September 12, 2022

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Public Commenters (24 min)
Yvette Hunt  Matthew Ahn  Justin Strekal  Sabrina Otis  Wanda Hill-Chestnut  Antoine Tolbert  Judge MonĂ¡ Scott 

Yvette Hunt

Griffin: We have Yvette Hunt. She's from the Buckeye Woodhill neighborhood, Ward 4 - Woodhill, and she's here to talk about Woodhill Station West

Hunt: Hi. Good evening President Griffin, Council Members, guests and visitors in the chambers. My name is Yvette Hunt and I'm going to talk about the Woodhill Station West Phase 1 project, which is going to be soon a neighbor of mine, in the next 16 to 18 months.

Currently. I am surrounded by the sights sounds and even the smell of construction it's that close to our backyard, referring to my parents and myself. Research has shown that air pollution noise and heavy traffic has a great impact on one's physical and mental well-being, and I might add emotional well-being as well.

We're going to get a privacy wall, but that will not hide the odor that will be coming, from, I understand it's going to be a trash receptacle not too far from our backyard. And I just want you all to not forget about the residents of Wamelink, Steinway, Yeakel, Cumberland and Kennedy. We will be transformed when this new building becomes developed in the next 16 to 18 months. We have a voice in this new development and we just don't want to be forgotten. Thank you for this opportunity. Thank you.

Griffin: And I know you know your council person but in addition we do have contact people for you as well. Actually, I'm real close with a neighbor of yours, Mary Ponder, so, I've been made aware of this myself okay thank you.

1:54 Permalink

Matthew Ahn

Griffin: He is here to about Guardians for Fair Work and wage theft is Mr. Ahn.

Ahn: Good evening everybody and apologies for my summer recess attire. My name is Matthew and I'm a member of the of the Guardians for Fair Work Campaign and I'm here tonight to talk about the introduction of the Wage Theft Ordinance number 892-2022. First off, I want to commend council for prioritizing the issue of wage theft $39.2 billion dollars is taken from workers every year through wage theft, which is almost three times as much as all other types of theft combined. Wage theft victims in Ohio are over 60 percent women, disproportionately workers of color and Latino workers are most heavily affected with an average annual wage loss of almost $5,000 yearly. And I want to particularly thank Council President Griffin who helped get Chapter 189 enacted almost two decades ago for moving this legislation to introduction quickly.

But the goal is not simply to be quick. The ordinance itself has to include a robust policy that protects workers from employers that are breaking the law and undercutting other employers. The ordinance appears to add duties and powers to Chapter 189's Fair Employment Wage Board but fails to amend Chapter 189 by making the added responsibility clear. The board is tasked with maintaining a list of companies that have committed wage theft and also overseeing a waiver process but the new language does not give the board the power to make wage theft findings, only the power to catalog them. And further the wage theft findings seem to be left to each of the city's 21 different departments, some of whom may not even have a mechanism to address wage theft. It's unclear what happens in that scenario or if contractors with those departments get to avoid consequences.

Now this is a far cry from Columbus's board, which has the power to investigate complaints of wage theft on its own, make its own factual findings hear evidence, and it does not need to actually rely on determinations from other agencies or from a state that may not be prioritizing wage theft determinations. And we should note that the fair employment wage board itself which has been on the books for over 20 years is not currently staffed or active. It's unclear whether the wage theft provision as worded right now can even be enforced without that staffed board. And a catalog of adverse determinations - again, because of some lack of clarity in the wording and no language exists about the board's power to request records about adverse determinations or to otherwise ensure that its list is complete. This is in large part because the new ordinance again doesn't touch the description of the board in Chapter 189 but instead just creates a new chapter 190.

We've seen you know, most recently in questions at last week safety committee interviews for the police commission that imprecise or incomplete drafting can lead to the intended powers of a board being limited. And the drafting here is not just imprecise it ends up being almost non-existent and sort of skirting Chapter 189 entirely. And now I'm not here to ask for a word-for-word copying of the Columbus 2020 wage theft ordinance, but the ordinance we have here falls far short of what Columbus has done and that's already stood up to court challenge and it provides robust protections for workers.

I'd like to ask all of council to consider whether you would be satisfied with passing an ordinance that provides fewer protections to workers and is on shakier legal ground than an ordinance that already exists in Ohio. And if the answer is no, I strongly urge council to make some substantial amendments to this ordinance in committee prior to consideration of final passage. Thank you.

3:43 Permalink

Justin Strekal

Griffin: Thank you. Next up we have Justin Strekal, Ward 15, to talk about wage theft and he's with Guardians of Fair Work.

Strekal: Hi, thank you so very much Council President and esteemed members of this body my name is Justin and I'm a new resident of Ward 15.

