Wikinews interviews candidate for Cleveland mayor Arthur Kostendt

Monday, June 14, 2021

Arthur O'Kostendt.
Image: Arthur O'Kostendt .
Incumbent Mayor Frank G. Jackson at the Cleveland March for Our Lives demonstration on March 28, 2018.
Image: Erik Drost.

Arthur Oliver Kostendt, a candidate running in the mayoral election of the US city of Cleveland, Ohio set to take place November 2, discussed his campaign and policies with Wikinews this spring.

According to Cleveland Scene, 29-year-old Kostendt is a member of the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Republican Party but has referred to his campaign as "casual". According to his web site's personal biography, he was a cadet for the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), scout platoon leader for the 2nd Squadron of the 107th Cavalry Regiment of the Ohio Army National Guard and logistics officer for the 1st Battalion of the 145th Armored Regiment. He served in Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and assisted coalition force detachments in Southeast Asia.

Kostendt is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and summa cum laude graduate of Cleveland State University. He writes he uses an apostrophe to abbreviate his middle name as "Arthur O'Kostendt" instead of the customary period after the O to emphasise his Irish heritage.

A poll published May 5 by Baldwin Wallace University, which does not feature Mr Kostendt, has Dennis Kucinich and Basheer Jones leading in the mayoral race by 17.8 and 13.3 points, respectively, with a margin of error of up to five per cent either way. 48% of those surveyed were undecided. Incumbent mayor Frank G. Jackson, who won the 2017 Cleveland mayoral election with 59% of the vote, is eligible for a fifth term but announced on May 6 he would retire.

Interview with Arthur Kostendt


Please introduce yourself: your history and your background.

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) I grew up, one of four children, in Hudson, OH [Ohio], an outer ring suburb of Cleveland (to the North) and Akron (to the South). I was a student-athlete (Tennis) and musician (Saxophone). I went to college at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, IN [Indiana], where I studied Finance. I joined the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps halfway through college, and received my diploma and officer's commission on the same day in May, 2013. I attended the Armor Officer's basic course in Ft. Benning[,] and then began my banking career in Cleveland, in January of 2014, at B&F Capital Markets. I served with 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry from 2013 to 2016 in the Ohio Army National Guard.

I studied for the LSAT [Law School Admission Test] and began attending classes at night in 2015 at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, which is Cleveland State's law school. I transferred to 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Regiment in late 2016. In 2018 I left B&F and worked a pair of part-time internships with Schuster & Simmons LPA and The Staff Counsel of the Cincinnati Insurance Companies.

I graduated law school Summa Cum Laude in 2019 and deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield later that year, after an intense mobilization prep period including a 4-week cycle at the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, CA [California]. I was promoted to Captain in the United Arab Emirates in November of 2019 at a place called Al Hamra.

I returned to Cleveland in October of 2020 and began studying for the bar exam and launching my campaign for mayor. I started work as a delivery driver for Insomnia Cookies in University Circle on the overnight shift. I took the bar exam in February of 2021 and left Insomnia Cookies in March, to begin work on obtaining my Ohio Gaming License through JACK Casino. I received my passing bar exam results on April 20th, 2021 and I am now licensed to deal blackjack, which I plan to do part time at night while growing my solo law practice based in downtown Cleveland.

 ((WN )) What made you decide to run for Mayor of Cleveland?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) I love my home, the city of Cleveland, and I believe it is a great place with amazing Neighbors. In the future, I believe Cleveland will be recognized as the best place to live in the United States. However, living here today, we are confronted with the reality that our city government suffers from poor leadership. The consequences are severe: rampant crime, litter and blight, poorly maintained streets, ineffective schools, and waste are just a few of the ways our Neighbors suffer from poor government leadership[.] Rather than just complain about it, I decided to run for mayor with a goal of improving leadership in city government and provision of city services to our people.

 ((WN )) What are some of the reasons Clevelanders should vote for you?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) I am a leader, not a politician, and a true change candidate. I am committed to service above self, and I am not looking to use the office of mayor as a stepping stone to greater power or more money. I will finally hold municipal departments accountable for effectively serving the city.

 ((WN )) Please elaborate on your service in the US military.

