Having been elected to Cleveland's City Council at age 23, Dennis J. Kucinich was well-known to Cleveland residents when they chose him as their mayor in 1977 at the age of 31. At the time, Kucinich was the youngest person ever elected to lead a major American city.
In 1978, Cleveland's banks demanded that he sell the city's 70 year-old municipally-owned electric system to its private competitor (in which the banks had a financial interest) as a precondition of extending credit to city government.
When Mayor Kucinich refused to sell Muny Light, the banks took the unprecedented step of refusing to roll over the city’s debt, as is customary. Instead, they pushed the city into default. It turned out the banks were thoroughly interlocked with the private utility, CEI, which would have acquired monopoly status by taking over Muny Light. Five of the six banks held almost 1.8 million shares of CEI stock; of the 11 directors of CEI, eight were also directors of four of the six banks involved.
By holding to his promise and putting principle above politics, Kucinich lost his re-election bid and his political career was temporarily derailed. But today, Kucinich stands vindicated for having confronted the Enron of his day, and for saving the municipal power company. "There is little debate," wrote Cleveland Magazine in May 1996, "over the value of Muny Light today. Now Cleveland Public Power, it is a proven asset to the city that between 1985 and 1995 saved its customers $195,148,520 over what they would have paid CEI." He also preserved hundreds of union jobs.
In addition to being Mayor of Cleveland, Kucinich has served on the Cleveland City Council (1970-75, 1981-82); served as the Clerk of Courts for the Cleveland Municipal Court (1976-77); been an Ohio State Senator (1994-96); and in November 2004, was elected to his fifth term as a Member of the United States House of Representatives (1997-present).
Kucinich was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 8, 1946. He is the eldest of 7 children of Frank and Virginia Kucinich. He and his family lived in twenty-one places by the time Kucinich was 17 years old. Kucinich graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Speech Communications from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio in 1974.
Kucinich has held many jobs outside of politics including being a hospital orderly, newspaper copy boy, teacher, consultant, television analyst and author.
Since being elected to Congress in 1996, Kucinich has been a tireless advocate for worker rights, civil rights and human rights.
In Congress, Kucinich has authored and co-sponsored legislation to create a national health care system, preserve Social Security, lower the costs of prescription drugs, provide economic development through infrastructure improvements, abolish the death penalty, provide universal prekindergarten to all 3, 4, and 5 year olds, create a Department of Peace, regulate genetically engineered foods, repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, and provide tax relief to working class families.
Kucinich has been honored by Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters as a champion of clean air, clean water and an unspoiled earth. Kucinich has twice been an official United States delegate to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (1998, 2004) and attend the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In his district, Kucinich has been recognized by the Greater Cleveland AFL-CIO as a tireless advocate for the social and economic interests of his community.
Kucinich led the effort to save Cleveland's 90 year-old steel industry and the thousands of jobs and retiree benefits it provides. While hundreds of community hospitals have been closed throughout the country, Kucinich led a community-based effort to reopened two Cleveland neighborhood hospitals.
Kucinich worked with the nation's largest railroads to create a merger agreement that improved rail safety while diverting a heavy volume of train traffic away from heavily populated residential areas of his district.
In Cleveland, Kucinich has been honored by the Cleveland AFL-CIO, the Ohio PTA, the NASA Glenn Research Center, the Salvation Army, the United States Post Office, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio’s Boys Town, and the Human Rights Campaign.
Kucinich is a current member of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States (IATSE), an AFL-CIO affiliated union.