Fact checking statements made by Frank Jackson and Zack Reed at the Cleveland mayoral debate

Posted at 6:17 PM, Oct 23, 2017

Cleveland mayoral candidates Frank Jackson and Zack Reed sparred at the City Club last week, throwing jabs at all types of topics during the one and only mayoral debate.

But how accurate were their claims? 


Frank Jackson: “We have made significant progress. We can look at graduation rates 50 to 70-something percent. Some schools are some of the best in the state of Ohio."

According to state report cards, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has received an F grade the last two years. And since Mayor Frank Jackson’s first full year in office in 2006, the district has never been above Continuous Improvement or a C.

As for the statement, ”Some Cleveland schools are the best in Ohio," last year’s report card on achievement showed, out of 120 schools, only 5 had a C, one had a B the rest were D’s and a whole lot of F’s. We rate these statements on education as false.

The mayor’s comment on graduation rates, however, is true. The Ohio Department of Education reports in the year prior to Frank Jackson taking office in 2005, the graduation rate was 52 percent and there has been a steady improvement. Last year, it was 72 percent. 


On the topic of poverty, Zack Reed made the following statement regarding Frank Jackson’s record as mayor:

“He’s been there for twelve years, for twelve years and you know what’s happened in those twelve years? The poverty level has gone from 41 percent to 53 percent for our children.”

The United States Census shows the Cleveland poverty rate for people 18 years and younger in 2006 was 26 percent. Last year, it was 23 percent. So, it actually got better. Even when you look at families, the poverty rate was 30.1 percent in 2006 to 31.3 percent in 2016. Therefore, we have rated Zack Reed’s statement on poverty as false.


On the topic of Cleveland’s population, Jackson and Reed had differing statements on whether people are staying and living in the city.

Frank Jackson: “When I talked to my planning director, he said we’re stabilized. So, we’re not losing in an accelerated rate. We’re kind of stabilizing in regards to that.”

Zack Reed: “To see the population is dwindling and dwindling, 56,000 people have left since he became the mayor of the City of Cleveland.”

We have found both these statements to be false.

The most recent U.S. Census shows from 2015-2016 the city lost more than 2,000 people. And each year since 2009 has seen a drop, as well. From Mayor Jackson’s first full year in office, 2006, until 2016 the drop in population has been 20,617.

Homicide rates

Mayor Jackson: "Councilman (Reed), in your ward...your ward has one of the highest homicide rates."

To fact check that, we turned to our own 5 On Your Side investigation done this year about suspected and confirmed homicides in Cleveland in 2016. Ward 9 is first with 13. Ward 5 had 11 homicides. Ward 2 (Reed's ward) tied for 3rd with 10.

So, we rate the mayor's statement as true. However, it's worth noting that our research shows Mayor Jackson lives in Ward 5 which, again, was second most for homicides in 2016.

Reed's track record

One of the statements from Mayor Jackson involved Reed's track record in Ward 2. Reed has been a councilman since 2001.

Mayor Jackson: "What did you do in your ward to ensure economic development in your ward? What did you do? You did nothing."

Reed: "The fact that I built a 40-unit building on East 138th and Kinsman and we leveraged that into the Kinsman road project into a $50 million investment in Mt. Pleasant."

We asked Reed's campaign for more details on that project and any major accomplishments Reed can hang his hat on. When given that opportunity, we did not hear back.

Even on his campaign website, there's very little in Reed's biography about his ward's development. And that's after 16 years on council. 

We did find legislation about "free parking in downtown Cleveland on the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas," Toys for Tots, and security cameras on Warner Road.

So, we rate Mayor Jackson's statement as generally true.