Budish Defends Progress At County Jail, Launches Climate Change And Microgrid Projects

County Executive Armond Budish delivers his state of the county address.
County Executive Armond Budish defended his administration's work to improve the county jail, saying 'we owe it to' inmates. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish spent the top of his Thursday afternoon state of the county speech at the Huntington Convention Center laying out progress on reforms at the county's troubled downtown jail.

Budish said there's been a 400-person reduction in the inmate count, down from the 2420 counted there during a late October 2018 inspection by the U.S. Marshals Service. At the time, the jail's maximum occupancy was 1765.

Eliza Wing, chief of communications in Budish's administration, said the county would eliminate the remaining overcrowding once the jail in Bedford Heights is ready to take more inmates and beds are added to a kitchen in the downtown Cleveland jail.

According to Budish, the jail is close to ending use of the "Red Zones" where, according to the Marshals Service report, inmates are held in lockdown for more than 27 hours at a time.

There's also a plan to create a mental health diversion center so detainees who come in with drug dependency or mental health issues can be diverted away from the jail.

"We have made progress and are working every day to make further improvements," said Budish. "We owe it to those confined in our jail, and their families, to see that they are protected, cared for and treated with respect."

After the speech, a reporter asked Budish about the indictment earlier that day of Eric Ivey, the former warden at the county jail who was recently demoted to associate warden.

"I know nothing about it. I was giving the speech and somebody just mentioned it to me," said Budish. 

A Microgrid In Downtown Cleveland

Budish floated a plan for a microgrid in downtown Cleveland that would provide backup power and remain separate from the main power grid. It would protect participating businesses from power outages on the main grid.

"It means that businesses in the microgrid would be guaranteed that they would not suffer downtime any longer than five minutes per year," said Budish.

Businesses could remain connected to the wider system, according to Budish, but "have basically a switch they could flip to change over to the microgrid" and investors would cover the upfront costs for building it.

A Climate Plan For Cuyahoga County

Budish also announced a few planks of a climate action plan.

  • Invest $5 million over five years to plant trees countywide. The goal would be to increase the county's tree canopy from 14 percent to 30 percent by 2040.
  • Establish a Green Bank that would make loans for projects like solar panel installation.
  • Continue work on the Greenway, a countywide network of bike and foot paths.
  • Encourage development near public transit stops.
  • Expand availability of electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Coordinate traffic light timing along Chester Avenue between University Circle and downtown Cleveland to reduce idling and shorten commutes.

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