Jim Rokakis will discuss the explosion of private mortgage foreclosures and the resultant rash of vacant homes plaguing Cuyahoga County and threatening the stability of its neighborhoods. He also will touch on the role of the changing home mortgage lending industry, Wall Street, uneducated borrowers, a decades-long lack of oversight by the state of Ohio, and a weak local economy, as well as local and state efforts to combat this increasing problem.
Rokakis took office as county treasurer in March 1997 after serving for more than 19 years on Cleveland City Council, the last seven as chairman of the finance committee. He has brought sweeping reform to the treasurer's office, overhauling county property tax collection system by instituting more efficient collection and disbursement of tax revenue. Rokakis has significantly improved the county's investment function and was recognized as having the best-performing portfolio among Ohio County Treasurer's.
Rokakis also revolutionized the way Ohio counties collect delinquent property taxes by working successfully to pass House Bill 371 that allows county treasurers in Ohio's largest counties to sell their property tax liens to private entities. Additionally, he spearheaded House Bill 294, which streamlines the foreclosure process for abandoned properties and was instrumental in creating Cuyahoga County's "Don't Borrow Trouble" foreclosure prevention program. Rokakis developed nationally recognized linked deposit loan programs that help revitalize the county's housing stock and reduce urban sprawl.
Rokakis has been recognized by local and national organizations for his efforts in strengthening neighborhoods and communities. In 2007, he received the NeighborWorks America Local Government Service Award and 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.