March 06, 2023

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Public Commenters (23 min)
Kareem Henton  Brenda Bickerstaff  Robert Rice  Josiah Quarles  Anthony Beard  LaTonya Goldsby  Bethany Studenic 

Kareem Henton

Blaine Griffin: The next person is Kareem Henton. Mr. Henton lives in Ward 14. He's here to talk about the topic of the Police Commission.

He's representing Citizens For a Safer Cleveland. And he is not being paid by anyone. Mr. Henton, you have the floor.

Kareem Henton: Thank you, for having me, you all. You all, or many here, resisted the idea of defunding the police. But embrace defunding the community who oversees police.

During the Mayoral Debate, Mayor Bibb said-- in the city we have spent $30 million, over the last ten years, settling police misconduct claims.

He went on to say, I believe Issue 24 is a positive step in the right direction to make sure we have more community voices around the table. Trust between residents and the police is critical to ensure that every community is safe and secure.

Furthermore, Mayor Bibb went on to not only fund it--but to appropriate more funds to the Police Commission, because he knew launching this requires a lot of funding from legal consultants to retaining capable and experienced staff.

But now that the Mayor is elected, it appears that he has a change of heart. Councilman Blaine Griffin, who has been against Issue 24 from the beginning, hasn't changed course--but is, in fact, maintaining it.

He said this money is essentially being parked, because it's required by the charter that this be budgeted. He went on to also say, by the way, just because it's budgeted, doesn't mean it has to be spent.

He was telling us the plan all along. The way legislators get rid of things they don't want is by cutting funding. This is the way the government operates.

Cleveland had a Free Clinic, at one time, on 79th--that improved and saved many lives, including mine. But in spite of City Charter, which allows funding for a Free Clinic, it was underfunded and then it ceased existing.

You have to wonder who was behind that. Was it the Cleveland Clinic? Was it University Hospitals?

But what about residents? What about the hard work of getting it on the ballot and getting it passed? The money is needed, especially as they set up operations, and defunding it, at least initially, will be catastrophic.

Once again, residents who elected you all are going to get the opposite of what they asked for, but exactly what some politicians want.

And this is exactly why this is likely the season--or rather that the season is upon us--to start looking at term limits and recalls.

Thank you.

2:59 Permalink

Brenda Bickerstaff

Blaine Griffin: Next, we have Brenda Bickerstaff. Miss Bickerstaff is from Ward 6. She's here to talk about funding the Police Commission.

She represents Citizens For A Safer Cleveland. And she is not being paid by anyone. Miss Bickerstaff, you have the floor.

Brenda Bickerstaff: Good evening, everyone. I did speak to Mr. Griffin today. He can attest that, I did get a copy of the budget from the CPC from Jason Goodrick. The other $224,000 would be for a $100,000 a year for an attorney to be on staff.

The other $50,000 is to pay for their benefits. The other monies that's left would pay for, to hire someone to replace a staff member who have since left.

The other money is to give raises. So, that's what the $224,000 is for.

Yes, this is true. The commission is still under training--they are. But they need a lawyer.

A lawyer, a good lawyer who don't care about the city of Cleveland. That would challenge them in every step of the way. That's going to give them good legal advice.

They are not lawyers. They have to know and understand, the GPOs [general police orders]. They have to be fair to police officers. Remember we're dealing with two lives. The life of the citizen, who's complaining, and the career and the life of the officer.

Both are important and both deserve to have equal chance to be heard. We cannot afford to have that defunded.

So to me, it seems like since Council didn't want it from the very beginning--we only had one supporter. And that was Joe Jones. Just one.

And it seems to me they want this commission to go away, even though sixty percent of the voters voted for this--to hold these cops accountable.

I don't understand where you guys are coming from. You know what's been going on. A lot of you may be new but a lot of you been here for a while. You know what the police is capable of, and you still don't want them to be held accountable.

I don't get it. I want the federal judge to be honest. To throw people in jail, because they're not abiding by what he's saying that he wants them to do.

