After months of sometimes unpleasant wrangling and maneuvering, the board of the Cuyahoga County land bank and County Executive Ed FitzGerald have reached an agreement on composition of the board. It’s a reasonable compromise that will enable the land bank, formally known as the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., to focus on its critically important mission of battling blight by acquiring and either rehabbing or demolishing abandoned properties.
Under terms of the deal, the land bank’s governing board will expand from seven to nine members, but two current members whose terms had been extended by a board vote last spring — South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo and Berea Mayor Cyril Kleem — will step down. Their successors will be appointed by county officials — with FitzGerald the dominant voice — after a public application process. The two mayors will be eligible to apply.
The land bank is not a direct county operation. It was incorporated at arm’s length for sound legal and financial reasons. But that should not have prompted the board to act in ways that seemed designed to provoke FitzGerald and the new charter government. The land bank and the county need to work hand in glove with one another and with cities and community groups to revitalize neighborhoods. Fussing over the composition of the board and its bylaws was a distraction.
In just two years, the land bank has shown that it can be the lever for reinvestment that its founders envisioned. With this spat behind it, that work can and must continue.