June 05, 2023

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Public Commenters (19 min)
Leslie Jennings-Maldonado  Michelle Bell  Sharri Thomas  Michael Wood  Ilinda Reese  Martin McGann 

Leslie Jennings-Maldonado

Peace. Hello everybody, what's going on. I hope you all are feeling amazing. Council, thank you all so much for having me here. I'm sure you know from my shirt why I'm here. Yes, because gun violence is a public health crisis, as well as this is June, which marks the month of gun violence awareness, and we need proper legislation to solve it. That legislation that has been designed by residents of Cleveland Ohio is called Project Ripple.

Project Ripple focuses on three ripples, nano, micro, and macro. Nano is the people in the neighborhoods, by reactivating the many stations in each ward that will create a violent prevention hub. Those violent prevention hubs will offer wrap-around services to the community, and that hub will also act as a liaison to the micro, which is the City Council to say what is needed in each community, you know, a differentiation plan. I'm a kindergarten teacher, I like those things. With that being said, closing the existing gap between the administration and the people, I'm sure we can all agree there's some gap that is taking place, which will impact the macro. The macro is the community at hand.

Now I am not a fan of lip service, and I pray that me standing here today talking to you all is not just that, but we need transformative legislation. We need for y'all to stop dropping big whole numbers, i.e., $10 million dollars, and acting like that is enough money. If you do the simple math, you know it's not enough. By giving 30 organizations a $5,000 breakdown, that's only about five to $20,000 a year for each organization on the ground to do their work. Again, that's not enough money. However, you do know that enough is enough.

With that being said, gun violence is a public health crisis and Project Ripple is the solution. Again, together, we will rise. Thank you.

2:11 Permalink

Michelle Bell

Good evening everyone. Thank you for this opportunity. As you can see, I'm wearing the exact same shirt, but I'm going to just tell you a little story, and I'm confident I won't go over my time. But again, my name is Michelle Bell and I am a mother, I'm a grandmother, retiree educator, and a woman of faith. I'm also a gun violence survivor because my son, Andre Brown, was shot and killed while sitting in the car with a friend on February 10, 2019.

Although I have many, many fond memories of his laughter and kindness, I am haunted by that split second event, a senseless act of gun violence that ended his life and changed my life forever. I am navigating life challenged with grief, and coupled with the pain of uncertainty because Andre's case remains unsolved.

The difficulties and challenges associated with unsolved murder is insurmountable. The healing process is never ending, and sometimes it seems like February 10, 2019 was just minutes ago. The pain of murder loss makes my heart heavy, and my son's absence makes my heart empty. I pray daily for justice. Along with praying for justice, I pray that no other mother or parent will have to experience gun violence as I have and walk in these shoes.

I am here today to recommend, encourage, support, and even demand, that gun violence in Cleveland be declared a public health crisis, and adopt Project Ripple. Come find us across Cleveland is at pandemic, epidemic, and crises level. This declaration in policy enactment is needed because we are in a time of intense difficulty, trouble, and danger. That is the definition of 'crises'. More importantly, this is an urgent situation in which the health status of many are adversely affected. That is the definition of 'public health crises'. The physical, social, emotional, and psychological health status of our neighborhoods within the Greater Cleveland area, Cuyahoga County, and the state of Ohio are adversely affected as a result of the trauma that comes with gun violence. This makes gun violence a public health crisis. Adverse effects mean being afraid to walk down the street, hearing gunfire and thinking it's normal, shooter drills in schools, being fearful of retaliation. That is adverse effects. My health status impact is when I hear sirens and I relive February 10, 2019, because I heard sirens the night my son was shot. I did not know they were responding to a double homicide one street east of where I was living on Stevenson Road.

Gun violence in Cleveland is an urgent situation where the health status of many, many Cleveland residents are impacted. I remind you that we started off this year with 21 homicides every 36 days, and I can recall over the past 20 days there have been at least six shootings. Thank you.

3:19 Permalink

Sharri Thomas

So peace, y'all, so I'm gonna go by Ashley B, please don't forget the BA today. I'm here to support Project Ripple. Can y'all hear me? Y'all can hear me? Okay. Hey, hey, all right. So I'm gonna come from my heart, all right, so whatever I speak is coming from my heart. I just want to let y'all know. I'm gonna ask y'all to close y'all eyes, because I don't really like people staring at me when I'm speaking, and I'm just being 100 with you. You don't have to close your eyes if you don't want to.

But I am here today because we are talking about gun violence as a public health crisis. I had to ask myself, is it a crisis or is it an epidemic? The other question that I have is, why are we here? Why are we here? Ask yourself, why are we here? Why are you here? I'm gonna tell you why I'm here. I'm here because I don't believe that it's effective, and sorry I'm 6'2" so I got a bend all the way down. Okay, all right, I got this. All right. I'm here because it's kind of odd to me, for me to come into spaces like this and talk about and ask why gun violence is a public health crisis when we all have eyes, right? Close your eyes with me. Why are you here? Now, 'why are we here?' is can speak to everybody differently, it's going to resonate with everybody differently, but why are we here? Somebody asks why are we in this position of trying to prove a point, that gun violence is a public health crisis.

Well, let me tell you why I'm here. I'm here because I don't wait for nobody. I don't wait for nobody to tell me what I need to do to improve our community. Our babies are dying out here. Our mommies are crying out here, okay? Even as I'm standing right here I feel it. If you don't feel that in you, why are you here? Ask yourself why are you here? Why do we have to keep coming here, explaining why we need to take over our streets, because our babies are killing each other.

