By: Loren Anthes, Senior Fellow/William C. and Elizabeth M. Treuhaft Chair for Health Planning
Alex Dorman, Research Associate
Taneisha Fair, Research Assistant/Contract Manager
Sheila Lettsome, Executive Assistant
Emily Muttillo, Applied Research Fellow
As a continuation of our Dear Mayor project, we invited staff who are residents of the City of Cleveland to share their thoughts, concerns and hope for the city’s future with the next Mayor. Read their letters below.
Congratulations on your new role as mayor of Cleveland. Your role comes at a time when our city is facing unprecedented challenges. It is my hope that you will be a mayor for these times, carefully selecting an administration that demonstrates with ears that listen to the pain in today’s voices, hands that lift up the spirit of our city and feet that go boldly where needed.
I am a current homeowner and long-time resident of Cleveland. Here are a few of the things I hope you will consider:
I love to sit on my front porch in the cool of the evening and enjoy a nice breeze, but that silence is constantly interrupted by the sounds of gun fire.
I love to sit on my front porch in the cool of the evening and enjoy a nice breeze, but that silence is constantly interrupted by the sounds of gun fire. Somewhere nearby sirens are blazing, and another life may be hanging by threads. Too many of our young people are dying on the streets of Cleveland. The safety of a city must be a top priority. Where you park your car, where you live, where you shop, where you go to church, where you walk and where you work in this city is an opportunity for crime. On August 15, 2021, NewsNet5 posted that “Cleveland’s year-to-date homicide numbers are highest in more than a decade.” I want to walk and work downtown and know that I will make it back home safe. I want to shop and go to church without fear. I want to sit on my front porch and know that one of the bullets flying from the gun shots I’m hearing nearby will not hit me as I enjoy the breeze on my porch. What are your plans to bring more safety to Cleveland?
I want to walk and work downtown and know that I will make it back home safe.
IMPROVE OUR RESIDENTIAL AREAS
I live near the Larchmere area and love the community, sights and sounds. As a proud homeowner, I look around my street and see other proud homeowners taking care of their homes and sharing a sense of community. However, while the values of our homes and taxes increase, our services remain stagnate and our streets and sidewalks are in poor condition having suffered years of neglect. When will our neighborhoods be treated like we care about them? Good roads and sidewalks add to the safety and appearance of the neighborhood. What will you do to improve our streets and sidewalks?
A recent blog by The Center for Community Solutions (Sept. 21, 2020) reported that Cleveland had the highest poverty rate among large U.S. cities, overtaking Detroit. We are dead last among large cities with child poverty. Three weeks ago, NewsNet5 reported on homeless shelters scrambling to find space for the newly homeless. The pandemic exasperated many families who were already struggling financially. What will you and your administration do to be a bridge to lifting Clevelanders out of poverty and homelessness?
What will you and your administration do to be a bridge to lifting Clevelanders out of poverty and homelessness?
As you select your new administration, I hope you will take extra care to select those with expertise and patience in these many challenging areas. As great as these challenges are, we need the right solutions, and right solutions take time. I hope you will surround yourself with great talent, but also keep listening to the voices of Clevelanders. We want you to succeed. When you succeed, we all succeed.
My name is Taneisha Fair. As a Cleveland resident, three of my biggest concerns for our city are:
- Affordable Housing
- Job loss
These problems existed before COVID but have been highlighted and exacerbated during the pandemic. We know that these issues, policing in particular, disproportionately affect Black and brown residents.
With millions of dollars coming through the American Rescue Plan, I hope you will use them in a way that is informed by the people who are most in need, not just the loudest.
With millions of dollars coming through the American Rescue Plan, I hope you will use them in a way that is informed by the people who are most in need, not just the loudest. I, for one, am in support of participatory budgeting, and would love to see your administration take the voice of Clevelanders into account to provide much needed change in these areas.
In addition, I hope these funds will go to programming and be used for ideas that directly touch the people, and not merely be funneled straight into businesses. There are basic needs that are not being met. Business investment does not always equate to the creation of jobs or mean that those who need them most will have access to or the skillset to get them.
Lastly, even with the right tools to solve these problems, there is still the issue of equity. I hope that you will not ignore the need for a racial equity lens in a city whose residents are largely Black and those who most negatively affected by these social and economic ills.
I hope that you will not ignore the need for a racial equity lens in a city whose residents are largely Black and those who most negatively affected by these social and economic ills
There is a lot of work still to be done in this city. The best way to begin to meet these challenges is, together. You cannot meet the needs of the people, without THE PEOPLE. Meet the people where they are, listen to them and be willing to make the uncomfortable, but necessary, decisions for our city.
