October 04, 2021

next: October 11, 2021

Public Commenters (31 min)
Grace Heffernan  Robin Brown  Sara Gutierrez  Michael Hardy  Randy Cunningham  Andy Schuman  Ross DiBello  Yvonka Hall  Mario Pollard  Darrick Wade 

Councilmember comments during Miscellaneous (4 min)
Jenny Spencer (Ward 15)  Basheer S. Jones (Ward 7)  Kerry McCormack (Ward 3) 

Grace Heffernan

Wow, what a thrill! Okay here I am, number one baby! All right. Good evening City Council members. Thank you so much for opening up city council meetings to public comment and thank you to the community organizers, a few of whom who I see here today, who worked so hard to bring this practice to Cleveland.

My name is Grace Heffernan and I'm commenting today on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Worker Center. There are two time sensitive issues that I'd like to bring your attention to.

The first is a federal grant opportunity currently open to states to create a more equitable unemployment compensation system. Even in the best of times, the process to apply and receive benefits for many unemployed Ohioans is complex. It's intimidating and it's dehumanizing and we saw that in even greater clarity in the pandemic. So while I know that Cleveland City Council is far away from Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, I know that the pain that workers felt during the pandemic is not. And so it's my hope that you can advocate to our local ODJFS partners and others that you may know who are connected to our unemployment system to ensure that the state does not miss this opportunity.

Secondly, I know that you are right now this very day in fact considering how to spend the city's American Rescue Plan dollars, and so I hope you're able to see beyond your individual awards to the opportunity to create some really transformational change for workers.

Here are just a couple of the ways that I think you could do that: the first is hazard pay for essential workers. Many on the front line of covid-19 are among the city's lowest paid workers and you can honor their everyday heroism with premium hazard play. ARP allows for up to twenty five thousand dollars of premium pay for frontline workers and frankly folks, that's a car, that's a 401(k) account, that's a down payment on a house ,and you can give that today to workers.

Another opportunity could be increased labor enforcement laws. Ohio has just five wage investigators to protect our workforce of over 5 million workers. You can protect Clevelanders today by setting up our own Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement.

If you like those ideas i've got good news-- there are more of them and all you have to do is ask. I would like to encourage you to use a participatory budgeting approach in the ways that you think about distributing the ARP dollars and that's it. That's all she wrote, there we go. Thanks, everybody.

2:44 Permalink

Robin Brown

Brown: Good evening council. First we want to thank you for allowing comments again at city council meetings. How did we, how do we rebuild a great city in the midst of crisis? Today we are asking city council to fully support and approve the $30.8 million dollars through the American rescue dollars, representing the number of poor people in our city, to Participatory Budget Cleveland, as a way to show our city is willing to listen and allow the citizens to have some control of their destiny and the families for generations to come.

We would like to invite you to our event that will be on October 23rd 21 at 2 o'clock at Luke Easter Park demonstrating what PB could look like in our city. Realizing that the city of Cleveland needs to have more input from the many voices and the diverse neighborhoods within our great city, there is 50 organizations that is endorsing participatory budgeting.

What make the city of Cleveland great is the people. City council, realize the need of PB in our city. Residents have already been demonstrating this work on their own with no or minimum financial support from our city administrators. We get them through small grants or personal dollars. Folks been making great change in their neighborhoods and communities. Collectively the residents of Cleveland have raised substantial funds to make a difference in their communities such as the organization I first started CCOAL, Concerned Citizens Organized Against Lead, that is advocating for families of lead poisoned children which is another topic we need to touch.

The best ideas come from people being afflicted by the devastation in our communities. We have sat around the tables, on the porch, on the sidewalks with other neighbors creating sustainable solutions to our problems. It is time our city leadership to start listening to their constituents who voted them into office or positions and stop working in silos. We need PB to work for us through our neighborhood small grants and other places within the country it does work. Washington, San Francisco even New York as an example.

As residents in the city of Cleveland we are tired of being on life support. Feeling disappointed in our elected leadership making us feel as if our voices doesn't matter and assisting to bring in sustainable solutions for our city for generations to come.

