March 28, 2022prev: March 21, 2022 next: April 04, 2022
Public Commenters (26 min)
Bellamy Printz Vince Robinson Molly Martin Adam Bresnahan Jeremy Johnson Liz Maugans Marlon Naylor Cindy Barber Alicia Moreland
Councilmember comments during Miscellaneous (22 min)
Michael D. Polensek (Ward 8) Joseph T. Jones (Ward 1) Kevin Conwell (Ward 9)
Robinson: Thank you to the distinguished members of this body and to the Council President. i am also a member of Black Umba it is an organization that is devoted to lifting black artists in the city. I've been an advocate for the arts for over 20 years.
Funding for the arts has traditionally been heavily weighted towards what are considered the major cultural institutions. Now is the time to consider a seismic shift in that paradigm and we have to trust that the proverbial scales of justice can be tipped. Artists are an essential part of the city. We've been undervalued and to a great extent underutilized. In this moment, I want to challenge you to imagine a city without artists and expand that view to a world without them. Without artists there would be no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no Cleveland Museum of Art, no Playhouse Square, no Cleveland Public Theater.
Artists in our community provide the fuel that powers non-profit organizations. Not only do they document history, they make history. They provide the antidote to the things that cause this city to spend voraciously and heavily on public safety at the expense of investing and heavily in the healing, creativity ,the therapy and importantly and equally the economics we generate. Yes, people pay for art. They pay to hear music, they pay to watch plays and concerts, artists purchase supplies that support businesses and the economy of the city, and artists start businesses. They help shape young minds to imagine greater futures and focus on life. They provide a respite from the challenging times we continue to face. The stresses and the tragedies that bring us together to have this conversation in this moment.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, now is the time to find a way to do what needs to be done. We're standing on the precipice of a new day in Cleveland and an opportunity to do what has never been done for individual artists by the city of Cleveland. We implore you to consider the impact of giving a gift that keeps on giving. This two percent is a very small investment in not only the future of Cleveland but the present. It is a bold step, but step we must, on behalf of the artists that have shown up to these hallowed halls. To those who are in their respective places engaged in their artistic practice, I encourage you to improve the allocation of the requested amount. Not only for the artists, but for the people of the city and the surrounding communities who will receive the benefit of this measure for years to come.
I want to say one more thing. The arts saved one of your colleagues Kevin Conwell. Councilman Conwell was in a hospital bed suffering from cancer. His connection to the art is the reason that he is still with us and doing great things in his community and I encourage you, I implore you to consider this. It's a small investment. Thank you for making the people of the city. Thank you.
Council President Griffin:Thank you
Martin: Good evening members of city council, Mayor Bibb and members of the administration. My name is Molly Martin and I am a member of the Participatory Budgeting Cleveland coalition. We have residents who represent all 17 wards present with us today, calling on the city of Cleveland to be extremely deliberate in the ways that you approach allocations of ARPA funding.
I want to be clear that Participatory Budgeting Cleveland is not asking for an allocation towards a non-profit or towards one issue area. We're asking about a deliberate process that involves residents and decisions that impact their lives. I know I'm not the only one in this chamber but it is downright painful to witness so much cynicism around civic engagement in Cleveland and in the city. We hyper focus on voter turnout. Fifteen percent of Cleveland residents voted for mayor in the last election and across all 17 wards about one in four residents voted for their council member. But the thing is is that at the root cause of this apathy, is it really just about apathy for low voter turnout or is it about being connected to decisions that affect your life? The reality is is that people feel disconnected from how decisions that affect their lives that get made in the city. People feel disempowered and they don't believe that their voices actually matter.
Participatory budgeting embodies the most fundamental and important lesson of community engagement which is that those who are closest to a problem should be involved in solving it. Participatory budgeting is a cycle with many steps throughout the year. We need to be deliberate about outreach and being intentional around who we engage to make sure that those who have been most marginalized in our community are welcome into a space where decisions are being made about their lives. From non-English speakers, to young people who are at the cusp of voting age, to people experiencing homelessness in a local shelter, they need to be at the center of a just recovery in our city.
