May 16, 2022prev: May 09, 2022 next: May 23, 2022
Public Commenters (26 min)
Larry Rodriguez Timothy Lewis David Beach Patrick Murray Pamela Pinkney Butts Nora Rodriguez Gloria Aron Matthew Ahn André Dailey
Councilmember comments during Miscellaneous (16 min)
Kris Harsh (Ward 13) Stephanie D. Howse (Ward 7) Richard A. Starr (Ward 5) Joseph T. Jones (Ward 1)
Good evening. Thank you city council, Mayor, everybody. So this evening I want to take my three minutes to talk about 151 years. So, within this 151 years I'm speaking about, we're talking about Charles Jackson 27 years, Ru-El Sailor 15 years, Alfred Cleveland 25 years, Ricky Jackson 39 years, and Isaiah Andrew who's now transitioned 45 years. So I'm speaking on behalf of these guys who have now become family and brothers to me, about getting them recognized through the city as free men. Because a lot of the paperwork that follow their trials with the families dealing with a lot of their issues, have them just as exonerees and brother Isaiah transitioning not being able to be recognized fully as a free man but an exoneree doing this transition.
We want to just go ahead and try to change some of that terminology. When these guys are coming home and they have this time taken away from them, how can we help add them back into society as productive members society and show some type of support?
So I'm searching and while I'm in search of a proclamation from you know the city and why I got you guys attention, trying to get some of these guys recognized as free men through proclamations, because 151 years, and that's only five guys that I'm talking about. And the list goes on and on and on for many families that are affected by guys that have been incarcerated from this.
So I've been coming down here for the last three weeks just learning the process on how to get before you all guys to get your attention and just really just start to shift the process of just the conversation that we're having wrapped around exonerees and recognizing these exonerees as free men. Thank you for your time.
Beach: Good evening and thanks to city council for allowing public comment. My name is David Beach. I live in Ward 4 and for the past 40 years I've been a writer and activist working on environmental and urban planning issues in the city.
Tonight I'd like to address the reauthorization of the city's residential tax abatement program. I'm hearing from a lot of people that while the proposed legislation offers some reforms, it does not go nearly far enough to fix a fundamentally unfair and inequitable system. Increasingly, tax abatements are subsidizing multi-unit, market rate buildings in a few high-priced neighborhoods of the city. The effect is to widen the gap between wealthier neighborhoods and the rest of the city, increasing economic and racial disparities. And to make matters worse, it's not even clear that abatements are needed to make these new developments work economically.
Of course developers will always claim that they can't build without tax abatement. But according to one survey of the households that receive tax abatement, 65 percent said they would have bought into the city regardless. So if you're a senior citizen on a fixed income or you're struggling to work low-wage jobs to pay your bills, how can you think it's fair that the comparatively wealthy people moving in next door can live their tax-free for 15 years? What do you think when tax abatements enable high-cost developments around you and cause your property taxes or your rent to increase? And what do you think when wealthier residents are exempted from paying property taxes that support the services that low-income residents need? Services such as public schools, libraries, and parks.
These moral issues are not addressed by the proposed legislation that's on the table right now. So is there any justification for tax abatement? I can think of only one and that's to give tax abatements only for projects that expand the supply of permanently affordable housing. And in addition, I think we all need to recognize that a tax abatement is only one tool in the housing program. The city needs a much more comprehensive housing strategy to preserve existing affordable housing, help address deferred maintenance and repairs, and also crack down on predatory purchasing from out of town buyers.
We should also make the case that affordable housing is not just the job for the city of Cleveland. Every city in Cuyahoga County should provide a full range of housing types, at different price points. So in some we all want a community where everyone has access to safe, decent, affordable housing and it's time for Cleveland to align all of its policies to make that happen thank you. [Applause]
Murray: Good evening. My name is Pat Murray I live in ward 15. I'm speaking tonight about the legislation that was introduced last Monday for renewing the tax abatement program with in my view, very minimal steps in the direction of making this program fair and equitable.