Please do not underestimate the importance of recreation in our community. Recreation can be defined as any activity done for enjoyment. It can be physical, like a Zumba class or a soccer league. It can be social, for instance, playing cards in the park or joining a book club. It can be creative like playing an instrument or acting in a theater production. Recreation provides the time and space for people to move their bodies and make social connections. Both of these are crucial elements to both physical and mental health throughout the lifespan.
Recreation provides the time and space for people to move their bodies and make social connections.
The City of Cleveland has the potential to be a stable provider of recreation opportunities within the city. Recreation centers, parks, pools, playgrounds, bike lanes and multi-use paths are all current resources that are owned and operated by the city that can provide the opportunity for youth, adults and older adults to enjoy the city while developing relationships.
In order for residents to benefit from the myriad recreational amenities of the city, the amenities must be maintained. They must be inviting and accessible for all residents. They must be programmed with programs and services that are desired by the community. And finally, they must be communicated in a way that can be accessed by anyone. The current method of communication–downloadable PDF schedules or physically visiting a recreation center to pick up a paper copy–are not working for everyone. The next mayor should invest heavily in both the maintenance of recreation resources and promotion of those resources.
This letter is markedly less dire than those of my amazing colleagues, but it’s an issue I’m particularly qualified to weigh in on. I moved to Ohio in 2010 for school and never looked back. But in all my time in three Northeast Ohio schools, something concerning has stuck with me–most students pack up and leave when it’s over. Of course, anecdotal evidence isn’t really evidence, but the phenomenon of “brain drain” in Ohio is well documented, as is Cleveland’s declining population.
I know Cleveland (and Northeast Ohio) is putting in the work to educate some brilliant classmates of mine.
I know Cleveland (and Northeast Ohio) is putting in the work to educate some brilliant classmates of mine. And If I think critically about why I put down roots in Cleveland–I landed a decent job somewhat accidentally right out of undergrad, a federal first-time home buyers’ program and some fantastic programming at CHN helped me afford a home in the city, and an employer aided me financially with continuing my education.
If the City of Cleveland could make any of those things that convinced me to live here a reality for the many folks who pass through this city, I think it’d be an important start at curbing the brain drain.
If the City of Cleveland could make any of those things that convinced me to live here a reality for the many folks who pass through this city, I think it’d be an important start at curbing the brain drain. Also, don’t ever stop funding the Metroparks. The parks and the beaches are the undisputed highlight of whenever my friends and family come to visit my new home.
Cleveland is the most impoverished city in the United States. This is why Medicaid covers nearly half of the people who live in the city. This includes most kids, most older adults and most persons with disabilities who rely on this coverage for basic services. And besides the number of lives the program covers, Medicaid also has an incredible economic influence in our community, with nearly $318 million spent in Cuyahoga during the month of July alone. That’s nearly $4 billion a year. And, with all of that investment, we have to ask ourselves if we’re getting results.
Cleveland is the most impoverished city in the United States.
A study released by the Annals of Surgery in August of this year revealed a startling finding: the Home Owner Loan Corporation redlining maps corresponded almost exactly to patients’ risk of 30-day post-operative mortality, complications and readmissions. This builds on existing research which suggests that policies that deemphasize urban centers and encourage unscrupulous suburban sprawl have additional, direct harm to population health outcomes, including higher rates of untreated mental illness, trauma, abuse, substance use disorders, job loss, homelessness, infant mortality, diabetes, lead paint exposure, shorter life expectancy and asthma. In fact, you need no look no further than a 2014 analysis by Ohio State’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity which explicitly links Cleveland’s redlining history and our community’s health outcomes.
Any signal to creating a more equitable Cleveland must go beyond the webinars and task forces and press statements.
It seems appropriate that equity, as I am using it, has two meanings here. The first and most accessible meaning is that which has been the hallmark of our recent civil dialogue in regards to racial justice. But any signal to creating a more equitable Cleveland must go beyond the webinars and task forces and press statements. It must also acknowledge the historical lack of wealth-building experienced by our city’s residents in favor of the legal, material and financial protection of those who only see Cleveland on a balance sheet, not as a place where they live. To that end, you must develop policies which prioritize the basic needs and wellbeing of the city’s residents, seeing it as a winning strategy for all communities in the region, and position Cleveland as a community of choice for all who seek it.
Progress and prosperity isn’t just Cleveland’s motto, it becomes a recipe to make Cleveland the healthiest community it can be.
If we know that education, transit, housing, income and the environment are the predominant factors in community health, it means you may have more direct influence on outcomes than any single physician, Medicaid Director or federal administrator. In this way, progress and prosperity isn’t just Cleveland’s motto, it becomes a recipe to make Cleveland the healthiest community it can be.