Council President Kelley: Wrapping up please.

Brown: Pardon.

Council President Kelley: Wrapping up timewise please.

Brown: Okay again. Today we are asking city council to fully support and approve the $30.8 million dollars representing the number of poor people in our city for PB Cleveland.

3:19 Permalink

Sara Gutierrez

Gutierrez: Hello my name is Sara Gutierrez and I'm here on behalf of the Art Workers Collective. We are a group of people mostly composed of aspiring full-time working artists who want to improve the material conditions of artworkers in Northeast Ohio.

The labor of artists including but not limited to musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, tattooers, jewelry makers, dancers, writers, photographers, poets, clothing designers, sculptors etc. Their labor is work and this cultural work is often what makes a place one where people want to live and a place where people want to spend their money. It is work in the way that teaching is work and the way that driving a bus is work. Work and in the way that serving on city council is work because artists are workers.

However art workers, as described by the volunteers economics research group of Indiana University, perpetually experienced lack of return on their educational training and less access to social provisions such as health care and affordable housing compared to other workers. Artworkers are faced with barriers trying to obtain health insurance including affordability and the fact that health insurance companies view artists as high-risk individuals. Artworkers are often contracted or freelanced and unable to access employer-based healthcare programs and artists unions, while fantastic, are far and few.

I often hear people in Cleveland discuss a sort of brain drain to the coast of young educated people leaving. and I want the people in this room to know that in artist circles this is discussed as well. And we believe that eventually if living conditions for artists here do not improve, if funding does not increase, and structural changes are not made to support the livelihood of cultural workers, the people producing the work will leave and the city of Cleveland, a city that claims itself as an arts and culture hub, will unfortunately suffer for it.

I ask that the next time you attend a live music concert at a beloved independent Cleveland venue, something that has been scientifically proven to help you manage stress, alleviate pain, enhance your memory and improve your quality of life, something I'm sure we all seek during these times, that you look around and note that the person running sound, the person who checked your ticket, and the people on stage performing most definitely do not have access to health insurance through the work that they're providing for your benefit. Thank you.

2:33 Permalink

Michael Hardy

Hardy: Greetings, hola, ciao, salaam alaikum... Thank you President Kelly, council members, and everyone for having this session. My name is Michael Hardy I live in Ward 11.

It's a pleasure and honor to speak before the council and to participate in this public comment session. I'm glad to see a version of public comment has been adopted so with public comment Cleveland joins its peer cities.

Cleveland is a wonderful city, the best location in the nation, and now we have what our peer cities have public comment. This will give residents an elevated platform for free speech in the city of Cleveland. Public comment brings city hall and its residents closer. It's a real commitment to engaging the opinions of the public. Comments from residents have tremendous value and this platform elevates the residents in a participatory manner. These opinions and observations of the public will result in insightful thoughts that will help the city get things accomplished quicker and in a better way. Public comment might take people to places they have not been.

Whether people choose to participate with the spoken word or via the written word, the comments will be made public and this helps keep people and everyone informed. The issue whether it's a leaning electric pole somewhere, graffiti, or a street that needs repairs, these things will get attention and that is a big positive. Public comment policy opens up the city to many possibilities. This gives the public a real voice.

I hope over time people will see the benefits of public comment and how it can really move us forward and how it can be beneficial to council and to the city of Cleveland. Hopefully over time people will see that it is a, it is better for the city and better for everyone with engagement that results in fresher ideas Having a public forum is very very good government. Having a public forum is very very American. My name is Michael Hardy and I thank you for your time. You all have a wonderful evening everyone.

2:13 Permalink

Randy Cunningham

Cunningham: This first night of having a public comment period in Cleveland City Council should be a time for a celebration. It should be also a time of reflection and learning.

First off we should all wonder why. Why did it take 100 years to restore what is a norm in so many cities, villages, and townships in Ohio and the rest of the country.


