Mayor Tom George Debate Answers

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Jeff Endress
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Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2005 11:13 am
Location: Lakewood

Mayor Tom George Debate Answers

Postby Jeff Endress » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:11 pm

To assure that what is posted is what I had received from Mr. George, he has requested that I post the original media responses. These are the responses which I received from Mr. George just before midnight, 9/8, in my capacity as moderator of the LO virtual debate.

Jeff



Here are my responses to the Observer panel's questions:


1. Crime: As a former JV basketball player for LHS, I have enjoyed
playing on the courts. Growing up in Lakewood I can remember enjoying countless hours playing pick up ball on the courts at Harding. However, the courts as many of us knew them have changed over the past years. The culture of basketball is greatly different from what it was 20 or 30 years ago. Lakewood and many commuities have reluctantly removed outdoor basketball courts and replaced them with indoor supervised opportunities. Sadly today's courts have become a place often used for drug transactions and general unruliness.

It is also important to remember that because Lakewood is one of a few
communities whose Recreation Dept. is under the control of the Board
of Education, the vast majority of hoops that have been removed were on School Board property.

At Madison Park, due to continued complaints of unruliness and gang
type activity, Lakewood Police urged removal of the two hoops at that
location.

I made the decision to support the police request upon confirmation
that adequate indoor supervised opportunities would exist upon completion of the school construction project.

2.Safety: First, before the anyone else was even discussing safety, if you view my campaign literature from four years ago it began with safety first. Since my first day in office, safety has been the overridding concern,and frankly, due to Lakewood's location, always must be.

The issue of more officers on the street is complex. Our current
police facilities are cramped and outdated. We lack adequate space to house a significant number of additional officers. Our long term strategy must address inadequate jail and police space. We are blessed with top
quality individuals in our police department. They assure me that they
currently have adequate staffing to meet Lakewood's needs. Certainly, they indicate they would not object to additonal staffing, but the top adminstrators in the police department question where to house additional officers.

Clearly, additional staffing would require new revenue. But one must
also calculate the addtional revenue to house additional staffing. In
short, additional staffing would require revenue for both operational expenses and capital expenses.

3. Housing: There is a national foreclosure problem. The Northeast
Ohio region is one of the hardest hit areas because this region has a
manufacturing based economy that has had severe job loss. Lakewood has over 15,000 single and double family homes. The County lists 157 active foreclosures. Lakewood is the third largest city in Cuyahoga County, yet we have the 10th largest number of foreclosed properties. Clearly, although foreclosures are a serious issue, Lakewood proportionally is not as severely hit by this issue as some other area cities. There are 162 vacant homes in Lakewood. Our Building Dept. tracks very diligently the number of foreclosures and vacant homes. These homes are inspected and cited if necessary. Realtors inform me that there is a high demand for many of the foreclosed properties in Lakewood. I view of the County's web site supports this fact.

The Mayor's office has been extemely involved in addressing the
vacant/foreclosed property issue. We have begun to cite individuals rather than corporations for negligent properties. This tactic has brought us timely results.

4. Housing: High end condos: The market plays a huge role in private
development. The city can and should serve as a catalyst. Lakewood
has a unique economic diversity that gives the city its cosmopolitan flavor.

A wide range of housing options is important to maintaining that diversity. Rosewood Place which was initiated under our watch, is already a success. Rockport Square and the Cliffs, despite the horrendous regional economy continues to cautiously move forward to the surprise of many real estate experts.

5. and 6. Development: We need to implement many of the same strategies that life style centers are utilizing and what Chris Andrews attempted. A unified marketing strategy and a clean attractive environment for shoppers are key. We need to find our retail niche and capitalize on this niche. We also need to invest in our older structures to meet the current market needs. Many of these strategies cannot be implemented by government as you suggest. All of these concepts are goals of the Main Street program that my administration initiated in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. Main Street is a proven method to handle these issues and supported by regional development officials and Governor Strickland. We are still early in the process with the organization. However with our new executive director,the Board of LCPI and the large stakeholders, I have confidence we can do it.

7. Infrastructure: In addition to our responsibility to maintain good
working water, sewer and streets systems, infrastructure improvements
are part of our housing and neighborhood improvement strategy.
We find when the City shows it cares by investing in infrastructure
improvements often the residents follow suit and begin to invest as well. These investments result in higher property values. My opponents
differ from me greatly on this issue.

8. City Finances: I disagree that the redevelopment of Kauffman Park is
primarily about city finances. We now have an opportunity with the possible redevelopment of the current Lakewood Plaza to create a town center worthy of our residential neighborhoods. City Council, including my two opponents, unanimously agreed to fund a study to explore future use of this park. I believe anyone with a clear vision of the City's future would explore the redevelopment of the adjacent park. The park is there because of a steep grade change and its landlocked location next to the railroad tracks had made it unuseable for anthing but recreational space. In addition to the grade change the park is difficult for the police to patrol. I wished my opponents had attended the widely publicized Detroit Avenue streetscape meeting, in which many of you particiapted, which recommended moving the green space toward Detroit Avenue
as did another design brought to us by Lakewood Alive. Park space is
at a premium in Lakewood and I am unyielding in my committment to maintain or increase the amount of park space in the city should much of the Kauffman Park area convert to a larger upscale retail area.

