One on One with Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States

This is an interview between myself and Mr. Ja’Ron Smith the Deputy Director for the Office of American Innovation under the authority of President Donald J. Trump. Ja’Ron met with various elected officials, community leaders, stakeholders as well as a reception hosted by Michael Canty and LaVerne Gore and the local Republican Party. The opportunity for me to sit down with someone of his statue and standing as well as a former resident of the Lee-Harvard area where I came from was indeed an honor. I am certainly proud of this young man; this African-American young man standing strong at the pinnacle of even greater accomplishments.

Dale Edwards: Good Morning Mr. Director Ja’Ron Smith.

Ja’Ron Smith: Thank you for having me here.

DE: After speaking with various leaders in the City, what message would you leave with Cleveland? I know that earlier you mentioned the reception; was there a difference between this one and the one prior?

Ja’Ron Smith: Sure, well, since it’s all about building trust, I talked a little bit about that, and I think that many people really knew who I was and or what community I came from. So, the Plain Dealer article helped, I think build trust and understanding, knowing that someone from the Community is actually in a position to help move the needle. It has been shared priorities, really you know, it is always my priority, getting into politics to help build ladders of opportunities. Therefore, it was a priority of the President. Being one of his first hires, under his leadership we have been able to help create infrastructure that can help and really drastically to revitalize some of these communities and so the goal here is to talk about that infrastructure and how the administration can partner with local communities to help empower the residents that live there.

DE: When it comes to gentrification do you believe that this is something that is happening across the country and certainly right here in your hometown?

Ja’Ron Smith: Yes, it is something that has existed prior to the Trump Administration and what the President realizes is that we have to do something about it. We can’t just talk about the problem we have to figure out solutions. Our solution for the problem was bringing in new capital through opportunity zones. There is a lot of mis-education on what opportunity zones are but it is literally a tool to deal with issues like gentrification. For example, I mentioned earlier to a group of people how local leaders have used the tool to create affordable housing. You know, you have zoning requirements. Many people who live in these communities, own their homes and so they are designated an opportunity zone and their property value has gone up. Whereas it is the responsibility of our local leaders not to raise taxes on people who may be on a fixed income, own their homes, and not be forced to sale. Therefore, it is many things, but it is all really pointing back to accountability to our local leadership. However, we are willing, through Dr. Secretary Carson’s leadership to do what we can do to facilitate prosperity.