While I have many concerns about the details of this legislation, what I will raise tonight is the concern about the process of allowing almost no time for residents of our city to provide their opinions about this program. If we are to have a functioning democracy and a robust civic life, you as city council need to provide complete information and encourage public comment, public discussion of important issues.
This is a program that should have had such information and discussion. This program is a big deal. For a new housing unit that costs a quarter of a million dollars, we as city residents are foregoing taxes to support our schools, parks, libraries, and city operations of around $100 000 over the 15 years of the abatement. Without 800 units abated annually, that is nearly $100 million dollars in tax abatement every year.
But instead of thoughtful public discussion of this issue, what we are apparently going to get is a policy rushed through to approval in 15 days. There are people in our city who would like to have discussions about how this program is targeted. Ways to lessen its impact on nearby long-term residents, its green building targets, the structure of the cap, the abatement differential which is very small between the strong and opportunity neighborhoods, and the size of the payment in lieu of creation of affordable units.
To address this failed opportunity to listen to the community, at a minimum what I would suggest is that you shorten the length of the renewal to be less than the proposed five years. Then I would suggest that you develop a plan to encourage meaningful public discussion of this important issue in the coming year so we can develop a comprehensive housing plan like Mr. Beach just talked about including abatements that is responsive to the needs, the desires of existing Cleveland residents. Thank you. Thank you for your attention. [Applause]
Pamela Pinkney Butts
Good evening everyone. Good evening everyone. I'm here this evening because we have a tumult. We have a giant. We have a plague taking place. I'm here this evening because this giant is impacting women and our children and I want to specify women of color this evening because women of color are more impacted and affected by this. When I say women of color I mean the non-seleucid or the non-white women.
The women of color are more impacted by this because I look and I hear and I see that there are still dead, missing bodies on East 93rd Street between Union and Bessemer that are not being investigated, looked for or even being addressed. I'm concerned about this violence that takes place against us because we women are not things we're not an afterthought and and one religious writer says that God or Allah weeps when a female child is born. And another writer says that women are found and are a thing, but we're not.
I'm concerned this evening because our Constitution until it reads and the Declaration of Independence writes that no one is free until men, women, boys and girls are free, we're going to keep coming back here. I'm concerned because even I as a woman was beaten by the Cleveland police. I called them to have someone removed from my home. They beat me up, dragged me down the street, called me a mentally ill, one. And then said I had been sleeping in bus shelters. If I had been sleeping in bus shelters I wouldn't have been, they wouldn't have come to my home. So I'm wondering what is really happening here because Thomas Corwin, a former legislator, a former governor, the former treasurer of our money for the state, drafted the pro-slavery amendment which is inside the 13th amendment of the United States Constitution where it said that slavery is never to be abolished in the United States of America.
So I'm wondering because even on my way here today I was coming through East Cleveland and all I saw was black people being collected by police officers. So I'm concerned because we women, our babies are not property. We women are not property and this justice system is not fair for we women of color.
I'm calling you to task. I'm not asking you anything. I'm calling you to task, everyone in this room, to begin to write legislation that works on the behalf of we women. Protective orders don't work for me. My babies were never came home from school and I had a protection order in place. Protection orders don't work for me because my baby was robbed for me because my protection order was violated. And I don't ever want to appear as racist overcoming racism, but you all, we have got to get this together you all.
Council President Griffin: Time.
Pinkney-Butts: Thank you very much Council President and God bless you. Thank you.
Rodriguez: Good evening everyone. My name is Nora Rodriguez. I'm a resident of 2034 West 81st Street. I have been living there for the last 58 years so I practically spent all my life there. I raised my three kids there. They're all law enforcement, great kids.
But as the time goes by I see the neighborhood has changed. The homeowners are gone. We've got nothing but renters. And ever since they opened up the I-90 exit on West 81st, we've got nothing but heavy traffic, speeders, you name it.