In our budget, whether it's our municipal budget or if it's about the budget from ARPA is a moral document for this city and that giving residents some agency and spending public dollars creates on-ramps to deeper residential involvement.
ARPA is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen our community by looking upstream and investing in solutions that will bloom in years to come. I deeply believe that participatory budgeting is not just an investment into our community engagement infrastructure, but it's an experiment to imbue a new culture of democracy that will last beyond ARPA too.
Here is a 50-page document that answers the question how does participatory budgeting work in Cleveland and what it does is it centers strategies on how we do that in an equitable way and I invite members of city council to read this document and participatory budget in Cleveland stands ready to partner with the city and the Bibb administration to make it a reality in our city. Thank you.
Bresnahan: Members of city council my name is Adam Bresnahan I'm with Clevelanders for Public Transit. Members of city council I'm here to urge you to decriminalize non-payment fare on RTA buses and trains. I know this is normally referred to as fare evasion but I feel the word evasion is prejudicial in implying that this is an act with a specific intention behind it. That's why I call it non-payment.
Council members, last summer I moved to Cleveland from Berlin. In Berlin non-payment affair is not a criminal offence. In fact it's not even a civic offense. Rather it results in a fine that is levied and paid to Berlin's public transit corporation the BVG their equivalent of our RTA. Berlin is a city with a world-class public transit system. How can it be that the RTA needs to criminalize non-payment of fare while the system like the BVG doesn't need it? What purpose does criminalization of non-payment have because it clearly doesn't have any impact on the quality of service?
Council members, criminalizing non-payment only hurts the most vulnerable Clevelanders. As you know an arrest goes beyond the moment of arrest of the time served in jail. Or in the case of a fine being levied the simple fine. It can cause people to lose their jobs which can cascade into a series of other problems. And what about our newest Clevelanders, refugees from Afghanistan? Will you be putting a demerit on their immigration file because they might forget to pay the fare on a train in a new country whose institutions and language they might only have a limited grasp of?
Council members since criminalizing nonpayment affair serves no purpose for the running of RTA, and since it only serves to hurt the most vulnerable Clevelanders, why have you not yet decriminalized it? Council members ,I urge you to decriminalize non-payment affair immediately. Thanks
Johnson: To my distinguished council members, Council President, to the Mayor. The last time I stood in this position it was to say thank you and I'm going to say thank you again. Cleveland is at a pivotal turning point with our new leadership. In this room and in our community for the first time and we've heard here today, arts and culture is taking a center place as a point of discussion in city hall, in one of the greatest art cities in this country.
This is terrific for us. I've spoken with many of the council individually and I just want to echo what you've already heard. The arts count. The arts delivered to our economy. There are more than fifteen thousand jobs right here in Cleveland generated by the arts economy. So we're talking about individual artists, we're talking about non-profit arts groups, and even the small for-profit businesses and they are all across our city. You all have been receiving postcards and you're going to get about a thousand more. I've got them with me of all members of the arts and creative community. I know you will be deliberating on ARPA later in the season but we the voices here today are here to say the arts count and it's worth the investment for the city to bring back back jobs and to keep our economy strong.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and let's do this together. The arts impact our safety, our neighborhoods, our children, our educators. There is so much overlap. If we want to do something about the worst problems of the city, let's incorporate arts and culture. I thank all of you for your attention. Let's keep moving the city higher and higher. Thank you.
Maugans: Thank you everybody. Council thank you and Mayor Bibb. I'm Liz Maugans. I'm an activist, a mother, a social activist, a creative community organizer, a gallery director, an arts activator and art faculty at Cleveland State University. I moved back after living in Detroit and co-founded Zygote Press in the Saint Clair Superior neighborhood. Later we annexed out and another wing of that in Collinwood. We ran this artist run printmaking studio a non-profit for over 25 years and it's still going strong today. It really suffered during the pandemic but after shifting to running a gallery in the Warehouse District, I have supported over 675 local Cleveland artists who I love artists and really love supporting them
We opened Zygote because we could afford the rent and we fell in love with the neighborhood. Artists are the renovators of these neighborhoods many built by artists and what we have done for many neighborhoods we can do for the city. We need your help. I was in a meeting this morning at city hall where one of the folks called the arts the sleeping giant. We need your help to wake up. Artists lost their studios, galleries, gigs, venues closed, opportunities dried up. Now we need your support so we can help you and your work ahead to heal and revitalize the city. Thank you so much.
