January 23, 2023

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Public Commenters (24 min)
Shari Obrenski  Derrick Holifield  Tania Menesse  Xavier Page-Tabb  Brian Jackson  Barb Clint  Delores Gray 

Shari Obrenski

Blaine Griffin: I want to remind all council members to please turn your seats to acknowledge the speakers. The first speaker that we have is our friend Shari Obrenski. Ms. Obrenski does not live in Cleveland. She would like to talk about ARPA funding, and she is representing the Cleveland Teachers Union, and she is not being paid for public comment. Ms. Obrenski you have the floor. Please acknowledge your time.

Good evening Council President Griffin and members of Council. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this evening regarding ARPA's spending proposals under current and perhaps future consideration of council. As we are all aware, the Covid pandemic and its legacy still looms large around us. It impacts each of us on a daily basis. We see it the grocery store, or visit to the doctor or the hospital, at restaurants, standing in line, just about anywhere, and we know we see it in and around our schools. The impact on our students, their families and our staff continues.

The members of the Cleveland Teachers Union are pleased to see that you are considering this impact on our schools as you're making determinations around how to allocate rescue and Recovery dollars. This evening, I want to call attention to three particular areas of consideration, Say Yes To Education, Workforce Development, and Integrated Health Care. I would also like to touch upon one additional area that I think merits deep consideration and community collaboration, community safety. I'll start with Say Yes. This is the first full year of implementation of Say Yes and CMSD. After three previous years of incremental implementation, we finally have a Say Yes Family Support Specialist in all of our schools. While most people know about the college scholarships that go along with the Say Yes program, I submit that it's our Family Support Specialists that will be the true game changers in this endeavor. Our family Support Specialists who are not CMSD employees are the people who are working with students, families, and educators to identify the needs of our students and their families that are posing barriers to our students' education, whether it's housing or food insecurity, a need for coats or glasses, after school care, or one of dozens of others of issues the Family Support Specialists are connecting our students families and staff with these supports and helping us tear down those barriers. Unfortunately, the funding that we were relying on from the county for our Family Support Specialist has fallen short this year. I hope that Council will cover this shortfall and work with the county and other stakeholders moving forward to ensure that these positions have access to stable funding from whatever sources are necessary so the Family Support Specialists have the security they need in order to do this job long term.

I'm going to skip to the end and I will forward my kind of the rest of my comments to you so that you can see them in full, but I want to make sure that I take this opportunity to encourage Council and other city leaders to form a coalition of stakeholders, including CMSD and CTU leaders, to fully address the ongoing scourge of violence in our community. CTU members were thrilled to see that safety and security both in schools and in our neighborhoods was listed as one of the mayor's priorities for education. Candidly, CMSD and CMSD employees cannot resolve the issue of community violence on our own. We have kids under our care for about seven hours a day, 180 days a year. The rest of the time, our students are in their homes and in their community. If they don't feel safe coming and going to school, or the violence they experience in their community impacts their well-being, that impacts what we are able to help them achieve at school. There's been a lot of talk about accelerating progress in Cleveland schools, and while we acknowledge that we've come a long way over the last decade in particular, we know we still have a ways to go. It seems, however, that the conversation rarely moves beyond what we need to do in the classroom to make this acceleration happen, and instead educators are bearing the sole responsibility of making our community safe.

3:53 Permalink

Derrick Holifield

Griffin: Next up we have Derrick Holifield and he's in Ward 9 to talk about ARPA funding for education. He's not representing anyone and he's not being paid. Mr. Holifield.

Good evening. My name is Derrick Holifield I'm a Cleveland resident born raised and living in the Glenville neighborhood. I'm a Cleveland educator, as the principal of one of the best Pre-K through 8 schools in the city of Cleveland, the Kenneth W. Clement Boys Leadership Academy.

