Victor Voinovich, candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive, answers the Observer's questions

Victor S. Voinovich

All candidates were given the same questions, and the same word limit, which was 1300 words, which they could use in any way they wanted. (No word limit per question.) Questions were developed by John Sheridan, Euclid Observer.

Here, in response to questions posed by The Observer, Republican County Executive Candidate, Victor Voinovich, shares some of his thoughts on the new county government and the challenges that lie ahead:           

1.) If elected to the position of County Executive, what three or four goals would top the list of things that you’d hope to accomplish during your term in office?

I have three objectives:

•    Grow our economy,
•    Better, smarter county government,
•    Unite our region.

We will get there and define our success by what we do to:

•    Ensure there are thriving jobs, businesses, entrepreneurship, and innovation in our county.
•    Create and grow 21st century talent.
•    Become a great place to live, work, and raise families.
•    Tell our story and use it to build partnerships in the global economy.
•    Streamline crucial county services to improve responsiveness and efficiency.
•    Reimagine and remake the county government.
•    Practice the principles of collaboration, inclusiveness, and transparency.

2.) What do you regard as the major challenges that must be met in order for the new system of county government to succeed?

•    Entrenched ways of thinking/doing things.
•    Too much tax dollars spent on things that don’t help to create jobs or provide necessary services.
•    Lack of interest and energy in our citizens.

3.) How do you define good government?

Three words: trust, effectiveness, efficiency. This is what it will take to deliver value for the tax dollars citizens entrust to us. Good government also depends on humility to learn from others and having the right team in place.

4.) Do you believe the new County Executive/Council structure can put an end to the corruption and patronage that have dominated news headlines for the past several years?

Yes…but it depends on the County Executive’s character and values. I pledge to earn back the people’s trust through the CuyahogaNext Contract. I will:

•    Stay focused on 3 objectives…our success with the citizens will depend on it.
•    Create equal opportunity using the best our county has to offer in an honest, open, inclusive, and transparent way.
•    Institute accountability by streamlining crucial county services and adopting the best practices of the world’s leading organizations to create a trustworthy, effective, and efficient government.
•    Earn the citizens’ trust.

5.) Under the new charter, several top county officials who in the past were directly elected by the voters will now be appointees chosen and approved by the new Executive and County Council. Do you see that as a positive step?

Yes…but it depends on the County Executive’s character and values.

County voters approved the new structure. They rightly expect better results from their elected officials and the use of citizens’ tax dollars. The new structure and the CuyahogaNext Contract gives me the opportunity to form and mobilize the team that will deliver the results the voters expect. We will vet candidates based on their job effectiveness as well as their personal integrity and willingness to work with others. Working closely with Council members, we can field a better and more cohesive team than the old way in which voters elected their officials.

We will work together with others based on personal integrity and sharing. Council members will have an open invitation to work with us to energize and mobilize the county’s and the region’s resources to grow jobs and our economy.

6.) What approach would you take to working with the new County Council to keep lines of communication open in order to achieve consensus on major county wide objectives?

Council members will have an open door to my administration. My team is working on how best to collaborate on the details to:

•    Save tax dollars by moving public meetings to various locations and inviting citizens to view their government in action.
•    Form “coalitions of the willing” to 1) envision desired outcomes in job growth, economic growth, and regional collaboration, and 2) carry out the tough tasks that achieving the desired outcomes will need.
•    Invest some of the taxpayer funds entrusted to us by the citizens in the best practices and information technology tools to give “coalition of the willing” participants a more productive way to communicate and coordinate efforts to achieve our objectives.

It’s going to be “simple rules and simple tools for great results.”  I welcome all participants as long as they sign up to do real work that helps our county achieve economic growth and regional unity. If organizations choose not to participate, they risk being left behind as we move forward.

7.) When will Cuyahoga County voters know if the new government structure is working as envisioned—and how will they know?

As part of our CuyahogaNext Contract, I will share quarterly report cards with our citizens, good or bad.  The CuyahogaNext report card will feature specific measures of economic growth, regional cooperation, and smarter, better government. Quarterly reporting will keep us focused on demonstrating results continually.

