Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Eddy Kraus, Cuyahoga County’s director of regional collaboration, discussed the partnerships the the county has been cultivating with its 59 civic entities in during Northeast Ohio Public Policy Series’ first forum June 17. “Regional Cooperation or How to Get 59 Civic Entities to Play Together” kicked off the first event in the series at the Siegal Lifelong Learning Program’s facility in Beachwood. Tom Beres of WKYC-TV moderated the discussion.
Budish and Kraus discussed ways that the 59 civic entities in Cuyahoga County have been working together to improve the economy for the county as a whole, and the services and programs that the county provides to these entities. The county has about 400 different contracts with these entities, providing them with benefits packages and services ranging from IT to sewage to demolition of foreclosed and abandoned properties.
“The county has started to provide a wide array of services, not to take over what the cities do, but really to supplement what cities do,” said Kraus. “You’ve started seeing more of a county approach; a regional approach to government.”
The shared services model is similar to the approaches in used Milwaukee or Los Angeles; cities which, like Cleveland, are built out without much room for land development, explained Kraus.
“What’s happened over the years is just not sustainable,” said Kraus, “for every community to provide all of these services and all of these resources when they’re worried about their own budgets.”
Kraus said mayors from the 59 communities have been collaborating with each other, as well as law enforcement from different entities. Several mayors were in attendance at the forum, including Orange Mayor Kathy U. Mulcahy and Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken.
The Cleveland Metroparks, the county library system, area hospitals and universities also play a critical role in community partnership, said Kraus.
Budish said, “We believe a regional approach can help any city in both improving services in many cases and saving money in many cases."
Budish said that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson recognizes the benefits of collaboration. He and Jackson meet once a month and maintain constant contact about legal and economic issues in the county.
“We’re working closely together, the county and the city, on all kinds of issues,” said Budish.
The Republican National Convention in July 2016 is a prime example of a regional effort, according to Budish.
“It is not an effort of the city of Cleveland or any other community,” he said. “That is regional. That will benefit the entire region. The city of Cleveland has been actively involved, so has the county, so have police chiefs and fire chiefs from communities all over.”
The regional approach also extends to school systems. With more young professionals gravitating toward urban living environments, said Kraus, good school systems need to extend to downtown through municipal school districts, charter schools and alternative schools to keep young residents in the city.
“We are very interested in kids’ education for our future as a county and a region,” said Budish.
Kraus said the regional approach will also attract more investors to the county.
“When you regionalize your government, you increase your potential for investment,” said Kraus. “Investment comes with more of a regional approach to government because those investors outside your community or within your community look at it as a much better investment when the communities and the county are collaborating together.”
The series is co-sponsored by the Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, the League of Women’s Voters-Greater Cleveland, the City Club of Cleveland and the Cleveland Jewish News Foundation.