April 17, 2023

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Public Commenters (28 min)
Charles See  David Abbott  Jenna Thomas  Dale Anglin  Bethia Burke  Christine Nelson  Patrick Murray  Ellen Kubit  Mary Ellen Arendas Szamborski 

Charles See

Thank you very much, Mr. President. To Council President Blaine Griffin, distinguished council members in the community gathered here this evening, I rise to support passage of the proposed ordinance 486-2023, which would establish a neighborhood safety fund that would provide grants to programs, fund intervention strategies and initiatives serving Cleveland residents that address the root cause and the effects of violence and crime in our city.

Just this very weekend, there were 17 shootings and two homicides in our city. The epidemic of violence must be confronted and eliminated. At a recent community gathering, I declared that Cleveland would lead the nation in violence reduction within the next three years. Ordinance 486-2023 can be a bold beginning of that amazing reduction. Cleveland has within its borders the formula necessary for success - a brilliant legislative body, a visionary mayor, the will to succeed, and the community poised to come together to work collaboratively to end the senseless violence in our streets.

Community violence, especially gun violence is a problem. With multiple focal groups and targets, we need a broad array of services and supports to address youth, adolescents, teens, and young adult families, and returning citizens. Mr. President, there is a new growth in cooperation among service providers working to address violence in the community, as evidenced by the renewed efforts to work together in addressing problems. Resources are needed to support this work, and grassroots and small non-profits, large organizations and agencies, and support system-level innovations. One agency, organization, governmental office cannot address the totality of this issue.

I encourage Council to do all that it can to establish sustainable funding streams to support the violence prevention in community, both in terms of supporting existing efforts and creating opportunities for innovative and creative programming. Cleveland has a rich tapestry of committed agencies and organizations. Both those organizations need to be better resourced, and collaborations need to be prioritized and granted sustainable funding. The passage of proposed ordinance 486-2023 will bring together this City's best, most committed, determined groups and individuals to do the work necessary to make Cleveland a leader in violence reduction across the nation. Believing that the City Council of Cleveland will take the courageous action necessary to pass ordinance 48[6]-2023 I offer my thanks in advance, and I extend my thanks to this body for its daily devotion and service to the citizens of Cleveland. In parting, Mr. President, I loudly applaud also your stand on neighborhood revitalization first. Thank you all for hearing me. Good evening.

3:13 Permalink

David Abbott

Thank you, Council President Griffin. Thank you all for being here, it's great to be with you this evening. I'm here on behalf of the 15 other lovers of Cleveland and of the West Side Market who've been asked to serve on the board of a new non-profit that's in the process of being formed to operate the West Side Market in partnership with the City of Cleveland, and we're doing it simply because we do love Cleveland and we love the market. But as much as we may love them, we also recognize that there are deficiencies in the market have been for a long time.

We observe that every time we go to another city and we look at a market elsewhere and realize that in some ways, they're doing things better than we've been doing, and that we need to improve. And those sort of deficiencies, I would say, have been magnified by an awareness that I think we all have, if you've been to the market, of an increasing backlog of repairs and maintenance that need to be attended to. Also by the fact that the market is an incredibly intense competition that's quite different from what it faced a number of years ago, and also that the impact of the pandemic has been devastating to many of those who work in the market. Many vendors have been put out of business, and you may know that more than 30-percent of the market is now vacant since the pandemic. All of those are challenges that put the market, frankly, in a state of peril if we don't attend to them. And how are we going to do that?

Well, one is by creating a non-profit that is solely focused on doing this job, one that can generate private money to bring to bear on those issues. Second is by a partnership with the city that needs to be spelled out in the written detail so that we know how we can most effectively attack those problems, and also by promoting the market in new ways and bringing it to the attention of people through, first of all, a master plan which spells out the changes that need to be made, not just in the building but also in how the market operates, not just in that location but in new ways through educational programming and access to healthy food across the city.

And I know that you face a tremendously difficult challenge of allocating a finite pot of money, even a large pot of money like the ARPA funds, but we know that you will do it as best as you can, and all we urge is that you think not just about the needs that you see that are evident that we all see, but also about the opportunities that exist and the market represents need, yes, because we have 40-million dollars or so in maintenance that needs to be attended to. But there is also this opportunity to generate private money that would not be available without the existence of a non-profit. Private money simply won't pay for deferred city maintenance on a city asset, but if we approach this in that spirit of partnership, I'm confident that we can meet this opportunity and make the market the best in the country. Thank you.