Growing up in Cleveland Heights and then later living in University Circle and Collinwood while attending Cleveland State, I saw firsthand victims of wage theft where workers in contracting and the restaurant industries were shorted by their employers. For example only being paid for 39 hours of work when they put in 45 that week or outright stiffed when they were contractors

After college, I left cleveland and I ran around the country for 12 years running on various political campaigns and I heard similar stories from hundreds and hundreds of people all throughout this country. So having recently moved back to Cleveland I tried to think how can I best contribute to supporting the material conditions of my fellow Clevelanders and I joined the Guardians for Fair Work campaign. As you already heard from my colleague Matthew there's over 213,000 instances of wage theft here in Ohio with an average of $2,900 in lost wages per worker in a city where our median income is only $31,000 that's the equivalent of almost a 10 percent loss of a workers base take home pay. That essentially robs them of over a month's pay and it hinders their ability to spend money in the businesses and the communities of which you represent.

While the practice is illegal, if there's no one there to enforce the law, there are no consequences and unfortunately at the state level, the total absence of leadership in protecting those among us in Ohio and a seeming disdain for those of us living in Cleveland leave this up to this body to take action. You as elected leaders have the opportunity to change these underlying dynamics and declare cleveland a city that seeks to be an economic powerhouse where business models do not have to rely on exploiting your constituents the proposal set on wage theft for tonight's first reading takes a modest first steps of this and we appreciate the intent but unfortunately I have to call upon this council to be willing to take leadership in cultivating a dynamic enforcement body that could be similar to Columbus's just pay fund because without such a commitment the wage theft policy would fall short.

This would equip the city with a more dynamic ability to be able to respond to allegations of wage theft as well as proactively educate workers and businesses alike to the best practices for those private businesses who seek to work with this body and this city to build a greater Cleveland. After all it is a complaint driven enforcement policy, and if workers do not know that this body advanced new wage theft legislation then it doesn't matter. So by advancing a new wage theft policy coupled with equipping the existing fair employment wage board that the council president had a strong role in creating, with the tools and personnel needed to carry out this new policy, we can foster both clarity and trust between the city the businesses that it works with and the workers in Cleveland because after all Cleveland deserves a city that will work for them in the most efficient and equitable possible way thank you.

3:31 Permalink

Sabrina Otis

Otis: I'm Sabrina Otis. I'm here when I'm here all the time, it's about housing and building because you know I don't like that department, and I don't like that department right now because they are giving exemptions to landlords for the lead ordinance that you all just passed.

Why are landlords getting exemptions on lead? If it's a big deal, and Glenville started it - they were the catalyst for it, you all should be peeled with that department.

It's bad enough that Housing and Building has too many departments they can't keep up with. They can't keep up with the no-rentals. There are plenty if you google the City of Cleveland and look for no rentals you're going to have all kinds popping up including my residence. But the fact that owners are able to get an exemption on lead and they haven't done the work is a problem.

In your ordinance you guys don't talk about giving exemptions. I didn't find it. You guys didn't even specify what would be considered an exemption for lead yet still, that department is handing out exemptions meaning these owners aren't getting the lead test completed.

It is not right it is wrong and I'm over with all the ordinances. If you guys are going to have some ordinances, start holding them. Start making them stand for something. Don't keep passing stuff and then we the citizens find out they don't work, we the citizens find out that nobody is doing their job.

I am over Housing and Building, you know I am because i'm here all the time about that one department. It's a bunch of other problems in the city but Housing and Building, they're the foundation of our community. They're the ones that's supposed to make sure we are all safe. They're the ones that are supposed to make sure the buildings are good. The buildings are dilapidated and falling apart and you know what that one department is saying it's okay it's okay when we talk about out of town, I'm tired of hearing about out of town landlords because you know we got? In-state out-of-town landlords. When you gonna get on them? I don't care about California New York, Florida, I care about Cuyahoga County residents who own houses but don't live in the city. I care about out of county residents who own houses in the City of Cleveland and don't care and you're giving them exemptions. You're always giving them an excuse. What about the residents that live here, what excuse do we get? We get excuse that we don't get nothing done we get excuses that you guys are mad at us. Not you, but those departments. I'm tired of their feelings I don't have time for their feelings.

I have a sick kid because of Building and Housing not doing their job and i'm over with "can we come and do an inspection?" I said no to them, I never said no to a lead inspector. I have photos and I will give it to you. She came to the house she didn't put nothing on the door, she didn't ring the doorbell.

At the end of the day, do something about that lead. Either it's an ordinance that's standing for something or it's an ordinance that needs to go away. Have a good day.

3:02 Permalink

Wanda Hill-Chestnut

Griffin: All right i'll bring up Miss Wanda Hill-Chestnut, Ward 6, to talk about releasing trapped raccoons trapped raccoons back onto their property.

Hill-Chestnut: Good evening, I am Pastor Wanda Hill Chestnut, Ward 6. Ward 6E and my concern is, last year there was, we had trapped what we thought was a possum. We called trapping, they came out, we got a phone call. It wasn't a possum it was a rat. They released the rat the size of a possum back into our yard we had to call the health department.

This year we trapped a raccoon, called your department of animal trapping, they came out we get another phone call.

