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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson Says City Must Beat Economic Inequality

Mayor Frank Jackson delivered his 2019 State of the City address at Cleveland Public Auditorium. [City of Cleveland]
Mayor Frank Jackson delivered his 2019 State of the City address at Cleveland Public Auditorium.

Cleveland must work to eliminate economic inequality, Mayor Frank Jackson said in his 2019 State of the City address Thursday night, warning against those who use talk of economic inclusion “to cloak another agenda” of self-enrichment.

Jackson, who is in his 14th year as mayor, did not elaborate as to whom he referred, but said the city must work against an inherently unequal economy that he termed “the beast.” Cleveland must use economic growth, education, neighborhood investment and technology to sustain success as a city, he said.

“If all the growth and prosperity gained by this city does not translate into your well-being,” Jackson said, “then it means nothing to me.”

The mayor delivered a litany of economic figures at the start of his speech, highlighting wealth gaps in cities across the country, including Cleveland.

“This is a recipe — a recipe — for economic, social and political disaster,” he said. “This will only get worse as time goes on under the current model of economic growth.”

Jackson denounced the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the city’s Fannie Lewis Law. Named for the late city councilwoman, the 2003 law  required local hiring on construction projects. Jackson called the court’s decision “a prime example of institutionalized inequity and disparity.”

The mayor opened his remarks referring to issues in his family, without getting into specifics. His grandson, Frank Q. Jackson, pleaded not guilty to charges including abduction and felonious assault in an alleged attack on an 18-year-old woman. 

A city prosecutor initially declined to charge the mayor’s grandson, who was later indicted by a county grand jury. The mayor has said he did not seek to influence the investigation.

“Now let me just be clear: My family is my family,” the mayor said Thursday night. “And I do not apologize to anyone about my family. Now, I’m no different than you. I don’t live in a bubble. What affects you and your family affects me and my family. And just like you love yours, I love mine.”

Jackson’s speech went on highlight spending on roads, parks, playgrounds and recreation centers. He reminded the audience his administration  committed millions of dollars toward development projects in lower-income city neighborhoods. He also rattled off Cleveland Metropolitan School District statistics, saying  the city is making progress in increasing graduation rates.  

“If we want to see that kind of growth, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “if we want to see that, then you know what? We’re going to have to put the work in.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.