Naylor: Hi my name is Marlon Naylor and I was here several weeks ago back and you know my father passed and so forth but I want to first address our city Council President Blaine Griffin. I'm up here because I'm not just coming for an ask you know I see a lot of issues on the table and they come and go every year after year with council needing this needing that. I come today to say thank you. I need a little applause because you're behind the scene that have been voted in and this is a new year. This is a new council. Young and old and mixed okay. So it's mixed in and they're new. The mayor you're new. Thank you.
I stand alone. I got three minutes. But I didn't come to ask to see about. I've been around 62 years old with 16 grand kids. I've been back in the day all the way to now. But the kids sometimes you need to hear thank you. We can't go inside to know your jobs. We got a new mayor. New black mayor. Look at it. That's me. I know I'm standing here but that's me. Young, strong, African-American. I talked about like I had the wrong information about you being one of the youngest. But today you need to hear if you have to stand alone sometimes that you are a new mayor. And we have to pay respect to that. Rome wasn't built in 90 days. Hello? I think it's 90 days somebody tell me is it 90 days now. 90. Nothing happens fast in 90 days right. New mayor. I don't expect nothing in 90 days with you.
New counsel. Blaine Griffin. You spoke last week, he touched my heart. I'm that type of guy I went and shook his hand...I say Blaine you've done a wonderful job. He spoke after everything was talked about he said I'm here for the people. I'm looking straight at you. Not because I know you personally. Not because I've seen you at council for the last, you know being a new in here and under the administration of the mayor. But as a human being and as a man first both of you that's addressed it. You got a lot on the table and I know you do.
Mayor, everyone in here this is our mayor. Plain and simple. Accept it or not. I'm standing alone. If I got to stand alone he said come down and my wife said go down and tell them stand alone if it takes that. You're the new mayor plain and simple. Rome was not built. ...he knows everything that's at the table it takes time.
The gentleman up there I've been knowing for years. But he spoke and hit my heart. He said i'm here for the people y'all remember that. He said I'm here for the people. He said you all voted me in and I paid attention after I heard everything. That's most important to me.
Council President Griffin: Time.
Naylor: And I want to say to you that's standing here this is our new mayor. Blaine Griffin and the both of you, you got a lot at the table understand that. But I come today to say to all of you all and the new council thank each and every one of you all.
Council President Griffin: Thank you sir.
Barber: Okay first I have to commend you guys for doing public comment. This is awesome that you've started doing it thank you so much for that. I want to advocate for ARPA funds for the arts. I'm old enough to have been around to watch Tremont, the Warehouse District be saved by artists moving into those warehouses and stopped them from being turned into parking lots. I started the Beachland Ballroom in Ward 8 to follow in the footsteps of my dear friend James Levin who started Cleveland Public Theater in a rundown neighborhood at West 65th and Detroit, and it was dangerous to go there but people who believed in theater went there.
I have fought for 22 years to get people to come to Collinwood even though they're fearful of doing that because we have a bad reputation. Now i'm faced with the fact that our Dave's is closing that just came out today. I'm still fighting. I'm still trying to remake this neighborhood and every person in this room is helping in their own little neighborhoods. We have the opportunity to give artists the space and the support to go into a strip. I'm sure each one of you has some space in your neighborhood that's empty that's a vacant storefront. Give that to an artist and they will make something happen. Please. Thank you.
Moreland: Okay I'm super nervous so just bear with me here. Okay so I'm here as a private citizen but I'm also a Cleveland Documenter and I'm often watching you via live stream negotiate the difficulties of running our city. From afar local government is really really confusing and endlessly frustrating, but even when I disagree with you I deeply admire your love for the city and its people.
