June 06, 2022

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Public Commenters (22 min)
Vincent E. Stokes  Jeff Crossman  Daniel Gray  Meryl T. Johnson  Jacob Vansickle  Wanda Davis  Sharron Grant Burton 

Vincent E. Stokes

Council President Griffin: First up, we have Vincent E. Stokes from Ward 5 and he's here to talk about the honorary street renaming for Anthony Dejuan Hughes Jr.

Stokes: Thank you. I am Dr. Vincent E. Stokes II and I am a teacher in Cleveland Metropolitan School District. On December 9th 2020 at approximately 10:45 pm, I received a phone call from one of my students who was very frantic, and between inaudible moans and cries, they said he's gone. And I didn't know who was gone, I just answered the phone.

Eventually it got out that one of our other students, Mr. Anthony Dejuan Hughes was murdered. He was murdered, walking back from the boys and girls club at King Kennedy, walking back from that at a community event, ironically about policing, policing in the Ward 5. And he was shot down on 55th.

The next day I had to sit on Zoom and teach his brother, I mean his cousin, rather, his first cousin in English, and I didn't know how to teach a student who just lost a cousin who was just like a brother to them. So I took it upon myself and I began to work with Councilwoman Cleveland and went from Councilwoman Cleveland to Councilwoman Gray and then it went to Councilman Starr. And I advocated that we have an honorary street renamed after Mr Anthony Dejuan Hughes. While walking back again from King Kennedy to his home he was shot 16 times. He was shot 16 times and 16 bullets riddled his body and his life. He had not even lived 16 years.

So this would be a great way to honor this young man, a way to honor him. He has a newborn daughter. His daughter will not know the charismatic character of her father. She will not know that he had a smile that could light up a room. But this could be an honorary way for us to honor him and honor his legacy, and honor him as a student in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Thank you.


2:18 Permalink

Jeff Crossman

Council President Griffin: We'll move to Jeff Crossman. Mr Crossman is from Parma and he is here to talk about removing the FirstEnergy stadium resolution. Mr Crossman.

Crossman: Thank you. Council President Griffin and hello Cleveland city council members, thank you for having me here this evening. And while I lived in Parma today I can tell you my roots in Cleveland run deep. I was born in Cleveland. I've lived in Cleveland and until last year my father lived in Cleveland before he passed away and I still have family live in Councilman Harsh's district. So, And I represent Ohio's 15th district which includes Parma and Ward 13 in Cleveland and sections of Ward 14 and 12.

Last year I sent the Browns a letter asking them to remove First Energy's name off the stadium because FirstEnergy admitted to multiple felonies including bribing the speaker of the Ohio house of where I serve and also bribing the PUCO chair. Why is that important? Because that takes money out of the pockets of hardworking Ohioans across the state of Ohio, including our constituents here in the city of Cleveland. We pay for that stadium. We agreed to pay taxes to fund the construction of stadium. We agree to pay taxes to fund the operation of the stadium. And I think it's a slap in the face for, uh, you know, both the Browns and FirstEnergy, frankly to put out statements saying that, Hey, all good, all's good because a couple of executives are out of the company now playing golf on the golf course at the country club.

These are multimillionaires that literally were laughing at people in Ohio, when it was found out that even the $500 million dollar illegal rider that they passed, it had nothing to do with the bribery, that they don't have to repay that to the constituents in the city of Cleveland. Uh, you know, I know what it's like to grow up. I came from very meager beginnings. I know what it's like. Every dollar matters right? I remember going to the refrigerator as a kid and not having food in the refrigerator so I know what it's like for people to struggle to pay their bills. And people that have to make those very difficult decisions on whether they pay their light bill. Or whether they, you know, pay that bill late and pay the gas bill to make sure they have heat in the winter. Or whether they buy food or whether they buy prescription medication. So I know that every dollar matters to everybody in this city.

