April 15, 2024

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Public Commenters (26 min)
Dontez Taylor  Matthew Ahn  Basma Hamid  Jamie Brazier  Riley Petro  Faouzi Baddour  Nikki Hudson  Juan Collado Diaz  Anne Armstrong 

Dontez Taylor

Hello, my name my name is Dontez Taylor, and I am coming to the Council to see how they can help me get into the juvenile detention center to talk about the epidemic that's out here right now, and everything else. And I have 17 proposals right here right now to get the help that I need to get in there, so we can advocate for our kids in our juvenile detention center, and everything else, and find out how we can get prayer back into City Council.

0:42 Permalink

Matthew Ahn

All right, thank you. My name is Matthew Ahn. It's good to be back here again. I'm here in my personal capacity to talk about the Cleveland City Council redistricting process, but my remarks are shaped by my experience as part of the speakers bureau for Citizens not Politicians Ohio, and by my legal work in the voting rights field.

The ideal redistricting process is a non-political one that elevates the people, preserves communities of interest, and provides meaningful representation. We know that when these principles are pushed aside for things such as incumbent protection, partisan advantage, or other political considerations, that democracy weakens. That may sound alarmist but the data tells us that gerrymandered maps are voter suppression, they lower voter turnout, erode faith in government, and result in less productive legislative bodies at every level. Cleveland's own voter turnout problem is very complex, but it is likely made worse by the maps drawn back in 2013, which have obvious hallmarks of gerrymandering, such as in the shapes of wards 10, 11, and 12. After all, it's very obvious when maps are drawn for incumbent protection. The secretive process used provide no protections against political dealing and was described back then as an insult to the democratic process. I happen to agree with that statement wholeheartedly, and I thank councilman Polensek for his remarks to that effect in 2013.

Things have changed in the last decade though. We have new Council leadership and new Council membership, and drawing districts is not an esoteric or technical exercise in 2024. Fair maps can be drawn by you or me or anyone in this room without too much trouble. A minute and a half ago, I emailed every member of Council a map which I also have here that took me about 45 minutes to put together. One that preserves communities of interests, one that maximizes the use of rivers, highways, and railroads to draw borders. I know this map isn't the only one that's been publicly shared. I'm not saying you have to use this map, but if the map you use appears to be more gerrymandered, just remember it's very obvious when maps are drawn for incumbent protection. We are collecting signatures to eliminate gerrymandering at the state level, as we've all seen the harm that a gerrymandered State Assembly can inflict on the city of Cleveland. We as Democrats cannot claim to be the party of good government while ignoring the harms that are mirrored on a local level by unfair maps that we have the power to redraw. I therefore will join the Cleveland NAACP in urging this Council to use a transparent process for the redrawing of Cleveland's wards.

And furthermore, I would urge Council to use a process where public input and citizen-drawn maps play at least a meaningful role if not a primary one, a process where multiple maps are submitted simultaneously to Council for consideration, whether drawn by citizens or not, and a process where collaboration between citizens and members of Council can create compromise maps. I also urge this Council ,when any map is discussed or comes up for a vote to be guided first by the fairness of the maps and the preservation of communities of interest and to vote no on any map that falls short of the spirit of fair maps.

Finally, if anybody needs to sign the anti-gerrymandering petition please see me. Thank you very much.

2:52 Permalink

Basma Hamid

As-salamu alaykum. Good evening. According to Spectrum News on 4/11, for more than 30 years, all Ohio Treasurers have been investing in Israeli bonds. The total now is $330 million since Treasurer Sprague took office. Ohio is now one of the largest government holders of the said bonds in the United States. Cuyahoga County invests $16 million, Franklin County invests $2.5 million, Key Bank invests $15 million, the City of Cleveland invests $8 million. It all adds up to $354.5 million. These types of investments are used by the Zionist occupiers and illegal settlers to steal the land of the Palestinians, and ethnically kill children and innocent people in Gaza and Palestine.