"The raccoon had dirt in the cage and it was too heavy so we released it back into your yard."

I called your department, your department said "Well because there was dirt it was too heavy." I said, unless the laws of gravity change when you lift the trap, should not the dirt have fell out of the bottom?

I got connected with the John Beard and he said, "We don't have, uh, guidelines for that but it shouldn't have been dirt in the trap." Understandable. I contacted Karrie Howard and he said I would get information back and they did that passive aggressive thing of sending me all of the ordinances regarding trapping it was a lot of information but no answer to my concern which was releasing this animal back onto my property. They also sent me the State of Ohio guidelines and i'm glad they did because in those guidelines it said that you can't release wild animals onto the property of the property owner unless you have their permission.

So my question is, how does that make sense to release wild animals back onto the property of the constituent? And my concern is with the City of Cleveland employees, you don't lose one breath by being nice to people and when you're kind you won't lose anything by being kind.

We're tired too, we have to go to work too, we have a lot of stuff to do too you're not the only one with jobs. We are too, so just be nice and don't release another rat or raccoon onto my yard. I shouldn't have to worry about running out of the house like superwoman because i'm running from a raccoon that was too heavy for a city worker. If it's too heavy I sympathize with you, get another job. If it's too heavy I understand it. I don't want to run from a rat the size of a possum because a city worker released it onto my property so get some legislation.

If you need a in-service on how to be nice i'm available, but just don't release another raccoon animal - skunk, rat, possum, onto the homes of City of Cleveland residents and we would really appreciate it. Thank you.

3:18 Permalink

Antoine Tolbert

Tolbert: Hello how y'all doing today? Good good good, thank you Councilman for allowing me to come up here.

State of our city. It's crazy. I'll give you guys a little background story, my name is Antoine Tolbert, I'm the chairman of the organization by the name of New Era Cleveland. We are who people call when they have run out of options, when everything they have tried in regards to patronizing this system has fallen short. We talk about the "attentional cracks" in the system. These are the people that we service, from food distribution, safety, you know we're we're real well known especially in the Cleveland area for our our safety concept which is this community policing initiative that we launched that's really centered around mental health and engagement.

You know, our our people are experiencing like sub-human conditions in some of these neighborhoods. You know those are the people that I advocate for - the little children that have no hope you know. To have your imagination and the ability to dream on a better tomorrow taken from you. You know at five years old what has happened? What type of trauma have you experienced to not be able to see a better tomorrow?

You know Cleveland used to be known as the City of Hope on the Underground Railroad, so the dream was if you can make it here, if you could just get here, there's hope. There's opportunity.

This is no longer the City of Hope. We have babies dying every day in our neighborhoods, kids being murdered in front of schools. Abe'bre'anna Jackson May 23rd, this child was at home in the safety of her home and her house was riddled with bullets, striking this baby in the head.

You know and then we have police officers that are policing our neighborhoods and are telling residents that you know, that's not their responsibility that's not their job. And when we have community members stepping up you know why are we being greeted with such hostility. Every single media press release I've seen with the new Mayor Bibb's [how you doing sir?] uh council uh safety director Karrie Howard and Police Chief Drummond is asking for residents' buy-in. We need community to step up to keep our neighborhoods safe. You know if that's the ask, then allow us to space to do that.

Because community safety just isn't the job of police, you know that's all of our responsibility. We're all impacted when these babies are out here dying. We have a serious issue with the culture of policing in the City of Cleveland.

You know I understand to you guys from your perspective, the numbers have gone down in regards to homicides but try telling that to the mother of Abe'bre'anna Jackson.

Griffin: All right thanks Mr. Tolbert, appreciate it.

3:25 Permalink

Judge MonĂ¡ Scott

Scott: Good evening everyone. Good evening Council President Griffin, the esteemed Cleveland City Council members and the honorable Mayor Justin Bibb.

First let me thank you all for expeditiously passing Cleveland Codified Ordnance 375.13, Pay to Stay on August 10th 2022. Now I had to look that up. This ordinance will continue to assist many Cleveland tenants in maintaining their current place of residence. It also will insist assist in clarifying the landlord-tenant rental contract by allowing those who come before my court for an eviction hearing to pay their rent late with all applicable fees.

Many people should know that the ability to pay one's rent three to five days late is oftentimes included in everyone's rental agreement, that is the written rental agreement.

However ORC 1923 has always permitted landlords to negate this negotiated contractual obligation by allowing a three-day notice to be filed, and i'm sorry by allowing a three-day notice to be served upon a tenant and an eviction action to be eventually pursued.

Cleveland's Pay to Stay will allow tenants who are able to make late payments in full whether through emergency rental assistance or of their own funds to assist with this new affirmative defense. Again, Cleveland Housing Court is always prepared to meet the expectations of all newly enacted Cleveland Codified Ordinances that impact housing with the legal expertise and professionalism that has become synonymous and expected from the premier specialized court of the midwest.

I look forward to meeting with those partners to discuss our new process with Pay to Stay, thank you.

2:09 Permalink