Mayor: Cleveland 'positioned to be great, but it's not guaranteed'

Mayor Frank Jackson touched on some key issues during his State of the City address. (Source:...
Mayor Frank Jackson touched on some key issues during his State of the City address. (Source: WOIO)
Published: Mar. 10, 2016 at 4:27 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 11, 2016 at 12:03 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Mayor Frank G. Jackson delivered the 11th State of the City address at Public Hall on Thursday, focusing on education, a proposed income tax increase, and the Republican National Convention.

Jackson opened his remarks by saying "Cleveland is a successful city. It's positioned to be a great city, but it's not guaranteed."

Part of that positioning involves the opportunity the city has in July, when Cleveland hosts the RNC.

"After we show the world who Cleveland really is, and who we really are, people will be interested in coming here," said Jackson. "That is invaluable for what that will do for us going forward…if we handle it right."

He said he estimated 15,000 members of the media will be in Cleveland for the RNC, an event he also believes will be positive economically for the city.

When Cleveland 19 pressed him if the city is ready, he replied, "we stay ready, oh yeah, we'll be ready."

Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek told Cleveland 19 council has not received an update on how the city will handle the event.

"Time will tell. We have not had a briefing (the council) on RNC preparedness. We've asked for that. It's in the hands of the administration. We're hoping that they are ready. It's like anything, you plan for the worst and hope for the best, and until we get that briefing, that's all I can tell you," said Polensek.

Another focus of the mayor's speech was the importance of education. He repeatedly mentioned it and urged voters to re-approve a levy renewal for the district, saying it would be a "vote of confidence."

The mayor cited improvements in graduation, as well as fourth and eighth grade reading and math rates, but Cleveland 19 found that the state still ranks the district 626 out of 671.

The message seemed to be from both Polensek and Jackson that the schools are on the right path, but the job isn't done.

"We have schools that have been the top schools in the entire state. A few years back, a couple years back, our Early College was the highest-performing public high school in the state of Ohio. So we have schools that do pretty well, but you're right, as a district, we don't do as well," said Jackson.

Polensek said he sent his son to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He said more work needs to be done at the school level and by parents.

"The only way to succeed in this country today is with an education. It's your ticket. They can't take that away from you," said Polensek. "Without an education, your chances to success are slim to none. We have to demand of CMSD, of our state officials, that we've got to focus in on what's important. What do we need to create individuals for the job market today? I don't think we're doing that how we need to be doing that. CMSD needs to understand that we're hearing that from our business partners, we're dealing with people that aren't prepared. We need to start changing something."

That being said, he hopes voters pass the levy.

"I think, also, you have to believe and if you don't believe, you'll never go anywhere," added Polensek.

Jackson also took the opportunity to urge voters to pass a proposed .5 percent income tax increase. He said due to the recession, the city lost money that it hasn't gotten back.

"I will not have enough money in 2016 to cobble together or save during the year to balance out 2017," Jackson explained.

He said alternatives could be devastating if the increase doesn't pass.

"The only thing left for the city of Cleveland to do in 2017 is to lay off employees and to cut or eliminate services," said Jackson.

Read the mayor's full speech:

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