The Dredge Report

The port authority levy is asking for too much, too late

Page 4 of 4

As it turned out, that was the easy part. The difficult and meaningful work would be to take on political bastions like the port authority. FitzGerald was in a position to dissolve the port authority and create an organization around professionals.

Instead, he alienated county workers with a righteous, draconian approach that saw him berate public employees in speeches that displayed his ambition for higher office. Rumors began to circulate in political circles that FitzGerald wanted to run for governor. He began to travel the state and test the political waters.

FitzGerald's political aspirations are such that he may well need Frank Jackson's political support in the future. And Frank Jackson wants to control the port authority.

Since one of the port's missions is economic development, in effect, it controls part of Cuyahoga County's destiny. Cleveland City Hall these days is struggling with simple housekeeping issues like a water department that doesn't work, a fire department that doesn't come to work, and a lighting plan that failed, as did a plan to turn energy to trash.

The revelation last week that state officials suspect Cleveland schools of having falsified academic and attendance records adds to Jackson's woes, If the accusation proves true, the schools could be taken over by the state, another indictment of faulty local government.

The fact that Jackson couldn't sense the importance of a regional government when he was in a position to promote it is another indication that he possesses little to instill confidence that our economic future is in good hands.

For instance, eager to promote lakefront development, City Hall has generated news story after news story lauding plans for housing, retail, and restaurants on the lakefront. The reality is that any new development probably would hurt businesses on West 6th and East 4th Streets. The lack of critical mass has hurt downtown development for decades.

The pedestrian bridge to the waterfront featured in the levy is one of the mayor's favorites, but is considered by some planners to be unnecessary and expensive. Other City Hall plans call for turning Public Square into a giant lawn.

Ultimately, the question posed by the levy and other lakefront development schemes is not one of economic development, but the leadership that can make it happen. The public was told that a new county government would deal with economic development. Clearly, the county government has made strides. As it stands now, however, City Hall and the port authority are stuck in the past and want the suburbs to finance their mistakes.

At the very least, FitzGerald could have asked for more seats on the port board in exchange for support of the levy. That way, he could have offered voters something other than a naked giveaway.

If you live in the suburbs, you could consider the levy to be taxation without representation. Once, 237 years ago, another government treated citizens in a similar manner. The results changed the world. Too bad Ed FitzGerald forgot that in his quest for glory.

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