best of black leadership, the most liberal in the business community are disgusted, and rightly so."
The public has complained of the abrasive style of the Kucinich administration. His cadre of young, sharp-tongued cabinet and middle-management officials have often been heavy handed in firing or reprimanding employes, some two or three times their senior in age.
When an economic development commissioner refused to resign under pressure from Kucinich's top aide, Bob Weissman, three political operatives, working under orders froma cabinet official, entered the official's office during the night looking for possible incriminating evidence to use as a wedge to force him out. They found nothing except his liquor, which they drank.
The administration has cut off multimillion-dollar contracts with the ease of cutting bait, and officials have bickered with the criticized the City Council during numerous legislative disputes that have been marked by 15 mayoral vetos.
Adminstration critics have called the Kucinich team dictatorial, Nixonian and Machiavellian. One columnist called them the Manson Family. Hitleresque moustaches have been painted on Kucinich portraits around town.
"Kucinich and his people believe they have a sacred mission to save this city and that it you're not with them, you're against them," said City Council Majority Leader Basil M. Russo. "We've tried to work with them to get this city moving, but they just take and take and don't give. There's no compromising on their part."
kucinich's leadership has been under fire from not only his political enemies but even from the usually passive religious community.
When Kucinich refused to take a stand on the critical school levy that failed last month, the Rev. Roger S. Shoup, a Presbyterian pastor, denounced Kucinich from the pulpit during services on a recent Sunday.
"The innocent, the poor, the powerless all suffer while our city's mayor reaps the reward of his impetuous, callous behavior. Cleveland indeed is Babylon, a place where hardness of heart is king and injustice, insensitivity, insecurity and ignorance reign."
Hongisto ripped into Kucinich's image as a reformer. He called the mayor a Tammany Hall-style political boss who put political pals into key administration jobs, used the police department to quash an investigation into a City Council gambling scandal and had steered friends into key vice squad jobs in the police department.
Kucinich denied Hongistos accusations and said the very liberal chief had to be fired because he was a police chief who believed he was above the civilian control of the mayor.
However, public sympathy seemed to be with Hongisto, and he was loudly cheered recently when he told a jam-packed audience: 'If Kucinich hired me as a reformer, then fire me, what does that make Kucinich?"