May 08, 2023prev: May 01, 2023 next: May 15, 2023
Public Commenters (30 min)
Dontez Taylor Diana Cyganovich Joshua Edmonds Tania Menesse Marge Misak Craig Guy Wendy Hyde Evan O'Reilly Judge W. Mona' Scott Angela Davis
Cleveland is an age-friendly city according to AARP and the World Health Organization, but are we really? Yes, we have somewhat lower cost of living, some great health care institutions, institutions of culture and arts, and very walkable neighborhoods, social supports and some public transportation. But what about our housing?
Those of us who would like to age in our communities are finding little, if any, age-friendly housing. Likewise for someone of any age with limited mobility. Where is the accessible housing?
I am sure it is not something totally new to you. How many times have you heard seniors or people with disabling conditions say they cannot find housing that fits their needs? In the past two months alone, I have heard of three families, one of whom is a former city employee and CDC Director, all needing to move out of Cleveland to find appropriate housing.
I happen to live in one of the vibrant neighborhoods with lots of growth and housing development, and as I look around, none of it is age-friendly, none of it is fully accessible for people with mobility challenges. By accessibility, I mean housing that has at least one no-step entry, a handicapped-accessible first floor bathroom, a first-floor accessible bedroom, living area, and accessibility for those with mobility challenges.
I know that the city is not unaware of this issue. The city housing plan includes building a range of housing, and I quote on page 25 of the plan, 'require housing to be accessible to those with limited mobility.'
Although aware, we have not done anything to move this forward as other cities have. Other cities have codified accessibility in some way, such as Toledo, Ohio, Austin, Texas, Portland, New York, Chicago, San Antonio. Building codes are the standards that level the playing field for seniors and disabled. I strongly encourage you to act now. Make Cleveland a truly age-friendly city by codifying accessibility and visitability as a standard in our housing code for all new construction.
We at Cleveland West Side Village, and I'm sure other seniors as well, are willing to work with you in shaping legislation to fill this gap in our age-friendly city. Thank you.
So DigitalC, we're a non-profit technology social- enterprise. We have internet at $18 a month. I'd like to say that when inflation hit and when the Cheetos at your gas station went up in price, our internet stayed the same, at $18 a month. That's where we stayed and that's where we've been, and that's our commitment moving forward.
Some of you all might have been privy to an announcement that came out recently about DigitalC being selected as the administration's partner to move forward with establishing a citywide broadband network. See, the reason why this is important, I know that we put a little bit of a distance between Covid times and now, and so sometimes people forget the reality that Covid on Earth as relates to our digital divide. There are a lot of residents in this city who cannot afford internet, who definitely couldn't afford it through the pandemic, and still to this day, they cannot afford internet. Our internet at $18 a month. That is strategically placed there because we did a study. That's where residents were able to say, 'if we could afford something'. That's where it comes from. In addition to that, for residents who could not afford anything, we went out of our way and we were able to partner with Dollar Bank, who actually offers to subsidize internet for the residents that we serve.
Now there are some concerns and I want to be very forthright in addressing those concerns. Some folks will say, 'well, DigitalC, you're a smaller non-profit, we haven't really heard of you.' Other folks will even say that 'all the times you all been in existence, 2,000 customers, that's how many you have.' I want to say to those folks, the people that we were connecting, these are transient folks, these are people who in a given year might move six to seven times, and we still connect those residents. And so the reality of the situation is, we didn't prioritize connecting the best of Cleveland, we went to where the equity issues were the most pronounced. And so our network and our body of work at DigitalC has been built on that. And if anyone would like to understand a little bit more about DigitalC, you can either go to our website, www.digitalc.org, or you can call our hotline that is actually run by the Cleveland Sight Center. So when you actually call our hotline, you're not getting routed to some place overseas, you're getting routed to a neighbor. That number is 216-777-3859. So if you want to learn more about DigitalC, you can even stop by the Midtown Tech Hive on 69th and Euclid in Ward 7, and we'll happily take any type of questions, recommendations, and concerns you all might have. Thank you.
