Hoping to unify Greater Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald officially revealed his plan for the county to offer municipal services in his State of the County address today.
“For the first time, cities won’t have a monopoly on providing services,” Fitzgerald said during his speech at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, broadcast live on WCPN. “Over time, we will have the prospect of becoming a cohesive metropolitan area.”
FitzGerald sneak-previewed his proposal a month ago in my interview with him for the January-February issue of Inside Business. Today, he reiterated his argument that the plan offers a way to move beyond Cuyahoga County’s futile, century-old debate about regional unity.
“Our patchwork of individual kingdoms is powerless to execute any strategy to compete in a global economy,” FitzGerald argued. But Ohio cities’ strong home-rule powers make a full consolidation of city and suburbs into a single government nearly impossible, he added.
So FitzGerald wants the county to offer several new services to cities each year, from information technology to infrastructure maintenance. Cities would sign up voluntarily, or still provide services on their own. But FitzGerald said the effort would eventually lead to a “county-wide, metropolitan government” that could better compete with more unified metro areas across the country.
The regionalism proposal was the highlight of his speech’s 12-point agenda, which he called the Western Reserve Plan. It includes two more new initiatives he described in IB's latest issue: a “pay for success” formula for delivering human services and pledge to use the county’s casino tax revenue to improve downtown Cleveland and the lakefront.
FitzGerald also announced a pilot program to buy homes on the verge of foreclosure, a plan to help returning military veterans, a health and wellness initiative and an economic inclusion task force. With a nod to the Jimmy Dimora corruption trial in Akron, FitzGerald concluded by promising to fight any attempt to return to the county’s “old ways” of patronage and cronyism.
“I’ll do everything possible in my power to prevent that,” he said.