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) I joined the Army ROTC after my second year at the University of Notre Dame, and earned a commission from the President on the day I graduated in 2013. I was accepted into the Ohio Army National Guard as an Armor officer. (Armor is the "combat arm" equipped with tanks and lighter vehicles for offensive, defensive, reconnaissance, and security maneuvers)[.]

Soldiers of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team in a joint training exercise with Kuwait on July 6, 2020.
Image: The National Guard.

I served from 2014 to 2016 with A Troop of the 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Squadron stationed in Greenville, OH as a scout platoon leader and Troop executive officer. In order to serve closer to home, in 2016 I transferred to the 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Battalion headquartered in Stow, OH. I served as the Platoon Leader for the Battalion Scouts and was promoted to Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4) prior to our deployment in 2019. Attached to North Carolina's 30th Armored Brigade, the "Steel Panther" Battalion served in Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE from Autumn 2019 to Autumn 2020. After returning home, I joined the Battalion operations team and I am in the process of transitioning to the Ohio Army National Guard Judge Advocate General's Corps.

I have been awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, and a Meritorious Unit Commendation[.]

 ((WN )) Your web site promises "service above self." What does that mean for you?

Jesus Christ as depicted in a church stained glass on Kelleys Island, Ohio on August 8, 2020.
Image: User:Nheyob.

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) In Mark 10:42-44, Christ instructs his disciples: "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all." The good leader, as I have witnessed in the military, is a servant of the mission and the team. He does not lord his position over his charges but instead seeks to assume their burdens to whatever extent is possible and prudent.

 ((WN )) What are some of the things you would do as Cleveland Mayor?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Reform and empower the Division of Police to protect our Neighbors; demand adequacy and discipline in our public schoolhouses; take the initiative to clean up litter, graffiti, and abandoned structures; and hold personnel in city departments accountable to Clevelanders for competent service.

 ((WN )) You mention disciplining government and cutting waste. Could you please elaborate?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) [Kostendt had provided a link along with this answer, which is mentioned in the External links section.]

Ms. [Rachel] Dissell's reporting sheds light on undisciplined conduct in our city government, in this case the health department. The Editor's Note further demonstrates lack of accountability and transparency in our city government.

Departments of the Cleveland city government struggle to respond to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests from media in a timely manner, struggle to organize efficient street clearing in winter, struggle to facilitate/approve much-needed community togetherness events proposed by motivated Neighbors, etc. I would change this. In terms of waste, the Mayor has 27 executive or special assistants according to the 2019 budget, one of whom is now facing rape charges. I believe I could do more with less.

 ((WN )) In one of your essays on your web site, this one titled 'Urban Blight', you wrote "[r]ehabilitating the lands of our city, including destruction of abandoned and neglected properties [...] starts with doing the work to get it cleaned up". Could you please elaborate?

Members of the United States Coast Guard build a house in east Cleveland for Habitat for Humanity on September 11, 2008.
Image: William Colclough.

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Cutting grass, removing debris, and deconstructing a home is work that anybody could do, given time and instruction on safe procedure. Building a home is work that layman volunteers often do, such as with Habitat for Humanity. The city should take the lead on finding people motivated to do the work, finding a contractor willing to provide them the instruction, and executing. Blighted structures are not only an eyesore, but costly in terms of property value and taxes, and dangerous havens for criminal activity.

 ((WN )) In one of your essays on your web site, this one titled ["]The In-Crowd of Cleveland 'Politics'", you wrote "when you vote, you can vote somebody in the in-crowd, or you can vote for me." Could you please elaborate on your thoughts regarding Cleveland's "in-crowd"?

No answer was provided.