3:24 Permalink

Jenna Thomas

Thank you, Council President, members of Council for giving me the opportunity to speak. My name is Jenna. I'm the Advocacy and Policy Manager at Bike Cleveland. And I know when you hear Bike Cleveland, you usually think we're here preaching about bike lanes, which we are known for, but a lot of our focus and our work is around just general street safety for pedestrians, for bicyclists, for drivers, for business owners, for homeowners, for renters.

So I want to take a minute to read some of the headlines that we've seen over the past couple of years.

'Video Shows Bystander Nearly Hit By Car That Crashed Into Cleveland Business'. This was in the Central neighborhood along East 55th.

'Workers Forced to Run for Their Lives Inside Six Shooter Coffee Shop as Car Comes Crashing Through the Front Window'. This is actually the second time that coffee shop had been hit by a car in just a year.

'Vehicle Crashes Into Side of Cleveland Apartment Building Again'. This happened at an apartment building on East 59th and Superior, also for the second time.

'Vehicle Crashes into Utility Pole on Wade Park in Cleveland, Some Residents Left Without Power'.

'Car Crashes Into Apartment in Cleveland's Brooklyn Center Neighborhood, Pinning Two People Inside'.

'Crash Sends Car Into Cleveland Church', this was at Prospect and East 30th.

'Car Crashes Into Building at the Corner of West 25th and Clark Avenue', and this building actually housed a preschool enrichment center.

And this is barely the tip of the iceberg. Last year in 2022, there were 14,417 crashes, which is a crazy number. 14,417 crashes, and I know you all know this is a huge issue, you guys are the ones getting a call when someone crashes into a building or a house or a fire hydrant, or God forbid a teacher, a fireman, a child.

So I'm here today to urge you all to support the three-million dollar allocation to traffic calming in our city as part of the back-to-basics infrastructure funding. The design of our roads encourages speeding and reckless driving, and not only on our our arterial roads but also in our neighborhoods, and it needs to change. And we've never really had the financial capacity to take visionary action to improve our infrastructure, and I don't want to see this opportunity pass us.

Infrastructure projects like these could last decades and affect thousands of people, and I know traffic calming won't solve everything, but the design of our roads can really go a very long way in protecting people's lives, improving quality of life. So I'm asking you to please support the $3 million dollar allocation, and even maybe consider how your $35-million dollar fund and your wards could support safe streets. Thank you so much for your time.

3:37 Permalink

Dale Anglin

Thank you, good evening. So the Cleveland Foundation believes that violence is more than a problem for police, courts, and politicians. Preventing violence requires each and every one of us - parents, young people, schools, businesses, hospitals, faith-based institutions, foundations, cultural groups and more, working together to promote the preservation of life.

I stand to you today before to support the passage of ordinance 486-2023 about the neighborhood safety fund. We must be willing to do everything possible to reduce and ultimately eliminate the likelihood of violence occurring in our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods.

A public health approach that addresses the root causes of violence and promotes increased access to supports and opportunities for peace is a distinct but complementary strategy to the criminal justice approach to public safety. The city and most local stakeholders have come together over the last few years to embrace this public health approach. They're working in ways we've not seen before. But they need support. Our foundation shares a deep sense of urgency in developing community-driven solutions to violence that could save lives. We know answers come from the people who are in the streets, not from the people who are in the suburbs.

Unfortunately, there is no single, quick solution to a problem that has been decades in the making, and that has been exacerbated since the pandemic. Cleveland Foundation has supported a number of organizations over the years in this space, but we too went back to the basics over the last couple of years and learned more. We went to see other cities. We talked to other people in the space. We worked with the studio over the last year to help bring a federal grant to our doors so that we can help think about what's a plan to use these funds.

We're pleased to be able to support this work further by hosting the Cleveland Neighborhood Safety Fund. These funds will exist to provide annual grant- making that addresses violence prevention. We know violence is not going away anytime soon, and neither will these dollars. Because the Cleveland Foundation is holding these dollars, we will seek leverage. We anticipate seeking additional dollars as a return on this investment so that we can do even more grant-making. These dollars will be able to fund projects and neighborhoods across the city that all of you and our constituents have been advocating for. We've talked to people on the streets, we know they want to go to programs like violence interrupters, healing and mental health services, out of school time programs for our kids, and training for young adults. We know we have to keep kids occupied, it's one of the reasons they're out doing not great things.

