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Government and Politics

Jackson says Cleveland is improving but is at a tipping point
In his eighth State of the City address, Cleveland's mayor again called for school improvement and other advancements to sustain momentum

Kevin Niedermier
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson (L) gives his annual State of the City address in an interview format with WEWS new anchor Leon Bibb.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says the city is on the right track, but is also at a tipping point. In his eighth State of the City address today he said Cleveland has a balanced budget, and the new casino and soon to open convention center are positive economic drivers. But Jackson warns that momentum will stall without better public schools, community benefits and higher expectations.                                                                                

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As in his past State of the City addresses, Mayor Jackson called improving the schools the priority that underpins Cleveland’s sustained improvement. He pointed to positives such as visitors gambling at the downtown Horseshoe casino and expectations that more will come when the new convention center and adjoining medical equipment exhibit hall open. But Jackson told moderator and WEWS news anchor Leon Bibb, that while the city is financially stable now, its fiscal management and other areas still need to improve.

“When someone or a business comes to Cleveland, they want to look at tax structure, quality of service, education. They want to know if their business will participate in the prosperity they create. ... That’s where we’re going, but we’re not there yet. We’re on the cusp and could go this way or that way. “   

Schools have more money, but problems persist
Jackson also touched on plans for lakefront development, the on-going internal investigation in a controversial police shooting. Last fall he helped the city pass a rare school levy increase that will help drive the district’s sweeping, state-approved reform plan.

But following the address, retired Cleveland school teacher and union member Meryl Johnson, said the mayor, who is head of the school district, needs to do more to increase the number of teachers in the classrooms.

“The levy only made it possible to restore previous cuts to teachers, art, music and physical education. But as far as the levy providing additional teachers and other things we need to really be successful, I don’t see that happening.”

The Cleveland school’s weak academic performance has put it in line for a partial state takeover.       

State funding cuts still an issue
After the mayor’s address, city Councilman Mike Polensek agreed that Cleveland is moving forward. But he says he wanted to hear the mayor talk about stopping state lawmakers from cutting funding to local governments.

“We still don’t have a partnership in Columbus, they’re still taking a lot of money from us. They took $58 million from the schools and $48 million from the city, and they brag in Columbus that they have a balanced budget. You can’t keep raiding the cities and schools. Look at all the school districts with levies on the ballots. We need some partners in Columbus who realize that urban areas are important in this state.”

Former Cleveland councilwoman sentenced for bribery
Meanwhile, in another City Hall-related story, former Cleveland Councilwoman Sabra Pierce Scott has been sentenced to three-years probation and eight months house arrest for taking bribes. She could have receive up to 14 years in prison.

Scott pleaded guilty to accepting $2,000 from convicted felon and electrical contractor Michael Forlani in exchange for help landing a city contract. Forlani and Scott are among the 60 public officials and contractors convicted in the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal.                                                                                                 

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