 ((WN )) You wrote in your essay "Climate Change": "climate change is of no consequence to our city, and I consider it an enormous distraction and waste of potentially productive time." Could you please elaborate?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) The climate in Cleveland is awful -- high of 51 [51 °F (10.6 °C)] today on May 11th. In this day and age, people are largely free to choose what climate they live and work in, and they largely choose climates that are warmer. Cleveland's low average temperatures are a significant hindrance to our growth and prosperity. Change would be a great thing, potentially leading to shorter and milder winters. At the extremes, extreme heat is less deadly and less destructive than our extreme cold. I spent June and July in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where temperatures linger above 100 [100 °F (37.8 °C)] in the midnight darkness, and human life is doing just fine there. Cleveland is in no danger of getting that hot. The benefits of warmer temperatures, less snow, and less ice dramatically outweigh the supposed risks to our city of extreme heat or tornadic/hurricane activity that are associated with climate change. Larger population centers that have been preying on Cleveland's population for decades are in much greater danger from the effects of warmer temperatures and rising sea levels, so climate change would be very likely to reverse those trends and improve the fortunes of our own city (admittedly at the tragic expense of other American communities).

 ((WN )) What does Cleveland lack under Mayor Frank Johnson you hope to supplement?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Energetic leadership of the municipal staff, and a culture of accountability that guides all city departments.

 ((WN )) Who did you support in the 2017 Cleveland mayoral election, if anyone?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Mayor Frank Jackson, reluctantly[.]

 ((WN )) Who did you support in the 2018 Ohio gubernatorial election, if anyone?

Portrait of Governor of Ohio Mike DeWine taken December 10, 2018.
Image: Vivien McClain Photography.
Portrait of Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted taken December 10, 2018.
Image: Vivien McClain Photography.

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Governor Mike DeWine (who it may be worth noting is my commander-in-chief) and Lt. [Lieutenant] Governor Jon Husted[.]

 ((WN )) Who did you support in the 2020 United States presidential election, if anyone?

Kanye West (front, left) at a campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina on July 19, 2020.
Image: User:Nice4What.

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Mr. Kanye West and Ms. Michelle Tidball[.]

 ((WN )) Cleveland was ranked in 2019 by the US Census Bureau worst in child poverty, second-worst for working-age adults and third in older-adult poverty among the largest US cities. How will you address this, if elected?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) By investing in our Neighbors, our children, and our future, we can drive a positive feedback loop of investment and productivity in our neighborhoods. Cleveland is shrinking, and so is our customer base and our tax base. By securing the streets from crime, improving schools to make Cleveland an attractive place to raise a family, cleaning up our shared spaces, and fixing lackluster provision of city services, City Hall can reverse population decline and make Cleveland an attractive place to invest in businesses, property, workers, and a bright economic future. Education and future-oriented investment are the "leading indicators" of economic self-sufficiency.

 ((WN )) Cuyahoga County, which Cleveland is in, has recorded over 110,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 2,100 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. How will you address this, if elected?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Clevelanders can best fight the effects of disease, and other more common deadly health conditions, by prioritizing healthy eating, abstinence from substance abuse, and consistent physical fitness.

 ((WN )) How will you help racial and ethnic minorities, if elected?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Racial and ethnic minorities make up a majority of our Neighbors, so they are the ones who have suffered the most from ineffective leadership and poor provision of city services. I will help racial and ethnic minorities, and every one of our Neighbors, by providing them what the city government owes its people: safe streets in every neighborhood at any time of day, effective schools, a clean and safe environment, and a disciplined city administration.

 ((WN )) If you could not vote for yourself, who would you vote for, if anyone?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) I am really impressed with many of the candidates that have participated with me in discussions thus far. My answer at this point is probably Justin Bibb with honorable mentions to Landry Simmons, Zack Reed, and Ross DiBello in no particular order.

 ((WN )) What are some reasons people may not vote O'Kostendt?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) I will face a learning curve when it comes to working in city government, as I have never done so before. It will take time for me to learn the nuts and bolts, and become fully effective.

 ((WN )) How will you manage the [COVID-19] vaccine rollout, if elected?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Some reports indicate that virtually all adults who want the vaccine have received it, including yours truly. The Ohio Army National Guard in association with CSU [Cleveland State University] and other providers did a commendable job in organizing vaccine distribution.

 ((WN )) Imagine Cleveland in 2025 under an O'Kostendt leadership. What do you picture it looking like?

No answer was provided.

 ((WN )) Which historical figure do you most admire?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Jesus Christ of Nazareth[.]

 ((WN )) Anything else you would like to say?

 ((Arthur Kostendt )) Thanks for your interest in my campaign, [...], and sorry for the extended wait on my response.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.