It was a simple matter of changing the rules for council or passing an ordinance. Instead it was greeted by the powers that be in council with all the enthusiasm that would greet a resolution endorsing cannibalism. Was it the fear that it would get out of control? Out of control was when citizens were forced to stand up and yell in city count, in Monday council meetings when they were shut out of being able to comment on issues in an orderly manner. Why a hundred years of public silence?

I think public comment was resisted because it did not come from city council. It did not come from the Greater Cleveland Partnership. It did not come from the mayor's office. It came from the grassroots and the traditional attitude of city council to initiatives from the grassroots is kill it before it multiplies. We saw this with the vote for 15 initiative. We saw this with the Q controversy. We saw this with the CLASH campaign to end the embarrassment of Cleveland's lead program. We saw this with the public comment proposal.

City council too often has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything other than attending to the needs and whims of developers and tycoons, and the people who do the dragging are the activists of Cleveland such as myself, and such as the Clevelanders for Public Comment. So this debut of Cleveland city council's public comment period is a happy moment but is not enough. It is not near enough. Democracy either moves forward and expands or it dies and democracy should not be bound by the word enough.

There is a long list of items to be addressed in a campaign to democratize Cleveland. It includes how emergency ordinances are used to ram through legislation with little or no discussion. There's plenty of work to be done to raise democracy from rhetoric to reality. Today is a first step.

2:35 Permalink

Andy Schuman

Schumann: Hi.

Council President Kelley: Welcome.

Schumann: Thank you President Kelley. My name is Andy Schumann. I am a resident of Ward 2 with Kerry McCormick but I grew up in Ward 14 Jasmine Santana's ward. I'm here to speak on behalf of the Cleveland Art Workers Collective much as my friend Sara did.

Something that we exist to bring attention to is the fact that there's not a minimum wage for performers at most venues in Cleveland. So I actually worked at a venue recently and the frightening thing about it is that often I was not able to pay out the performers that would play. Now part of the reason this happens is because, well there's a lot of things. But why I'm talking to you is because I think you guys can help us put more money into the performing arts in Cleveland.

I think that there are a number of non-profits that do great work with providing um performers opportunities to apply for grants through them. But some of those processes are a bit bogged down and difficult to follow up, especially if you're doing your artwork full time and you know it's hard to fill out a grant it's hard to know how to fill out a loan or anything like that.

So I'm just asking you guys to consider entering a conversation with the Cleveland Art Workers Collective. Sara also spoke very eloquently and uh our email address is clevelandartworkers@gmail.com. And thank you so very much and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the comments.

1:40 Permalink

Ross DiBello

Di Bello: Thanks guys. I'm Ross Di Bello. Thanks for having me, thanks for allowing the comment. Go Browns. I only address council members uh as extensions of civilian Clevelanders because that's what you are. You're no better than us, we're no better than you, and it is civilians who are in charge of Cleveland. And it's not every four years that we exert that power. It's daily with every penny, every tax dollar penny that gets spent. Including on the salaries of our representatives right?

So council persons, you all recently submitted wish lists for the ARPA dollars that we're getting. Most of you know or remember that I believe we should look at this as an opportunity to invest and help residents create sustaining wealth for their families rather than simply what do we spend on to deplete these funds. You know I want to start a public bank, do wi-fi access, equipment training, other education but that's not the bulk of my comments.

As citizens in such a place that we love as Cleveland but that has such humanitarian atrocities, we haven't been able to trust city hall you know and we can't do so one budget or one deal one contract longer. We have to take responsibility for the usages of our tax dollars. So I asked my counsel uh on each of your wish lists, who among you listed improvements to Progressive Field? Probably nobody, right? And at the city level this would mean $117 million more dollars for those of us who don't get our wish list fulfilled with the ARPA dollars.

So please vote no to this corporate handout. This is the definition of insanity. This is what we've been doing. Crime, lead paint, infant mortality, the defunding of public schools, and the west side market- these things can and will get worse. So I'm begging us to stop doing business as usual.