And so that's why I take offense to the fact that First Energy's name, a company that's admitted to multiple felonies, is on our marquee building down here downtown in Cleveland, the Browns Stadium, which we all know and love. I'm a huge Browns fan. So I take it as a personal offense that they refuse to remove the name.

The Browns could simply sell that name to somebody else, a more reputable company and still make more money and give us, give us the PR win that we all need here in the city of Cleveland. I don't think we want to be associated. Whenever we hear Jim Donovan, when we turn on the radio in the fall, we don't want to hear, he's from, he's announcing the game from FirstEnergy Stadium. We want to hear that he's announcing the game from Cleveland Browns Stadium. And definitely remind people that the Cleveland name of that team is the most important part of that name.

And so I urge the council to support Councilman Kazy's resolution. I applaud him for the courage of bringing it forward and I would say don't stop at just this resolution. You have the power and ability and the teeth that do something more powerful to make sure that they actually do change the name. And I thank you for your time. Thank you.


3:17 Permalink

Daniel Gray

Council President Griffin: We'll move on to Daniel Gray and he's from Rocky River, and he's here to talk about the FirstEnergy naming rights and he represents citizens Citizens Utility Board of Ohio.

Gray: Hi there. I'm going to read because I'm not good at public speaking. So thank you Chairman and council for the time to speak today. On Chairman Kazy's proposed resolution to remove FirstEnergy's marketing billboards from Cleveland Browns Stadium. My name is Dan Gray, the President of Citizens Utility Board, a pro clean energy consumer utility watchdog. Additionally, I do speak on my my own behalf as a CEI ratepayer and long suffering Browns fan.

Citizens Utility Board is committed to ensuring that ratepayer dollars are spent officially are spent efficiently and appropriately. And we believe that Cleveland Public Power, as a community owned asset and not subject to the whims of Columbus politics and the P. U. C. O., is of vital significance to the future economic well being of the city of Cleveland. So I have two points to make in support of of CM Kazy's resolution.

One, generally we do not believe it is in the interest of Cleveland CEI ratepayers to be spending millions of dollars to advertise on behalf of a regulated monopoly utility to simply build their brand in the community, particularly worrisome since many neighborhoods like Councilman Slife's on West Park have no choice but to purchase their power from the CEI.

Point two and probably more specifically and importantly, we do not believe that one of the largest and most prestigious city-owned assets, Cleveland Browns Stadium, should be engaged in a marketing relationship with a company that's used ratepayer money to attack another city asset, CPP. FirstEnergy has admitted in court to the misuse of corporate funds to influence lawmakers and of having run a dark money political campaign to undermine Cleveland Public Power. Therefore, we would like to see this relationship be ended in a timely and if possible, voluntary fashion, and allow a non-monopoly and non Cleveland Public Power competitor to bring in that corporate money to replace it.

And as a final aside, I'm happy to note that Cleveland Browns Stadium, while branded with FirstEnergy currently, is actually a Cleveland Public Power customer and hopefully it will continue to be that way long into the future. Thank you.

Council President Griffin: Thank you.


2:25 Permalink

Meryl T. Johnson

Council President Griffin: Next we have Meryl T. Johnson and she's from Cleveland Ward 6 and she's here to talk about Cuyahoga County juvenile detention center and Justice For Our Youth task force. Ms. Johnson.

Johnson: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

"They treat you like an animal in here."

Those disturbing words were said to me during a phone call with a former resident of the Cuyahoga County juvenile detention center. To protect his privacy I will call him Jamal.

When I asked him to evaluate the conditions of his former residence for three months on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 representing horrible he responded 8 or 9. When, he also said, "When we're locked in our room, we have to push a bell to go to the bathroom. A lot of times the guards don't answer. We knock and bang on the window in the door and they still don't come. We have to use the bathroom on the floor."

When I asked him about doing number two, he responded, "You do what you have to do. Sometimes the staff will help you clean it up."