I'm here about the recent decision of the Browns to hire Deshaun Watson and with respect to convince you that this matter does concern you as legislators. For the listening public unaware of this controversy, Deshaun Watson Cleveland's new quarterback, currently has 22 civil suits pending alleging sexual misconduct and assault. He reached out to dozens of professional massage therapists on Instagram demanding to be alone with them during their sessions. He was accused of exposing himself to them, ejaculating on some, and forcing at least two to engage in oral sex.
I know the city has no control over the hiring or firing of Browns players, but the city of Cleveland does own the stadium they play in and millions of tax dollars are spent on capital repairs and upkeep every year. But more fundamentally the Browns carry our city's name. The players and especially the quarterback they're important ambassadors. They represent us on a national stage.
In response to the public outcry, the Browns have made lame, vague acknowledgments of the sensitive nature of their decision. They also claim to have done a thorough investigation of the matter which is laughable considering that they didn't actually speak to any of the women. But I think it's the contract itself that speaks the loudest. Watson has a five-year $230 million dollar contract, fully guaranteed. It was cleverly designed to have a base salary of only one million dollars for 2022, which means if he suspended for misconduct, he will be financially shielded from the NFL censure. The NFL has a clear history of shielding multi-billionaire owners and their millionaire players from sexual assault allegations. As long as the money is rolling in nothing seems to matter.
Cleveland Rape Crisis center had to send out an email in response to this decision. Real people are mentally affected and triggered by this decision. Real victims will see this as confirmation that they should stay silent in their suffering.
I know that contracts have already been signed and leases are already in place. I know that Clevelanders are never going to turn their backs on football no matter how low the NFL sinks. But I refuse to believe that as legislators that there is nothing that you can do to censure the Brown's recent decisions. There must be something. Please don't ignore this. Please do what you can. Thank you.
Council President Griffin: Thank you.
Councilmember Michael D. Polensek (Ward 8)
Councilmember Joseph T. Jones (Ward 1)
Councilmember Kevin Conwell (Ward 9)
Printz: Good evening. My name is Bellamy Printz. I moved to Cleveland from Seattle 26 years ago to help establish Zygote Press, a non-profit arts organization in the Saint Clair Superior neighborhood. That organization has successfully survived many challenges and has impacted thousands of artists, students and members of the Cleveland community.
I am a practicing artist and have lived in several cities including New York City, Minneapolis, Chicago and Seattle. In all of these places the civic support for the arts and artists in the community is palpable and part of the excuse me part of the fabric of the city. In Cleveland I found a vibrant but struggling artist community, always looking to the future to make Cleveland a center for creative thinkers and makers. I purchased a home in Ward 8 where I brought up my children and am dedicated to the neighborhood and its growth, sustainability and health.
In 2020, I started my own creative business, Deep Dive Art Projects in the Waterloo arts district in Ward 8. I purchased a property on 156th Street committing myself to the community by building on the foundation that had already been solidified by others like the for-profit and the non-for-profit artists and cultural anchors.
Issues revolving around financial support, capital neighborhood improvements and other issues are of concern to all of the creative businesses in the area. As a commercial entity that opened in the early part of 2020, I've been unable to apply for COVID small business grants and I'm ineligible for non-profit grants. The home equity loan that paid for the necessary capital improvements and start-up resources has dwindled. The pandemic significantly affected my ability to start the income generating activities of the business until spring 2021.
Because of this, I urge city council to commit two percent or $10 million dollars for arts and cultural for arts and culture from the American Rescue Plan. ARPA dupport will benefit three sectors that are essential to Cleveland's vibrancy, creative businesses, cultural nonprofits and individual artists and creative workers. Creative workers in Cleveland make up a huge part of the economy. Investing in our communities, developing programs and opportunities for city-wide access and use. Groups like the Artist Bridge Coalition have attracted the input of artists that live in all 17 wards representing diverse populations neighborhoods and ideas all will benefit from ARPA. Thanks to Assembly for the Arts, there is an organized voice for this population. A strong creative community attracts innovation, tourism, and is a proven factor for the health and vitality of a city. The ARPA funding is an incredible opportunity to make that a strong and central element of Cleveland's identity. Thank you.
Council President Griffin: Thank you.