8.) Do you believe the new structure has the potential to spark economic growth and job creation in Northeast Ohio? If so, how might that happen?

The new structure makes possible a streamlined effort to renew job and economic growth. Our entire plan is about the economy and jobs, and how to make growth enduring and resilient.

The key to building consensus and momentum is how our “coalition of the willing” participants develop and implement specific projects that will drive measurable results in each of the 7 ways we will achieve our objectives.

For example, my team is working on how to:

•    Implement a process by which to evaluate and select suppliers who most contribute to economic growth. If this process had existed with the construction of the new Innerbelt bridge, the largest bridge project in the US, it could have created hundreds of local jobs.
•    Foster the growth of trained Virtual Workers. Instead of people leaving here for jobs, we can bring jobs here while the employees remain in their chosen locations.
•    Build on a growing entrepreneurship infrastructure. We will accelerate county work with economic development organizations like BioEnterprise and JumpStart to insure that our county encourages and nurtures entrepreneurship and innovation. We will work together to create the incentives and provide tangible help to entrepreneurs. This is one of the best ways to create long-term jobs. In addition, it rekindles the entrepreneurial spirit we have mostly lost since the days of famous Cuyahoga County entrepreneurs.
•    Develop re-engagement networks to raise the level of skills, making people in need of jobs more marketable to local employers. These networks will include universities and colleges, employers, and human resources firms, working together with us to develop programs that work to get people ready and hired into productive jobs.
•    Work more closely with universities and colleges (e.x. NOCHE) to develop more flexible study and career pathways for children.

Putting the right people in place with the ability to recruit organizations and better manage those relationships to help with these types of projects will be an important focus early in my administration.

9.) There has been much talk about “regionalization” as a mechanism to improve government efficiency—and hopefully, reduce the tax burden on the citizens of Cuyahoga County. Do you view the new government structure as a positive step toward achieving these goals?

Absolutely. Regionalization is essential to streamlining crucial services, and reimagining and remaking county government to be more trustworthy, effective, and efficient.

For example, my team is working on how to partner with the private sector to use their best practices to look for regional savings in the areas of supplies, information technology, county physical assets like buildings and vehicles, insurances and benefits administration, fuel and energy, etc. As part of this effort, we will actively search out and implement processes that aggregate these types of purchases in collaboration with the State of Ohio and our municipalities, as well as other counties if they choose to participate with us.

10.) In your analysis of Issue 6—the charter amendment that ushered in the sweeping changes in county government -–what did you find to be its strong points? And what, if any, weaknesses did you detect?

The new “Executive/County Council” structure has built-in checks and balances. This results in greater accountability and inclusiveness through the process of audit, monitoring, and transparency. The new structure provides for stronger leadership and faster, better response to the county’s needs as a whole. Through clear, measurable objectives and open collaboration, my team will put fiscally pragmatic and prudent policies in place. As a CPA and elected steward of taxpayer monies, I will ensure our policies result in savings and the funding of high-return economic growth initiatives. 

As far as “weaknesses,” no change is without its obstacles, especially when the change is based on a new formula.  What these “weaknesses” are will become apparent over time. We will work through them as they come up, reporting to the voters if necessary. One potential weakness may be out-of-date assumptions and constraints in the purchasing and contracting area. This may stand in the way of realizing the benefits of region-wide collaboration in purchasing and savings.

11.)  Do you see a need for further “tinkering” with the County Charter to improve prospects for a successful transition? If so, what changes would you hope to see incorporated?

Let’s take one step at a time. My focus is on first winning the nomination.

Since the voters approved the current County Charter, we’ll leave it in place.  If parts of the Charter affect our ability to achieve our 3 objectives, we will address it with the Council and report to the citizens.

Questions developed by John Sheridan, courtesy of the Euclid Observer.

Read More on Cuyahoga County
Volume 3, Issue 8, Posted 2:17 PM, 07.26.2010