Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 9:13 AM
At the end of this month, Cuyahoga County's 11-member Council will be down one person, as Julian Rogers leaves to focus on a full-time job at Cleveland State University. ideastream's Nick Castele recently sat down with Rogers to hear his assessment of the county's new leadership structure three years in.
Julian Rogers won election to council in 2010. He represents parts of Cleveland’s east side, as well as Cleveland Heights, University Heights, East Cleveland and Bratenahl.
He says this new government has successfully distanced itself from the corruption scandal that led voters to scrap the three-commissioner structure in favor of a single executive and county council.
But one area where he would have liked to see more reform is in campaign finance.
“When you talk about contributions to elected officials, there can be an assumption from people that every time you’re getting a contribution that somehow you have—that person who gave the contribution has some undue influence over you,” Rogers said.
Rogers backed a charter amendment that would have put limits on campaign contributions. But the majority of council declined to put it on the ballot.
Rogers says council should be an active body with as much say in county affairs as the executive. He’s chair of the education committee, and says so far council has played a minor role in the region’s schools.
“We’ve worked with College Now, and we’re providing scholarships to Cuyahoga County students that are graduating high school and attending colleges or universities within Cuyahoga County,” he said.
Rodgers has supported executive Ed FitzGerald’s plan to build a county-owned hotel next to the new convention center. He rejects suggestions that the project was a distraction from unemployment and poverty in the region. He says council has to focus on social problems and economic development, and that Cleveland needs a successful convention center.
“Once you have a strong downtown where people feel safe, there’s a lot of vibrancy, people gain more interest in wanting to be close to that center,” he said. “So I think that it builds out downtown to the rest of the county.”
Rogers is a Democrat, and the responsibility for naming an interim replacement lies with his district’s precinct committee members from the county Democratic Party. The party hasn’t yet announced whom it will choose.
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