The investment that the City of Cleveland is proposing to make of $20-million dollars will complement $20- million dollars that the Mandel and Myers Foundation are also ready to invest in the digital divide in Cleveland. In addition, it will help strengthen state and federal applications to invest further in Cleveland's neighborhoods.
Cleveland is one of the most digitally inequitable cities in America, with tens of thousands of residents disconnected from vital services, health technology, and educational programs due to limited-to- zero broadband access. Over the last two years, Cleveland CDC Network has operated the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, a community engagement operation funded by the Rocket Community Fund, The Cleveland Foundation, and the Gund Foundation, that surveys residents and identifies the areas that are hardest hit by the digital divide. Within the survey lies data that shapes the picture of digital access needs in Cleveland's neighborhoods. Eighteen of those surveyed did not have broadband internet. The neighborhoods with the highest percentage of households without broadband internet are Central, Midtown, and St. Clair-Superior. Forty percent of those without broadband said that they did want the service. When asked why they did not have home internet service, 59-percent indicated that the cost of internet was too high, 51-percent say they can't afford the device, 26-percent say internet is not available where they are, and another 18 confirm that speeds are too slow for their children to do their schoolwork or for them to work from home.
In 2021, CDCs and CNP released the neighborhood platform which included two recommendations related to broadband. One recommendation was to support public-private partnerships that invest in digital infrastructure like this one. The other was, by the end of 2025, to reduce by half the number of households and businesses without a broadband internet connection.
This means that we have over the next two and a half years to connect 22- percent of Cleveland households to the internet. This investment from the city and this partnership between CNP and DigitalC meet that goal. Our theory of change is that CDCs are closest to residents and businesses and neighborhoods, and can best articulate the needs of citizens and businesses to citywide partners and regional partners like DigitalC.
There are few better examples of how CDCs can operate as an on-the-ground partner than the Rocket Community Fund's Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, and the partnership with DigitalC that will extend that work from identifying needs of residents to actually connecting them to the internet.
Using the data from end to end and building up the trust that local CDCs have with their neighborhoods, CNP will offer and support DigitalC in connecting its resources to residents. I'm done, and providing education and adoption support to ensure no resident in Cleveland is left behind. Thank you.
For the past year or so, we've been examining the lack of accessible affordable housing in Cleveland that would allow seniors to age in place in the city that we all have called home for years. We've toured new construction of developers who say that they're building for accessibility, but they're not. And we've looked at what other cities have done.
I want to focus tonight on two ideas that would go a long way towards meeting Cleveland's future needs for accessibility and affordability. The first idea is about how to increase this accessibility in construction. We need to level the playing field by changing the building code to require accessible building standards in new construction and rehabilitation. Diana's comments showed what those standards might include, like no-step entries and wider doorways, things like that. Leveling the playing field was successful when you, City Council, required green building as a condition of tax abatement, for instance. It also happened in about 2010-2011 when federal NSP funding required lead-safe certification for construction contractors. If you'll recall, almost every building contractor in Cleveland got certified. Standards level the playing field, and the building code is the standard that should require accessibility in new construction and rehabilitation in housing in Cleveland. Ohio allows municipalities to set more stringent standards, and Cleveland should demand it for our future.
The second idea I'd like you to consider is about creating lasting affordability in the housing that we build that's affordable and sold to low, moderate and the missing middle-income households that we often talk about these days. If we build and subsidize it to be affordable, we should make sure that it stays affordable for the next generation, and that requires a legal mechanism.
I encourage you to consider supporting Community Land Trust for housing in Cleveland. It's been proven nationally and internationally, and for the past several years, I've been working down the road in Columbus with the Franklin County Land Bank, consulting with them on the development of their county-wide Community Land Trust. Since 2019 when they started, they've closed on 64 home sales. More than half of those were sold to homeowners at 80-percent of area median income and below. While they top out at 120-percent of AMI, our missing middle. And they're closing the racial homeownership gap, with 80-percent of their homes sold to minority households. I encourage you to talk to them and see how they do it.
