It's hard not to like Mayor Frank Jackson. He preaches the people's philosophy in a tried-and-true progressive town. "The pace is set not by the quickest, but by the slowest," he said last week at his fourth state of the city address, paraphrasing an old Zapatista slogan. "I'm not going to leave anybody behind."
And Jackson hasn't been sleeping at the wheel - you can give him that. Old Silver laid out how program activity in many of his departments has intensified. Loans are still being doled out to local businesses, despite the now-credit-shy banks. And his biggest boast: Mandated efficiencies created just enough slack over the past three years to break even.
But the numbers frighten the city's CEO, who says he can't find anywhere else to cut and had council hire a trained butcher to find more places to trim. "Without this," he said, "Cleveland will not be able to maintain a balanced budget in 2010 and beyond. The failure to do this will result in a budget deficit, layoffs and service reductions. We will lose all the progress we have made."
For 2008, the city's general-fund expenditures increased 3.5 percent, with revenue declining 2.4 percent. That's a $29 million hole averted again by carrying over the savings from fat-trimming. But for how long can efficiencies carry a long-dying city?
Of the 209,000 non-farming jobs Ohio lost between 2000 and 2007, 48,800 came from Cleveland, according to the American Manufacturers Trade Action Coalition. That's $1.7 billion from the local economy - $34 million just from city coffers. And the numbers are only getting worse. Jackson couldn't boast of many gains on the job front. A few hundred retained here, a few hundred more gained there. Hey, the Med Mart is coming!
Let's hope regional government and federal stimulus help arrives soon, with the right kind of new jobs. "We'll get our share, and I'll tell you, when we get it, we'll spend it," Jackson promised after his speech. The City Club crowd laughed, but Cleveland didn't. - Dan Harkins
IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE RIGGING AN ELECTION. WANT SOME HELP?
When a bunch of votes went missing in California during last year's presidential election, state officials ordered an investigation of the Diebold machines used there. They quickly discovered a software glitch that made 197 votes in Humboldt County disappear without a trace. But California's Secretary of State was surprised to also discover a "clear" button that can delete audit-trail records needed to verify recounts, according to the official report of the investigation released last week. Apparently, some computer genius over at Diebold HQ in Canton designed the machines' audit-log page so that this "clear" button appears between buttons marked "Save As…" and "Close." The report concludes that this button might "allow inadvertent or malicious destruction of critical audit trail records … risking the accuracy and integrity of elections conducted using this voting system."
Hey, remember when Diebold CEO and Republican fundraiser Wally O'Dell wrote, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president" in 2004? And then, after Bush won, he made Diebold board member Tim Timken ambassador to Germany? Yeah. Good times. - Renner
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Everywhere, continues to prove himself a menace to those who would mess with his peeps, a shrinking segment of which is the steelworker. After ArcelorMittal announced the permanent idling of 960 workers and its Cleveland mill early this month, and U.S. Steel's move to cut the juice to its Lorain operations, Kucinich fired off an impassioned-as-always letter urging President Obama to do the right thing to save the Midwest's proud but ailing industry. It's not enough that the new stimulus legislation requires the purchase of homegrown steel, he says: What these workers need is good pay and benefits, and what the industry needs is a meaningful universal health care to help it compete against companies overseas using government-insured fourth-graders like mules. "Hard-working Americans are paying too high a price," he wrote. - Harkins
SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE
What? There's a war going on? Oh, the one that turns six years old on March 21. That one. Though President Obama has pledged to phase out troops just in time for the whole Middle East to hate us, it's time to show him and the world how badly the American people want an exit strategy. Start the local March on the Pentagon with Cleveland Peace Action at 7 p.m. Friday, March 20, at Old Stone Church on Public Square, stomp over to the Warehouse District and gather some reinforcements for your return to the church and some peaceable music and artistry, before making your way to the ACLU offices at 4506 Chester and a $50 round-trip bus ride to the Saturday march in Washington (details at peaceactioncleveland.org). Don't come home without a hoarse voice or cool civil disobedience story. - Harkins