Residents open up about life in a decaying city

Posted at 8:49 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 07:13:51-04

The fight to keep East Cleveland operational continues to lag on, days after the mayor said he sent a letter to the state’s tax commissioner for approval to go bankrupt. But the tax commissioner’s office said they haven’t received any formal request yet.

Residents are caught in the middle, with very different opinions about their cash-strapped city.

“This is crazy, this is crazy,” said Shanel Kirkland-Whittaker referencing the blight on Roxford Road where she lives. “Who wants to keep waking up to this and coming outside their door even on a beautiful day?”

There is an entire block of abandoned residences on Roxford. Junk is scattered all around too.

“This, right here, is an easy place for addicts to get high, murder,” she added, referencing the wide-open doors and windows on the abandoned residences.

Kirkland-Whittaker said she desperately wants to get out of East Cleveland but she cannot afford it. She said she is a recovering addict with mental health issues, and she is unemployed.

East Cleveland is now in its fifth year of operating in a fiscal emergency. Mayor Gary Norton said it is getting so bad that without financial help soon, it will have to cut either the city’s police or fire department.

“I think the future for this area is potentially great,” said George Mitchell, an East Cleveland resident who lives in the Forest Hill neighborhood.
Although Mitchell is optimistic, he is not oblivious to his city’s problems. He knows his city needs money, and he welcomes that because he is eager to stay in his neighborhood.

Norton said the root of the problem has to do with a dramatic drop in the city’s population combined with high unemployment. Out of 17,000 residents, he said 12,000 are unemployed.

The tax commissioner’s office said they have no record of any other city in Ohio being declared bankrupt. The office said once it receives East Cleveland’s letter, it will respond.