Blaine Griffin rallies supporters at a fundraiser at the Academy Tavern, the Larchmere watering hole that he calls his "uptown office."
Blaine Griffin rallies supporters at a fundraiser at the Academy Tavern, the Larchmere watering hole that he calls his "uptown office." Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

We published a profile of Cleveland City Hall’s second most prominent political figure: Blaine Griffin, the City Council president

Our profile explores two sides of Griffin, the pugilist and the peacemaker. He has become the face of a hot political fight this fall as he tries to defeat Issue 38, the People’s Budget charter amendment. 

Griffin views himself as a plain dealer in the lower-case sense of the term. The way he sees it, he can find common ground and compromise with anyone. 

But there’s another side to the council president, one he freely acknowledged when describing an argument from years ago. “I’m a brawler, and I didn’t mind getting into a little bit of a dust up,” he said. 

Inside City Hall, Griffin can both twist arms and shake hands. Here’s an illuminating story that didn’t make it into the piece: 

In September, Mayor Justin Bibb picked up the phone and lobbied Cleveland City Council members on his proposed flavored tobacco ban. The legislation was stuck. Call by call, Bibb tried to pry it loose. 

Then council members received an email from Griffin. He had heard the administration was making calls. He reminded members that he favored a countywide ban, not one confined to the city. So did the health committee chairman, Kevin Conwell. 

“Please work through the Chairs of your Committee when you have these issues brought to you,” Griffin wrote. “We should not allow anyone to cause confusion.”

In short: Hold the line, we’re not bringing this ban forward. 

Several days later, Griffin replied to an email from the ban’s chief advocate, Health Director Dr. David Margolius, with this: “You are the Health Director!!! I will truly never fault you for advocating for what you think is extremely important.” 

This is Griffin’s balancing act. He keeps council members on his side and pushes back on Bibb – while making sure he doesn’t push too hard. 

Griffin may have to balance the political fallout from his fight against Issue 38, where he stands at odds with a populist ballot issue. He has rallied unions and council members to his side.

Some of those council colleagues were in attendance at a recent fundraiser for the council president, where they heard a quintessentially Griffinesque rallying cry: 

“Ain’t no party like a Ward 6 party, ’cause a Ward 6 party don’t stop. Ain’t no party like a Blaine Griffin party, ’cause a Blaine Griffin Party don’t stop,” he said, as the room, thick with people, half-joined him. “Come on, say it with me. You’re supposed to say it with me.” 

Signal background

Blaine Griffin profile

Blaine Griffin makes a bet on the politics of No

Viewed as a potential challenger to Mayor Justin Bibb in 2025, the Cleveland City Council president is the face of the campaign against the People’s Budget charter amendment. Can he defeat the ballot issue without blowing up his political future?

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.