Friday, December 19th, 2014

Fitz-O-Meter to track county executive's pledges

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald says he welcomes the scrutiny of the new Fitz-O-Meter.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald says he welcomes the scrutiny of the new Fitz-O-Meter.

Ed FitzGerald rode into office on a white horse of reform, promising a "new era in county government."

Cuyahoga County's first executive made plenty of other promises, too, to distinguish himself from old guard Democrats and a massive county corruption investigation. The Democrat pledged to expand universal pre-kindergarten and offer college scholarships, to build a $100 million economic development fund and create a non-compete policy between communities, to implement a rigorous ethics policy and review all operations to root out corruption.

But can he possibly keep them all? We shall see. PolitiFact Ohio has launched the Fitz-O-Meter to monitor 33 of FitzGerald's campaign promises, many of which the 42-year-old former Lakewood mayor described in eight policy papers.

Earlier this month, PolitiFact Ohio launched a Kasich-O-Meter to monitor promises made by Republican Gov. John Kasich. The Fitz-O-Meter will follow the same format, monitoring his promises and tracking how well FitzGerald keeps his word.

FitzGerald welcomes the scrutiny. His team is considering launching their own version on the county web site.

"I think it's great," he said. "We said we were going to do these things. That's the only way people are going to have confidence in the government."

Some of FitzGerald's pledges, such as hiring an inspector general, will be easy to judge. In his second week, FitzGerald appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Nailah Byrd to the job.

Boom! Promise kept.

Vaguer vows, such as improving access to public transportation or promoting lake shore development while protecting the shoreline, will take time to sort out. Other promises include: increasing access to healthy food, creating a countywide public safety master plan, expanding the county land bank, generating revenue by housing federal prisoners and publishing a list of the gifts he receives as county executive.

"I don't think people would expect 100 percent within the first 30 days because a lot of them are long-term goals," FitzGerald said. "Some of them I think we'll have achieved in 30 days. Most of them I think we'll have laid the groundwork to at least try to achieve them."

PolitiFact has tracked 506 of President Barack Obama promises for more than two years. PolitiFact Ohio and six other state sites are also following governors. 

Politifact Ohio, though, is the first to keep tabs on a local politician.

Transparency became a major theme in the campaign for county executive because of the long-running county corruption probe that so far has charged more than 50 people. In the midst of the investigation, voters approved a new county charter that created the executive post and an 11-member county council.

Reformers who drafted the charter like the idea of tracking promises and judging whether FitzGerald was serious or just lobbing rhetoric. So do FitzGerald's former competitors, and his colleagues.

"I think it's important to hold politicians to their word and be as transparent and open with the public as they can be," said Matt Dolan, FitzGerald's Republican opponent.

Democratic county Council President C. Ellen Connally agreed.

"It's fair," she said. "If someone's promised something, it's fair to keep us to it."