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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson Presents Budget to Council

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson laid out his plans for hiring workers and expanding services using the millions of dollars raised by the income tax increase approved last November.

Jackson sat down with city council on Tuesday to kick off hearings on this year’s proposed budget.

“We have the opportunity now to invest in services, either enhancing those services or bringing back services that we have previously cut out,” Jackson told council members.

ideastream’s Nick Castele spoke with host Tony Ganzer about the meeting.

TONY GANZER: So what are the big-ticket items in this budget increase?

NICK CASTELE: So this tax increase raises $80 million or so total. Now half of that goes to deal with expenditures that were already higher than revenues. So that leaves Cleveland with $40 million to spend on new stuff, basically. And some of the big things that they’re doing, more than half of that money is going to go to public safety. That includes hiring 65 more patrol officers than were in last year’s budget, more than a dozen higher-ups in the police force. Money also goes toward complying with the consent decree, as well as hiring more emergency medical workers. Now separate from safety, there’s other expenditures like putting $4.6 million toward the Department of Public Works for services like street sweeping, leaf pickup, fixing up parks and potholes, sort of your traditional city services that you might think of. Also, the city wants to hire more building and housing inspectors. Now, a couple council people at this meeting were urging the city to and the mayor to inspect more houses for code violations, to bring these rental properties through the process of getting them up to code.

GANZER: In this appearance, the mayor did face pushback about plans for addressing violence. What specifically did he hear?

CASTELE: Well, Councilman Zack Reed, who represents neighborhoods on the southeast side of the city, he listed off several shootings that have happened in his area recently. And it was all leading up to making this point:

ZACK REED: “All of those incidents right there in my ward, in my community, in my neighborhood, and one right down, five doors down from my house. So first of all, I appreciate the conversation about safety as it relates to more police, but we need more detectives.”

CASTELE: Reed is asking for the city to hire more detectives to solve a greater proportion of Cleveland’s homicides that happen each year. Now Mayor Jackson actually did agree, he said detectives do have a big case load and there’s a need to beef up that part of the police force. The mayor pointed to a new initiative in this budget called the NICE unit. This is an acronym, it stands for Neighborhood Impact Community Engagement, it’s a group of police who can deploy to any part of the city, with a focus on neighborhoods where there’s a lot of violence. Jackson said this group will also have its own detectives to do that sort of work.

GANZER: Now at the table was at least one of Mayor Jackson’s challengers in this year’s election, Councilman Jeff Johnson. What did he have to say?

CASTELE: Well, let’s takes a listen, here’s councilman Johnson.

JEFF JOHNSON: “Number one, I believe right now in the city of Cleveland hanging over this budget are two major crises. One is the lead paint, where over the last five years, 10,000 young people have been poisoned by lead.”

CASTELE: The other issue, he said, was violent crime. Now the city has said it is taking steps to inspect more properties to be sure that kids are safe from poisoning by lead paint. This new budget does provide for hiring several more inspectors to do that sort of work. But Jackson acknowledged it’s not enough given the big scope of the problem.

FRANK JACKSON: “There is no level of money, no level of money that can fully address the lead problem in urban centers. There is no level of money. If you, if you, this is an issue that is so deep and is so pervasive.”

GANZER: So Nick, what’s next for these budget hearings?

CASTELE: The hearings continue all this week. There will be directors from different departments, they’ll come to the council committee table and present in more detail what’s being proposed in this budget, they’ll answer questions from council. They might go into next week, too, potentially. And then what’s next is to vote on it. So everything will be approved by council by the end of March. 

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