Mayor Frank Jackson cites success, challenges Cleveland to strive for greatness

October 11, 2018

Mayor Frank Jackson cites success, challenges Cleveland to strive for greatness

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Mayor Frank Jackson delivered a challenge to Clevelanders Wednesday to not be satisfied with the successes the city has noted and instead be willing to shake things up to strive for greatness.

In his 13th state-of-the-city address – his first at night – Jackson didn’t have any big announcements of what’s ahead. Rather, he focused on how far the city has come and the need to keep moving forward. 

“Cleveland is a successful city, but Cleveland is not a great city,” Jackson said. “A great city is one where everyone can participate in prosperity.” 

It is one of Jackson’s familiar themes and one he touched on it repeatedly Wednesday as he highlighted his administration’s efforts to raise the quality of life throughout Cleveland’s neighborhoods, tackle crime and promote economic growth.  

“We have the ability to do this (achieve greatness). The question is do we have the will,” Jackson said. 

Related coverage: See photos from the mayor’s state-of-the-city address

Here are some highlights from the mayor’s speech. 

Stable finances 

Cleveland’s budget took two big hits in recent years.  

One was the recession, which cost the city tens of millions of dollars in tax receipts as foreclosures spiked and jobs were lost, Jackson said. 

The other was cuts in state funding, which cost the city more than $143 million dollars from 2010 to 2016. 

“This event was a direct attack on city revenues from the state of Ohio as we were trying to recover from the recession, Jackson said. “That cannot be understated.” 

Cleveland weathered the financial storm, but not without cuts to services, Jackson said. 

Voters in 2016 approved increasing the city’s income tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent. That has allowed the city to restore and expand services the last two years. 

Among those: 

Boost staffing for recreation center programs and security. Restore tree trimming programs Restore street sweeping Resurface 275 residential side streets and 36 main and secondary streets the last two years at a cost of nearly $120 million. Add of 72 EMS employees and nine ambulances, 39 fire cadets with another 20 in training and train of 190 police officers in five police cadet academies the last two years. 

Fighting crime and violence 

Like many other major cities, Cleveland is wrestling with crime and violence, particularly youths. 

“We’re facing some of the same challenges as other metropolitan areas,” he said. To specific issues he mentioned were gun violence and opiod addictions. 

Jackson has advocated treating crime and violence, particularly among youths, as a public-health issue. Address the issues that can lead to crime – poverty, hunger, unemployment – and crime will diminish, he argues. 

For children, constant exposure to poverty, crime and violence and a prolonged sense of helplessness can lead to health consequences from the release of stress hormones in their bodies. This “toxic” stress can affect behavior and lead to violence. 

This summer, the city hired 11 counselors to work out of the 22 rec centers and intervene when help is needed by making referrals to social service agencies. All staff in the rec centers have taken crisis-intervention training, too. 

Other anti-crime measures include brighter lights and high-tech cameras. 

The city plans to replace all its street lights with brighter, more efficient 61,000 LED lights. The city also intends to install hundreds of high-tech digital cameras along major streets and in areas within 1,000 feet of recreation centers and parks. 

The cameras will provide high-quality images and real-time monitoring to police.  

Sparking neighborhood development 

Boosting prosperity will require wealth building in neighborhoods where traditional investment has failed, Jackson said. He touted progress his neighborhood improvement initiative has made in Glenville. 

The city committed $25 million toward neighborhood develop -- money that was carved out of a $100 million bond issue from 2015. That money leveraged commitments for $40 million more in financing support from Huntington National Bank, PNC, Key Bank and Fifth Third Bank.    

The money is targeted at specific corridors – East 105th Street and East 93rd on the East Side and the Clark Fulton area on the West Side -- with an eye toward commercial and residential development, support for startup businesses and skills training. 

The first project as part of the plan, announced in March, is a $15 million development of apartments and shops on East 105th in Glenville, a short distance north of the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center. 

It is expected to be completed by mid 2019 and spark other growth in the neighborhood. 

Embracing new technology 

Manufacturing remains the largest sector in the city’s economy, Jackson said, but development of new technology like blockchain could lead to jobs and wealth for Cleveland, Jackson said. 

Companies like IBM are funneling money into exploring blockchain, universities are dedicating departments to it and states are passing legislation to try and jump-start its development. 

Cleveland entrepreneur Bernie Moreno has advocated making Cleveland an epicenter for blockchain. 

Recently the Greater Cleveland Partnership teamed with the Blockchain Research Institute to become the first city where small businesses and nonprofits will have free access to the Toronto-based institute’s data and research 

Jackson noted Wednesday that in December the city would help sponsor Cleveland’s first blockchain conference, Solutions. 

New time, new format 

Jackson’s previous state-of-the-city speeches were put on by the City Club of Cleveland and held during the lunch hour. That audience was dominated by downtown business and community figures.  

The mayor switched to the evening and moved the event to the city’s Public Auditorium this year in hopes of drawing more city residents to the event. 

The administration said about 1,000 people registered for tickets.  

But the actual crowd was much thinner – an estimated 400 or so -- among about 1,200 chairs set up for the event. 

More than 950 people attended the City Club sponsored speech in 2017.  

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