We deserve to choose the lifestyle we want to live and still feel safe in our communities. We need to improve the well-being of the taxpayers' daily life, public safety, and financial stability. We are thriving here to make a living and pay our taxes on time deemed necessary so we don't become homeless. We need to be investing in our children and youth by providing universal child care free, before and after school care, and free youth sports, clubs, and activities. Affordable public housing must be available to the public regardless of their income. I hereby call all these entities to divest from investing in those bonds and bring the money back into our communities. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Thank you.

2:06 Permalink

Jamie Brazier

Mayor Bibb and council members. I am Jamie Brazier from Ward 15. Mayor Bibb, now that you have become a climate mayor and are enlightened on how important trees and environment are to Cleveland, shouldn't you as a climate mayor strive to save Cudell Park, along with its trees and green space, from being devastated by a poorly-designed school, just for the sake of building a school? I would believe if you truly had any compassion in defining yourself as a climate mayor, you would work with the whole community of Cudell, not just one person, to help create a school design that will not interfere with the current green footprint of Cudell Park in constructing the new Marion Seltzer Elementary School.

Cudell Park was a gift from Frank Cudell, a well-known Cleveland architect who was also very much into green environment, parks, and flower gardens. Over 100 years ago in his will, his gift of Cudell Park was to be a park forever. Mayor Bibb, prove yourself as the climate mayor you say you are and remedy this situation. The Cudell community has a high voter turnout and will not support any future school levies that may be proposed to cover deficits and the legal fees, which has cost the taxpayers over $456,000 for the city's and Cleveland school system's fight against the Friends of Cudell Commons Park, nor will the Cudell community support a vote for a climate mayor that may be running for office in the future if there is no intervention.

Being retired, daily I look at the park and I am the eyes and the ears when there is trouble or crimes being perpetrated. Once the wall of the current school project goes up, blocking my view, I guarantee crime will also go up. The design will also take away my peaceful moments of sitting on my porch with a cup of coffee simply enjoying nature. Greta Thurnberg said at the UN Climate Summit, 'you have stolen my childhood.' I'm not saying I'm anything like her, but I am saying you are taking away from my golden years, and I will fight with all all I have left into me to save Cudell Park. Thank you for your time.

2:56 Permalink

Riley Petro

So, I'm not here to give any praise to City Council for passing a ceasefire resolution after 17 weeks of public comment, and I sincerely hope that you were not expecting any. However, I'd like to take my time to address Mayor Bibb's refusal to endorse the resolution, and the disingenuous statements he made in support of his decision. Mayor Bibb states that, quote, 'the city was united in horror at Hamas's October 7th attack on Israel, and Israel has a right to defend itself,' unquote. This echoes his statement in October that, quote, 'Cleveland stands with Israel in the face of terror,' unquote.

What Mr. Bibb leaves out is that the people of Gaza have been living under a blockade since 2007 where food, medicine, fuel, even access to electricity had been severely restricted by Israel. He leaves out that Israel has been illegally occupying Palestine and expanding settlements since 1948, committing ethnic cleansing and displacing families from their homes. He even leaves out that there is credible evidence that the Israeli military is responsible for many of the civilian deaths on October 7th as reported by Israeli media, such as Haaretz. Most damning of all is his insistence that the city of Cleveland stands with Israel, when after 17 weeks of struggle, the people of Cleveland continuously came out in support of Palestine and for a ceasefire resolution. But Mr. Bibb doesn't stand with the people of Cleveland. He stands with his former employer, Key Bank, with power brokers like Dan Gilbert, and with campaign donors like James Ratner, who all support Israel bonds, and the Zionist Jewish Federation which resides in Beachwood, not Cleveland.

While his constituents were making their case to Council for a resolution, our mayor had made no move to retract his statements. And when the resolution finally came to his desk, he refused to sign it. I hope you've enjoyed your time as mayor because after this one and only term in any political office, you will only be remembered as a coward who stood for genocide.

2:30 Permalink

Faouzi Baddour

Good evening. I'm Faouzi Baddour. Though I vote in ward 11, I'm a resident of two wards, 11 and 15. I will talk about Cudell Park and the land swap that this council voted for, mostly.

