Memo to Mayor Campbell
Posted March 25, 2002 in Op-Eds
As Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell confronts her third month in office,
the challenges of the job are more apparent than ever.
But as she deals with the daily details – in budgets, personnel,
technology – Campbell must not forget that it was her commitment to
people and fresh ideas that brought her so many supporters. In that
spirit, I offer this alliterative memo to the new mayor.
Remember the Region: The fate of all Northeast Ohio is inextricably tied
to the fate of Cleveland. Without a vibrant center the suburbs will falter,
whether or not they realize it. Mayor Campbell emphasized this before it
was popular. Her still-strong relationships with state and county leaders
uniquely position her as a voice for the vitality of Cleveland and the
interdependence of us all.
Emphasize Education: High school graduates earn 38 percent more
than dropouts, yet the Cleveland schools lose more than 4,000 students
each year. Our public schools are integral to the functioning of our
economy, the well-being of our families and, indeed, to the integrity of
our democracy. Campbell should build on school CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett’s
skills, teachers’ commitments, parents’ concern and students’ energy to
emphasize professional development, reasonable class sizes, high standards,
safety, discipline and literacy.
Work on Work – and Wages: Three major forces contribute to increased
wages: low unemployment; wage floors (like the living wage); and strong
unions (which raise pay, secure benefits and can help firms solve
recruitment and training problems). The mayor is lucky to inherit a city
with a living wage on the books, relatively strong unions and a labor
council head known to be among the best in the nation. She should
honor that inheritance by enforcing the living wage, working with unions
to preserve and expand high-wage jobs, and requiring neutrality toward
unionization efforts before granting development aid to companies.
Target Training: As she did at the county, Campbell must demand that
Workforce Investment Board training is targeted intelligently – toward
decent-wage jobs with intact career ladders and projected vacancies.
Training people for no-future careers wastes money and, more
tragically, wastes time and depletes hope from people who are trying to
shape their lives.
Collaborate with the whole Community: The White administration
knew to seek input from business but often forgot to consult community,
neighborhood, labor, religious, non-profit, housing, health and
environmental leaders. The new mayor’s deep ties with these
constituencies will build a stronger city. A majority-black electorate entrusted
Campbell, a white woman, to govern Cleveland. She must respect that trust.
Protect against Poverty: In her new position, Mayor Campbell may yet
regret the county’s tough stance on public assistance. We don’t have a
full-employment economy in this country, let alone in this county;
treating low-income people as if we do ignores reality at our collective
peril. Recent job losses and threatened plant closings underscore this
point. In public policy on education, housing, health care and, yes,
welfare, we need to remember most those who have the least.
Hike the High Road: Development priorities in Cleveland have gone
awry: from extensive tax abatements that ask little in return, to large
retail projects that haven’t succeeded, to projects long on gloss and
short on stable, high-wage jobs. Firms that pay low wages and benefits
are inefficient, costly to the community and undeserving of precious tax
abatements. Campbell should stick to smarter economic development
by supporting only “high-road” businesses that profit by valuing rather
than exploiting workers. Development strategy must remember our still
deep manufacturing roots instead of competing for trendy tourist and
Liberate the Lake: Leaving the lake to the marketplace has led to its
current predicament, with private and business interests steering the
ship while public interests dog-paddle behind. Intelligent communities
view their shorelines as public resources; as such, the public should be
able to access them without spending money. The lake may have value
as an economic asset, but its greater value is as a simple, public space.
Long after the Campbell Convention Center is torn down, the mayor will
be remembered at Campbell Beach.
Respect Research: Looking to other communities’ experiences before
acting can inform our thinking, help avoid costly errors and point to
proven remedies. This will lead to sounder, more efficient policies.
Values and principles help us identify priorities. Learning what works
leads to solutions.
Promote Public Goods: Business does an excellent job of looking out for
its own interests. The mayor’s job is to protect the rest. Public schools,
transit systems, utilities, parks, neighborhoods, the lake, the people:
These are what make a city special. We share an obligation to nurture
and grow these resources