So I thank you for your time, and we, the Cleveland West Side Village, will be happy to be in touch with you to speak more. Thank you so much.
We were approved for a loan. We were approved for a conventional and an FHA loan. Key Bank accepted this offer, then rejected it without any reason for the rejection.
We were trying to combine two households with my 93-year-old mother. The house that we chose is in the Slavic Village area. And there was no reason for it. The house was sold for a thousand dollars more than what we offered, and it was done by cash buyer.
The questioning comes in at, we don't know if this was a racial incident, or whether it was just financial and matter, but we do know that the individual who bought the home was not a person intending on living in the house.
We invest in our homes. We invest in the homes that we want to live in. We invest in Cleveland. If we have to continue to compete with outside organizations before consideration is given to home owners who want to improve the community, come to the community, and that's personally, socially, and not just financially, we're going to lose the battle to regain our streets, regain our communities.
I don't know how far this has gone with other people in the community as far as dealing with Key Bank, but I am putting this out to you so you are aware and hopefully something can be done via the council.
At this time, the situation with the home is moot at this particular time, and we're going on to move to other opportunities. But if this is an ongoing practice, it needs to be brought to the cities at large, and Key Bank needs to be aware that we know of how they're doing these dealings. We have to take our community back. We have to invest. Thank you.
In December of 2015, Cleveland became the first city in Ohio to raise the age of sale for tobacco to 21, leading the fight against nicotine addiction and the predatory marketing and sale of these addictive products to our children. After the city's proactive efforts, the Ohio Council Assembly, a general assembly, raised the tobacco sales age to 21, followed by the federal government.
While raising the tobacco age to 21 was an important step forward, current federal and state enforcement efforts are proving to be inadequate at deterring tobacco retailers from selling tobacco products to underage youth. Under the current Ohio State Tobacco Control mechanism, the state has a tax license system for cigarette sales only, and there's no potential for revocation for retailers who fail to abide by the age of sale law of 21. The state does not have a comprehensive list of vapor shop- only retailers, therefore there is no way to monitor or enforce age-of-sale violations for vape products.
Only a small percentage of retailers in the state must be checked according to state and federal law. These are the results of the faulty system. In Cleveland, for the last three years, from 2020 to 2023, there have been only 589 total checks during this three-year time period for all of Cleveland retailers. This is way too low. 192 total underage sales, which is a 32.5-percent violation rate, this is way too high. This means that children are getting these tobacco products from our retailers. 170 of the 192 products that were sold to our children are flavored e-cigarettes, cigars, and menthol cigarettes. This equals 85.5-percent of these products are flavored products being sold to our children. There were 166 warning letters sent to violators, with no additional penalties. That's 86-percent of all violations simply got a letter warning them not to sell these products again. Only 25 civil money penalty fines, which are equal to $500 were given, that's only 13-percent.
So even though some time and resources to enforcement have been committed to Cleveland, that penalties aren't large enough to act as a deterrent to our retailers. Clearly tobacco retailers aren't doing what they're supposed to do to protect Cleveland kids. Thank you.
We advocate for low-income Cleveland residents, ensuring that their voices are represented in the budget process at the state and local level. We've been very encouraged that as the final ARPA allocation decisions are being made, it appears that most of our issue areas have been addressed. We'd especially like to applaud Council on their allocations for utility assistance, for reducing medical debt, for legal aid, for eviction defense, and money to help restart the Cleveland Tenants Organization. This Council has also in the last year pay-to-stay legislation, and advocated directly on behalf of tenants dealing with neglectful landlords in Ward 6.