And that's all I got to say.

2:17 Permalink

Robert Rice

Blaine Griffin: Next, we have Robert Rice from Clark-Fulton. He's here to talk about gentrification. And, he represents the Greater Cleveland Housing Justice Coalition. And, he is not being paid by anyone. Mr. Rice, please acknowledge your time.

Robert Rice: Good evening, and thank you. Peace and power everybody. My name is Robert Rice. And, I'm with the Greater Cleveland Housing Justice Coalition.

For the past year, we have been organizing residents throughout Cleveland's eastside. And recently, we have focused our attention on Ward 7. So far, we have canvassed between Wade Park and Euclid--between East 79th and East 93rd--engaging with homeowners and tenants.

Hearing their concerns. Providing resources and education. Connecting them with legal support, and encouraging unionization.

And the future will be, we'll be inviting those we've engaged with to speak. But today, I'm here to give a report back on some of the concerns we have heard from residents. Specifically, around the area of East 90th and Chester.

Homeowners express concerns around aggressive realtors harassing them, to purchase their properties at pathetically low prices, to in turn--flip them for a profit.

We've also heard concerns about those who have lost their homes, due to not being able to pay their taxes or their utilities. Sometimes under false charges, allowing developers to swoop in.

Similarly, there are concerns about all the vacant lots in the neighborhood--that they've, that they know won't be improved upon to their benefit. And just become another addition for places such as Cleveland Clinic.

We've also heard similar concerns at Ward 7 meetings. It is clear that the concerns around gentrification aren't abstract apprehensions of the future, but a real material reality that's infecting and displacing people in communities today.

The current housing strategy of giving tax abatements to slum lords and building so-called affordable housing-- that starts at $800 to $1,000-- while giving financial support and incentives to Cleveland Clinic employees and Case students is unacceptable.

It only further exacerbates settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing, going on in the communities of Hough, Fairfax, Glenville, St. Clair; Superior, etc.

The city always complains about so-called out-of-state agitators, yet creates the breeding ground for out-of-town investors to completely take over our communities. Let alone, yuppies and hipsters--turning vibrant, dynamic and quite frankly, Black communities--into replicas of Ohio City, Tremont and Detroit Shoreway.

Turning what was once dynamic, into a monolithic cesspool of craft beer bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. Whenever the city speaks to economic revitalization, the only areas of focus are neighborhoods that are being gentrified--such as what I mentioned previously or downtown--creating a reverse migration between those who live in the inner city, and those who live in the suburbs.

Yet then in turn--complain about poverty, lack of opportunities, crime, and safety--while continuing these reactionary practices.

Instead, economic development must include engagement with Ward residents and, having said residents involved in development projects.

And, centering any sort of developments for the benefit of the current residents. And, not the people you're trying to replace them with it.

It is important to expand Cleveland's housing stock, but by creating housing that's actually affordable. As well as, ending source of income discrimination and expanding resources for rental support. The time for true housing support, and true housing equities is now. Thank you.

3:28 Permalink

Josiah Quarles

Blaine Griffin: Next, we have Josiah Quarles. Mr. Quarles is from Cleveland Heights. He's here to talk about displacement of low-income residents. And, he's with the United Residents of Euclid Beach. And, he's not being paid by anyone. Mr Quarles.

Josiah Quarles: Good afternoon, council. Good afternoon, mayor. Thank you, for everyone already, who gave your testimony today. I'm coming here in this moment, because I feel that this is a moment that we can really wrap our hands around; wrap our minds around; and do something different.

We have all kinds of formulas. We have modes that we operate in, that we are comfortable with. We have institutions that we are very comfortable with. and They have ways about going about their business, that they are comfortable with.

Unfortunately, a lot of the ways that they are comfortable with create very uncomfortable situations, for the least of us.