Again, I'm coming from my heart. I could have came with a piece of paper and told a story, but this is all I want to ask y'all. Why are we here? Why are we in this position where we cannot take control of our babies killing one another? I want you to go home and ask yourself that. Why are we here? The people that're watching on the camera, why are you here? Why are we in this position? Why are we in this epidemic? Why are we ignoring the fact that we need to take action? I don't know. My body's shivering right now, okay. But I need y'all to figure out, why are we here? And what do we need to do? Again, I am supporting Project Ripple. All right. Together we rise. That's a message. Together we rise. Thank you.

3:07 Permalink

Michael Wood

Thank you, Council President Griffin and City Council members. My name is Michael Wood, I am the lead organizer, lead administrative organizer for SEIU District 1199, and I am here to speak briefly about 350 proud union members of SEIU, the dedicated public servants who work for the Cleveland Public Library.

These workers do more things in an average day than can possibly be described in just the brief time we have here at public comments, but here are just a few things. They help provide healthy meals to Cleveland's kids. They help someone who's looking for a better job craft a resume that will help them get noticed. They help college students with research on a term paper. They plan and provide interesting creative and original programming for people of all ages, and maybe most importantly, they help people learn to read and appreciate reading. Studies show that those who are capable of reading at a high level are far more likely to excel academically in any area of study.

CPL workers literally set Cleveland's kids up for success. They often do this in conditions that most of us here are not asked to work under. For one thing, they work for a library administration that often fails to provide them with even the most basic tools they need to serve their communities. Sadly, they too also face violence in their workplace. There have been shootings in our Cleveland Public Library branches. Our union members have been assaulted. Just a few weeks ago, one of our members had their car stolen in broad daylight in their parking lot. When they went out on their lunch break to sit in their car and eat a sandwich, they discovered their car was being stolen and they were shot at in broad daylight, again, in their own parking lot. But they still go to work every day helping make Cleveland a better place.

I am asking each one of the members of the City Council to simply do this - visit one of these branches in your ward. If your ward happens to be, if you happen to work in a ward that there is no branch, visit one of the other branches. Just pick a branch and visit it, and when you go there, take some time to speak with these public servants. Have a conversation with one of the branch clerks or the children's librarian that's there, or one of the custodians who bust their tails every day to keep these branches open and working and ready to serve the citizens of Cleveland and all over Northeast Ohio. Speak with someone who works there who got a kid excited about reading, or the library worker who helps somebody find an audio book for a parent or a grandparent who can no longer see. Ask them what can we as city council members in Cleveland do to help you serve the citizens of this city.

I guarantee you if you talk to these folks you'll be impressed with the work that they do, and together we can help them serve the city even better. Thank you.

2:50 Permalink

Ilinda Reese

Thank you for creating this opportunity to address such an august group of people. Thank you. I would like to share with you just a few minutes of what Pastor Lawrence and Theresa Boone did for the community prior to their transition.

We were a presence in Mount Pleasant and have been a presence in Mount Pleasant community since 1978. We moved there from a little storefront on Cedar and moved to a Jewish synagogue. From there, the thought was, let's build a building where we can house the community and serve them better. The question to my father, Pastor Lawrence W. Boone was, why not build the church in the suburbs, and he said that's not where the community is. He changed the name to Covenant Community Church in 2000, and built the building to serve and to show more of what our mission was. Just a few examples of that are, and I didn't want to forget, was youth basketball. They're allowed to play basketball in our parking lot. The youth were taught to read, and each session of Read, Baby, Read, they were given seven books for their own library. And we do sessions for that. The food market. The food was being picked up at Covenant Community Church every week. Clothing giveaways, community festivals where everything was free - free car wash, free hot dogs, free clothing, free everything. Sewing classes were given to women in the community so that they could sew clothes economically for their children, and the group that she taught to sew would also sew the clothing to give to the community. The fourth district police meeting has been at Covenant Community for as long as the doors have been open, and they continue to be there. And community meetings are there every third Wednesday, I think it's the third Wednesday, I drop in every now and then. The community, when we went out to the community to petition to say would you be willing to do this, everyone welcomed the opportunity, because Covenant Community and Pastor Lawrence Boone and Theresa have the reputation of having warm hearts and serving hands, and that has been our foundation. So they are looking forward to, and we are looking forward to, celebrating that opportunity for them to be historically established in the Mount Pleasant community. And I'm hoping that, I couldn't tell it all because as I said it's been a long journey of where we are, and they are my parents, so I'm kind of biased about that, but the community is very happy to have us there, continue to have us there. And we will continue to do what we can do to serve the community thank you.

3:13 Permalink

Martin McGann

Yeah, thank you Council President and Mayor, administration, council members, thank you. We're honored to join you on this important evening. Again, my name is Marty McGann, I'm with the Greater Cleveland Partnership. We're the largest regional Chamber of Commerce in the country. At GCP, our mission is to accelerate growth and prosperity for the region, and our vision is to establish a thriving region for all businesses and individuals.

I rise in strong support of the Community Benefits ordinance the council president mentioned moments ago, Ordinance [297]. We share the core principles you articulated in the ordinance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. No ordinance is perfect, but we believe this is an important step to ensure more minority businesses grow and succeed in Cleveland. We appreciate the partnership of the Council President, the Mayor, the administration officials and council members in this effort. Our history on this work dates back 40 years, at least 40 years, and we were instrumental in the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the community benefits agreement work that happened, that culminated 10 years ago. We look forward to continuing that partnership with you.

We know this is only the next step. We know the real work is about implementation. We look forward to being close partners with you in that work. Again, thank you for your leadership on this issue, we are in strong support. Thank you.

1:17 Permalink