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Jackson’s State of The City Draws Critiques

Friday, February 29, 2008 at 6:00 AM

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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says the city is moving in the right direction despite the many challenges of the past year. In his annual State of the City address, Jackson encouraged the people of Cleveland to keep up the good fight as he works to rebuild the city. But some council members wanted to hear more from a mayor who has sometimes been called too low-key. ideastream®’s Tasha Flournoy has more.

Listen to Mayor Jackson’s address here.

At the beginning of his address, Jackson praised residents for their perseverance in the face of the city’s struggles. 

Frank Jackson: Cleveland is a town that accepts challenges. Cleveland is a town that runs to the fight, rather than from the fight. And Cleveland is a tenacious city.

Addressing the City Club of Cleveland forum Thursday, Jackson provided a host of his accomplishments despite struggling to provide better city services with less city revenue. He said he managed to carry forward 26 million dollars in savings to balance the city’s 2008 budget. He said the city has secured business deals that will create and retain 5 thousand jobs.

And, he said, he’s fulfilled his promise to strengthen the city’s and region’s transportation structure, pointing to improvements at Cleveland Hopkins airport.  Continental Airlines, which maintains a hub at Hopkins, has expanded flight service, and the airport will get a new retail and food make-over in the next two years.  Again, Jackson said, that means more jobs. 

As for social issues such as education and youth violence, Jackson called for collaborative strategy to help young people.

Frank Jackson: We’re calling that Operation Focus. It will combine law enforcement, social services, and mentoring to stop violence and crime in our neighborhoods as well as offer alternatives for those who want to turn away from a life in violence.

The mayor’s address did draw criticism from council members. Councilman Brian Cummins says the mayor “played to his base” when he spent more than half of his speech talking about city management. Cummins says Cleveland is the center city for Northeast Ohio and Jackson left that audience out.

Brian Cummins: The majority of listeners to WCPN, the majority of readers of the Plain Dealer that don’t live in the city are not going to be that impressed with the litany of details of the management of the city.

But at least one of Jackson’s initiatives for the coming year DOES reach across county lines:  a joint economic agreement with Youngstown that THAT city has already approved.  Jackson said he expects Cleveland City Council to introduce it in the coming weeks.

If Cummins wants Jackson to expand his scope, Councilman Mike Polensek wants the mayor to focus inward to restore confidence among residents.  Polensek wants more aggressive tactics on public safety and quality of life issues.  He says it isn’t enough for the Mayor to revive the police’s gang unit; he wanted to hear Jackson’s passion, he says, similar to the inspiration that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama provokes.

Mike Polensek: And I think that’s the problem as I was looking at the crowd there seemed to be a lack of excitement you know. Inspiration, you know inspiration. That’s the way to move Cleveland forward, we have to have inspiration.

One audience member did evoke some passion from the mayor when she asked him about regionalism.  With that, Jackson’s tone – which had been lukewarm for most of his speech – changed.  He became more circumspect, as he explained that regionalism is not just tax-sharing.  It’s about facing problems like the foreclosure crisis that extend far beyond Cleveland’s boundaries… together.

Frank Jackson: These are not Cleveland problems. They’re not suburban problems. These are our problems and we don’t address them, then we will all suffer.

Tasha Flournoy, 90.3.

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Government/Politics

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