In the night Frank Jackson was elected to a historic fourth term as Cleveland’s mayor, he thanked his supporters and talked about how the campaign helped him reconnect to the city in ways he hadn’t in a long time, how it reenergized him.
That’s good, because both elements — more connection and more energy — will be critical over the next four years.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Jackson told associate editor Sheehan Hannan in Cleveland Magazine’s interview with the mayor on the day after the election. “That’s been confirmed.”
Granted, there is much to be proud of in Cleveland, from the reinvigorated near West Side and the energy building around the lakefront to our recognition as one of National Geographic Traveler’s top places to visit for 2018. But there is still much to be done.
Jackson ticked off a well-established list of areas for improvement: “It’s in education, it’s in jobs, it’s in safety, it’s wealth [creation], it’s in all of that.”
To make important progress on “all of that,” as Jackson put it, will require commitment, creativity and leadership beyond what’s gotten us to this point. “Bureaucracy is not moving at the same pace as the sense of urgency of the public,” admited Jackson.
While the mayor argues that’s the case across the country, it’s especially true here.
It goes deeper than hiring additional safety forces. Look no further than the progress on police reforms mandated by the Cleveland Consent Decree with the Department of Justice. In late November, a federal judge chastised the city for its slow-moving efforts, especially in the Office of Professional Standards, which investigates citizen complaints against police officers. It’s hard to characterize the office as anything less than a mess.
After agreeing to certain benchmarks to resolve cases, including cutting the backlog by half, the city failed to hit its targets. In August, the office still had more than 400 open cases, about 20 less than when the process started 2 1/2 years ago. As the judge pointed out, that’s unfair to both citizens who want their complaints to be taken seriously and police officers who have investigations hanging over their heads.
To be no better off midway through this effort to build community trust is unacceptable. For real progress on all that this city needs, Jackson must work hard to strip away these bureaucratic layers and make real change.
While he won’t say whether this is his final term, Jackson must approach it with urgency. One thing is for sure: his legacy and our city’s future depends on it.