9.Sustainability/cutting services: Your point is an excellent one and
one that differniates me from my opponents. I believe there is no free
ride. My administration is one of Northeastern Ohio's most innovative and creative. For instance, I personally went to the Kennedy School at
Harvard to learn about the award winning CitiStat program. As a result, our CitiStat program has become an effective mechanism for evaluating and allocating resources. I am confident we have a process that will allow us to continue to use resources efficiently. We have taken bold and
dramatic steps to reduce spending. We have eliminated over 25 full time
positions, bargained tough union agreements including a 0% wage increase for City employees my first year in office and many other cost cutting measures.

However, with double digit increases in health care costs, increased
fuel and energy costs, unfunded state and federal mandates, we run the risk of, as you mention, a vicious downward spiral of services. As suggested, you can't have it both ways.

KOTZ:

Kauffman Park: See previous response regarding Kauffman Park.

Champagne taste: I do not believe we have developed champagne tastes.
The school system and library had capital needs that required major
reinvestment. They asked the voters for their financial support and
received the necessary support to execute the improvements. One of the top five reasons people move to a community is the school system. Further the State of Ohio offered matching funds if the school system could raise their portion of the capital funds. Our library system is an award winning system we should be proud to have in our community. The fact is, in our diverse city, many of us do not utilize all of the services we are asked toprovide.

However, without some of these services, whether they be the library,
schools, Winterhurst, Skate Park, Beck Center, or whatever, the overall
desirablity of the community diminishes.
Condos: Rosewood Place has in fact, been very successful. In a very
tough national development market it has grown from the original 11 unit
condos and the 8, 000 square foot project. Many Lakewoodites are unaware that the developer also purchased the mixed use building next door and rehabbed the residential offices and retail units. All of the new and rehabbed retail units are now rented. Some of the retail tenants have not yet moved into the new spaces, perhaps giving the impression of being vacant. The tenants in this project are responsible for their own build out. Some of the tenants have already applied for construction permits. Most of the offices are now rented and the residential units are also over 90% occupied. The developer had heard of some of this negative misinformation (after all it is an election year), and asked the City to draft a press release declaring the development a success. He is exploring further investments and development in the area.

MULREADY: due to these questions late submission and a very busy
weekend schedule of events, I have barely had the necessary time to prepare responses.

Sustainability: Lakewood should be a city of vibrant, unique urban
neighborhoods where historic structures are valued and encouraged to be
restored. Where social, ethnic and economic diversity are valued.
Lakewood should have an innovative and progressive government that makes safety and quality delivery of services a priority.

Lakewood Leadership-The huge number of endorsements I have recieved are more than lines on a piece of literature. Each endorsement represents my ability to forge working relationships with organizations which interact with the city and the mayor. County officials, labor
organizations, interest groups ranging from groups representing gays and lesbians to groups representing Slovaks have all endorsed me for re-election. My opponents have not publicized or recieved any endorsements.

Lakewood Talent: One of Lakewood's greatest strengths is the amazing
engagement of the citizens in the life of the City. I initiated the Grow
Lakewood citizens committee harness the citizens' involvement and to
address long term concerns facing Lakewood for that reason.
I have established committees for veterans, Albanians, Romanians, green initiatives, and other groups for the purpose of engaging their
talents.

Gay and Artist Population: Unlike my opponents, I have no desire to
convert Lakewood to a Westlake that happens to be closer to downtown Cleveland.

Lakewood's strength is its diversity. I have been endorsed by the
Stonewall Democrats. Our Arts District initiatives and working relationships with Virginia Marti and the Beck Center are a component in our progressive economic development strategy.

New Business: Despite the trends in the national economy, Lakewood
continues to show significant progress in the area of economic development including the retention and expansion of existing businesses as well as the attraction of new businesses including:
Walgreens, Ferry Cap and Screw, New York Life (moved its offices from
Atlanta to Lakewood adding 125 jobs), Regency Construction, 15422 LTD,
Nature's Bin, Pride One, Omni, Aldi's, 5/3 Bank, Rockport Medical,
Vedda Printing, Virginia Marti, Sherwin Williams, Thinsolutions, Martindale
Electric, Zaremba, Advanced Materials and more. We have worked with
the organizers of the Kar Kulture show which is growing into another
signature Lakewood event. We are also partnering with the Beck Center.

Biggest Opportunity: One of our biggest strengths are things many of us
take for granted. Lakewood is unique in its architectural diversity, its
historic buildings and its location. We are bordered by Lake Erie, Rocky River and the MetroParks.

It is easy to envision Lakewood becoming a destination by commuter rail
or other means of travel for those seeking to enjoy the beautiful and
diverse structures of the city, the main street of shops, an arts district,
theater, boating, hiking, people watching and bird watching to name a few.

Regionalism:

Merge Lakewood with the city of Cleveland and the rest of Cuyahoga
County-no

Merge Lakewood Schools with Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Schools-no

Merge Services: already in place and instituionalized. West Shore
Council of Government for instance.

Merge infrastructure: already in place and institutionalized. master
meter water relationship with Cleveland.

Working together: My administration meets on a monthly basis with both
the schools and library. Often I speak with officials from the schools,
library and hospital on a daily basis. Ask members of the major institutions about our relationship.

Mayor Tom George


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