Daily, my team and I work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Kenneth Clement has outperformed state averages for kids, for black kids in middle school reading multiple times in the last five years. On the most recent Ohio Department of Education State Report Card, our school earned 5 out of 5 stars in the progress component, and 5 out of 5 stars in the gap-closing component, yet we've only earned one out of five stars in early literacy. The Mayor's Office released a funding proposal that includes funding for a new literacy program that personalized literacy phonics and language fluency. Many of our early readers still struggle after attempting to learn how to read online during the pandemic. Many of our scholars are actively involved in making their community a better place while personally struggling socially and emotionally. Say Yes Cleveland and family support specialists have provided some relief. We need to double down on our efforts to offer mental health support for our scholars and families. Mayor Bibb's proposal does just that.

When I think about the nearly 200 Black boys enrolled at the school where I lead, I think about the future and how these great leaders will positively impact our city if we invest in them.

Historically, Black boys and many Black and Brown girls have been failed by the education, criminal justice, economic, and health systems in our city. Much of what we are doing is not effective, and I respect the fact that many of you know this and are actively seeking solutions. The numbers don't lie. Black and Brown boys have been fueling the funeral and penal systems abundantly in this city and country. We owe Black and Brown boys a future. We owe them a great education. We owe them communities that are safe and equitable. When I think about the Black boys at the school that I lead, I remember traumatic experiences being the backdrop of my childhood and my neighborhood. I know my students are affected by that same trauma because promised changes never came. We cannot waste the potential of Cleveland residents anymore. Give our scholars and their families a shot at academic success, positive health outcomes and economic equity. We must act aggressively and strategically with an intergovernmental approach to disrupt low expectations in our schools and our communities.

Mayor Bibb's administration, as my grandmother would say, is putting their money where their mouth is. The mayor has preached on the importance of innovation and education. His education spending proposal for American Rescue Plan Act funds demonstrates an investment in our youth by investing in educators, parents, resources, and opportunities. The outcome is unlimited. If we double down again on what is working and fiercely disrupt inequities holistically, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to save lives. Our Black and Brown students deserve to have innovative and successful educators lead the work. Our Black and Brown students and families deserve to have educational spaces that stimulate their ambition. Our Black and Brown people deserve safe neighborhoods and adequate housing. Our black and brown communities deserve all hands on deck to improve the economic, educational, and health outcomes. We must work together urgently and purposefully right now. Thank you. improve the educational economic and health outcomes we must work together urgently and purposefully right now thank you

3:34 Permalink

Tania Menesse

Griffin: Next up we have Tania Menesse, and Tania Menesse is from Shaker Heights. She is the former Community Development Director. She is here to talk about ARPA funding for built environment workforce. She's representing Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and she is not being paid by anyone. Ms. Menesse.

Thank you it's a privilege to be here. I'm really proud to be here tonight to speak in support of ordinance 86-2023, which allocates 10-million dollars in Rescue Plan funding for growing and diversifying the workforce that Cleveland needs to strengthen the built environment. This ordinance would expand workforce training to more Cleveland residents, giving them greater access to new better economic opportunities to improve their lives.

CNP's mission is to foster the equitable revitalization of neighborhoods throughout Cleveland by strengthening the community development ecosystem. Our theory of change is that community development corporations who are closest to businesses and residents are those best able to connect to those residents -with you in city council- to workforce opportunities. It's first and foremost in this legislation about providing the wraparound services that allow residents to make that leap to a training program that will result in a family sustaining job. It's also about building the confidence of residents to make a major change in their life to take this kind of risk, and I think we all know that when you're trying to transform lives, you can't do that without trusted relationships, and that's what the CDC community really brings to this bill.

The value of this ordinance is how it couples that improvement and economic opportunity that we're looking for for people with enhancements to our shared built environment. Investing in and expanding these sections of our workforce will advance investments you've already made in expanding the city's tree canopy, making homes lead-safe for children and families, and expanding broadband to reach more residents.

