April 18, 2022prev: April 11, 2022 next: April 25, 2022
Public Commenters (22 min)
Rev. Pamela M. Pinkney Butts James Jerome Bell Anastazia Vanisko Robin Goist James Meerdink Kellie Morris Mark W. Schumann
Councilmember comments during Miscellaneous (13 min)
Kevin Conwell (Ward 9) Richard A. Starr (Ward 5) Kerry McCormack (Ward 3)
James Jerome Bell
Bell: Hello Council. My name is James Jerome Bell and I am a real estate practitioner but I am not here in that capacity. I'm in the capacity of trying to lift up not only my community but my city, because I see the hopefulness, I see the vision, and I also see where we've been.
At one time Cleveland was the richest city in the world with 68 of the world's first hundred millionaires. I believe that that spirit, that ingenuity, and that can-do spirit is still here. It's through industries like medicine, science, and global realization, that we can move forward to truly make Cleveland what it ought to be.
I realized that we have things like crime, lead poisoning, and so many other things that can derail us as a community. But I stand here not only as a proud citizen but as a proud Clevelander because I truly believe that together we can make Cleveland what it ought to be. A city inviting, a city that truly welcomes all people of all backgrounds, talents, and we can make city a major major city once again; eligible for so many fundings from the federal government.
But we also can rise and stem the tide of ignorance. We can stem the tide of injustice and we can move forward and make Cleveland what it ought to be. A city, a first class city, a 21st century city in which we have commerce, community, and capability all forging ahead to make Cleveland a new era city in a contemporary America for all to behold and thank you. [Applause]
[Unknown voice] We can't see this clock
Council President Griffin: Say that again.
[Unknown voice] The clock.
Vanisko: Hello um good evening my name is Anastazia Vanisko. I am currently resident of Ward 14 but I'm about to move Ward 15. I'm here to encourage council to propose and pass legislation that would decriminalize fare evasion and to share a personal story of how I've witnessed the impact of these policies.
Um so the story I'm about to tell it does take place in 2016 so I want to note that this exact scenario shouldn't happen today, thanks to a Cleveland judge who found that RTA's method of enforcing the fare evasion ordinance was unconstitutional, and RTA can no longer use armed cops for proof of payment fare enforcement. However the people most impacted by this policy remains the same so that's why this story is still relevant.
So in the summer of 2016, I was riding the health line back home after work. At the stop at East 79th and Euclid, the bus was boarded by transit police who proceeded to check almost everyone's bus tickets. I say almost everyone because um out of a bus that was packed with people on the commute back home from work, I was one of, I was the only person who didn't get my ticket checked, and I was also one of only two white people on this bus. And when I looked at the officers getting off the bus, I saw that there was a group of people near them that they looked like they were guarding who was almost entirely elderly black folks. So it's people my grandfather's age or older that had been removed from the bus and were now at risk of 30 days in jail or a $250 dollar fine for not buying a bus ticket, and that's just not right.
And taking the police out of this picture doesn't get rid of the systemic racism that is inherent in any fare evasion ordinance, excuse me sorry, and that is certainly a step in the right direction though don't get me wrong. Um this ordinance is a law that gives people that look like me the benefit of the doubt while disproportionately targeting my BIPOC neighbors. As long as we're enforcing this law, that's going to be true no matter who we're asking to enforce it. Legislation to decriminalize fare evasion has been ready for passage since 2019. Riders can't wait any longer and we shouldn't be asking them to. I urge you to decriminalize fare evasion in Cleveland. Thank you.
Council President Griffin: Thank you.
Goist: Good evening. Tonight I'm so honored to have my voice join the chorus of Cleveland residents calling on you to decriminalize fare evasion or non-payment of fare on RTA. I am now the 12th person that you have heard week after week come to this mic. So you've heard over the past few months many of our talking points and surely you have recognized this as a priority campaign among transit riders and advocates. So with all due respect I'm asking you why are you still waiting? What more do you need? What arguments are you still waiting to hear?
As you know under the current fare evasion law, a bus ticket that costs $2.50 runs someone the risk, if for non-payment, runs someone the risk of 30 days in jail and a $250 dollar fine. Meanwhile, for those of us who are privileged enough to have access to a personal vehicle, the equivalent of that, a parking ticket, no one would ever conceive of throwing someone in jail for a parking ticket. That inconsistency itself is unjust, which is why legislation was introduced in 2019 to decriminalize fare evasion.
