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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF RALPH J. PERK - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF RALPH J. PERK (1972-77) came at a time when serious financial problems were developing in the city, and the mayor was able to obtain federal revenue sharing funds to help meet current expenses. Perk began his political career in 1940 as a Republican precinct committeeman and was appointed to the staff of the Ohio attorney general's office in 1950. From 1953-62 he was a member of Cleveland City Council, representing the Broadway-E. 55th St. area. Perk was elected county auditor in 1962 and served until 1971 when he won election as the first Republican mayor of Cleveland since HAROLD BURTON† in the 1930s. Perk's political base was the heavily Democratic ethnic community, which supported him regardless of party label.

Inflation and the 1973 recession contributed to a 30% increase in city expenses while Perk was mayor, and it was necessary to borrow where permissable against bond funds and general revenue-sharing funds to help cover the deficits. As one of the few big-city Republican mayors at the time, he also obtained federal grants from the Nixon administration to help fight crime and establish a new citywide emergency medical service unit.

In Jan. 1972, Perk's decision to establish a regional sewer district resolved a 2-year dispute with the SUBURBS over restructuring Cleveland's water pollution control program. The city's sewage treatment plants and major interceptors were sold to the newly organized Cleveland Regional Sewer District for $32 million in 1972. During his administration, the city loaned the deficit-ridden Cleveland Transit System $8.9 million in 1973 to pay off its bonds, and the system was regionalized when the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY was organized in 1975. Perk was reelected mayor in 1973 and 1975, but was defeated in a nonpartisan primary by Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Edward Feighan in 1977.

Ralph J. Perk Papers, WRHS.

Last Modified: 18 Jul 1997 03:55:42 PM

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