Ohio mayors prepare to reopen their cities

Parma City Hall
Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 18:59:35-04

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — As Ohio begins preparing to reopen gradually, starting May 1, local mayors are making their own preparations.

Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter is readying his city for a slow reopening as he waits for Governor Mike DeWine to announce his plan on Monday. He knows people want to get back to work, but he said it's critical to do so safely.

"Unfortunately there’s no crystal ball in this, there’s no manual and the chapter for what we’re all going through on this," DeGeeter said, urging people in his community to stay the course.

He praised Parma residents for how well they've done at staying safe in public and in the parks, practicing social distancing.

"Everybody’s been really good together on this, but as soon as you take the cap off, how far does that spread? Is everybody going to continue following those orders?" DeGeeter said.

DeGeeter and other members of the Ohio Mayors Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of which DeGeeter is on the executive board, are hoping the governor's plan will include clear and concise guidance for cities on several important topics.

Those include access to testing, testing supply kits, an order requiring residents to wear masks in public, what to do about mass gatherings and the situation at long-term care facilities.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said on the phone Friday that the city is working on its own strategies to help people and businesses, but that the city is waiting to hear the governor's plan in order to work within his guidelines.

"How do you open an economy, and how do you do that in such a way that it does not exacerbate an already bad health situation?" Jackson said.

Jackson also stressed setting Cleveland up for success moving forward.

"After this is all over with, how do we position Cleveland as a whole to be better off because of what we’ve done and set our course in the direction it will need to be set for Cleveland to be successful into the future?" Jackson said.

He said the city plans to stay within DeWine's guidelines but have a "Cleveland-specific approach." He noted that the city has a fund of $1 million for small businesses, offering them $10,000 loans to help pay for the expenses they may have incurred in March. However, he said more businesses have applied than the city has resources to support.

“I don’t know the number of businesses that are going to be able to survive it,” Jackson said. “That concerns me.”

The Ohio Mayors Alliance is advocating for direct federal funds to cities, since city services are provided based on income tax revenue.

"When businesses are closed, people aren’t working, people are unemployed, we don’t have income to deliver those services," DeGeeter said, noting that Parma has had to lay off nearly 50 city employees to deal with budget issues.

Jackson estimated that the city has already lost several million dollars from loss of admission tax, parking revenue and money coming in from large events, not to mention the loss of income tax revenue. A loss of taxes on profits and income taxes has cost the city roughly $1 million in April, Jackson said.

Meanwhile, DeGeeter has been talking with local businesses about what they need going forward.

"I’ve talked to GM, the plant manager, earlier this week," DeGeeter said. "They’re trying to gear up for hopefully reopening, so that’s positive news, but that’s going to be a slow reopen."

Both Jackson and DeGeeter praised Governor DeWine for the work he's done so far to keep Ohioans safe and try to move toward reopening the economy.

The governor is expected to release his plan to reopen Ohio on Monday.