However, we are concerned that in spite of these proactive efforts, the threat of eviction remains very present for many Clevelanders who are continuing to struggle with the economic effects of the pandemic. Over $108-million dollars in federal rental assistance has been dispersed by CHN since 2020, split between roughly 18,500 households. To my understanding, these funds have now been tapped out, and the expanded Covid provisions for SNAP, Medicaid, and other direct assistance programs also ended as of this past month. This benefits cliff represents the skewed priorities of the federal government with regard to recovery from pandemic and economic shock that has never actually ended. Many Clevelanders are now facing unexpected costs that they have not had to deal with for three years, and the effect of inflation on these costs has been substantial.
So far, ARPA affordable housing initiatives have focused primarily on housing supply, creating incentives for developers and non-profits to build or renovate units, but offering relatively little in additional relief for renters while community organizations continue to advocate for additional relief from the Ohio state government. We were in Columbus last week, we're going to be going Wednesday, we'll be back the week after that.
We believe that the city of Cleveland should establish a rental assistance fund of our own using remaining ARPA money from one of the economic development funds established in earlier rounds of allocations, if possible. We believe that this rental assistance fund should have a floor of at least $10-million dollars, reflecting the amount that's been spent since 2020 by CHN.
We know that this Council wants Cleveland residents to stay healthy and safe in their own homes. You've done a wonderful job of making that very clear, and we'd be happy to collaborate on making sure this money is targeted in an equitable and effective manner. We hope that you're open to considering this proposal and look forward to hearing from you. I'll be reaching out to each of your offices by email, but we can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Judge W. Mona' Scott
So I wanted to talk about- I'm just listening to the public speak and they're heavily talking about housing, so first, kudos to City Council because this has been a very progressive city council that have passed right-to-counsel, you've passed pay-to-stay legislation, you've passed the lead-safe ordinance.
And so I keep hearing terms like affordability, accessibility, emergency rental assistance, things that are needed, and I can't really speak on it as a judge of Cleveland Housing Court, but I know how it's impacted the numerous evictions that were taking place prior to me taking the bench. I took the bench in 2020 and two and a half months the pandemic hit.
We have stabilized eviction. There's only been 500 evictions since 2020, since I took the bench, and that was mainly because of the emergency rental assistance that was passed through, and me mandating mediation and connecting people with those resources.
So out of that came a tech grant that we was awarded through the Ohio Supreme Court. Got to be clear, that was through the Ohio Supreme Court and our partnership with Cleveland Public Library. I came here to announce that our third Zoom kiosk is opening up so that people can continue not coming to the Justice Center. Since we're fully opened and they're moving hundreds of people through the Justice Center, the lines are back, the elevators are stuffed with jurors that are going up to the Courts of Common Pleas, and some of the General Division juries are back in place.
So we're opening our third kiosk Monday, May the 15th in Ward 7, Councilwoman Stephanie Howse's ward, in the new Hough Campus Public Library. And I got to say it's a partnership with the Cleveland Public Library in that they've renovated these spaces. And I know that Ward 10, we wanted to go out to the Glenville. The only reason why we didn't go that far north is because they're slated to do an overhaul of that branch later this summer, so it made no sense for us to open and then close down and tell people to move. So we would probably open up a branch out there, that'll be our fifth location in, I believe it's next year, 2024.
So May 15th we open up our third branch, our third location of the Zoom kiosk at 11 A.M. We ask that everyone come join us who can, but I see some of the dedicated advocates out here from Ward 7. Join us for the ribbon cutting ceremony. I got to say the public library have these delicious butter cookies every morning at this opening. Come out and celebrate with us. The media will be out there, we'll have some words from Councilwoman Howse, but I ask that City Council and Mayor Bibb continue to advocate for the community when it comes to housing, it's desperately needed, the community desperately needs it. Thank you.
We already have issues with unsafe schools. Can you please have a conversation with your CMSD police department. Tell them to do their jobs. If they can't do their jobs, then they need to resign and find another place to be employed, because that is unacceptable.