June 03, 2024

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Public Commenters (32 min)
Kristen Fragassi  Ronaldo Rodriguez, Jr.  Sabrina Otis  Brenda Bickerstaff  Brent Eysenbach  Diab Dar-Issa  Jamie Brazier  Michael Armstrong  Samaria Rice  Faouzi Baddour 

Kristen Fragassi

City Council unanimously adopted the flag of Cleveland on October 21st, 1895. Today this flag is worn on every police officer's shoulder and featured on department vehicles. My great-grandmother Susan Hepburn Beach designed this flag and was known as 'Cleveland's Betsy Ross'. Interesting fact, she was a cousin of the late feminist film icon Katherine Hepburn.

The Plain Dealer in 1895 launched a contest to design a city flag to celebrate Cleveland's 100th birthday. My great grandmother, then 18 years old, won, beating out two dozen male finalists. Designs were judged by a distinguished panel, chaired by artist A.M. Willard, painter of the national treasure, 'Spirit of '76'. Robert Beach, a young reporter from the Plain Dealer, was assigned to deliver Susan her contest prize of 50 silver dollars. During that visit, their romance began. They married in 1896 and moved to East 89th Street where they lived for 60 years and raised four children. Their home was in now what is ward 7, shout out to councilwoman Howse-Jones.

The flag features three vertical sections of red, white, and blue, with a shield in the middle. In the shield are symbols representing manufacturing and shipping. Manufacturing today in Cleveland is responsible for 300,000 jobs. The Port of Cleveland is the largest port on the Great Lakes. Marine interests in our port generate 22,000 jobs and create $4.7 billion in annual income.

Now, 129 years later, a group has approached you about about a design contest they are holding to generate public interest and replace our current flag or create a people's flag as a unifying symbol. Instead of more thoroughly researching the rich history of the current flag, they reached out to a small sample group and decided our current flag is unattractive and outdated. This process seems to me like a solution in search of a problem. Paraphrasing the brilliant Jay-Z, I'm sure this city has 99 problems, but I assure you this flag ain't one. It's history. Has anyone done a cost analysis and considered the taxpayers expense of retrofitting a new flag? History is valuable and meaningful. I hope this Council would agree. Cleveland's official flag symbolizes the history and industries that built this city and are thriving today. I urge you all to join me in helping educate Clevelanders about our current flag. Right now the flags of Cleveland, the United States, and the Ohio flag fly together over Progressive Field. The next time you are at Carnegie, I hope you'll notice how beautifully these designs fit together. Thank you. I left you all with a more detailed statement.

3:13 Permalink

Ronaldo Rodriguez, Jr.

Hello. Thank you for allowing me to address you today. My name is Ronaldo Rodriguez Jr and I'm a resident on Cleveland's near West Side. I'm here today to speak about Metro Health's sudden and unexpected decision to break their promise of creating a hospital in a park.

For several years now, the community has endured construction while being told by hospital officials that once the Glick Center was completed, the existing outpatient plaza would be demolished and replaced by a new park on West 25th Street. The planned park would be the largest green space in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, where one in five children suffer from asthma. Meanwhile city data shows that the tree canopy of Clark- Fulton has decreased by nearly 20% over the past 10 years, thank you, Mayor Bibb, for the open data portal.

I was 9 years old the first time I visited Metro Health. My mom had been life-flighted there while giving birth to my baby brother. I still recall the terror I felt that day, and it wasn't because my mother was in the hospital, it was the hospital itself that struck fear into my heart. The outpatient plaza outfitted with bars on the ground level sends a virtual keep out signal to the community.

In an area encircled by highways and heavy industry, Clark-Fulton desperately needs this park as approved by the Cleveland City Planning Commission. Metro Health's abrupt decision to remove the park without consulting neighborhood residents or stakeholders after years of extensive planning efforts adds to a long list of broken promises to my community by institutions and officials. I'm here today asking you to use your voice to urge Metro Health as a public hospital to keep their promises. Thank you.

1:45 Permalink

Sabrina Otis

Good evening Council President, Council men and women, Mayor Bibb and administrators. Today I got a couple things to get off my chest. First I want to point out something to you all. A lot of council persons have become politicians. They become very dishonest to their residents and it's harmful and hurtful when truth isn't told.

For instance, them speed tables y'all like to talk about, that was me. 2018 I started asking the city for it. No one's ever acknowledged it was me. It was me. I got the emails. I got the documentation to prove it. But that's what we as citizens in Cleveland do, we go and we bother you all with ideals and things that will make the city better. We may not get the credit for it but it does benefit the city.

So that brings me to making the city better. When we talk about school levies, you all are going to get together and figure out if you guys are going to support CMSD with a school levy. I'm a resident. Don't do that. Don't do it. Because as a resident with kids in the school, and that's something a lot of y'all don't have, kids in CMSD, I do, and because we have kids in the schools we recognize the good and the bad of the district just like any other city. All the cities have good and bad. You guys have allowed the city and the CMSD to build all these buildings, where are the students? Where are the kids? Families are moving into Cleveland, they're giving birth, you know, where those kids are going to? The private schools, the Catholic schools and the charter schools. They're not going to CMSD. Did you look at the graduating rate this year for CMSD? My kids graduated in Atlanta. I'm proud. They graduated outside of Orlando. I'm proud. You know what, their classes were? 500 plus kids per high school. Look at y'all buildings, look at your high school. Yes, you guys have the Say Yes program and kids are being shipped in, but they're not our kids. See all your good programs are going to kids who don't live in Cleveland. You have a small segment that get into the programs, but a huge of them don't, because our kids aren't taught the way other communities are. My kids had an upper hand cuz I'm that Mama and I'm going stay on them and I'm going to teach them what the schools don't teach. But CMSD is losing students because it doesn't have the same equality in educating the kids, and it has to start when they're little. See little kids supposed to sit down and be quiet. If you have good parenting, your kids know how to do it. We have a lot of kids who can't even sit and focus, and it may not be their parents' fault, but when they're in that school building something needs to happen.

Lastly, last time I was here somebody, a council person, said something to the equivalent that we kind of complain. We're not complaining to y'all, you are the advocates of the wards. That's your role. You were voted in to represent the people of your wards. We want y'all to represent us, and you may not like what we want to support but pretend like you like it. Act like what we want you want to. You may not want to, you may go home and scream anyway. Have a good day, everybody.

3:12 Permalink

Brenda Bickerstaff

Good evening, how's everybody this evening? Thank you. Okay, Council President, I want to ask a question. Mr. Houston was on the list for public speaking and they didn't put him on there. I sent it with my email, and several times I've did that before, I add other people, and they did add him on the list, and the officer showed me that he wasn't on the list to speak.

[Griffin]:We'll show a clerical, I don't know, we have a system so we'll look at-

[Commenter]: So can he speak tonight?

[Griffin]: Right now we have you on. We'll have somebody talk to him about how he gets on, but you have the floor right now.

[Commenter]:Okay, all right, okay, thank you. Okay. Good evening. I want to direct this, first I want to talk about politics and friends, sometimes that just don't mix, and Mayor Bibb, I want to thank you for getting rid of McHugh as quick as you did. Thank you so very much, I am so happy about that. So now I want to move on to this, I want to move on to Kazy and Polensek. Polensek, you've been in this seat for 40 years and in the 40 years of you've been in this seat, you know that the consent decree, the Department of Justice, has been here several times and made recommendations to the police department. So what I would like to know from you, you're asking about all `the money that's being spent through the monitor. You're always picking with the the monitor all the time. I want to know what have you said to Council or what have you said to the Cleveland Police so they can get themselves together so the consent decree can leave.

I know some of you guys don't want me to answer, to say these things, but I got to say it because I'm a black woman with a black son who had a black brother that was killed by the police, so I have to say this. So I would really would like for you to answer that question. I know you can't answer now Mr Polensek, you're not even looking at me. So in any other words, you're flipping the bird at me and I feel disrespected, and I want to know your 40 years of being in this city with the problem with the Cleveland Police Department, what influences or information you have given to the police department about their behavior, when the Department of Justice told them several times to correct this problem, before we even got a judge? I don't know if you guys even knew that. So I would like that question to be answered. So is he allowed to answer that question now? No, he'll have to answer it to me later, so, making a record that I asked Polensek this question on today's date June 3rd, 2024 749 p.m. I want that question answered. Since he's asking questions about the monitor, I want to know about his background because I will start digging.

2:36 Permalink

Brent Eysenbach

Good evening, everybody. I'll take a brief moment tonight, again missing Little League. Interestingly tonight Little League practice had to be cancelled, or I should say, evacuated because shots fired in the area of Roberto Clemente Park. That's pretty disturbing that I wasn't there with my family.

At any point, I'd like to take a moment to thank CEO Warren Morgan and Mayor Justin Bibb and all the other administrators, Councilwoman Spencer, for the hard work put in for the decision to pause construction at new Marion Seltzer School. Whatever the ultimate deciding factors were, I believe that this is a good course of action and it'll allow CMSD to find feasible alternatives to building a much needed school while also preserving Cudell Park as a vital neighborhood green space. Such a compromise is going to honor the legacy of Frank Cudell and also the spirit of Tamir Rice. However let's not use this period of a pause to waste time. Let's be productive. Let's meet during this period to get on the ground and create some solutions here.

In 1954 a fire station was proposed at Cudell Park. After a ground swell of community opposition, Mayor Celebreeze altered the plans and the station was then built on Madison Avenue. In recent memory, the city sought to demolish the gazebo where Tamir Rice was killed. It ultimately had to be moved to Chicago to be properly preserved. In 2021, the administration labeled Cudell Park as surplus property and traded away 2.17 acres on the eastern portion of the park for development interest in Detroit Shoreway. And as if this was all not bad enough, this current administration continues the long sought effort to wipe out Cudell Park.

Why is the city so intent on seeing this park erased? This latest effort comes in the form of a recently published city parks master plan. The new Master Plan seeks to categorize Cudell Park as a 'special facility'. The given definition of a special facility is a unique center usually oriented to a single purpose use. They can vary greatly in size, hours of operation, and staffing. That's from the master plan's website. While the city department of parks website currently lists the following amenities at Cudell Commons and the Fine Arts Center, two full-size basketball courts which are currently owned by CMSD, thankfully they're safe for the moment, a playground which is in very poor condition also currently owned by CMSD. Acknowledging that the school plans are on pause, the latest edition of the Marion Seltzer plan did not have the city replacing that park. They instead relied on the children being able to use the school's facilities as a playground there. They have a baseball field, a practice soccer field and football field, a recreation center, the Fine Arts Center of course. And also, strangely, the website lists that there's a shelter. This is the same shelter that's been moved to Chicago, so perhaps an update of the website is in order. This varied list certainly seems like it's more than just a single use purpose though, and all of this is really troubling. It seems to point to a future where the city's careless planning becomes all too real of a disinvestment in a neighborhood park and green space.

3:10 Permalink

Diab Dar-Issa

Hello Council. I just want to start off my speech by saying on days like today, well it kind of cool down, but the past few weeks, these unseasonably warm and humid days, I am grateful for tree canopies. My name is Diab, I live in the West Boulevard neighborhood of Cleveland, and I'm here to stress the importance of protecting our parks, our green spaces, and yes, our century trees and our tree canopies that these provide.

It's no secret in today's world we have an epidemic of running out of third places, we have an administration that does pride themselves on sustainability, and I would say to your credit that is something I would recognize as well. We are also a Tree City USA. As an urban planning student at CSU, you know right down the street here, it was through my urban planning class and a research project on local issues that introduced me to Save Cudell Park and meeting all the great people you see behind me, and getting to meet Ms Rice. In short, this space was intended to be used as a park in perpetuity forever, and for the record, yes, these children do deserve a new school, all the kids in Cleveland do, but I want to make sure that we are continuing to work with CMSD to make sure we can also honor the park which is also on those grounds as well.

With the news and the pause, I definitely did want to take a moment to thank everybody taking us seriously and working with us and ensuring that we have a configuration that's going to keep the park, Tamir Rice's Memorial, the landmarks such as the Clock Tower, and of course the trees, but the park as a whole and all Cleveland parks. I want Cudell Park to serve as a beacon for all of our parks, and I want to make sure they don't fall subject to what we're dealing with today. I want to keep them intact, uninterrupted and unobstructed, just like I would like to see Tamir Rice's Memorial, unobstructed and still open to all members of the public. Enclosing nature and these trees, while not on CMSD's payroll, are also some of the greatest teachers that these students will have, and these teachers are going to outlive all of us in this room, and that park should as well. And to Mr Bibb, I was an election worker in November 21. I watched my phone, constantly pulling myself away, watching to make sure you did win your mayoral election, and I'm hoping that you do work with us, CMSD, and Save Cudell Park, and you do the same, and you're rooting for us in our corner. I also want to make sure that with the Marion C Seltzer school that the kids have an updated campus and a park that they can continue to enjoy for decades to come. I thank you all for your time and thank you for hearing me.

2:39 Permalink

Jamie Brazier

And my name still is Jamie Brazier. Good evening Mayor Bibb and Council. Mayor Bibb, first I want to say a big thank you for putting a pause on the new construction design of Marion Seltzer Elementary School. But putting a pause doesn't mean, as Axios news media erroneously published, that I, the stakeholders, or the Friends of Cudell Commons Park are now in favor of any new or proposed school tax levies. That is yet to be determined. Our approval would be contingent on whether we the stakeholders agree on a new redesign that satisfies us, as well as Samaria Rice, who is here tonight advocating for protection of the Tamir Rice Memorial which is located in the Cudell Commons Park. A new school, whether on current footprint or on the parkland going east and west between West 98th Street and West Boulevard, should be a redesign that stakeholders are involved in creating, not a behind the doors design presented to the public, ignoring any feedback which has happened over the past year and a half. The redesign should show special attention regarding to the Tamir Rice Memorial, the Cudell Clock Tower, and Cudell Park Commons. In no way should the memorials be hidden or enclosed by a building, shrubbery or trees as part of the redesign package. Legislation should be created for the eternal protection of the Tamir Rice Memorial, the Cudell Clock Tower and Cudell Park. Then and only then, when everyone involved in the design process are satisfied with the overall plan, we would gladly approve a much needed school levy. Lastly, to add an additional good deed to your legacy, Mayor Bibb, how about renaming Marion Seltzer School the Tamir E Rice Elementary

2:25 Permalink

Michael Armstrong

Thank you. I know it's been a long day. I'm here to ask you to send your 200-plus page form-based code pilot experiment back to committee. I reside in the Cudell neighborhood where a half million dollars was spent on legal fees against residents like me who wanted to keep Cudell Park, and now this faulty code is being imposed on us. This code also applies to Detroit Avenue, where between West Boulevard in West 73rd, except for one parcel on Detroit the city's Watterson-Lake parcel, the parcel the city received trading away Cudell Park. If if this code is so great, why exclude that parcel? Spot-zoning perhaps?

Council members not from my ward are sponsoring this legislation to change the maps in my Cudell neighborhood. My council person says it's too difficult to change them now. Since when did this be become the practice? Most of my street consists of single family and duplex. It's being being upzoned to H4 fourplex with larger building footprints to increase density. This is an upzoning scheme for investors to also easily subdivide homes into H4 fourplexes, make a quick profit and leave. 100 feet away from my home on my street, the new NX3 will add commercial uses by right, like a hotel, a restaurant for example, taking away a residential street. You probably read the planning director's correspondence to you pitching this, quoting president's Biden's recent NLC speech where he said the bottom line is we have to build, build, build. That's how we bring housing costs down for good. The planning director then said this form-based code pilot will do just that, producing more housing and a more diverse housing supply. By the way, President Biden was not speaking about a form based code or zoning, but it seems the planning department's theory is to build, build, build. Investments will bring housing prices down for good, create more housing in Cudell and housing prices will drop forever.