I'll come back to tell you about myself. 1954. The City of Cleveland decided to build a fire station in Cudell Park. The community then opposed, and strongly opposed, and the mayor then, we had a mayor in the city of Cleveland named Anthony Celebreeze, [we] told him we can't relocate the community, we can relocate the fire station. Look for another place and build the fire station. That was a public servant and a hero and a giant in City Hall. The other story, in 1977-78, we had the worst blizzard in Cleveland, and we had the Illuminating Company went by force to buy Muni Light. A hero down at City Hall named Dennis Kucinich stood up to them. The bank closed up and the city demanded their notes be paid, put the city into default, Dennis Kucinich still said no and put the issue in referendum for people to decide, and the people overwhelmingly voted to keep and save Muni Light. And that's why we still have Muni Light now, because that public servant was at City Hall. The last hero down at City Hall was Michael White. When some people made a deal with a church to sell part of a park to build a church, Michael White stood and said Cleveland parks are not for sale. That's another hero. That's the last hero down in City Hall. The three mayors who came after him, sorry, don't exist. We're looking for a hero right here. I'm looking for a hero. This Council should be our hero.

Come back to tell you about myself. we moved to this house on Marietta Avenue on May 23rd, 1981. That house block, a stretch of West 99 block, the southern end of that stretch, Ms. Spencer knows that, and Cudell Park blocks the north end of that stretch.

[Griffin]: Mr. Baddour, that's your time. I'll let you get one last comment out, but you're time is up.

[Speaker]:Thank you. From that house I could see Cudell Park, I mean, clearly my kids grew up in Cudell Park, and they were involved in every sport that Cudell offered.

[Griffin]: Mr. Baddour I do have to move on, I apologize. Your time is up, sir. Thank you.

[Speaker]:Thank you.

3:33 Permalink

Nikki Hudson

Thank you. My name is Nikki Hudson. I live in the Cudell neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland and I'm here tonight on behalf of the Friends of Cudell Commons Park.

A little over 3 years ago in March of 2021, Cleveland City Council voted unanimously to trade land at Cudell Park, land that was surreptitiously deemed surplus property, for land in other parts of the city that were ultimately offered to developers. My question for those of you here tonight who were also on Council back then, did you realize that you were voting to trade away the Cudell neighborhood's only park, and did you know that your vote would contribute to the destruction of 40 healthy mature trees in a neighborhood with even less of a tree canopy than the city as a whole at just 16% coverage? This land at Cudell Commons Park was a gift to the city of Cleveland over a century ago by famed Cleveland architect Frank Cudell, who designed such notable structures as the Perry Payne building on Superior Avenue and St. Steven's Church on West 54th. Frank Cudell gave this land to the city on the condition that it remain a park forever, which is not only written in his will but also on the 1906 deed transferring this land to the city, forever for park purposes. Instead of being a steward of this wonderful gift, the city instead decided they had no use for this land and traded it away without any notice to the public.

I'd also like to address Mayor Bibb. My question for him is how do you justify destroying the Cudell neighborhood's only park and its mature, healthy trees while serving as chair of the Climate Mayors? Is CMSD's plan to put a cookie-cutter building on what is currently green space and then cut down all the trees to make it fit building a better future with a clear vision for protecting the environment? And how does this development support your vision of ensuring equitable access to quality public parks?

As I mentioned, Cudell Commons Park is the Cudell neighborhood's only park. Wiping it out with the construction of this school will force nearby residents to walk 30 minutes or more to reach the type of quality green space that you've been promising as part of your citywide parks and recreation master plan. Although you were not in office when all of this started, you are in office now and have the power to fix this. Don't allow the destruction of this historic green space, this gift to the residents of the city of Cleveland. Council members, Mayor Bibb, save Cudell Park.