Last week I talked to a detention officer about the dangerous conditions. He said, "We are severely understaffed. We don't have the staffing to keep the kids safe. If there's a call for an alert, there's not enough staff to respond. A kid can take a beating with no one to assist. Detention officers are working 70 hour weeks. The morale is so low and the burnout is so serious that they are calling off and the kids get stuck in their rooms."

A teacher there told me that last week they only had 10 guards there on one day. That means they don't go to school when they're locked in their rooms. Another detention officer, Mr Hayes, said a resident was so severely beaten that he was throwing up for three days straight and was finally diagnosed with a concussion.

Jamal also shared that the residents are locked up in order to eat and they have 20 minutes. Sometimes the guards take very long lunch breaks and the residents are not released sometimes for as long as two hours. When I asked him about how he's treated, he said, the guards love to say I'd like to get physical.

Mr Jones said he had not received any training in years. A former employee I talked to Ms. Smith, compared the detention center to a slave ship. She also said no children have died by the grace of God. Mr Hayes spoke of racism and called the detention center a plantation environment. At another time during Ms. Smith's employment, the residents rebelled because they had been locked in their rooms for long periods of time without recreational opportunities. As a result, they were shackled and handcuffed to go to the restroom. She said the administration should have had staff stand outside the restrooms to prevent further problems. Ms. Smith said at times there was no laundry detergent. At other times, laundry detergent was bought from the dollar store, which caused a number of girls to get a rash.

Mr. Jones confirmed that clothes were being washed in plain water without detergent during COVID.

Our young people need our help. The Justice For Our Youth task force is asking Cleveland city council to just care. I spoke to the county council recently. I am constantly being told they do not have the authority to do anything. So who does? Who will rescue our children from the oppressive, inhumane conditions at the Cuyahoga County juvenile detention center? The residents may have allegedly committed crimes, but they are still human beings and they deserve a consistent quality education in a safe, healthy, rehabilitative environment with some hope thrown in for good measure. Thank you for your time.


3:31 Permalink

Jacob Vansickle

Council President Griffin: The next person is Jacob VanSickle, he's from Ward 12 and he's here to talk about complete and green streets and he was representing Bike Cleveland. Mr VanSickle. Please acknowledge your time.

VanSickle: Thank you Council President Griffin and all city council members for the opportunity to speak today in support of the complete and green streets ordinance. My name is Jacob VanSickle and I'm executive director of Bike Cleveland. I'm speaking today to give some advanced thanks for passing ordinance 370-2022, Cleveland's updated Complete and Green Streets ordinance.

This is an ordinance we've been working to pass for 3-plus years. Passing this legislation is critical is a critical part of accomplishing Vision Zero as the city is finalizing their strategy to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. It is a critical component to the city's climate action plan and addressing impacts of climate change. It's a key policy to hold true to our mayor's commitment to prioritize people over cars. Improving our infrastructure so that there is a network of safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities that serves the needs of users ranging from eight years old to 80 years old will benefit the health of Cleveland is in many ways. It will reduce traffic related injuries and fatalities, improve mobility for people who need to get to work, doctors appointments, or school. It will help us improve air quality and it will offer active mobility options to encourage physical activity and improved health.

On a side note, any council member who would like to join us for a bike ride in their ward to better understand why this ordinance and the improvements it will bring are necessary, please reach out to me and we'd be happy to schedule a ride with you and your ward and I'm sure Councilman Kazy can attest and Councilman Bishop can attest to those rides.

I thank you all in advance for supporting this ordinance and would like to give a special thanks to Councilman McCormick for leading this piece of legislation with us over the past 2.5 years. Thank you for your time.


1:55 Permalink

Wanda Davis

Council President Griffin: Next up we have Wanda Davis. She does not live in Cleveland, but she works in Ward 9 and she's here to talk about digital equity and inclusion and she's representing the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center, Ms. Davis.

Davis: Thank you counsel and I was raised in Cleveland and I went to Cleveland public school system so I've been here all my life and I'm just down the street in East Cleveland.