The right workforce will also help us take advantage of other federal programs that are coming down the pipe, like the bipartisan infrastructure law, and the Inflation Reduction Act. There are funds to fix streets, electrify our homes, improve our infrastructure, plant trees, and so much more. In Cleveland though, we need to use every resource available, but we can't do that without the workforce to do the work, and frankly, today, we don't have it. Building out this workforce will be essential to other priorities that you, CNP, and our partners in community development corporations want to achieve in our neighborhoods, and that you made a down payment on this fall with ARPA legislation that you adopted. Cleveland has a generation of catch-up and repairing and rehabbing homes across the city.

This is a critical component of the city's 2030 housing plan. We need more contractors to do more home repair, rehab and renovation of storefronts across our city, and we simply don't have enough of them right now to do this work at any scale. For CDCs to do more home repair, they need contractors who can they can supply with consistent jobs, to get this done street by street so that they can make a living wage. We hope to see additional ARPA investments in these programs in the near future to complement the strategic investment in workforce. There's also an opportunity to grow the number of minority contractors prepared and capitalized to do this work. Programs like Village Capital Corporations, Contractors On The Rise, exist to provide flexible capital to help minority contractors grow. We can do more with more interest, more training, more capital, and more support.

We are happy to be part of this great initiative and really ask you to support it over the next weeks.

3:42 Permalink

Xavier Page-Tabb

Griffin: Next we have Xavier Page from Ward 2. He's here to talk about funding built environment workforce development. He's representing Cleveland Builds and he is not being paid by anyone for public comment. Mr. Page, please acknowledge your time, everyone.

Hello, I'm Xavier Page-Tabb. Good evening and thank you. I'm from Ward 2 represented by Councilman Bishop. I graduated from Saint Edward High School. Currently I'm an indentured apprentice and I'm working at Zenith, and I would like to talk about how being an indentured apprentice has helped me to become what I want to be, an electrician.

I want to be able to help the community out from being an electrician and get into the union. Well, I'm already into the union but I wanted to be more into the union. Then the Sherwin-Williams project that I work on, it really helps me understand what I'm really doing and how I'm really helping the community, from helping others from different trades and helping my trade to where we all built that.

Then without the Cleveland Builds program, I wouldn't be where I am because of how they have guided me and helped me set up a great opportunity for myself to really help understand what I wanted to do in life. Then I wouldn't be in the position to where I can make over $80,000 a year within five years of being included into this workforce that would be funded by ARPA.

The built environment workforce and development that would help others and many other people that's younger like me, and I want many more females and males to be able to get into the workforce. That would help a community really get built and in the community that would get built by younger people like me and they will have an opportunity to really get to see what they want to do in life. For me as I see that this is my purpose in life because I get to see my mother, she really is really proud of me, and I see that I'm really doing well in what I'm doing, how I got into the union, which is a big accomplishment, and that has provided me with more than just joy and happiness, to be able to provide for my family through going into the workforce and being able to learn and be able to help others.

Then the workforce is able to develop a bigger picture and help others and younger people like me into having their own interest in life. It's like, you don't need to go through just college. If you see that that's the only way that you want to, but you might get tempted by other people that that might be the only way, but there's multiple ways to wear that you can be successful in life, and it's not just all for just one way. That's what I wanted to talk about. Thank you.

3:42 Permalink

Brian Jackson

Griffin: We have Brian Jackson, South Euclid. He's here to talk about student loan forgiveness and ARPA. He's representing the higher education compact College Now Greater Cleveland, and he is not being paid by anyone. Mr. Jackson, please acknowledge your time, Sir.

Good evening. Thank you for having me here this evening. I want to first thank the College Now program that I went through. It allowed me to finish college. I'm a proud college graduate from Cleveland State University with a Bachelor's in History and Education. I work now as an Area Manager for Amazon Logistics DCL7 on West 110th, but had it not been for this program, I would not have been able to finish college, nor would I have been able to become a manager at Amazon. Due to the program's forgiveness for my debt and allowing me to finish my last two semesters of college, it allowed me to be on track to where I am today. But I hadn't heard about it until I went to a councilman at the college, so I'm asking that the this great council give dollars to this program for communication, because more and more people, there are adults out there who need to hear about this program in order to finish their college credits. If I'm not mistaken, there are over 60,000 adults who have some education college credits but have been unable to finish college.