We got a bus stop right in front of my house. When I'm here, I'm not here all the time in Cleveland because I got a place in Florida, and I enjoy it down there, over here I dislike it a little bit. Not the people, I love the people because I love, I'm a people person, I love everyone. I don't care what color they are but I love them.
We got a bus stop that I have to watch those kids get out of the bus and get in the bus on West 81st on the corner because some people don't stop. The traffic don't stop. They think it's a Coca-Cola sign there. And they smile, they laugh. We got to stop that because I don't want another incident to happen like it happened in West 50th because the people of Cleveland, the city, they didn't want to listen to us, they didn't want to listen to Gloria my partner. We've been a community activist for the longest time, to put the bumps there the speedbumps in there. We're willing to pay for it, I'll pay for it if I have to. Or we have been ignored.
You want another child to get killed in there too? I'm going to be, I'm going to testify that I will be the first person to see a child get killed in there and you know what will happen? I will leave the place and go some places else. And that neighborhood don't want me to go because I'm the eyes and the ears of that community. I'm not afraid to fight but I fight the nice and decent way.
So I hope that we got other general conditions. The people don't mow the grass. They're all renters. They don't live in the neighborhood, the homeowners. They live in Chicago, New York, New Jersey, they don't care as long as they get that money they don't care but I do care. My people care. My heart goes for those people.
So I want something to be done and I invite you people to meet at my house 2034 West 81st and we could do a tour. We could go around and you could see how nasty the neighborhood is. Because I wouldn't want a dog to live in that neighborhood because you got trash, trash all over the place and it's a shame. And I could speak for myself and I can speak for Gloria my partner here because... it the way we live because this is United States of America, okay.
Council President Griffin: Thank you
Rodriguez: Thank you, thank you everybody.
Aron: Alright I have lived like Nora on West 81st for 54 years. So I know the good and the bad and the ugly about our street. We're committed. We're not going anywhere, but we need you to do your jobs. And part of that job is when you see that coming off of 90, the worst thing that ever happened to our neighborhood was that damn freeway. They come off at 90. They speed down to Madison. Very few stop even at the stop sign on Lawn and that's how it goes.
I see young children getting off the bus, the school bus, and like or like me with a walker trying to cross the street. And I worry when the hell are we going to get hit by a car because they don't stop they just keep on going. We need you to do what we've asked for over the years. Put speed bumps on our street to slow them down. As for the stop sign, you're going to have to come up with something. I thought you could put a camera but I hear the cameras are not happening anymore. But I do know if you find a way to deal with the ones who are going through the stop sign you'll be bringing in a lot of money probably to pay for two cops. My daughter got stopped her ticket was $185 dollars. So there's money to be made on Lawn Avenue on West 81st.
The other issue that I have a big concern about is low-income affordable housing. It is a great need not just on my street but throughout Ward 15 for affordable housing. I understand you guys are going to get big bucks from the federal government. I'm here today urging you to put a lot of that money aside and develop a program that will bring three and four bedroom apartments or houses to our neighborhood because that is sorely needed.
I have urged you all to take a a walk through your own wards and talk to people and see what is really needed, like in mine. We on my street we have empty houses and we, I'm doing it, and we also have very big empty lots that are not taken care of. You need to find those owners and make them damn well clean up their lots.
Council President Griffin: Time.
Aron: Or take over their things. It's your job and I know it's my time but it's also your time to do your job.
Council President Griffin: Thank you, thank you.
Ahn: Alright good evening my name is Matthew Ahn. I am a law professor at Cleveland State University. I am here in my personal capacity to speak about micro mobility and transit equity and specifically about bike shares.
We've seen a proliferation of scooter and e-bike companies downtown. It's actually how I got here tonight. When I'm running late they can be helpful but I don't use them every day. Of course I wouldn't, they're too expensive. I took a ride from Public Square out to my Korean grocery store in Ward 7, cost me over five dollars and over two months later that bike is still there. Nobody in Asia town has decided to use it.
