CLEVELAND - When Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson delivered his eighth State of the City address at Cleveland's Public Auditorium, he tossed his scripted speech and had an unscripted conversation with NewsChannel5's Leon Bibb.
So out of the gate, Leon asked Mayor Jackson why he decided to change the format. The mayor chuckled and replied, "I got tired of listening to myself. But really I wanted Cleveland to have a better understanding of the issues. Somebody suggested I do this interview format. So, I thought I would give it a try."
Mayor Jackson told Leon and members of the Cleveland City Club in summary he wants to improve the overall vision of Cleveland. To do that, the mayor said, "The measure of a great city is the participation of the people."
He went on to say, "We haven't arrived yet. We are still at the point where it can go either way despite the great things we have going on here. Our main obstacle is our underdeveloped infrastructure. We overcome that and we can guarantee future success." The three keys to that success, the mayor offered, is education, community benefits and community involvement.
The mayor addressed several questions from Leon including the overwhelming number of resident complaints to the Cleveland Water Department. The mayor admitted, "There has been customer service issues, but it's better now. There is a new director in place, a good plan in place. Because of this, complaints are down and collections are up to the tune of $14 million."
The mayor also spent a significant amount of time laying his plans for developing the Lake Erie Lakefront, continued redevelopment of The Flats, the nearly completed construction on the Medical Mart and improvements around Public Square. He told Leon he hopes Cleveland will become a "city that never sleeps and the long division between east side and west will dissolve." His goal, he added, is to be a city connected across all areas of geography by improved developments and infrastructure.
The mayor also tried to detail Leon's question about the future of United Airlines. An inquiry NewsChannel5 investigators have been asking for months. "For now, United remains a hub and will continue as a hub as long as it's making money. And it is making money,." But the mayor went on to say, "We can't put our eggs all in one basket and we'll continue to look for ways to find other sustainable sources of revenue and employment opportunities for our city."
Leon concluded his interview by asking where the mayor and his public safety team stand on the investigation into the deadly police chase and shooting last November. "The probe is ongoing. We are doing our own internal investigation into the events of that evening. The attorney general had to conduct his own investigation along with the city of East Cleveland because that is the jurisdiction where the incident ended." The mayor did not address Leon's question about the attorney general's conclusion there were systematic failures in the city police department. But he did say those who acted within policy guidelines shouldn't be worried, but those who acted "outside the box, should be concerned."
The State of the City concluded with six questions from audience members that ranged from education to economic development and increasing population, healthy communities and vacant properties.
Mayor Frank Jackson is the city's 56th mayor. He still lives in Cleveland's central neighborhood. He oversees the schools from which he graduated and he began his career as an assistant prosecutor.
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