Mayor Frank Jackson said he’s added millions of dollars to a city demolition program that aims to keep children safe on their walks to school.
This comes after a News 5 investigation uncovered the city demolished vacant homes near public schools, but not near private schools since the Safe Routes to School program began in May of 2017, leaving thousands of children at risk.
During his State of the City Wednesday, Jackson said he doubled the program’s budget from $5 million to $10 million, citing the income tax increase, Issue 32.
“Many of the concerns that were raised about the people saying, ‘Well what about the private schools and what about the charter schools and the parochial schools,’ a lot of that just fell off the table because we just expanded the parameter of where we’re spending the money,” Jackson said during a post-State of the City media availability Thursday.
In the early stages of the program, the city targeted abandoned homes 500 feet from Cleveland public schools and committed to demolishing 500 homes last year. But our investigation in 2017 found the city did not meet that goal.
Jackson said News 5’s findings were an “interpretation” that he “disagrees with”, despite the report using the city’s own data obtained through a public records request.
Jackson said the additional $5 million enables the program to expand to 1,000 feet of any school so more homes can be razed. In a past report, Edward Rybka, Cleveland’s Chief of Regional Development, said despite the program starting off with public schools, the city’s plan was to include all schools and continue to evolve the program over time.
“Going from 500 to 1,000 feet is not about whether they’re private or parochial anymore,” Jackson said. “It’s about, they’re all pretty much covered…you’re going to capture a lot of schools.”
The city would not say how many homes would be torn down with the additional $5 million. However, city data shows 781 structures – or homes at 527 Safe Routes locations – have been demolished with city funding. There are an additional 78 structures on contract for demolition.
Explore our interactive map to see which homes have been demolished as part of the Safe Routes program and what’s still standing in your neighborhood.