CLEVELAND — Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson held his 14th annual State of the City Thursday evening to discuss his plans for Cleveland over the next 12 months.
Jackson opened up the 42-minute address by defending his family, particularly his grandson, who has made headlines for his criminal activity.
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"Now I know you’ve heard a lot about me and my family. Let me just be clear—my family is my family, alright? And I do not apologize to anyone about my family,” Jackson said.
Mayor Jackson focused on Cleveland's economy and the impact it has on the rest of the region, emphasizing the healthcare sector.
Jackson said Cleveland's gross domestic product is up 16 percent since 2003 and that the average income is now up over $58,000. He also reported that nearly 40 percent of the jobs in Cuyahoga County are located in Cleveland.
"Don't let anyone or anything fool you into believing Cleveland is irrelevant," Jackson said. "Or that we're going to hell in a handbasket."
Jackson said a major goal is to create equity and eliminate disparity throughout Cleveland, from education and learning gaps to pay gaps across the black, white and Hispanic communities.
"Inequity and disparity is institutionalized in our current models," Jackson said. "This obstructs people's opportunities, constrains the equitable growth of our overall economy."
Jackson also outlined allocating millions of dollars to parks and playgrounds, the demolition of 10,000 potentially hazardous structures and $37.4 million in residential street improvements in 2019.
Still, community groups like Black on Black Crime Inc., and the St. Hyacinth Block Club agree more needs to be accomplished.
The groups issued "Mayor tracker" ratings on key issues that need to be addressed citywide.
The community groups told News 5 Mayor Jackson's progress in taking down hazardous homes through the "Safe Routes Program," and significantly reducing crime are both a work in progress.
Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli acknowledged the Cleveland crime rate is improving, but said additional improvement is critical.
“Well the crime statistics, the numbers are down, but they’re not down significantly,” Brancatelli said.
Brancatelli added the city has still fallen short in reaching the goal of having 1,700 officers on the streets in 2019.
"1,700 officers, no, we’re still not at that number,” Brancatelli said. "Attrition continues to happen, I think we’re still losing five to seven officers every month, so it’s tough when you’re adding officers and you’re subtracting through attrition and retirement.”
Brancatelli said more funding is needed to take down even more condemned homes and buildings.
"Yes, we still have around 3,500 condemned structures that need to be demolition, which equates to $30 million and economically, I think we have some big challenges in front of us, certainly keeping Sherwin Williams is the number one challenge right now."
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