The City of Cleveland will provide leadership and collaborate with partners to ensure that we are collectively addressing the root causes of violence. The foundation will not determine exactly how these dollars are spent. And we are in the process of working on a comprehensive violence prevention strategic plan that will involve, we hope, all city neighborhoods that will inform where these dollars go. This fund will allow us to over time ensure that we can execute on this plan, and use our fund dollars wisely. As Mr. See said, we can't wait. There's too many things happening in the streets just this weekend. I thank you very much for listening, and all the work you're already doing in the space. Thank you.

3:28 Permalink

Bethia Burke

Thank you, members of Council. My name is Bethia Burke and I'm President of the Fund For Our Economic Future. We have been working on issues of equitable growth for 20 years, and I'm here to talk about the Site Readiness and the Site Fund.

In our work I talk about site readiness a lot. Without a place to land, a new business cannot be attracted to the city and an existing business might not be able to stay. And when I talk about site readiness, I'm usually focused on the economic case. If sites are ready and available closer to where workers live, companies have more access to talent. The talent finds it easier to get to work, which means it's more reliable, and this makes the business more productive and more profitable.

The city can put vacant land to productive use generating tax revenue, but what I hope you'll think about today as you consider the value of an investment in site readiness is the benefit to residents. More sites, and ultimately more jobs closer to city residents means less time spent commuting, which means it's more time at home or an easier time picking up kids. It can also mean time for a worker to upskill or advance in a job. It's hard enough to enroll in a training program, but when you're working, it's almost impossible if you're commuting two to three hours a day. All the workforce training in the world doesn't get someone somewhere if there's no job for them to land in. It also means it's more likely for a resident to know somebody working nearby, which improves social access to jobs. Sufficiently funding site readiness will get Cleveland to the starting line to compete for these jobs, growing this opportunity for residents. And Cleveland can't compete today because even though there's a lot of vacant lands, that vacant land is not ready. Thank you for listening.

2:02 Permalink

Christine Nelson

Hello, and thank you, Council President. Thank you, council members, for having me here. I am Christine Nelson I run the Project Management and Site Strategies Divisions of Team NEO. What that means is, my team and I work with 300 growing companies a year, and those are companies located here in the region and companies located all over the world. I personally have been doing this for about 15 years, so I understand how companies make location decisions and what they consider competitive and what they don't.

Companies make decisions based on time, risk, and money. Those that are really smart right now are adding three other dimensions to those fundamental decision drivers of time risk and money. They're adding talent, equity, and sustainability, and this is where I think Cleveland has a really good opportunity to win.

The Site Development Fund will allow Cleveland to be one step closer to being a competitive location. As Bethia said, we do not have the right sites in our region. We definitely do not have the right sites in buildings in Cleveland. By putting this money into the efforts to develop these sites and make them ready to go, we can get more businesses to make more investments here. Just like all of us, businesses are shopping online they want to know where they can have a place to land, and they want to be able to see that place and all the information right away. They're making decisions and in six months, or three months, and they want to be operational in 12 to 18 months. They don't have time to acquire land, to clean up land, to put all the pieces together. They're looking for the communities to do that. And so I commend you for taking this effort, and I hope that you'll seriously consider the Site Development plan that's in front of you. Thank you.

2:10 Permalink

Patrick Murray

Good evening, Council, Council President. My name is Pat Murray. I live in Ward 15. I'm a member of the Cleveland West Side Village, which is a mutual support organization for West Side seniors.

I want to discuss with you the need for affordable, accessible, and safe housing for senior citizens in our city. I am sure you know that 16-percent of the people in our city are over 65. What you may not know is that the median household income for senior citizens is roughly thirty-thousand dollars. This level of income does not allow the average senior citizen to afford the average mortgage or rent in Cleveland with 30-percent of their income which is the standard.

If you are a senior with a disability, good luck finding any housing at all that meets your needs for accessibility. We are in danger of creating neighborhoods that will be devoid of senior citizens.

I think that senior citizens in neighborhoods are good for our city. We are mostly home in the daytime and we have eyes on our neighborhoods many of us make significant contributions to our neighborhood organizations. But we are in danger of being forced out of our neighborhoods by development that raises our property taxes while building new homes and apartments that are both too expensive and physically inaccessible.

Two- and three-story townhouses that cost in excess of three hundred thousand dollars are out of our reach both physically and economically.

