Safer Streets & Safety Service Support

Last week, I was asked to answer a question for Cleveland.com for their weekly "issues" write-up. For these articles, all nine mayoral candidates are asked the same question. Naturally, because there are so many candidates, responses are trimmed and often don't give a full perspective. I've decided to share my full response here so my ideas and perspective can be viewed in its entirety. For reference, you can read the article on Cleveland.com here.

Question: 

How would you, as mayor, restore a sense of neighborhood security to residents? What actions would you take to make neighborhoods more safe (or raise the sense of security among residents) and how would you pay for it?  How do you improve the relationship between police and the citizens of Cleveland? The city is operating under a consent decree and there's distrust among residents toward the police, while at the same time they're looking to the police for help in neighborhoods.

My response:

Our neighborhoods will feel more secure once we have an improved relationship between our police department and the community. There's a lack of trust both ways and until that's mended, we likely won't see an improvement. I believe the first step to building trust is rebuilding morale within the police department. We currently have a mayor and an administration that don't support safety services. They're understaffed, undertrained and lack the resources they need. They've been asking for support for years. The administration has ignored their requests and we've seen the effects of it in our neighborhoods. It's not only the police department. Our firefighters are also understaffed and fire stations that are needed have been closed. This naturally makes our citizens feel less secure. I've had conversations with citizens all over the city and they constantly complain about the response times from safety services. I've also heard directly from safety services that their needs are not being met. We must take care of our safety service members. Police officers are members of our community. They're fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, neighbors. When they take their badge off, they're just like the rest of us. The challenges they face every day are real and in order to keep our citizens secure, they must be fully equipped.

Once we build morale internally, we can start building a stronger relationship with the community. I'd propose incentivizing our officers to move into the neighborhoods where they police. Officers are more likely to care about a community they live in. Residents are also more likely to trust officers who are neighbors. In addition to the incentive program, I'd redeploy cars in the zones - two per zone - which builds zone integrity. These officers will learn about the community quickly and will have better relationships within that community. I'd put police mini-stations throughout the city and have officers working from these locations each day. They might be working on paperwork or reports, but their presence in the community in a non enforcement environment will strengthen their relationship with residents. Furthermore, I'd extend the police academy and focus on scenario-based training. Our officers are primarily receiving tactical training currently and in need of relational and conversational training. Lastly, our officers need new vehicles, new equipment and dash cams. These will all be provided under my administration.

The police budget has decreased every year under our current administration. You can always tell what's important to somebody by how and where they spend their money. If our current administration cared about keeping our citizens safe, more resources would've been allocated to our safety services.

There are currently extreme inefficiencies in city hall and incredible waste (one example: the city has paid $40 million in settlements under the Jackson administration alone in twelve years). The city has the funds needed to make these improvements, they've just chosen not to. 

I'll be posting more updates on issues and stances in the future. Be sure to check here and on social! 

A New Mindset

For decades in Cleveland, there has been no strategy for collectively strengthening and growing our community. Our leaders have focused on temporary projects, one-time fixes, and silver bullets. They’ve invested in programs and initiatives with no real plan for sustainability or unity. As I watch and listen to our current administration and other candidates for mayor, it’s obvious to see the narrative hasn’t changed. The ideas are the same - simple “solutions” for complex problems and a lot of rhetoric.

I have a strategy.

Think of Cleveland as a house. Like a house, the most important part is the foundation. If there are serious structural issues, your house is of little value. The foundation of our city is crumbling. There are cracks in the walls, the floors have shifted and the frame is rotting. Putting on a new coat of paint won’t help. Buying new furniture won’t help. New landscaping won’t help. These may hide the problems, but they won’t add real value. The house will still fall.

It’s time to focus on rebuilding our foundation.

The strength of our city - our foundation - is our people. Our city will become more stable when we first focus on human development. When our people are healthy, have good jobs, feel safe and have somewhere they call home, they are stronger. Naturally, that makes Cleveland stronger.

A single focus on “safety” or “education” isn’t enough. Saying we need “jobs” isn’t enough. All of these issues are connected and can only be changed and improved together. Many of our citizens aren’t equipped with the tools needed to sustain themselves. Because of this, they don’t have the same opportunities provided to those who are equipped. How can we expect any change when our greatest resource, our people, aren’t able to function at their full capacity?  

I’m committed to investing in our people. That’s how we’ll rebuild a lasting, vibrant city.

How will I invest in our people?

My first actions as mayor will be to remove 5,000 blighted homes, resurface roads, create and execute a lead inspection initiative and update Cleveland Police Department technology and equipment. After those projects are underway, I will work on new policies and training for our police department, begin making our streets more complete (starting by adding new bike lanes), and will work to implement a plan to start better training and educating our adults so more Clevelanders can enter the workforce. It’s time for a new Cleveland and a new mindset. We can be the best.