See this is the thing: 26% of Cleveland households are like me- they don't own a car. A few live downtown like me but most don't. They don't see themselves as the target audience for micro mobility and they're invisible to a scooter company that's trying to turn a profit, especially because many are also part of the 19% of U.S. adults who don't own a smartphone and thus can't access Lime or Bird easily. But if we're truly going to become a sustainable city we need to leave our car centric culture in the past.
The bicycle is the key. Cleveland is flat enough. But when UH bikes failed in 2019, Cleveland became the largest U.S. metro without a docked bike share. But the thing is e-bikes will never be the right price, not for a for-profit company. Successful systems that I've used such as in Philadelphia, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit and even Toledo have expanded based on regular bikes and network coverage in every neighborhood, which UH bikes never had, and none require a smartphone to use. The companies that run these bike shares will often become self-sustaining with legal approvals for station placement and sometimes some one-time startup capital. Capital perhaps such as American Rescue Plan funds.
Now, docked bike shares are also viewed skeptically by poor and minority communities and often times with good reason, because they are often seen as harbingers of gentrification. But New York City bike program has shown that can be overcome. It costs $185 dollars for a year pass in New York, but all public housing residents get five dollars a month unlimited subscriptions. Citibike was also very intentional with their outreach to marginalized communities in places like Bed-Stuy, Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx and ridership in those areas is comparable to and sometimes higher than more affluent areas.
We can do the same in Cleveland but to do so we also have to be intentional. We cannot solve this climate crisis solely by allowing private companies to congregate where they see the most profit. And it is impossible to create equity by simply saying ready go and hoping that it will work out. I hope the council will consider bringing in a bike share operator to run a docked system that covers all neighborhoods in its footprint and includes and serves all residents of Cleveland. Thank you very much.
Council President Griffin: Thank you.
Dailey: Thank you. Good evening, I'm Andre Dailey from Ward 8. Redlining was prevalent from the 1960s up until today. Redlining has come to be defined as the practice of denying a worthy applicant a loan for housing in certain neighborhoods though the applicant may otherwise be eligible.
In January, I was approved for a VA home loan; a privilege I was awarded for having served four years active duty honorably in the U.S Navy. I placed offers on three different properties owned by Prop 1 LLC. Each went ignored for weeks until my realtor withdrew them. I never received a response to the last one. I later learned this was because Prop 1 would only sell tax abated homes to an investor with the ability and the money to purchase the entire portfolio of 15 homes that were on the market in Ward 8. The listing reads as follows for one of the homes that I placed an offer on: "A modest home on Brazil Road in Ward 8. Investor special. 9 percent cap rate. 15-year tax abatement. $45 000 in savings over 15 years. Beautifully updated and an amazing property to add to any investor portfolio."
What wasn't included in that announcement was that they wouldn't sell a home to me. Not a single one. No matter what I offered. 15 of the 16 habitable homes in Collinwood were off limits to me and many other residents. This company and many like them are holding our neighborhood's housing stocks hostage and in turn denying residents access to fair housing.
City council must be on one accord and putting the interest of our residents above all others. I propose the council work to enact legislation to ensure all Clevelanders have access to fair housing and aren't continuously denied housing based on race ethnicity sexual orientation and faith. Thank you. [Applause]
Councilmember Kris Harsh (Ward 13)
Councilmember Stephanie D. Howse (Ward 7)
Councilmember Richard A. Starr (Ward 5)
Councilmember Joseph T. Jones (Ward 1)
Another thing is that e-scooters are not in our sidewalks. Every time I get off the bus stop on East 12th and Lakeside, there's an e-scooter at the, at the bus stop on the trolley, in the B-line trolley. So I would like to see if we can address those issues first.
Thank you for your attention and nice meeting you.
Council President Griffin: Thank you Mr. Rodriguez.