Also in 2019, we learned at a City Club event about a CMSD student who was charged with non-payment of fare. He didn't follow up with the courts on that and so it ended up in a $5,000 warrant for his arrest. Luckily, he happened to be the mentee of CMSD CEO Eric Gordon who stepped in and intervened and thank goodness he did, because otherwise that kid, that child, could have ended up in jail. Think of all the consequences long term that could have had for him over a bus ticket.
In closing, I leave you with this: What kind of a legal system financially punishes people for being poor? What kind of justice system throws people in jail, weaponizes their poverty against them for the crime of being poor and needing to get from place to place? What consequences does that have for individuals, for teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them? What consequences does that have generationally in a city and county that have declared racism a public health crisis?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to make a public comment. I'd like to commend Clevelanders for Public Comment and members of council who made this possible, because instituting a public comment period was the right thing to do, and decriminalizing fare evasion is also the right thing to do. Thank you.
Meerdink: Good evening Council President Griffin and council members. I'm James Meerdink with the American Heart Association. I want to address the complete streets bill that we hope will be introduced tonight.
We're committed to advancing health equity, which can exist only when all people have the opportunity to enjoy healthier lives. For this reason we support complete streets. All residents should have the ability to feel safe and be active in Cleveland. The path to a complete streets bill that better serves the community has been a long one. A big thanks to Councilman McCormick for his leadership throughout the process and advocates like Bike Cleveland, also to city planning for seeing the process through. We're pleased with the progress made on the legislation, including important steps taken to improve transparency and community engagement around transportation decisions that have an impact on all of us.
We do see one opportunity to improve the bill by including specific and explicit equity objectives and actions in the transportation planning process. The council has demonstrated a commitment to serving those residents most in need. Beyond the many pieces of legislation passed to this effect and your daily work with constituents, there's the resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis, passed in 2020 as a prime example of this body's commitment. The administration has also sent a strong signal. In his transition plan and the equity framework Mayor Bibb states that every decision, personnel, programmatic or policy, should be made with an equity lens. The plan also recommends that we view accessible transportation as a critical way of remedying inequities.
The Smart Growth America report on the best complete streets policies that was included among the introduction materials states, no longer will it be possible to pass a robust policy that doesn't also consider how to more equitably distribute the benefits of safer streets. So the directions are clear.
Let's keep equity front of mind as we plan our transportation system, especially as we chart future investments in sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, as these are the elements that provide options to those who are most in need. The current legislation should explicitly state a commitment to equity in the implementation of complete streets. It should create an inclusive vision for transportation infrastructure across all wards and should include specific performance measures to alert us if certain neighborhoods or vulnerable users are being underserved or under connected.
We look forward to working with Transportation and Mobility Chair McCormick and council members to make this happen. Beyond that we look forward to passage of this bill and the benefits it will bring to all who use the transportation system in Cleveland. Thank you.
Today I came out because I could not resist the opportunity to park on the upper deck and we should have had balloons, I see Ms. Britt, we should have had balloons. We've been talking about this for many many years. This is a celebration of a task that we've had on board for quite some time. It was in 2015 that my council person Kevin Conwell and I met with Mrs. Scalish and I share with them that access to city council is not as equitable as she may have thought, because citizens of the residents of the city of Cleveland were being required to pay for parking. And of course then people would say you could park in front of the building and there are about six or seven parking spaces quite possibly and not really any other access to parking, unless you park up on 9th Street, which someone who came out to public comments shared he had parked on 9th Street. And I thought to myself, this really needs to be addressed.
So I come just to say thank you to all of those who worked on this. I want to thank Patricia Britt for keeping us abreast of the progress. I thank President Griffin who I understand brought this to Chief Teeuwen and I thank Mayor Bibb for the commitment to accountability and transparency. But I do note that this is not an ordinance. This is a policy and I understood the term to be a gesture, I think was termed was used towards those citizens who live in the city of Cleveland and choose to drive to city council. But public order public comment and parking should be not at the whim or feeling of any person who was in charge at any time.
So those are my comments for today but as I do have the mic and ironically that young lady just quoted a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King who says the time is always right to do what is right. And so I look forward to the ordinance presented by Kerry McCormick, because I think they've quoted you as being the person who's going to present that legislation for the decriminalization. I do stand and support with them as well. Have a great evening.
