mayor jackson wants development projects to yield greater community benefit

Anyone who says that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson lacks passion or verve when speaking in public hasn't seen him talk about the need to leverage urban development projects to create jobs and opportunities for Clevelanders.

Jackson recently addressed a crowd of 120-plus economic development officials, labor leaders and policy advocates to stress the need for urban development projects in Cleveland that "benefit the least of us and include everyone in prosperity."

"What are we doing for our children? How are we ensuring success?" Jackson asked the crowd. "If it's a matter of having kids who are willing to go into the building trades, well, I got a bunch of kids! I'm not trying to be onerous or impose anything on [developers]. We know that if people do things because they think it's the right thing, we'll get better results."

Jackson spoke last week during the Community Benefits Symposium hosted by the City of Cleveland and Cleveland City Council. Community benefit agreements are agreements between developers or project leaders and municipalities that ensure projects maximize local benefit. This might include hiring of local residents, workforce training efforts that involve youth from the area or other efforts.

The city already has requirements in place mandating that all projects that receive more than $10,000 in city funding must meet hiring requirements for a certain percentage of Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), Female Business Enterprises and Cleveland-Area Small Businesses (CSBs). City projects over $100,000 must also comply with the "Fannie Lewis Law" mandating that 20 percent of construction worker hours be performed by residents.

Unfortunately, the city's existing policies aren't as comprehensive, effective or inclusive as many advocates would  like them to be, Jackson said. Too many private sector projects slip through the cracks, and the laws themselves only apply to projects using public funding. Jackson cited the construction of 300-plus apartments by Polaris Real Estate Equities on the Cleveland State University campus as one example where the city can do better. Some leaders were upset because the developer did not hire many workers who live in Cleveland.

The goal now is to take the city's existing community benefit policies to the next level, Jackson said. "What we're doing now is pulling the pieces together."

Exactly what that means is still being worked out, but the purpose of the symposium was to bring local leaders together to hear from national leaders in the community benefits movement. A key study of disparity in hiring practices is being released this month. Jackson said the city will be crafting a more comprehensive community benefit policy based on its results.

Source: Frank Jackson
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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