I am deeply saddened and very angry over the murder of George Floyd by police officers who are sworn to protect everyone’s life and safety. I express my sincere condolence to George Floyd’s family and friends. This tragic event, combined with large disparities in the prevalence and severity of COVID-19 in minority communities reflects the fact that racism remains deeply and structurally embedded in American society. All of us, and especially our leaders, have the responsibility to work boldly and diligently to create a community where health, safety, and economic and social success are available to everyone.
As one of Cuyahoga County’s elected leaders, I take that responsibility very seriously. I do my best to look at everything Cuyahoga County does through the lens of asking how we can create greater equity and broader opportunity. The areas where we must operate encompass almost everything the county does, including health services, criminal justice, housing, employment and promotion, contracting, environmental justice, education, and more. Cuyahoga County has done some really good work on equity and inclusion, but so much more remains to be done, and I will do my very best to be a leader in this effort. As an example of current effort, Cuyahoga County is restructuring its $30 million in contracts to retrofit County buildings for COVID-19 safety to ensure more diversity in both prime and subcontracting.
Three public policy issues will be front and center going forward. The first is accountability. Everyone who is in a position of leadership must be accountable for their actions, and that includes police officers. The second is public safety strategy. We cannot just dismantle all the police departments, but there are programs that contribute to public safety besides traditional policing, such as early childhood education, trauma-based care, mental health and addiction treatment, internship programs, and workforce development. We should spend more money on these things and determine what the right balance is between these preventive programs and traditional law enforcement. The third is a comprehensive approach to racial inequity. We must address the whole range of economic, health, housing, health care, environmental, and criminal justice disparities, not just police misconduct.
I strongly support everyone who is peacefully protesting and demonstrating to urge our country to live up to its true ideals. I also call on everyone to reject all forms of violence and destruction, as they only make matters worse, and usually hurt the very victims that we are concerned about. We must find the path to embrace both civility and a sense of urgency to correct our county’s unjust systems.
I close by noting that despite all the injustice, violence, and destruction, there are many, many very good people doing everything possible to make things better—dedicated police officers who skillfully de-escalate dangerous situations, employees and volunteers who have helped clean up after destructive protests, elected and community leaders who are speaking out and leading change for justice, equal opportunity, and national unity. I applaud and am thankful for their efforts and hope that their leadership helps bring our country to a better place.