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Government and Politics


FitzGerald optimistic in State of the County Address
County executive reveals plans for new businesses in the Cleveland area
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI
and GRANT ENGLE


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald says he's happy with the county's progress under his administration.
Courtesy of Grant Engle
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In The Region:

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald used his State of the County address to announce the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center project has a new name.

The nearly half-billion-dollar complex will now be known as the Global Center for Health Innovation. FitzGerald pointed out that more than half of the four-story, 235,000-square-foot building has been leased to various medical companies.

At Tuesday’s noon address, FitzGerald also revealed a plan to build a new emergency response center in Broadview Heights in hopes of creating faster response times to 911 calls.

FitzGerald gave his speech the same day as Gov. John Kasich delivered his State of the State address in Lima. And politicos expect the Democratic FitzGerald to jump into the gubernatorial race next year to challenge Kasich.  But as WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports, Fitzgerald steered clear of that today,

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County Executive Ed Fitzgerald was upbeat about the condition of the county – not hard to do as the economy improves and much of the corrupt former leadership is in prison. Part of that corruption revolved around a deal to buy the former Ameritrust complex on East 9th Street in downtown Cleveland.

Now the white elephant has been sold off for private development. And Fitzgerald said it will save taxpayers millions of dollars in upkeep. “We took a situation which had become a fiasco; we resolved it. We created a huge economic development project out of it.”

Reserves and fewer employees
Fitzgerald said the county is already in good financial shape after developing more efficient ways to operate. For instance, he says experts recommend local governments have at least 15 percent of their general fund held in reserve. “At the close of 2012, the county had approximately 37 percent of its general fund in unencumbered reserve.”

The county has also shrunk from 6,400 workers down to 4,500.  One system used by the corrupt former Auditor Frank Russo was to hire ghost employees and take bribes for property appraisal work. Fitzgerald said cleaning up that with streamlined systems has saved the county $5 million.

“And were now able to return that money under state law to local communities, both their school districts and their cities.”

Cleveland schools will get $700,000. 

Med Mart goes 'Global'
Fitzgerald also made a couple announcements to the 800 people gathered at the Renaissance hotel in downtown Cleveland.  One is that the Medical Mart has been renamed as the Global Center for Health Innovation. It’s also picked up a new tenant with an even more difficult name: The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society – or HIMSS for short.  The society will lease an entire floor of the new downtown facility.  And that will bring occupancy to over 50 percent.

Fitzgerald also announced a new 911 system for the county -- one that goes along with a new Emergency Operations Center expected to be built in Broadview Heights. The executive says 911 calls now go to one of 48 different call centers.

“Our plan provides for the planning and financial resources to eventually bring the total number of call centers down to four (over) the next ten years.”

Mum regarding the governor's race
The Democrat may be running for governor next year, but he avoided making any particular comments about state government. A supporter in the audience asked him this question:

“Would you speak to us about whether that would be leaving us in the lurch?”  

Fitzgerald answered “no” -- he won't address it. He went on to explain that his aim this day was to focus solely on county issues.

Ed Fitzgerald may not be talking about 2014, but he is talking about 2016. He wants Cleveland to make a bid for a presidential convention and he also wants to bring back the Great Lakes Exposition in 2016,much like that erected on Cleveland’s lakefront in 1936. 

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