We need to have the city change its priorities when it comes to housing. My review of the city housing equity plan found only a single initiative that speaks to the needs of seniors, and that is the Senior Housing Assistance Program, which focuses on health and safety repairs for very low-income senior citizens who are homeowners.

New effort needs to go towards rehabilitation of existing homes into ones that offer accessible entrances and first floor bedrooms, and bathrooms. The first floor of many up and down doubles in the city could be renovated in such a manner. In new home construction, we need to find ways that encourage designs that are single floor and physically accessible.

What I would suggest is that the city sit down with local seniors to examine what the city could do to create housing that meets our needs. We need support for home modification, home rehabilitation that's focused on improving physical accessibility. We also need building code modifications that demand physical accessibility in all new construction.

I know that seniors are more than ready to engage such conversations with the council and with the leadership of the housing department of the city. Thank you very much for your attention.

3:15 Permalink

Ellen Kubit

Good evening, Council, fellow attendees and the public. My name is Ellen Kubit, 10-year plus resident of Cleveland, lifelong resident of Northeast Ohio, and proud resident of Cleveland Ward 3 Precinct B.

I am thankful to be here this evening to speak in support of Emergency Resolution 446 which is to condemn the tyrannical actions of Attorney General Dave Yost in his pursuit to control private business operations through his anti-choice agenda, and in support of Emergency Resolution 447, which refers to the state's current opportunity to enshrine the right to reproductive freedom in this state's Constitution.

I am thankful for Councillors Gray, Howse, Maurer, Santana, and Spencer for recognizing that every public representative should care about reproductive freedom. Right now, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play a direct role in ensuring politicians cannot make decisions about one's body, about one's reproductive health care, about one's family planning.

Speaking to any member of the Ohio public who happens to be listening, please do not throw away your vote this November. Right now go to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website and confirm you are registered to vote. Confirm you have the appropriate voter identification, as the enemies of democracy are working very hard to disenfranchise you. I simply cannot emphasize this enough. We have to be ready for this November's election, and for ward leaders who also serve on City Council, this is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the significance of serving in both positions. Empower your ward clubs, black clubs, and constituents to sign and circulate petitions. Ensure there are ample opportunities that your constituents are registered to vote and have the appropriate form of identification.

We simply cannot waste this opportunity. You do not have to be a woman. You do not have to have a uterus to understand why the government should not dictate decisions between you and your doctor, and you and your significant other. Please take this seriously. Get involved. I thank you for your time.

2:57 Permalink

Mary Ellen Arendas Szamborski

Thank you, Mr. President. Good evening, my name is Mary Ellen Szamborski and I'm a resident of Ward 3. And I stand before you, something I've never done before a government body before, because I want to express my unequivocal support for Emergency Resolutions 446 and 447, put forth by council members Jenny Spencer, Rebecca Maurer, Jasmine Santana, Stephanie Howse, and Deborah Gray.

I am in total agreement with Resolution 446, which opposes Ohio Attorney General David Yost's signature on a letter to CVS and Walgreens warning them against dispensing and mailing mifepristone to women in the state of Ohio. This letter sends a clear message that the Republican Party in a very gerrymandered state is putting their personal beliefs and agendas before the reproductive health and rights of women in Ohio. This strategy to interfere with women's health care decisions is nothing short of an attack on fundamental human rights in a society where we value individual freedoms and choices. It is appalling to see such blatant disregard for women's autonomy over their own bodies. It's important to note that medical professionals and health care providers are best equipped to make health care decisions, not judges, not politicians, and not attorneys with a political agenda. Sunday's Plain Dealer had a story about the unethical behavior of the Texas judge who ruled that the sale of mifepristone should be halted. How is this man qualified to rule on a medication that's been on the market for 23 years? He is not.

I am also in total agreement with Resolution 447 supporting the reproductive rights ballot initiative. The attempt by Ohio Republican legislators to change the right to amend Ohio's Constitution from a current simple majority of 50-plus-one to a sixty-percent vote of the electorate is another example of an attempt to silence the voices of the people of Ohio. This change would make it almost impossible for future generations to have a say in issues that affect them, which is a direct violation of our basic rights to representation in a democracy. Here's another first for me. I have never collected signatures for a petition, but I have a petition that I'm circulating in support of the reproductive rights ballot initiative. This is so important to me that I've had to get involved. I have had to step up to make sure that my voice is heard and the voices of the majority of Ohioans are heard. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.

3:06 Permalink