CLEVELAND — After 16 years, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said he is handing the baton over to someone new. In a tele-town hall Thursday during which he took no questions from the press, he reflected on the legacy he will leave behind.
The Cleveland we all know now, is different from when Jackson first took office in 2006.
“He's presided over a city that's seen a resurgence in several neighborhoods, Detroit Shoreway, Fremont, Ohio City, the Buckeye neighborhood is starting to come back, Collinwood and, of course, a huge resurgence in downtown apartments,” said Tom Sutton, News 5’s political analyst.
The 74-year-old Jackson said there is much work to do. He declined to endorse a successor.
“For 16 years, I have worked to stabilize the city, position this city for the future and to ensure that all can participate in the prosperity and equality life that we've created,” he said.
In the tele-town hall, Jackson reflected on his time in office that saw a number of hardships.
“We’ve navigated through the foreclosure crisis, the Great Recession, and we're currently in a pandemic,” he said.
He pointed to his investment in Cleveland schools, something that Sutton said Jackson should be proud of.
“He came in a great way from the very beginning saying that he was going to be a problem solver, pragmatic and that he wasn't going to be seeking the spotlight, that's certainly been the case. I would point to many things, such as the passage of the operating levy for the schools in 2012 and its renewal and expansion this past year. His choosing of Eric Gordon as the school CEO and the slow, steady improvement,” said Sutton.
Jackson also pointed out his work to put Cleveland in the national spotlight with events like the 2016 Republican National Convention, the MLB All Star Game and, most recently, the NFL Draft, balancing the budget and his efforts to make neighborhoods safer with the demolition of abandoned, vacant properties.
“Making capital investments in our neighborhood, resource and recreation centers and our playgrounds, our parks, our streets, all of our public buildings and purchasing vehicles and equipment so that we could provide public service as well as demolishing abandoned properties,” he said.
But Jackson’s tenure has not been without controversy. He’s come under scrutiny for often being absent from City Hall.
“In some ways, his lack of shadow overshadows his accomplishments,” said Sutton. “I think the critique would be the competence of his administration."
In his most recent term, he’s also dealt with family issues with the arrests of several younger family members. Sutton doesn’t believe that was a deciding factor on whether Jackson would run for re-election.
“He made it clear these are private matters and that he had nothing to do with the administration of the police in handling those through the justice system,” said Sutton.
Jackson said, despite his accomplishments, there’s still work to be done.
“A great city is defined by what we do for the least of us, not in terms of welfare and charity, but by whether or not we all can participate in that prosperity and that quality of life that this city produces,” he said. “The underlying cause was and it still remains institutionalized inequities, disparities and racism.”
He said it will be up to the city of Cleveland to decide who they believe can fix some of the deep-rooted issues he believes the city is still facing.
“Your job will be to ensure that the runner in the next leg of this race runs hard and he runs true,” he said.
Watch his town hall address here.