Jim Rokakis

Vice President, Western Reserve Land Conservancy

Director, Thriving Communities Institute

Growing up in Cleveland's Archwood-Denison neighborhood, Jim Rokakis saw first hand how neighbors helping neighbors could strengthen an entire community. Elected as the youngest member of Cleveland City Council at age 22, he embarked on a 19-year tenure that saw several successes in reversing neighborhood blight, redeveloping Downtown Cleveland, creating the Cleveland Housing Court and serving as chairman on the influential Finance Committee for his last seven years on Council.

 

In 1997, Jim took office as Cuyahoga County Treasurer, bringing his innovative skills and passion for the community to a struggling county office. In the decade that followed, Jim overhauled the entire office and greatly enhanced the county's existing tax collection system by instituting state-of-the-art billing and collection processes.

 

Faced with Cuyahoga County's mortgage foreclosure crisis, he helped to write and pass House Bill 294, which streamlines the foreclosure process for abandoned properties. Additionally, Jim was the driving force behind a bill that allowed for the creation of the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, also known as the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. He served as the CCLRC's first chairman and played a key role in moving the land bank from a concept to a vital force in Cuyahoga County that has changed the real estate picture for distressed properties in just 18 months.

 

Local and national organizations have recognized Jim by for his efforts in strengthening neighborhoods and communities. In 2007 he received the NeighborWorks America Local Government Service Award, the Leadership in Social Justice Award from Greater Cleveland Community Shares and was named the County Leader of the Year by American City and County Magazine.

Jim earned his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and his Juris Doctorate degree from Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. He lives in Rocky River.

Vacancy is Toxic

Vacant properties act like an infection in our body. If not treated, the disease spreads.

Consider this: One vacant house on a block destroys the value of nearby homes. Neighbors must then decide between paying high mortgages or walking away. This leads to more vacant homes in the area and soon an entire neighborhood is vacant or worthless or both. Soon the next street is infected and the disease spreads … predictably, relentlessly, and with devastating consequences.