Monday, March 15, 2010

Dolan: “I represent a new mentality, a new energy”

Matt Dolan is 45 and looks younger, a polished advocate who can talk about every level of government with authority, a former state rep who says he works well with both parties.

Oh, and he’s the son of Indians owner Larry Dolan. So he’s got name recognition and plenty of money.

But the conventional wisdom scoffs at his run for county executive. He’s a carpetbagger, the chatter goes. Worse, a Republican. In Cuyahoga County, that makes him a long shot.

I’m not so sure.

This Republican can do a better job as county executive,” says Dolan, stressing his bipartisan credentials. As House finance chair in 2007, he helped forge a budget deal that passed almost unanimously. “We came up with a budget that lowered taxes, lowered growth of government, and lowered spending without crippling needed services,” he says. Last year, he was one of the few Republicans who voted to suspend an income tax cut to plug a hole in the new budget.

“The message to Democrats is: I understand the nature of working together,” Dolan says. “This reform, while it changes the form of [county] government, if we put the same mentality in the new positions, we’re not advancing forward. I represent a new mentality, a new energy, a new spirit of cooperation that has not been here in years.”

The new government will have to balance the county’s social-service role with the new charter’s focus on job growth. Dolan’s thoughts on that reflect his moderate Republicanism.

“People are in need,” he says, “and you have to provide the services to them.” Still, “Government can’t sustain these folks. The only thing that’s going to help everybody is to improve the economy, to get more jobs.”

Dolan has said he might cut the county’s 7.75 percent sales tax. That led to the first debate in the county executive race, with independent Ken Lanci arguing all savings from a more efficient government should go to economic development instead. Dolan responds like a true conservative: Tax cuts are economic development.

“We have the highest sales tax in the state,” Dolan says. “It's counterproductive to the creation of job growth.” Dolan says he wouldn’t cut social services, public transit, or the Medical Mart project to trim the sales tax — he’d cut the 1 percent of the 7.75 that directly funds government operations and staffing. “If we have the highest sales tax, and we have a government that’s overstaffed, and we have duplicative services, what have we been paying for?” He’s also open to using the savings to invest in aging infrastructure — roads, sewers — or intellectual capital, such as more business incubators.

If elected, on his first day in office, “I’m issuing an executive order for ethics training for all county employees,” Dolan says. “If you fail to conduct yourself as a public servant, you will be let go.” He’d address the concerns about minority inclusion in the new government with his cabinet appointments. “I think a big mistake would be to create a cabinet that didn’t look like Cuyahoga County, both in terms of race and politics,” he says.

Most coverage of Dolan’s candidacy has focused on his December move into Cuyahoga County, from Russell Township to Chagrin Falls. So he plays up his Cuyahoga bona-fides. He went to Gilmour Academy and Case Law School. His state house district included Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Gates Mills and Highland Heights. In the House, he championed the new county land bank and the state’s Third Frontier program, 44 percent of which is spent in Northeast Ohio. “I feel very comfortable that the issue will be my passion for the community and knowledge of the community, much more than where my address is or was,” he says.

Here’s why I think Dolan has a better shot at becoming county executive than people realize. Plenty of Republicans think he’s not conservative enough — Strongsville Mayor Tom Perciak seems to have tested a possible primary run against him with a robo-poll last week — but that may mean he’s moderate enough to win county-wide. He could appeal to independents who’ve lost trust in local Democrats. And the general election will be a three-way race, so Dolan may not need a majority to get elected.

He’ll be accepted as a Clevelander, if only because his dad runs the town’s beloved baseball team. He can raise money on his own — $1 million for his last House race — and has his family’s fortune as a backup.

But those family ties also pose a peculiar challenge: If Indians fans suffer through another dismal rebuilding season, they may be in no mood to vote for a Dolan by November. Candidate Dolan might be better off telling his dad he can best help his campaign not by footing the bill for political ads, but by adding to the Indians’ payroll.

{*Correction: The original post incorrectly stated that Dolan voted for Gov. Strickland's budget last year. Dolan voted against the July budget deal. He voted for the December deal to suspend an income tax cut to plug a hole in the budget.}


Anonymous said...

And don't forget....he screwed the citizens of Geauga County who voted him into the office he QUIT! He's an opportunistic business-and-politics-as-usual jerk and if there's one thing we don't need another's a Matt Dolan.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why his resignation is a bad thing. How often do we see candidates holding one office while simultaneously running for another (see e.g., Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, Cordray, etc.)? In those circumstances the complaint typically is that the candidate/office holder isn't focusing enough on his office and current constituents.

By resigning, it is clear that his attention won't be divided, so he can focus squarely on the problems plaguing the county.

Finally, he was term limited out of the seat at the end of the year anyways. By retiring early, it gives the chance for his replacement to get a leg up with seniority, fundraising, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous,

What a disingenuous comment. If you think Matt Dolan is a jerk, then why are you upset he left Geauga County and your district in the first place? Truth is, you cannot say anything legitimately bad about him since he has been a first rate representative for Northeast Ohio for years. If you realized that what happens in Cuyahoga County impacts all of Northeast Ohio, including Geauga County, you wouldn't be so quick to call Matt Dolan a quitter. In fact, what politicians do you know are willing to give up a guaranteed job and pay to take on an enormous challenge and political race that is far from a sure thing? Those are the politicians I want representing me and Northeast Ohio since they actually care about their constituents.

Anonymous said...

I know, believe, and support Matt Dolan's vision for county government is on the correct path.

Although previous posted comments note he "quit" his position as state representative, in reality, this is an opportunity for Matt to position his strengths; not only with the knowledge and practical experience in both the private and public sectors, but to go after what is truly needed in this region to strengthen our presence and get us back on the road to prosperity.

Matt truly has what it takes to be an exemplary Cuyahoga County Executive.

Anonymous said...

Anybody but a Dolan . He's a nice kid---but no more Dolans, please. Matt should be the clubhouse boy for daddy's baseball team. They could fire the current one and give Matt the job and save a few bucks. Go away, please.