I'm Wanda Davis, the executive director of the Ashbury Senior Computer Center, also known as ASC3. I'm a representative in the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the Greater Cleveland Digital Equity Coalition, I'm working with prominent leaders throughout the city of Cleveland and I'm working with representatives of our digital navigators program here in Cleveland Ohio. As a member of this organization, I and my staff have spent the last 20 years dedicating our passion to educating and assisting seniors navigate the Internet, email, communications and any other form of technology they so desire. Our goal is for self empowerment. We do this through help and support from many others similar to you. Just individuals, just willing to donate and assist us throughout. It is my goal to tell you right now about digital equity and inclusion because if we don't achieve digital equity and inclusion, true digital equity inclusion in the city of Cleveland, we will not achieve what we need to do throughout our society.

Digital equity and inclusion consists of four major components, each contributing equally to our digital ecosystem. They are internet connectivity, devices, digital skills and tech support. Yielding true broadband is the ultimate goal. Through broadband adoption. we can improve our social, economic, educational, health and financial readiness needed for Cleveland to become the best connected city in the nation Once achieved we'll attract new businesses, investors and individuals individuals to come live, learn, earn and play in Cleveland. Now we know that the state, the county and some ISP's, we have one representative here with us this evening, have started to address the internet and with connectivity and devices, but we're lacking way behind when it comes to digital literacy and tech support.

I was asking gonna ask also Mayor Bibb if he was in presence but Cleveland city councilman members the time is now. As you began to make decisions about DEI you must take a closer look at creating the ecosystem where connectivity, devices, digital skills and tech support are equally supported to a true this true broadband adoption. This will lead to our mutual goal of being the number one when it comes to assisting our citizens, our citizens, to become totally self empowered to completely, and equally completely and equally when it comes to applying for jobs, living in the comedy in the economy, education and socialization and living healthy and financially well. Most of you know ASC3 and many other organizations have been addressing DEI on a shoestring budget for 20 years.

Council President Griffin: Time. I'm gonna let you wrap up.

Davis: Ok, ok. You have the opportunity to change this narrative and move Cleveland and our citizens to the forefront of DEI and most importantly Cleveland will no longer retain the bleak title of the least connected metropolitan city in the US.

Council President Griffin: Thank you Ms. Davis.


3:44 Permalink

Sharron Grant Burton

Council President Griffin: Last but not least we have Sharron Grant Burton from Maple Heights to talk about treatment of our youth at the chi Omega county detention juvenile detention center and she's with Justice For Our Youth task force.

Grant Burton: Okay, good afternoon and thank you Council President and city council. My name is Sharron Grant Burton. I am a citizen of Cleveland, Ohio. Originally I am a product of Cleveland public schools. I am a 10 year Gulf War veteran having served in the first Desert Storm. And I came back to Ohio to hear about the inhumane system for our juvenile system.

Having a brother that went through this system 30 years ago, I spoke with him and I asked him exactly what changed your mind from then to now. He said there was a correction officer that mentored him and gave him some resources, rehabilitated him so that he went on to get his bachelor's degree in public service and social work. He got a bachelor's degree in psychology, he went on and got a master's from University of Cincinnati in psychology. He said all it takes sister is for the people to care. All it takes sister is for somebody to come in with the rehabilitation services that they said they were going to give to our young people.

We say that it takes a village to raise a child. I'm looking at the village. I'm looking at the children that are housed in the Cuyahoga detention center and a lot of those children look like my brother. A lot of them may not make it like my brother did. And so I'm standing before you as a product of Cleveland public schools, as a product growing up in the Glenville area in the 60s during segregation to ask you as Ms. Johnson said, Please care.

Partner with us, the Justice For Our Youth task force. Invite us to the table so we can help you with some resources and some ideas and suggestions to move forward. So our young people that's in the system now do not get bound over and they do not become lifetime residents of the penal system. I beg you, I implore you to help us. Our youth are truly the future of America. Thank you for your time.


2:36 Permalink