2:59 Permalink

Juan Collado Diaz

Thank you, Council President. Good evening, council members, good evening, everybody here. My name is Juan Colllado Diaz, as you all know, and I'm here to speak about Cudell Park. So the current situation with the park as all my colleagues here have said, is the only park in our community. I am not even a member of the community, but my grandmother is and she uses the park on a daily basis to hang out with her friends, and it's the most walkable park to her. Cutting the park away and taking down all the trees and stuff will make her have to find another location, and as an elderly woman, that is hard for her, who has lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years. That is the number one thing that saddens me, and it makes me lose more respect that I have lost for every single one of you as of today. 17 weeks ago, you know how that went, and I have lost a lot of respect. Now it's more, knowing that most of you have voted to cut the trees and trade this land. Cudell put in his will that this park was to be kept and to not be removed forever, so it was just to be there. Whoever was here, and if it's not true you can look at the will, but it clearly says that. Councilwoman, I do appreciate you telling me that, but it's on the will and it is on the deed so you're more than welcome to look at it and check again.

The park was given to the community, to the people, and it is not that we're opposing a school, there is plans and we have chair plans which I can email every single one of you, which I will do tonight, so please check your emails. We have proposed a better plan to still build a school and keep the the trees from getting cut or the land for disappearing.

That park is used by kids every day, which I'm again inviting every single one of you to stop by and look at the kids playing basketball, tennis, just soccer, like playing whatever they can in there. And on our Eclipse Day event that we had at the park, we have people showing up from all around the country not just Cleveland. We have people from California, we have people from Pennsylvania, we have people from New York even come down here. They were coming to the the film festival and stop at Cudell instead of stopping at any other park in the city. So if that doesn't tell you enough already, we will send you more information if you want, and it will show you then the park is necessary for the people. We have had some of the council people that already agree with us. We want the rest of you to also agree with us.

With that said I also wanted to add that the mayor of Cleveland claims to be this climate mayor who's charging thousands of dollars for people to attend his conference, talk about capitalism there, and he's not doing anything to save the trees but more to build parking lots that you guys can charge people $80 on eclipse days to come and see. With that said, thank you so much for having me and have a good night.

2:35 Permalink

Anne Armstrong

Thank you, City Council members. Thank you for this opportunity to share. My name is Anne Armstrong. I am a resident of the Cudell neighborhood for 11 years. I love my community and am active in my neighborhood block club. In the summer of 2023, I learned that nearly half of the neighborhood's historic Cudell Park had been swapped by the City of Cleveland and given to CMSD. We asked our council person for a meeting immediately and we were stunned to see a new version of the school design with a massive footprint that destroyed community green space, 40 mature trees, playing fields, and basketball courts. I watched as citizens were incredulous at the news, not having heard anything about this exchange of their public park. We then learned this Council body or whoever was here at that time unanimously voted for this land swap in March 2021 during Covid, without any questions. Really? No questions about a public park being given away? This showed me that not everything that passes through this body is vetted, discussed, or critiqued, as most citizens would expect of their public officials.

Later we learned our public park was termed surplus land by city official DeRosa, even though Frank Cudell bequeathed the land to the city with the stipulation that it remain park land and flower gardens forever. His request was completely ignored. So we started a petition to educate citizens and save the park, and it has over 2,070 signatures to date. I meet people at our park who still have no idea that the city traded their park away, including a father playing basketball with his son who was so angered to hear this that he said he'd call the mayor right away. I met Kwame, he gives his free time supporting teens at the outdoor basketball courts. His passion for the park and those teens is huge, and he was outraged. He couldn't believe it. He said, 'why don't they talk to us?'

And then there are kids who come to pet my dog, Charlie, on the big grassy field, saying, 'can I pet him please' and then when they hear about the plans, they look at me. 'Why, why would they give our park away?' Good question, right? They were asking questions. Are you listening to what your people value? We value outdoor fields, courts, and community green space, and trees for clean air. Cudell has one of Cleveland's lowest tree canopy rates and highest asthma rates. Think about it. Public health is what this park provides to me and my neighbors. I urge this body and our new climate mayor Bibb to reconsider how you interact with the public and how you protect the public park land. Citizens deserve to be heard, respected, and trust definitely needs to be restored. Thank you.

3:10 Permalink