Council President Griffin: Thanks Kellie.
Mark W. Schumann
Schumann: Alrght, thank you. Thank you Mr. President. Yeah I I'm uh. Mr. President, members of council, all my friends in Cleveland, yes I'm Mark W. Schumann. I don't represent anyone. I'm just some guy on Dearborn Avenue over in the pointy corner of Ward 3 and I'm here to talk about ordinance number 372. This is uh the one honoring Martin J. Sweeney at the baseball field and who can forget, who here can forget Martin J. Sweeney. The way he worked with city council over the years and especially the dynamic, eloquent way in which he left this body.
As president, he used words like irrelevant and pathetic, that was kind of cool. We don't usually discuss uh we don't debate plaques and congratulations and motions of acknowledgement, but I think this time we need to make an exception because of the amazing contributions Marty has made to the political culture here. Uh it it's going to be hard to contain his greatness in three minutes but I'll try.
Let's go back to 2009. Marty did not admit wrongdoing or liability in response to a sexual harassment complaint by the clerk of council and it was supported by other staff members. Nothing about this event got anywhere near criminal court, civil court, and it was settled for cash. So basically I think we can all agree that it was not as bad as Louis C.K., right? He wasn't convicted of anything.
And in 2014, Marty resigned from council just in time to qualify for a public pension so he could double dip and be reappointed to the same seat. And he fulfilled that for year duty to the best of his ability for a couple of months before moving along to the state before moving along to the state house and accomplishing like a lot of things that I don't really have time to.. yeah yeah.
What I'm getting at is this; Marty's not so popular on this side of the bar he's more popular on that side of the bar because of how much he's done for the people on that side of the bar. He's at your fundraiser, he makes some connections, he's there for you then progressives show up to ruin things, he pays for consulting, Uh when Cleveland's leadership faces a crisis of credibility, Marty made sure that everything stayed the same.
So Mr. President your immediate predecessor here he had some shortcomings, he was not good at being corrupt but Marty. So um I just want to say in closing there are those that would say that Marty Sweeney might not be deserving of this honor.
Council President Griffin: Thank you.
Councilmember Kevin Conwell (Ward 9)
Councilmember Richard A. Starr (Ward 5)
Councilmember Kerry McCormack (Ward 3)
Pinkney Butts: Good evening everyone. Good evening everyone.
[Audience] Good evening.
Pinkney Butts: To each of you assembled here this evening I'm Reverend Pamela M. Pinkney Butts and I had written some things down that I'd like to say to you but I'm going to have to take it another way like a preacher would have to do. I'm the pastor of and the visionary of No Fear But God Fellowship Assembly church ministries as well as others. But today I come in the capacity of also being the founder and visionary of Global Engagement Dissolving Violence Against Women and Children, which is a very gigantic epidemic taking place in these days and times.
I'm here today to speak with you not only as an eyewitness regarding this topic of violence against women and children, a lesson taught or shown to me from someone else, or as mere hearsay in the court of law, but as an overcomer of it myself. I reported the abuse of my children and me to the proper authorities. My children confirmed it, as well as the abuses that they came to me and reported that were taking place in my efforts for us to be safe. And we had a protection order in place and it got violated. Misinformation has been generated to stop this from being corrected and therefore we ended up with a domino effect that caused much turmoil not just in Cleveland not just in Ohio but across this nation. And even law enforcement and even the perpetrator for the protection order violated the order. I have a current protection order that I brought, excuse me, I brought with me this evening as you see that is still violated.
And I I said this to say not to throw stones at anyone because this protection order process. I ask that you legislators would please begin to draft legislation that makes sense that is compliable for the and compliant with the police to make us safe. This is a giant in the land that's impacting not only a day-to-day situation but these violences took place in our home, in the academic setting, and many other community components that we were supposed to be safe and secure here in the United States of America.
We can go into gender barriers, we can go into racial barriers, we can go into economic barriers, we can go into religious barriers, but this epidemic impacts absolutely every life. I'm asking you legislators to please begin to draft legislation that will make sense, that will be compliant, that will make us safe and secure.
Council President Griffin: Time.
Pinkney Butts: Thank you very much and God bless you.
Council President Griffin: Thank you Reverend Pinkney.