In his state of the city address today, Mayor Frank Jackson was guardedly optimistic about Cleveland’s future, saying the city needs to build on the gains it has made in his two terms on the job. Rather than give a speech, he sat down for an interview with Channel5’s Leon Bibb. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
One of the first things Mayor Frank Jackson told Leon Bibb is that the city of Cleveland’s success is not guaranteed.
JACKSON: “There’s some great things happening, but we’re still at that point where the city could go either way. It could be very successful, or it could fall flat on its face.”
Jackson said the city must improve the basics—in his words, the “blocking and tackling,” focusing on three specific areas: education, community involvement and economic growth.
He said he wants to move ahead with his longtime plan to develop the lakefront, touting the city’s role in helping jump start the Flats East Bank development project at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. That and other development projects make downtown Cleveland more attractive to businesses, he said, but there’s still work to do.
JACKSON: “When someone comes to Cleveland, a business locates here, they want to look at tax structure. They want to look at quality of service. They want to look at education. They want to look at whether or not their business can be a participant in the prosperity they create. Is there a welcoming environment in terms of business opportunity, investment opportunity, quality of life, amenities, all those kinds of things? And that is where we are going, but we’re not there yet.”
When the conversation turned to the city’s thousands of abandoned homes, Jackson acknowledged it would take years to demolish them all.
JACKSON: “We cannot afford to address all of what we need to address in terms of—we’ve spent, in six years we’ve spend over $50 million. We still have this problem.”
And he said the city should consider preserving some homes rather than bulldozing them.
Jackson stressed education throughout his remarks. Near the end of the speech, Bibb asked Jackson about the school levy the mayor successfully campaigned to pass last year.
BIBB: “You said you would trade it all for passage of that levy, or for a better educational system. You would trade it all and call for a shakeup, if we need it, in the school system. Do you still feel that way?”
JACKSON: “Well, I don’t say anything I don’t mean.”
Jackson said he wants to see through his plan to reform and improve Cleveland’s schools. And he gave a small nod to the idea that he'll seek a third term in November.