01.24.06 NeoExcellence Roundtable: East Cleveland Mayor Eric Brewer shares Visions of Transformation

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Wed, 01/25/2006 - 12:15.
  Eric Brewer detailed his vision and agenda for a new East Cleveland and introduced himself to a packed house at the City Club as the first Mayor from Shaw High and the 2nd oldest mayor in the history of East Cleveland. He further joked that he was also the first Mayor to be sworn in twice. Brewer outlined serious plans for a disadvantaged but promising community. Many of the current duties being performed by the Brewer administration are comprised of what could only be called 'housecleaning' - cleaning up a dirty trail of corruption and mismanagment. One of the many stories of mismanagement involved the use of block grants for demolition rather than development of property in a once-storied city.
    It was refreshing to hear Brewer candidly detail many of the mistakes that needed to be rectified – the ditrubution of development funding to corrupt demolitions contractors was just one of these. Positive negotiations have also begun with the Northeast Ohio Sewer District , in a new agreement to extend the homestead program and a newly charged effort to revamp the water billing department. The literal cleanup of several city buildings has started, and billing errors on the part of CEI were exposed that had been charging the City per lightpoles employed rather than kilowatt hour. The city has been charged for 100 lightpoles that long have been down – this correction  will reap considerable savings for the city on an ongoing basis. Other errors that have been identified and corrected include several workers comp issues where employees have been double-billing. If residents don't support a new 600K per annum bond issue to reconcile 2.8M in open purchase orders, the danger will be a continuance of 18 years of fiscal emergency. All these problems have been uncovered, affirmed Brewer, and now  is the time to clearly define strategy to fix these misexpenditures. The search is on for the ideal team to put together a sound economic development plan, and the focus has been on information technology issues – creating effective web accessibility to facilitate tax payments, bill payments, and raising awareness around key civic issues and ordinances.
    Another important declaration was made in support of environmental issues – considering solar , wind and other forms of alternative energy for the City and paying attention to issues like recycling and composting. Education was stressed- a deplorable 58% graduation rate needs to be improved. Housing stock reflects an imbalance in favor of rental property – 75% vs 25% homeowner base. Eric reminded the audience that the city was the home of the world's first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller – and has invited the Rockefeller family to rebuild the estate and perhaps help revamp a beautiful park system in Forest Hills. It is possible to buy entire blocks of property in East Cleveland for 500K – and Brewer challenged developers and contractors alike to help bring and build retail to East Cleveland. He also indicated the value in leveraging a good location, stable housing layer, and Case Western University next door. The important message to convey, he said was 'We're about good government in East Cleveland' – to punctuate this he declared that any sign of city officials' disrespect of local citizens would be handled with termination.
    A vibrant question-and-anwer session followed which addressed concepts for change including:
  1. Tying in construction trade unions and create internships for kids ($25-35/hr) and bidding contracts to lower cost ( a mistake realized half a million dollars too late)
  2. Ramp up opportunity at GE in East Cleveland – GE is no longer the #1 employer in the city but is 2nd to Huron Hospital. The Macgregor Nursing Home was cited as another key property.
  3. Attracting new businesses to the city – this was announced as a charge put forth to Community Development Director Will Ellington, who needs economic development asssitance.
  4. Brewer reminded us all that though there is a crime problem, much of those problems are either caused by outsiders or motivated by outsider demand for illicit goods and services.
  5. A final important point raised by Brewer was the acceptance and inclusion of any party (literally- in this case Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell) willing to invest in the ressurection of the city. Blackwell has pledged financial support from the state and party lines will be cast aside to facilitate economic progress and community development with any funds regardless of (legitimate) source.
        This final message of invitation and inclusion was a strong finish to a very effective and eloquent discourse. Eric Brewer just might be the man to bring back a renaissance , a return to glory for a once-storied and still-promising city of great people.