For Fourth Term, Mayor Jackson Says Inequality Is City's Main Challenge

Mayor Frank Jackson (right) after being sworn in for his fourth term at City Hall on Tuesday. [Adrian Ma / ideastream]
Mayor Frank Jackson (right) after being sworn in for his fourth term at City Hall on Tuesday. [Adrian Ma / ideastream]
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Frank Jackson is beginning his fourth term as Mayor of Cleveland. He was sworn in Tuesday morning at City Hall in Downtown. 

If there was a theme to the ceremony, it seemed to be this: being Mayor is not easy.

From the introductory remarks by Judge Patricia Blackmon of the Court of Appeals of Ohio, to a musical number sung by a city police sergeant, the series of speeches, prayers, and benedictions during the hour-long event all seemed to underscore the challenges that lay ahead for Jackson: tight budgets, aging infrastructure, and neighborhoods racked by violence, high unemployment, and the specter of the Foreclosure Crisis.

Before administering the oath of office, Judge Blackmon recounted an exchange with Jackson, more than 12 years ago when he was still serving on the City Council, in which he said he planned to run for mayor. 

"Frank, don't do it," she recalled saying to him. "It's a thankless job," she said of serving in public office.

Later, Sgt. Kennedy Jones of the Cleveland Police sang a ballad, dedicated to the Mayor and his wife, which began with the lyrics, "What do you do when you've done all you can and it seems like it's never enough?"

After he was sworn in, Jackson continued the motif.

In a brief address, he said the city has "come a long way" in the past 12 years of his administration, managing to operate on a balanced budget despite cuts in state funds while also increasing investment in infrastructure such as roads. But he said Clevelanders face stark inequalities when it comes to education, economic opportunity, and public safety.

"Crime is only a symptom of an illness," he said. "That greater illness is the inequity and disparities that many of our neighborhoods and our people suffer from every day."

Jackson said unless those inequities are eliminated, Cleveland cannot become a "Great City." And without getting into specifics, he said addressing inequality would require some "hard decisions."

"How do we become a great city?" he said. "A great city will be measured by the well-being of the least of us. Not in terms of welfare and charity, but in terms of all being able to participate in the quality of life and the prosperity we have created."

Jackson, 71, is the first Cleveland Mayor to win four consecutive four-year terms. In November's election, he won 60 percent of the vote, beating city councilman Zack Reed. 

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