Councilman Santiago comments on State of Ward 14
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, March 2006) On February 22nd, newly elected Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago delivered a State of Ward 14 address to a crowd of about eighty people at the Hispanic Youth Center, 3146 Scranton Avenue. Santiago introduced his staff, directors of various organizations serving Ward 14, and a number of political candidates in attendance, including Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.
Santiago said going door to door with housing inspectors to about a third of the precincts in his ward has thus far identified over 480 homes that are abandoned or in serious need of repair. Santiago called on residents to join his efforts to hold absentee landlords accountable. He urged residents to join existing block clubs and form new block clubs to work together with area community development organizations to address crime and safety issues. He highlighted a recent grant obtained by the Clark Metro Development Corporation to purchase cleanup supplies to address graffiti. He noted the efforts by the Second District Police Community Relations Committee to raise money to address crime and safety issues.
Santiago noted a change in the culture in City Hall brought about newly-elected Mayor Frank Jackson. He said “Jackson has challenged us”, paraphrasing Jackson as saying “We don’t have to bribe people to live in Cleveland. The best marketing of neighborhoods is to take care of Cleveland neighborhoods.” Santiago said Cleveland’s new Council President Martin Sweeney has asked Cleveland City Council to be “effective, efficient and respectful” representatives to the people they serve.
Santiago stressed the importance of education. He urged residents to help improve attendance in the nine Cleveland Public Schools serve Ward 14. He said he was committed to finding solutions, building bridges and making Ward 14 the jewel of the West Side.
Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-11) described her efforts to bring dollars to the community development corporations (cdcs) in Ward 14 and to create good paying jobs in the area. She said the Bush administration wanted to cut dollars to cdcs and was not interested in raising the minimum wage. Congresswoman Tubbs Jones, whose district includes half of Ward 14, pledged to do what she can to help the entire ward. She urged residents to get involved in pressuring the State of Ohio to fund public education in Ohio.
Tubbs Jones took on some tough questions from the audience and defended the federal role in funding public education. She urged residents to make use of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs to combat predatory lending, help protect seniors against predatory scams, and report predators to authorities.
She told residents concerned about charges on their gas bill to help those who can’t pay to contact Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to address their concerns. She noted that one PUCO commissioner, Clarence Rogers, would be replaced soon, and called for a lobbying effort to influence the governor’s choice of whom that replacement would be. PUCO is in charge of regulating utility rates in the state
In contrast, Santiago was much more restrained in his answers to questions from the audience. He agreed to ask the Regional Transit Authority to hold meetings in the neighborhood on the proposed fare increase. He said he would consider a proposal by the Spanish American Committee’s director to create a grassroots advisory committee. When confronted with his letter of support for a nightclub’s plans to move into part of the Dollar Store on Clark Avenue, Santiago avoided discussion of the issue. Santiago said the local development corporation will hold meetings on the proposal and said the present meeting was an inappropriate forum to discuss the proposal.
Despite his concern about area schools and his reference to Mayor Frank Jackson’s challenge to Cleveland City Council to reexamine the impact of tax abatement on the schools, Santiago said he did not have a position on the issue.
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