Budish: Poverty Will Be a Major Theme of New Cuyahoga County Administration

Armond Budish speaks at a debate at the City Club of Cleveland. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
Armond Budish speaks at a debate at the City Club of Cleveland. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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CASTELE: What do you think are the biggest challenges that you want to address at the beginning of next year?

BUDISH: We have some wonderful things going on in this county. We have great momentum, we have buildings going up, we have conventions coming to town, we have excitement, we have more people living – coming to live downtown, we have young people coming. All those are wonderful things. But we also have challenges. There’s way too much poverty in this community, and one of the primary themes of my administration will be attacking poverty and trying to lift people out. In a sustainable way. So that means not only making sure that people have the life-saving benefits that they need, whether that’s healthcare, whether that’s home assistance, utility assistance, veterans assistance. But in addition, we need to be focused on sustainability. So we need to make sure that people get the training and the education that they need to get a job…And there’s many thousands of people who that looking for work that want to work that could, if they had the right experience and training, get one of these good-paying jobs that are right now available in the community.

CASTELE: Before the election, you had talked about hoping to set up a venture capital fund for new businesses in Cuyahoga County. And I wondered, at this point, do you have a clearer idea of where the funds for that kind of venture would come from?

BUDISH: We’re looking at a variety of ways to provide that capital. I’m not sure yet what the best way will be. I believe that a venture capital authority is a productive option for us…To make sure that we’re leveraging county dollars with private dollars from around the country to support startups and early-stage businesses here in Cuyahoga. But there are other things that can be done as well…the Small Business Administration supports loans to smaller businesses that need that kind of capital to hire more employees, to grow. But there are certain requirements that sometimes these businesses just can’t quite satisfy. The county, perhaps – for relatively small amounts of money, I might add – may be able to help boost those businesses into a position where they could then qualify for support from the small business administration.

CASTELE: In what areas do you see an opportunity for the county and the state to cooperate?

BUDISH: The challenges we face are way too big for any city or county to deal with on its own. So when I talk about fighting poverty, when I talk about workforce development and job creation, those are things we need state help with. And we need federal government help with.

CASTELE: You need help – in what ways?

BUDISH: We’re going to need resources, we’re going to need joint cooperative programming, we need to protect our lake, for example, that’s something we need to work together. That’s state, that’s federal, that’s county, that’s city – and we will do that, and I will be a leader in those efforts.

CASTELE: There are some local governments that are in fiscal distress – East Cleveland and Maple Heights. And I’m wondering, what approach do you think the county should be taking to helping those communities out.

BUDISH: The thing that the county can do best is help these communities with a joint purchasing, joint services, helping coordinate so that we can help them cut costs.

CASTELE: Now some cities in trouble will look to layoffs, pay freezes, other concessions from public sector unions. Is this an approach that you think is the right approach?

BUDISH: Well, I’m not going to tell cities what to do. They need to do what they have to do. But we have to make it easier for them. Right now, there’s a lot of cities that have already laid off police officers and firefighters because of the cuts those cities have suffered from the state government. That’s not the solution to making our county a better place to live.

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