My name is Jim Rokakis. I am director of the Thriving Communities Institute, a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a land conservation organization in a 17-county footprint in northeast Ohio.
Four years ago, Western Reserve extended its work into urban areas by establishing through thriving communities, where our initial goal was to establish county land banks in northeast Ohio. I established the first land bank in Cuyahoga County in 2009, when I was county treasurer. As a way of dealing with the thousands of distressed properties in our community, we have now established 24 land banks through all of Ohio and raised $240 million to demolish distressed properties in Ohio’s 88 counties.
Currently, we are involved in a door-to-door survey of every property in the city, using trained surveyors who are photographing and rating these properties. If you live in Cleveland, you may have seen or you will see them. They are wearing orange shirts and armed with iPads and working on every street in your neighborhood. When they are finished, Clevelanders will have an accurate count of how many properties are vacant, if they can be rehabilitated, or if they need to be demolished. We are striving to make Cleveland a blight-free city, but need reliable information to be able to do this. We will have that information by the end of summer.
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