One of you please become a voice of the true Clevelander. Safeguard me and my neighbors tax dollars. We have to lift up the entire population with this money. I'm talking about the $117 million not the $511 million. We can be cogs in the machine or we can empower ourselves to know that we've done true good. So please remember the concept of opportunity cost before you acquiesce to one further deal, budget, or other usage of our pennies. Thank you.

2:51 Permalink

Yvonka Hall

Hall: Good evening everybody. Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing urges Cleveland City Council to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to make it easier for average families to have their children tested for lead poisoning. We the members of CLASH and the Cleveland Lead Safe Network want to make it clear that money should be set aside to invest in testing of children at two city health centers. In addition, a mobile unit must be purchased to accommodate the needs to test non-traditional locations.

This is a public health emergency. Making sure that our children are tested requires more than words. This requires funding. Lead poisoning costs Americans $50 billion dollars per year. ARP funds should be used to provide on-site testing for elevated blood lead levels at Cleveland's two neighborhood clinics: McCafferty Health Center on the near west side and J. Glenn Smith in Glenville.

We further advocate for the use of ARP funds to equip a mobile testing lab that can conduct child lead tests at child care and child serving organizations around the city at non-traditional locations. The situation that requires overburdened moms to get a referral to a remote testing lab, that means taking another day off work or paying for transportation, to an unfamiliar facility. Providing testing services within easy reach will increase the dismal rate of child lead testing.

In 2016 there were more than 14,000 children that were tested in Cleveland. Right now their rate stands at a little over 7,000. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

The lead-crime hypothesis is an association between elevated blood lead levels in children and increased crime rates, delinquency, and recidivism later in life. Lead is widely understood to be highly toxic to multiple organs of the body, particularly the brain. Research shows that the effect of lead in early life can extend to later on in life. Most research has focused on how lead is associated with impaired intelligence. However we're also learning more about lead and its ties to conduct disorders and delinquency. We've had numerous studies that have talked about lead and crime.

We have a crime problem in Cleveland that is directly tied to lead poisoning. Yet our rates of testing children for lead poisoning has decreased by 50 % in five years.

Council President Kelley: Okay.

Hall: We have to do something about this.

Kelley: If you could please wrap up.

Hall: Sure. Early diagnosis of elevated blood levels in children is a critical first step in finding ways to eliminate exposure to lead and mitigate the medical and behavioral defects deficits in children experiences as they grow older.

3:25 Permalink

Mario Pollard

Pollard: Alright good evening everyone. My name is Mario. Hi good evening my name is Mario. I am also here on behalf for CLASH Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing and I am here to one, demand that the American relief plan funds be used and directed towards increasing lead testing initiatives in this city. Specifically as my colleague Yvonka Hall mentioned, at the two health centers McCafferty on the near west side and J. Glenn Smith center on the east side in Glenville.

And if anyone is not aware it's time to know lead poisoning is a public health emergency. It is a crisis. Too many cities in the country, Cleveland in particular, are failing to deal with this emergency in tangible ways. Cleveland has one of the worst lead poisoning rates in the entire nation. And if anyone is not aware of recent news, Ohio overall is second in the nation. Second highest rate of children with elevated blood lead levels. Like this is truly a crisis.

The pandemic has caused a drastic decline in childhood lead testing not only in Cleveland but around the country. This is specifically a problem that funds from this relief plan were made to address. And that's what they should be going to directly addressing.

And again I believe our main key demand is a mobile lead testing site van that can travel around the city. Again as was mentioned, to non-traditional locations because it is not fair that overburdened, overworked parents and children have to do the most effort to get tested when they are the ones most affected by this.

So there is no cure for lead poisoning and there is no safe level of lead in the blood for children. Testing has to become our main tool in this fight because it's the only way that we can identify the children who need our help. Who we can get them behavioral therapy, nutritional therapy, we can get them the health that they need. But we have to find them. We have to know who they are and we have to know in what neighborhoods they're being most affected. And that's all I have to say about that. Thank you.

2:51 Permalink

Darrick Wade

Wade: Good evening Council President Kelley and the city council members. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of the lead poisoning issue.

