Issue: March 2008 Issue
Change a Charter, Change a Life
It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since Sam Miller gave his call-to-arms speech to a room full of NEO Success Award winners. The Forest City Enterprises co-chairman’s message — there is only one governmental body that can fix Cleveland’s problems, and that body needs some fixing of its own — got plenty of media attention. Since then a week doesn’t go by without someone asking me, “What ever happened to Sam Miller’s call to change Cuyahoga County government?”
Well, I’m happy to report there is much to tell, and I will share what I know with the readers of Inside Business.
There is a team; there is a plan; and there are 200 volunteers ready for action. What I like about what I see is that this reorganizing of county government is completely focused on reaping the benefits of change. It has not been political, nor has it been one person going out front in search of gain or glory. Even Sam Miller, the inspiration for this effort, has made it clear that success will only be achieved with widespread community support and consensus. We will hang together or we will hang it up.
Listed here are the talking points the team is taking out into the community. They want me to make clear to our readers that the plan is a work in progress.
Reorganizing for Success: A Plan to Restore Purpose and Prosperity to Cuyahoga County
1. Vote in November 2009 to change the county charter to a county executive/council form of government.
• The county is the only governmental body capable of providing the dollars necessary to address our problems and opportunities.
• An elected county executive/council structure will give Cuyahoga County the power to consolidate assets and focus on the projects that will make Cleveland competitive in the 21st century.
• The purpose of a charter change is to reorganize the county to address countywide needs;a council structure will give fair representation to all communities in determining those needs.
• All county employees will retain their jobs; any reduction in employment will come from attrition only.
2. Elect a county executive who will commit to saving 7.5 percent of the annual budget ($100 million of savings) for a college scholarship program.
• The scholarship program will be funded entirely by savings in the annual budget and private funds so it will not cost taxpayers any additional money.
3.Give every high school graduate in the county the opportunity to use the scholarship program.
Benefits: We will be ...
• Investing in the people that mean the most to our future;
• Investing in the people that mean the most to businesses — highly educated workers;
• Providing a competitive advantage to live in Cuyahoga County.
4. Raise $50 million from corporations and nonprofits, which have expressed an interest in supporting the program.
• The $50 million, which could be even larger, will be an important one-time contribution.
5. Convince communities to participate in the scholarship program by merging their school systems into one organization administered by the county.
• In creating a network of school systems, the county will be able to save money on supplies and services, and use these savings to improve the level of education by offering courses that transcend community boundaries.
• Local school districts will have full representation in the county network.
• Communities will eliminate the need to raise taxes for school systems, and make themselves more attractive to potential homeowners.
6. Allow high school graduates to be eligible to attend any public, private or vocational school in Cuyahoga County.
• The scholarship program will promote increased enrollment in local schools and give us a better chance to keep more graduates here.
There are variations of this plan being implemented in Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan and, closer to home, in Youngstown. And those are only the ones I know about. The fact is an educated work force is the key to economic development in the 21st century. On behalf of the team that is working to bring purpose and prosperity back to Cuyahoga County, I welcome your comments. I guarantee that you will be heard. ￼
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