Jim Rokakis: Foreclosures, Abandonment, and How Aggressive Demolition Policies Will Help to Save Distressed American Cities

Jim Rokakis

Jim Rokakis during his presentation in the Kaufman Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall. William Staffeld / AAP

CRP 2015 Spring Colloquium Series - The Russell Van Nest Black Lecture Fund

Jim Rokakis is vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and director of its Thriving Communities Institute. He is involved in a variety of activities, including the establishment of 22 county land banks throughout Ohio and working with Ohio communities in Columbus and Washington, DC to raise funds to deal with distressed properties.

Rokakis served for 19 years on the Cleveland city council — the last seven as chair of the finance committee. In 1997, Rokakis took office as Cuyahoga County Treasurer. Faced with Cuyahoga County’s mortgage foreclosure crisis, Rokakis helped to write and pass House Bill 294, which streamlined the foreclosure process for abandoned properties. Additionally, Rokakis 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 is the recipient of numerous local, state, and national awards, including being named "County Leader of the Year" by American City and County magazine in 2007. In December 2011, Rokakis was featured on the CBS program 60 Minutes, discussing the need to fund demolition in distressed urban areas. Rokakis wrote the cover story for the Washington Post’s Outlook section on February 10, 2012 about the need to demolish distressed properties in inner-city neighborhoods.

Rokakis earned his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and his J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall School of Law.

Cosponsored by the NY Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association