It's an opportunity to speak in the public forum and I want to just look at a personal note from myself and look at a personal view that has affected my life.

As I review my journey since 1992 to raise the awareness of lead poisoning and its effects on children, I think of my son Demetrius Wade, who was diagnosed with lead poisoning in 1992 at the age of nine years old. And I think of the medical examiner's report that he made at the time of his death which was of many illnesses. But I want to point out the urgency of ridding us and this city of lead poisoning that affects the children who reside in this city.

The medical examiner stated that my son Demetrius, when he passed at the age of 24 years old, his liver was of the condition of a man 80 years old who drank wine for 50 years. My son was a juvenile diabetic diagnosed when he was 12 years old. He never drank or smoked. He watched his diet from the age of 12 years old. So that is the urgency that we don't know just how many illnesses our children are affected by.

So I urge the city council to look at remedies and ways as my other class members of the organization have stated. The mobile labs, opening up the clinics on the near west side at McCafferty and on the east side at John Glenn on Saint Claire, to look at remedies to rid our city of lead poisoning that affects our children. Thank you.

2:44 Permalink

Councilmember Jenny Spencer (Ward 15)

Councilmember Spencer: Thank you Mr. Council President. I simply wanted to thank and recognize the 10 individuals who stood tonight for the first public comment period at Cleveland City Council in over 100 years.

Thank you so much.

0:13 Permalink

Councilmember Basheer S. Jones (Ward 7)

Councilmember Basheer Jones: Thank you so much Mr. President. I really would like to caution the city as well as I don't know if we can have this with the health department can begin to pay attention. If you've been watching in the news there's been a lot of car accidents that's been taking place recently. And what's happening is in many of the establishments, bars so forth and so on, there's this thing that's happening where people are what they call cutting liquor. And basically what this means is is not safe and it's causing people to be harmed in an amazing in a ridiculous way.

So I don't know if we have something within the city that we can have the administration go and check out these establishments or a place where people can make complaints about these things happening at certain establishments and people can go out there but this is definitely on on the rise in the city. I think just today I probably received about 10 different messages.

Council President Kelley: And what does cutting liquor mean?

Councilmember Basheer Jones: Where's my liquor friends if you can break that down. Griff go ahead Griff. I don't know Go ahead Griffin what that mean man?

Councilmember Griffin: Water it down.

Council President Kelley: Water it down, okay. Okay.

Councilmember Basheer Jones: Thank you brother. So uh so this is this all right so this is what's happening and it's really it's happening throughout the city right now, and as I said many residents. So I don't know if we have anything where people can call and make a complaint if if if the health department is able to send people to these establishments but I can foresee it really growing and increasing so just want to keep our eyes out on that thank you.

2:01 Permalink

Councilmember Kerry McCormack (Ward 3)

Councilmember McCormick: Thank you Mr. President and thank you Councilman Griffin. I didn't want to have to have to answer that question either. So Mr. President I just want to rise for a few few quick things.

First I want to thank all of our colleagues for participating in our special meeting today revolving how to go forward with our ARPA process. Mr. Chairman and then Councilman Griffin they did a great job and kind of leading us into the right direction so I want to thank everyone for participating in that.

Second of all I also want to echo my colleague Jenny Spencer and thanking the folks that showed up tonight to speak at our first public comment in over 100 years, very exciting. So thanks to to you Mr. Chairman and to our staff who put a lot of time into making that happen. [Music]

And third, I also want to recognize, I don't know if this is announcement or miscellaneous but in addition to the winning Ward 3 Browns, we now have a beautiful new mural up in Playhouse Square. Miles Garrett and his grandmother when he was a child right across from U.S. Bank Plaza. So folks have not seen that yet. It was dedicated a few days ago right in Playhouse Square. Please check that out. It's part of the Voices of CLE project throughout downtown Cleveland and I believe Lauren Pierce is the artist who painted that mural so right across from U.S. Bank Plaza check it out. Thank you Mr. President.

1:21 Permalink