2017 State of the County address
On Wednesday, April 19th, we went to the Huntington Convention Center in Downtown Cleveland to listen to Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish give the 2017 State of the County address.
Before we went into the banquet hall, we chatted with County Council President Dan Brady about the ominous position that many immigrants are now confronted with. County Council President Brady was indeed sympathetic and told us that some 30 years ago when he was a member of the Cleveland City Council, he had introduced legislation to make Cleveland a sanctuary city. During lunch we sat with Ms. Liz Powell, Founder of G2G Consulting, who told us that she once went a fundraiser for former U.S. Congressperson Dennis J. Kucinich at the home of Ms. Margaret W. Wong in Shaker Heights. As it turned out, Ms. Powell and ourselves have a mutual friend who is South Euclid Councilperson Marty Gelfand.
Cuyahoga County Executive Budish (hereafter referred to as Mr. Budish) started off his presentation by praising the Cuyahoga County Council as well as the other dedicated people who work for Cuyahoga County because "we can't achieve our goals, as a thriving community, without the dedication and support of every single person who works for the county." He went on to say that "our goal is a simple one: improve the lives of our residents...all our residents, because together we thrive! Everything we do is aimed at reaching that goal. When we talk about progress, that's what we mean. Yet our county is diverse. We each have different opportunities. We each different kinds of needs. What the small business owner in Bedford needs to create more jobs, may not be as helpful to the new college graduate from CSU interviewing for her first job. What the laid off auto worker needs to get back to work, may not make sense for the working parent trying to build a better life. So how do we all thrive?"
And thus Mr. Budish created a springboard to talk about such important topics as strengthening community assets, support for entrepreneurs, creation of a stronger workforce, assistance to those recently released from prison, education, safety, and fiscal management of the county government.
He first discussed a partnership with MetroHealth to transform its campus and praised Metro's "visionary" CEO Dr. Akram Boutos. He then defended a plan, which has met with some controversy, to upgrade Quicken Loans Arena. In answer to the critics who are saying that the money spent on the "Q" should be directed elsewhere, he contended that "in this year's budget we are spending more on health, human, and social services that at any time in our county's history. That's what we value. But to continue to do this , we need to invest in tax producing development projects like the Q."
Some of the other topics/entiities that Mr. Budish talked about in his speech included:
***Economic Development and Job Creation Projects that the County has invested in such as the Variety Theatre, Dealer Tire, and IBM Watson and how their revitalizations will aid the neighborhoods that surround them as well as Cleveland as a whole.
***He said that "over the past year, we've focused special attention on supporting local entrepreneurs that are starting and growing small neighborhood businesses" by partnering with the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), Jumpstart, the Federal SBA, the Urban League, and Morgan Stanley. He believed that such investments are starting to pay off because companies have been created or "grown" that have produced 226 new jobs while retaining 386 more. Next, Mr. Budish showed a video about and introduced Mr. Pedro J. Quintana who was there with his wife, Aurora. Both fled oppression in Chile and came to the U.S. as refugees and settled in Cleveland. With the ECDI's help, Mr. Quintana started "Quintana & Son, Inc." a general contracting firm based in South Euclid.
***The creation of a new community development program that has awarded money for many community development projects like park improvements, street repairs, lighting, landscape, and safety. Mr. Budish contended that a record breaking amount of money is being invested in neighborhoods and and suburbs despite what others have said about too much money being invested in Cleveland's downtown.
***The Virgil Brown Career Center has been turned into a "WORC" Center where people go to obtain safety net benefits as well as to meet with career counselors who can work with them to create an "individualized employment path" and get the support and the training needed to carry it out.
***The Euclid Jail has recently started a job training program which has resulted in over 30 graduates getting jobs and others moving on to additional training. Mr. Budish mentioned that the cookies being served for dessert came from "Bloom Bakery" which is "one of our county's best re-entry job training partnerships."
***It has been proven that pre-kindergarten education can really make a difference in a child's life. With the help of Mr. Paul Clark, Regional President of PNC, a great deal of money has been raised so that the number of children in excellent pre-schools will be doubled from 2,000 to 4,000.
***Pertaining to the opioid crisis, a partnership has been formed with Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, and the ADAMHS Board to raise sufficient funds to increase the number of treatment beds by 75% and a new public information campaign about the dangers of opiods will be launched.
***Law Enforcement will be the beneficiary of a new regional database that will allow them to check data from across the county. For example, if the police in Middleburg Heights are looking for a tall man with blonde hair and facial scars and the police in Shaker Heights have just arrested someone answering that description the information can now be better coordinated.
***On the subject of fiscal management, Mr. Budish admitted that there have been some problems but "we're putting our fiscal house in order. We balanced our 2015, 2016 and 2017 budgets. And we will do the same in the future, by being both responsible and resourceful. Through solid fiscal management, we have strengthened our financial position and maintained our high bond rating established by outside rating agencies. We are absolutely committed to fiscal responsibility and accountability."
Mr. Budish concluded his speech by saying, "the state of our county is strong. But we've still got a lot of work to do. We cannot rest until every one of our residents is on a path to achieving their full potential. We cannot rest until our businesses, both large and small, have the resources and support they need to thrive. We cannot rest until we assured the security of our residents for this generation and generations to come. We cannot rest until we create a county that is welcoming to all who seek the opportunity to thrive and prosper. We cannot rest until we lift up the residents in all of our neighborhoods."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC