November 08, 2021

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Public Commenters (6 min)
Chris Martin  Richard E. Pryor, III 

Councilmember comments during Miscellaneous (12 min)
Basheer S. Jones (Ward 7)  Delores Gray (Ward 5)  Joseph T. Jones (Ward 1) 

Chris Martin

Martin: Councilors, the last time I came before you it was asked that you stay silent on a ballot initiative, and you did. Thank you for that. I spoke out previously because I believe the resolution that was then before you was anti-democratic.

I come before you now because of another anti-democratic practice that haunts these hallowed chambers: the unit rule. Councilors, you cannot continue to pretend that invoking an unwritten, imaginary rule to force a unanimous vote is anything but antithetical to democracy. Heck, we know this to be true because you demonstrate it whenever you invoke the unit rule. You feel the need to explicate it as if it were biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. In truth, it is not but bullying. It seems this body uses the unit rule only in the two most anti-democratic instances it can: To entrench power into a particular leader and to appoint unelected members to council.

Councilors, you are representatives of the residents of Cleveland to the legislative body of this city. You are supposed to embody our democracy. Instead you sneer at it. That is shameful. We just held an election for mayor, the first open race for that seat in 20 years. Yet we couldn't even muster 25% turnout. Clevelanders do not believe you represent us and we show you that by sitting out of elections. In fact fewer people voted in 2021 than did four years ago to elect a three-time incumbent. And why should anyone bother to participate in democracy when our government clearly doesn't care for it.

Councilors, your disdain for democracy disenfranchises Clevelanders and for that you should be ashamed.

Councilors abolish the unit rule.

2:42 Permalink

Richard E. Pryor, III

Pryor III: Good evening councilors and thank you for finally instituting a system of public comment. Today I also wish to talk about the unit rule but I wanted to start about talking with one of my favorite subjects: myself.

I was raised 45 minutes south of here in Kent. We have a nine-member city council there for about 30 000 people. They don't, do not need a unit rule. Before coming to Cleveland I lived in Sewanee, Tennessee which has a community council of 14 people, no mayor, no city council, less than 3,000 people live there. They do not need a unit rule. And I come originally from the New York City metropolitan area. My grandfather in fact ran for New York City council in the 1990s. They have 51 members for 8 million people and even they do not need a unit rule.

By my research and as a historian I have to do that, the unit rule is currently used only in three places: in the electoral college, in the 12th amendment to the Constitution for electing a president when the electoral college is deadlocked, and right here in the Cleveland city council. I want to stress that I am not calling for reform of the unit rule because you all voted on Friday to elect a new city council president. And I do not want this to be misconstrued as though I am upset with that result. I am not. I am here because you chose to invoke that rule when every member on Friday voted for a person that they will vote for again in January with the same exact result, a unanimous vote. That is not, the unit rule was not needed to be invoked. It is a worrying sign for a council with members who support good ethical governments that they continue to rely on a rule that is to quote one of my personal favorite journalists Sam Allard of the Cleveland Scene quote, "Serves only to silence dissent." It is not housed in any legal document such as the bylaws or the rules of this council or the county democratic party.

I know that a number of you of members of this council and our new mayor-elect are people of faith and I am and I can't go you know more than five minutes without quoting a church father so I'm going to quote Irenaeus. He was a second century bishop in France. He wrote, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." I want to change that slightly. The glory of creation whatever creating agent we may believe in is a human being fully alive.

I believe that Cleveland will be glorified through a council that is representative to its constituents and not to leadership funds or pacs or other sources of enrichment or funding. I urge you to repeal it, to vote your consciences and those of your constituents, and to help Cleveland become a city that is fully alive and that is a glory to the cosmos this country, this state ,and most of all her citizens. Thank you.

2:53 Permalink

Councilmember Basheer S. Jones (Ward 7)

Councilmember Basheer Jones: Thank you so much President Kelley. How how many more meetings do we have before the year?

Council President Kelley: Four.

Councilmember Basheer Jones: Four more okay. I'll save that speech for the fourth one then all right. But uh I do I do want to say that um [Music] you know just last year I got a call, I was laying down. Got a call that a very uh special place was was was burning down, it was burning down. If anybody is from Cleveland you will know about the the impact that NEON health center has had on uh on on on all of us.

I can remember being a young boy going to NEON and in reality it's a place that many community members feel comfortable in going to, not wanting to go to the massive Cleveland Clinics and the big who they only feel like a number. But being able to go to a place where they, a place that they trusted.

NEON on Hough services close to 20,000 people every single year. Right there this small little building in comparison to this gigantic place and it burned down. It burned down and we still don't know who did it but that has truly left a serious mark on our neighborhood. And anybody that knows before you go to the hospital, a lot of our elders and others don't even like going to hospital they say well just give me a ginger ale you know man I'll be straight you know. I was a lot, I was a lot better before I went there and when I left I was in worse condition. So a lot of people don't want to go even though we are in the backyard of Cleveland Clinic, in the backyard of these uh massive institutions we still are suffering from health outcomes that even some third world countries don't have because people unfortunately don't trust these health institutions.

But NEON has been a place that people have always felt comfortable in. And just to imagine that 20,000 people not being able to go into NEON to be able to get services means that there are people who are living in our neighborhoods who have just decided that whatever pain that they have they're okay with just living with it. That's a scary that's a scary situation. So I'm asking all of my colleagues for your support to let's rebuild NEON. NEON is was built back in the 1960s. It's been around for decades and truly has had a phenomenal impact on our community. Not just in making sure that we get our shots and dentist appointments but also letting people know that this is a place that they can find comfort in knowing that they're going to leave here better than when they got there. So NEON is a very special place and it's not only in on Hough but it's all across the city and I think we all have been impacted in some shape or form and i'm asking my colleagues for your support to to to rebuild NEON so that the members of our community who are afraid to go to these massive institutions are able to once again get the health care that they deserve. Thank you Mr. President.

3:38 Permalink

Councilmember Delores Gray (Ward 5)

Councilmember Gray: Okay. Hi Councilwoman Gray. I just want to say here to everybody. When I first got appointed and came in I had to sign up [....}form that we had signed up has to be sent in 15 days. And I understand what that form is all about. But I'm going to also read something that my granddaughter that's 24 sent me that I asked her to.

Ethic is a more principle that govern a personal behavior. Integrity is a quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Ethic looks at the big moral picture while integrity focuses on the personal characteristics. So when I came on board here as appointed councilperson through Phyllis Cleveland and connect with everybody here learning who everybody is, you attach yourself to the councils. And you become as one, supposed to be. And you represent the residents of your community that is your biggest endorsement. That's where your trust lies. And when you put forth that effort that brings in your integrity and it brings up the ethics of why you here, but you have to believe in each one of your council people that you attach yourself to to know that they have you and support you in the same moral principles that you're supposed to have when you get on board. So you become partners. You become each other because you believe in what you believe in. But when you get to the point where it fails you some type of way to the face, to the waistline that everybody don't have that integrity. Or believing that your ethic after form that you feel like would say that this is who you are, it kind of leaves you astray of why you here.

So if I'm here in this seat and I'm partnering with everyone here and supposed to have some trust of value that we connect each other with this is where we're supposed to begin with each other. Not behind each other's back. Not underscoring. Not cheating and sneaking and lying to each other or undercut each other.

So in the midst of me being here, I represent the resident of Ward 5 because I am a resident and I'm a neighbor and I believe in each and one of us who we are because I get educated by each and every last one you all. I talked to each and every last one of everybody and got educated and got counsel so that's what we're all about as partners

So all I want to say is councilwoman of Ward 5 until it's over with that's who I am. Leadership is not a position and a title, is a it's actually an example and that I am. So I want to say to everybody here I'm here to the end until I'm not. But I'm still here within my community. I'm an action and example and I am councilwoman in Ward 5. So I have ethics and I have integrity and I believe in myself what I do and I don't underscore or undercut anybody here because I have no reason to because I'm honest with them myself.

So I want to say thank you each everyone you are here. I'm here to the end and I'd like to be recognized as councilwoman of Ward 5 until I'm not. Thank you.

3:37 Permalink

Councilmember Joseph T. Jones (Ward 1)

Councilmember Joe Jones: Mr. President I rise this has been a challenging year. And we got new council members in and we're saying goodbye to some old council members some of which I don't want to say goodbye to. But I do want to take this opportunity after listening to Mrs. Gray when she talked about moral ethics, standards, principles, things that should bring us down here to represent the interest and the character of our various different communities.

Some of us sometime when we come down here we forget fundamentally why we're down here. We get caught up in this that or the other. Some of us get caught up in the glitz of the politics. Some of us may get caught up in illusions of power. Some of us just here. Just here. Don't know what they're doing but they're here. And then some of us care so much that we bleed our words on the table of the council hoping that some of us would hear the really major issues impacting our communities, and maybe with the positions of authorities that we have we can utilize these seats of power to truly efficiently and effectively help the citizens who elect us into public office.

And some of us have a real moral foundation of the God factor. And that factor is that it is a honor and a privilege to serve people. That we didn't get here because of our own strength or abilities or talents or how much we were able to raise and put in the bank. But we truly finally fundamentally believe that the reason why we're here is the permissive will of the most powerful God of the universe who slung in all the existence of life and this universe. And that while we have that opportunity and privilege to serve our fellow neighbors, that we do it in a way that is morally correct.

And so when I heard Councilwoman Gray I call her Sister Gray.

Council President Kelley: Call her Councilwoman.

Councilmember Jones: Yeah I call her Sister Gray. You call her Councilwoman. When I heard her speak and she came to me one day at one of the council meetings, and thank you Mr. President for appointing me the Chairman of Transportation Committee. She said I got a problem in my neighborhood. And I said don't you worry about it. She was very concerned about the issue and I kept saying to her don't worry about it because she didn't understand that I come from the old generation of elected officials, that when you are a member and a chairman of council you take care of your members. It's your priority to take care of the members of the council. So you give them the time they need to deliberate and you give them the opportunity and you fight for them and you go to bat on whatever those issues are concerning that particular member. So I said to her a couple of times no and she looked at me and she gave me this look like I don't believe you're going to take care of me. And then I said don't you worry about that. And then you get taken care of you got taken care of.

And so now at the end of the day I rise and I say I'm going to miss you Ms. Gray. I'm a miss your realness, your soul, and your spirit. And I hope to keep seeing you come back down here. [Music] I love you.

I'm going to also Ms. Councilwoman Anita Gardner. Her love and her energy and her fight for her neighborhood is real. She has been engaged and involved in the neighborhood for a very long time and I really appreciate the fact that you are able to help so many people and you are able to clean up that entire area, an area that has been hurting for so many years with so many issues. I thank you for serving the citizens not only of your ward, ward 4, but your love in your heart for humankind throughout this entire city. Thank you and I'm honored to have had the opportunity to serve with both of you distinctive ladies. Thank you.

Council President Kelley: Thank you Councilman.

4:31 Permalink