Cuyahoga County treasurer
I would hope the first thing the new county executive and county council do is make all the employees civil service. You need to create a professional cadre of public employees removed from the political process.
They're going to be under incredible pressure to shrink government on the belief — not necessarily misplaced — that there is waste. My expectation is that they'll find tremendous waste, at least in the county auditor's office.
Pepper Pike councilwoman and blogger at Writes Like She Talks
If we don't rebuild trust, I don't think this is going to be any different than any other form of government. That's what corruption does: It rips away the trust people had when they voted for someone.
I think as a county we're moving not just to a different form of government, but I think the expectations are going to be very different. A lot of these government structures represent a different time and a different relationship between the residents and the people who are governing. In the last 10 years, the access people have to information and the ability to debate has resulted in more people engaging.
The No. 1 [goal] is provision of information, making information available in all the different ways people access it. If you go visit the website of the city of Seattle, it's phenomenal what they have: The council members all have blogs. They have a lot of different information on electronic formats. They have RSS feeds.
No. 2, the executive should be a cheerleader. That's something lacking here. Mayor Jackson has done a good job, but he's not a cheerleader. I think we have a great area here. I don't think it's being sold properly. We need someone who can rally the troops, like Ed Koch in the old days, walking around the streets of New York.
President & CEO, BioEnterprise
Our county health-tech corridor [stretches from] CSU and Tri-C through University Circle. There's a swath that is underdeveloped. There are companies that want to be near the hospitals and educational institutions, but they can't get there. There isn't a building to relocate to. Every building that's viable is 100 percent occupied.
The private market, in a normal situation, would be able to fix that problem. In the current situation, it's not able to fix it without government support. The land is owned by different landowners, usually in smaller parcels. For a private business, private developer, it's very hard to go out and assemble all the parcels of land so you have a 2- or 3-acre site for development. If it's the site of a former factory, a gas station, you've got environmental liability if you take ownership of the site, so you need cleanup before you can take ownership of it. Also, the market for financing commercial real estate is broken right now in the U.S., especially smaller projects.
So the government can step in and support and finance these programs, by a whole host of different tools, everything from providing loans directly to providing guarantees of different types to take the risk out for banks. To help drive the development that businesses want to see, the county can bring tools to the table: lots of financing programs to remove the barriers to physical development.
Summit County executive
The task of organizing all the separate independent offices into one office is going to be a very time-consuming and complicated process. Cuyahoga County is going much, much quicker than Summit County ever did in this transition. You've eliminated so many independent elected offices. Who's going to go into those jobs? How are they going to relate to one another?
You're going to have someone come in who's going to inherit a budget set by another form of government. It's going to be a real interesting challenge. I would hope the commissioners think about passing a temporary budget for the first quarter of 2011 and give the executive time to get in there and start working.
I think the executive should facilitate discussion of actual mergers between cities. Too many are struggling. A perfect example is Parma and Parma Heights, of which I used to be mayor. With the economic environment in our region, the time has probably come for Parma and Parma Heights to merge. Parma Heights has serious financial concerns. Its revenues are shrinking. The business base is shrinking: It's primarily retail, and retail patterns have changed. Parma Heights is cut out from almost the middle of Parma. The two cities could strengthen each other.
President and CEO, Greater Cleveland Partnership
Executive director, The George Gund Foundation
I'd like to see the county engage in the issue of public education. It's not something counties are charged with, but one of the issues we face as a state was highlighted by the Brookings Institution several months ago. It pointed out that Ohio ranks very low in terms of dollars spent on classroom instruction, and yet we rank very high in dollars spent on public education. We have so many school districts. We're spending a huge amount of that money on governance and administration instead of classroom instruction. It's a political, systemic problem, a phenomenon of all the government fragmentation. The county could act as useful convener in that discussion. I think there has to be some consolidation of school districts because we're spending too much money on too many districts.
Dean of Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs
I'd like to see the county council create a countywide elected position: chief judge of the county courts. Right now we have no mechanism of encouraging financial constraints on the judicial system. The chief judge of the county courts is elected by their peers. The way separation of powers works now is, the judges decide their budget and they throw it over the fence for the county to pay for. I think we've got an out-of-control court system.
I hope the next county executive makes it a five-year goal to become the first big county government in the U.S. to win a Baldrige Award for quality public service. Most people know Baldrige for its quality award for manufacturers, but there is one for nonprofits, including government. There's a danger that as we get county reform, that everyone will be pointing a finger at county employees, saying, "You're lazy, unmotivated and stupid." In the Baldrige process, you need employee participation in [improving] county government so it's cost efficient but also responsible to customers.
Executive director of ParkWorks
There's an opportunity to wrap our arms around what we are now as a city and a region, which is a mid-sized, post-industrial city. For me, it's warmly accepting where we are and using that as a platform, rather than being so turned around, reaching back, that we can't see the opportunities that lie ahead.
What is a competitive city of the future? People are talking about fossil fuel, and the oil spill in the Gulf, and how do we as a society learn to streamline? There are certain advantages to being in an urban core: You can take advantage of public transportation; you can live close to where you work.
Everyone thinks the reform movement was against the corruption and the headlines. I argue that reform was against the tribalism in the county. People have to realize that reform has just started.