This program would greatly assist them in meeting their goals, it would bring them out of poverty, it would open up new opportunities, and also help their children see that they have a path in life.

So I'm asking this Council to consider this program so that other people can have the success that I have achieved as well. Thank you.

1:51 Permalink

Barb Clint

Griffin: Next we have Barbara Clint from Ward 8. Barbara is here to talk about the midway protected bicycle network, and Barbara is representing Bike Cleveland, and she is not being paid by anyone. Ms. Clint you have the floor.

Good evening, Council President Griffin, Council members, Mayor Bibb and members of the administration. My name is Barb Clint and I'm here to thank this body for passing ordinances 1144 and 1201 on behalf of the Superior and Lorain Avenue Midway projects. I extend this thank you on behalf of Bike Cleveland, it's almost 1,000 members, and everyone in the city of Cleveland who moves around on foot, by bike, by scooter, or by e-bike. As many of you know, the Superior and Lorain Avenue midways represent but two segments of a much bolder transformational vision for our city, a stress-free physically buffered network connecting our neighborhoods to each other and to key regional assets. When complete, this network will define Cleveland as a world-class multimodal city.

It will also squarely position us as a leader in active transportation. As you may not be aware, traffic engineers around the country have been abuzz about our midway concept for years now. While there have been a handful of center-of-the-road bike facilities built elsewhere, our 2017 Transportation for Livable Communities Plan is the most visionary that's been developed.

The Midway concept, a largely but not exclusively center-of-the-road typology, takes advantage of a key city asset, publicly-owned real estate in the form of our excessively wide roadways, which were built for a city of one million and once housed 250 miles of street cars.

The Midway is not only about safety but also about transportation equity for the thousands of Clevelanders who either do not own or choose not to own a car. And it's also about social cohesion, creating safe and inviting places where folks of all ages and backgrounds will literally cross paths. As we move the Midway from concept to reality, Bike Cleveland looks forward to provide working with Council and the administration to educate the public about the benefits of the center of the roadway design, and to collectively tackle the challenges which an innovative project like the Midway will certainly elicit, including how to ensure meticulous long-term maintenance of Midway facilities, as the cultural trail in Indianapolis has demonstrated, is in fact, possible. We have our work cut out for us and we can't wait to get started in earnest. Thank you.

3:16 Permalink

Delores Gray

Griffin: The next person is Delores Gray. Dolores Gray from Ward 17. Delores is here to talk about participatory budgeting. She is not representing anyone and she is not being paid by anyone. Ms. Gray, you have the floor. Please acknowledge your time, thank you.

Thank you President Council Griffin as well as Council member Mayor Bibb and administration, and actually I'm in Ward 7, I think you said Ward 17. First of all I would like to thank the women leaders in this room for sponsoring and supporting this very important initiative. With that said, I quote Fannie Lewis, her famous words, 'I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.' As a resident, community activist and advocate in the city, I urge the body to pass the participatory budget measures giving the residents, small business owners, educators, community health workers, as well as mental health workers and behavioral health workers, the power to build their neighborhoods up as well as to thrive, heal and grow.

The ARPA funds were created through the federal government to help communities that were impacted by coronavirus pandemic. What we need is transparency. is in this instance a part of open communication between community and city leadership is a vital part which is trust. This was a key component to electing our current mayor. This may well be why he supports participatory budgeting. How can our City Council not be in favor of public input in fiscal matters that concern us?

As you may or may not know, other countries within the continent of Africa and countries within such as Indonesia, as well as New York City and other cities around the nation, they embrace this initiative. Good leaders are transparent, and they look and they want to work with communities to bring about economical growth, which brings wellness to our communities, which also empowers us all. Thank you.

2:19 Permalink