Really? Cleveland's Housing Equity Plan 2030 says otherwise, quote, 'increased property values in rents resulting from new investments can increase housing costs for incumbent households.' If FBC is about the benefits of build, build, build investments, how do the increased cost pressures from this not lead to the displacement of economically vulnerable households? My council person says the benefits outweigh the costs, I say, of what, the cost of displacement? Higher taxes forcing out renters? Where's the cost benefit analysis with the net benefits figure that justifies the cost being imposed on residents of doing this pilot experiment? There is none. This code needs to go back to committee. Thank you.

3:02 Permalink

Samaria Rice

Hello. Council, Mayor Bibb, how are you. What I want to say, I'm going to talk to you all as a mother today, okay. I will encourage City Council, Mayor Bibb administration, if you all can reverse the land swap back. The park is such importance to me because that's the last memory that I have of my son, and I would like it to remain a park forever along with the protection of the memorial to stay as is forever. That's just his legacy and it's very important to me to have the park and the memorial, everything to just stay at one.

I'm not saying that the kids don't need a new school, they do need a new school. As one of the other advocates said, east to west of East 99th and 100th Street is plenty of area to build over there also, or could build on the existing site as it is. I just don't want to continue to keep fighting, I want this to be the bridge and let's start building it together.

As you all know this is his 10th anniversary. I haven't had much support from the city and I'm not going to like ask for it all the time, but in this situation, I will hope that y'all can influence the CMSD school, along with Mayor Bibb, to do the reverse swap. And I know I talked to you Council President about it weeks and weeks ago and I know that this was here in the last administration, right. I understand that. But you some of you all knew about it, right. Some of you all knew about this land swap and things like that, so I want you all to be mindful how important it is to me and to the friends and family of Cudell that it stays as is. Keep in mind that election year is coming up and you all see this momentum, you know, I don't want to have to continue to show you the power that I have. I don't want to fight with y'all. I just want to be able to live at peace and get along and start building and making sure that you all are being accountable for being our president, city ward leaders. At the end of the day I'm very overwhelmed, I'm very stressed out and I don't want to have to be in these streets fighting you all. I want to encourage you all to help me build Tamir's legacy and to do what we need you to do in each community and each ward. You know our wards look terrible, across the nation, across the whole east side and the west side. We want to be able to live good as well too. So I just want to encourage you all to support us and how we can support you all. Okay thank you.

3:12 Permalink

Faouzi Baddour

Good evening Council President, Mayor Bibb. I always know that you have the vision, the heart, the will, and the determination, and I know at one point they will come out in a form of right decision. We met last week. We had a 15 minutes chat with you. There is three points registered in my mind. I'd like to remind you of them in this chamber.

One, you said that you agreed with Michael White's statement once that Cleveland parks are not for sale. Second, and I didn't mention it to Ms Rice, she's hearing it from me now, that you said that you dearly care about Tamir Rice Memorial in the park. Third you said to us that you would like to work with our organization to reach a solution to preserve the park and build the school. For that, we're ready when you're ready. I know you're willing, we're willing, and we have the right ideas, we have good ideas, and we're not back enough.

We want to preserve the park and we need to build the school. We like to have it as the best school. We're with you, and I know you are.

The other thing now, you created this mess in the first place. Council last two weeks ago, yes, President, two weeks ago I mentioned that we celebrated the birthday of Frank Cudell. Two weeks from now we're going to celebrate the birthday of Tamir Rice. See those two souls separated by 158 years of age, separated by 40 days of death date, separated by 27 days of birth date and 100, less than 100 feet separate their memorial in the Cudell Park, that straight line. Had this project went through, it would have buried their souls under your land swap vote. What we need now, we need to get back that land to the city ownership, to the Cudell Park land, and we're going to work to have it declared as a landmark so no one like Frank Jackson comes again and sells that park or any other park. Cleveland parks are not for sale. Thank you.

2:55 Permalink