Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich, charged by a twin victory at the polls Tuesday, turned on the state government today to block a possible takeover of the city's financial administration.
Billing it as a vote against the corporate takeover of Cleveland, Kucinich asked and received overwhelming voter approval Tuesday of a 50 percent increase in the income tax and retention of the Municipal Light Plant.
It was a solid victory for Kucinich, who had made Muny Light the issue to bolster his political fortunes that had sagged during the almost-successful attempt to recall him last August.
In a news conference today, Kucinich, appearing confident, made it clear he would take a hard-line stance against Gov. James A. Rhodes and any state legislator who backed Rhodes' plan for a nine-member commission that would oversee city finances.
He used the same issue against Rhodes -- the specter of hidden corporate manipulation -- that he used in his campaign to keep the light plant and pass the tax increase.
"Although the people of Cleveland won yesterday, it appears that greedy corporate special interests are now hard at work on a new front in Columbus, Ohio, and they're going to try to ride back into the city on a Trojan Horse built by Jim Rhodes," Kucinich said.
He said Rhodes' bill was drafted with the help of the Growth Association, a lobbying organization for business in Cleveland.
"It must be remembered that the people of Cleveland were ready to tax themselves in order to keep corporate bosses out of City Hall. If Columbus ignores that message, they will do so at their own political peril."
Kucinich singled out consumer advocate Ralph Nader as a major factor for his victory on the light plant issue.
Nader, who was on a telephone hook-up during the news conference, said Clevelanders "rejected the arrogant and unprincipled ultimatums and demands of several large corporations in Cleveland who think they have the power... to rule the political government of the people."
Nader was featured in Kucinich's television and radio commercials. Meanwhile, the six Cleveland banks holding the $14 million in defaulted notes since Dec. 15, 1978, indicated yesterday they would not seek court judgment on repayment of the loans immediately to give the city and state a chance to devise a workable financial plan.
M. Brock Weir, board chairman of the Cleveland Trust Co., holder of$5 million in notes, urged the Ohio legislature to "move expeditiously to consider the various proposals before it which would help stabilize the city's finances and provide the managerial resources needed for such stabilization."
Even with the tax rise, the city has a long way to go before it is fiscally sound. The tax will generate some $64 million in additional revenue over the next two years but the city is facing $106 million in debts and deficits, according to Council President George Bell Forbes.
Rhodes has said his bill is not a takeover measure, though it would usurp much of the local prerogative in budget decision-making and provide criminal penalties for anyone convicted of obstructing the commission.
The commission is modeled after the Emergency Fiscal Control Board established in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1975 and dismantled last year.
Kucinich has sent a weaker version to Columbus that does not have a commission but would broaden the oversight power of the Ohio auditor to monitor city spending.
Both proposals call for state loans and tighter accounting controls. Kucinich also wants approval to issue $40 million in new bonds to cover losses in capital accounts caused when the proceeds were diverted for operating expenses by previous administrations.
Though several state legislators have said they expect the legislature to fashion a compromise between the Rhodes and Kucinich proposals, Kucinich said he will accept only the passage of his bill, even if it means forgoing state aid.
In that case, he would attempt to market small-denomination bonds, perhaps as low as $100, to raise $14 million to pay off the defaulted notes. The first such bond issue in the nation was offered last year in East Brunswick Township, N.J., where $1 million was raised for a public garage. Municipalities in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Ohio are also considering this financing method.
"There is no reason why fat cats should be the only ones who enjoy the benefits of tax-free municipal bonds," said Kucinich.
While Kucinich's victory was perceived as a slap in the face for the city's business community, it was also said to be a defeat for the mayor's enemies in the City Council, including Council President Forbes, who once called Kucinich a "Jim Jones" and a racist.