Currently right now, there are many people who are facing displacement. One of those places is Euclid Beach. Some of you may be aware of the situation there that land was purchased by Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

And just this past February 9th, they just decided--along with a process, quote unquote--that was led by a consultant to wipe out the entire park itself, remove all of its residents and make it an entirely a green space.

We recognize the importance of green space, but we also recognize the importance of people's homes; and people's livelihoods; and people's families; and people's community.

And, when we consistently destabilize different communities, for the sake of what an institution thinks is an opportunity of what we create, is further stresses on an already stressed housing system.

Further stresses on an already stressed safety net, and that safety net continually breaks. I see it every single day. And, there are people who come to me and I cannot do anything for them. And it's heartbreaking. And, there are 139 people who are currently residents of Euclid Beach--who will end up coming into this system.

And I know, despite what is said about how much work will go into making their transition equitable-- it's not going to happen, because that's not how this works.

We do have an opportunity, however, to think differently-- to invest differently. We can create land trust that can actually hold dollars, that can be delivered from the federal government, from the city government, from the state government.

Apply for grants. Communities can take ownership of their homes, of their land, and of their destiny. And, all we are looking for is a partner. So, I would ask that Councilman Polensek as well as other councilmen and women here; as well as the greater community at large--stand up.

Not just for Euclid Beach in this moment, but for residents across the city of Cleveland-- who deserve to determine their own future. Thank you.

Blaine Griffin: Thank you.

3:19 Permalink

Anthony Beard

Blaine Griffin: Next, we have Anthony Beard from Collinwood. He's here to talk about the displacement of low-income residents. And he's representing United Residents of Euclid Beach. And he's not being paid by anyone. Mr. Beard, you have the floor.

Anthony Beard: Good evening, council. I am a member of the United Residence of Euclid Beach. We form as a group, to help us usher our way through unchartered waters of finding out that our community that we live in was going to be closed down.

And so, I want to reach out and let everyone know that the residents of the Euclid Beach Mobile Community are not against the greening of the city of Cleveland.

The greening of this area, we're not against it. But what we are against is an unfair and unrepresentative process, whereby we were not included in the process.

We were not heard in the process. And the process basically amounts to about 400 people, within an unknown community-- filling out surveys that has an impact on over 100 people. And to this date, just to show you how surveys can go, we have a survey that has almost ten times the number of citizen signed.

That is signed in our favor. And so, what it sounds like is that we have a case of the gentleman back here talked about gentrification. We have a case now, where it looks like it's green gentrification where you're willing to put green space at the expense of people.

And when you want to do something, like that, it makes me think I've been a resident of the city of Cleveland for almost 60 years. Outside of the time I was in the military, I'm honorably discharged veteran. A combat expert Field Medic. And as I traveled around the world, I think about the city of Cleveland.

I remember a time when they said New York is a Big Apple, but Cleveland's a Plum. Cleveland is the Forest City. I want to know what type of name do you want to have, in your legacy, for displacing over 100 citizens. What kind of name? What kind of name do you want the city Cleveland to be known by?

There's funds, as Josiah mentioned, available in the Price Act. It was just past infrastructure, that can help with this process. And I just want to leave with you today, that this is the Lenten season. And during this time, there's a quote in the Book of Matthew, to say to us: 'Whatever you do, you do to the least of these, that you're doing to me.'

Blaine Griffin: Time.

Anthony Beard: Thank you.

3:25 Permalink

LaTonya Goldsby

Blaine Griffin: We have LaTonya Goldsby, from Cleveland. LaTonya is here to talk about the Community Police Commission budget.

She's representing Black Lives Matter Cleveland and Citizens For A Safer Cleveland. And, she is not being paid by anyone. Miss Goldsby, you have the floor.

LaTonya Goldsby: Yes, my name is LaTonya Goldsby. I'm the President of Black Lives Matter Cleveland. And Co-Founder, and Board Member, of Citizens For A Safer Cleveland. Thank you.

I'm here today, to encourage city council as a whole, to approve the entire budget for the Cleveland Community Police Commission. It is imperative that this commission is fully funded, to be able to hire extra staff and an attorney--should the commission need legal sssistance or legal advice.

