He said education is the most critical issue for him and he would continue to support Cleveland Municipal School District’s C.E.O., Eugene Sanders, in his initiatives to make Cleveland a premiere school district.
“In 2007, 55 percent of seniors graduated – the highest percentage since 1995. This year, we are working towards a goal of 60 percent. Each year, we will be working to increase graduation rates till we reach 100 percent,” he said.
Overall, the city is in good shape, the budget is balanced, costs are under control, regionalism is booming. “We are moving in the right direction. We have made significant strides, but we still have a way to go,” Jackson said.
A German alternative energy company is interested in building wind turbines in the Cleveland region and Jackson said Cleveland’s infrastructure, transportation system and improvements in ports will make Cleveland the “Gateway to the Midwest.”
Crime too is being confronted head-on through safety initiatives implemented last year. He said violent crimes decreased in the city by 7.5 percent and resulted in, “Two hundred thirty two felony drug arrests;16 concealed carry arrests; more than 200 other felony and misdemeanor arrests for prostitution, auto theft, and other crimes.”
The mayor stressed crime is a symptom of greater illness that can only be combated with equal access to proper education and providing alternatives like summer jobs.
On the economic front, Jackson asked Clevelanders to invest locally by adding at least $2billion into the economy which will create jobs. He credited University Hospitals for its commitment to buy 80 percent of its construction, equipment, furnishings, and fixtures and labor locally which will retain $530 million in Cleveland.
“As more local businesses commit to buying locally, the stronger our region will become,” said Jackson.
He said it is important to reach out to neighboring communities, share resources and services, and develop stronger relationships with fellow Mayors. “I am investing in not only our economic engines but also the neighborhoods of Cleveland,” Jackson said.
This local investment is projected to boast the economy by another $1.5 billion.
José C. Feliciano, Chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable said he was impressed by Jackson’s speech, particularly the way he addressed the importance of regionalism. “I would like to see him be more communicative throughout the year,” he said.
Cleveland School Board member Rashidah Abdul Haqq was impressed with Jackson’s no-nonsense and to-the-point speech. “As a resident of the city of Cleveland I see the changes happening,” she said.
Abdul Haqq echoed Mayor’s focus on improving education to combat the root causes of most of Cleveland’s problem and said change would require a lot of effort from everyone, students, parents, administrator, and the government.
“I like that he doesn’t make a lot of promises, he just puts in a lot of effort and hard work,” she said.