In his second State of the County speech, Ed FitzGerald delivered an unusually blunt assessment of why Cuyahoga County and its cities must work together, pursuing far more aggressively the goal of regional government. The Cuyahoga County executive’s remarks, given last week at the City Club of Cleveland, should be required reading in Summit County. Here, too, plans to consolidate are proceeding far too slowly.
FitzGerald accurately pointed to “a patchwork of individual kingdoms” that are “powerless to execute any kind of coordinated strategy to compete in a global economy.” “It’s not just that the wrong people were in charge of the county — no one has been in charge,” he said. The county thus has become a “punching bag” for better-organized areas of the country.
Where is FitzGerald headed? Another ballot issue, like the one that brought charter government to Cuyahoga County in the wake of a corruption scandal? Not exactly. He has in mind offering an expanding array of services on a contract basis. The plan will start with computer services and sewer maintenance, then broaden to road repair, garbage collection and police services.
The key lies in competition, the county demonstrating it can offer a higher level of service at a lower price by operating more efficiently. FitzGerald’s approach would leave the home rule powers of local governments undisturbed. In return, they must be willing to listen to what the county offers, and to citizens who demand their tax dollars be spent wisely, delivering services instead of supporting layers of administrative overhead.