The allocation is the first full budget for the commission, which would allow them to operate at total capacity. To cut the Community Police Commission's budget, does a disservice to the community and to the residents of Cleveland--who supported and voted for this commission.

All too often, we the residents--have seen city and public officials run on campaign promises to support the will of the people. Yet, when they get in office and are faced with pressure from their colleagues, they begin to retract from those campaign promises made to the people who voted them in office.

This is taxation without representation. When the mayor supported Issue 24, Issue 24 supported the mayor. Because this was the first time in Cleveland's history, where the mayor and police accountability was on the ballot at the same time.

Issue 24, now Charter Section 115, was created by the people, for the people. Because historically, there has been no accountability for law enforcement in the city of Cleveland. It has taken residents 100 years to get to this point--to begin the process of transformative police reform. And this body wants to cut its budget. When the city of Cleveland, or city council, doesn't support something they say--there's no funding for it or they cut its budget.

Yet, none of their discretionary funds were cut to make up for city budget shortages. What happened to all the COVID money the city received? City Council has been a stumbling block to progress made in this city. This is why citizens have taken action, through ballot measures and Charter Amendments--to begin the process of transforming our local government structure.

Mayor Bibb said Cleveland can't wait and he was right. Cleveland residents can't wait until we have a sitting council that listens to the needs of this community, that actually, that actually follows through on the promises they made when seeking our vote.

We can't wait to have a council that understands the need for the Community Police Commission to be fully funded, to address the decades of police violence endured by Cleveland residents. We can't wait to have a council that believes in police accountability and true democracy. Thank you.

Blaine Griffin: Thank you.

3:24 Permalink

Bethany Studenic

Blaine Griffin: Next, we have Bethany Studenic. And Bethany is from Ward 17. She's here to talk about the Commission on Black Women and Girls. She represents Enlightened Solutions. And she is being paid by someone. Bethany you have the floor.

Bethany Studenic: Thank you. Good evening, everyone. My name is Bethany Studenic and I am the co-founder and managing director of Enlightened Solutions.

Tonight, I want to start with an important point on the future of our city and intersectionality. Gen Z is the most diverse generation in American history. Forty-eight percent are racially and ethnically diverse. Thirty-three percent are LGBTQ and for folks under 18, there is no longer a racial majority in America.

Cleveland should be a major economic attractor. We have a lot a rich civil rights history, affordable--relatively-- housing costs, and freshwater access during a looming housing crisis and climate crisis. But instead of growing, we are continuing to lose population.

When Cleveland think, when people think about moving to Cleveland--they hear that we are highly segregated and redlined. That Black women and babies are dying at an incredible rate. And that we are the worst city in America for Black women.

The reality is simple, Cleveland will never move on. We will never thrive, until we confront our culture of exclusion. We believe that by focusing on Black women, we can build a thriving city. Because when Black women are thriving, people like me are going to be thriving, too.

We're here tonight, to pass, to ask you to impanel the Commissioners for the Cleveland Commission on Black Women and Girls. Urgently, over the past year, Chi-Chi and I have been asked virtually, every day, how progress is going and where we're at.

Over the past year, the tone has slowly changed. It's turned from how can I help and what's going on to is this still happening.

Black women have been advocating for this for over a year. They've been down here multiple times. They've made phone calls. They've thrown their own events. They've participated in our research. And we're here a year later, asking you to please take this next step.

Part of what I'd like to ask you, is to reflect on why this particular piece of legislation has taken over a year to take the first step.

Next, there are multiple barriers. We still have to have a budget. We still have to have an investment. We still have to set goals. We have to onboard commissioners. There's so much to do and we haven't really even taken the first step. So, I really urge you to get this completed. To get our commissioners impaneled, so that we can get to work.

I take calls from people every day that are struggling in this city. Every day that you wait, is another day where we lose progress. Thanks.

2:39 Permalink