I-TEAM asks Cleveland Mayor hard questions during one-on-one interview

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM went one-on-one with Cleveland’s mayor asking hard questions about everything from crime to what’s being done with your tax money.

Mayor Frank Jackson wanted to talk about his decision to not run for re-election, but the I-TEAM put a spotlight on some of the biggest problems affecting your community every day.

The city been plagued by gunfire and carjackings. Recycling has gotten dumped in a landfill. And, sometimes, there are no police officers or ambulance crews to send to calls for help. So, the I-TEAM asked Mayor Frank Jackson what’s being done to fix those problems?

We pressed for specifics about what’s being done to address crime in the mayor’s final months in office.

Mayor Jackson said, “Well if you’re asking me the strategy specifically, I wouldn’t divulge that (to you) even with the Chief.”

The Mayor said he could only speak generally about crime. He told us Cleveland Police are trying different strategies to address raging violent crime.

Thursday, the mayor announced he would not run for re-election after 16 years in office. His office put out a news release about his accomplishments including making neighborhoods safer. But, in light of the violence we report on daily, can he really say neighborhoods are safer?

Jackson said, “I did not see the news release. I did not write the news release.”

Meantime, what about recycling? Two years ago, the I-TEAM exposed a City Hall secret — all recycling collected in Cleveland simply gets dumped in a landfill.

Months ago, the city got a report back from a consultant with ideas for how to fix the recycling system. City Hall said it would start moving forward in the spring. So, we asked the mayor what might happen and when? But, that is still not clear and there is no timetable for action yet.

The mayor said, “No, our intent is to do it right. Based on what we can do.”

We also asked about ambulances taken out of service sometimes daily due to short staffing. And, we pointed out short staffing, at times, leaves 911 callers on hold.

Those problems continue even though, a few years ago, taxpayers voted for a tax increase to improve services.

The mayor argues, the city has been working to build up police, fire and EMS.

He told us, “We added an additional sixty people in EMS. I think it was 60. And, we increased the number of ambulances on the day from 18 to 25.”

There is no question, the mayor has accomplished a lot over 16 years in office. Still, as his final term winds down, he admits there’s much more to do.

“I intend to work until they turn the lights out. My last hour. My last day,” he added.

We also asked about the city’s chronic problem with dirt bikes taking over the streets. The mayor has no new enforcement efforts in the works. And, we wondered why Cleveland City Hall is still closed to the public due to COVID-19 especially since everything else seems to be reopening.

In fact, a week ago, the city hosted tens of thousands of people downtown for the NFL Draft.

The mayor says the city is moving toward reopening City Hall, but there’s no specific date set yet. He said, when the building does open again, it will likely open first for a few days a week.

Clearly, the mayor will have many serious issues facing his Administration right up until the next mayor takes over.

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