Public commenters push for participatory budgeting; council discusses ARPA contract delays

Meeting coverage by Cleveland Documenters | Compiled by Signal Cleveland’s Doug Breehl-Pitorak. Here’s what happened last week in local public government meetings covered by Cleveland Documenters. Cleveland Public Meetings Report – The week of Jan. 9, 2023

Public commenters push for participatory budgeting

Covered by Documenters Yorel Warr and Chau Tang 
Jonathan Welle of Participatory Budgeting CLE speaks in Council Chambers Jan. 9, 2023. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube / Org: Cleveland City Council).

New council member: Council appointed Danny Kelly to represent Ward 11. Outgoing Council Member Brian Mooney narrowly won a race for Cuyahoga County judge in the November 2022 election. Kelly is coming from a job with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He is also a retired construction worker with Laborer’s Local 310.

What happened: Public comment returned when City Council met Jan. 9 after a four-week holiday break. Five community members spoke in favor of participatory budgeting, a process that lets residents help decide how the city spends some public money. Mayor Justin Bibb and three council members introduced legislation that would support a pilot program. “Participatory budgeting is a concrete, proven practice for getting people involved in the decisions that matter most,” Ward 6 resident Ben Stein said.

And also: Council passed legislation allowing the city to contract with the Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research. The center will work with a group focused on vacant properties.

Curious about participatory budgeting? Signal Cleveland’s Abbey Marshall spoke with some supporters of the initiative.

Watch the full public comments or read transcripts edited by Documenter Carolyn Cooper on Public Comment CLE (website created by Ohio City resident Angelo Trivisonno).

City Council members discuss ARPA contract delays

Jan. 9 – Caucus meeting, Cleveland City Council
Covered by Documenter Kellie Morris

What happened:
Cleveland City Council met as a caucus, a gathering where council members typically discuss issues but take no formal action on them. But in this meeting, they voted as a political group to accept the nomination of Danny Kelly to council. Kelly will replace Brian Mooney as representative of Ward 11. Council formally approved Kelly’s appointment at its regular meeting later that night.

ARPA contract issues: Council President Blaine Griffin said the city is behind in issuing contracts related to ARPA. He said only one ARPA contract has been paid and that the city is considering hiring a law firm to draft contracts.

Left wondering: Officials discussed a citywide survey related to community benefits agreements. Documenter Kellie Morris asked, “Where is the survey on community benefits agreements, and who is being asked to complete it?”Want to know more about council’s caucus meetings? Signal Cleveland’s Paul Rochford filled in some details in this Twitter thread.

Students on Almira School’s IT team present on their work
Jan. 10 – Board of Education Work Meeting, Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Covered by Documenters Kellie MorrisGiorgiana Lascu, and Charlestine Pride

Karen Dorsey, Verizon tech coach at Almira PreK-8 Academy, tells the board about the school’s tech lab. (Credit: Cleveland Metropolitan School District YouTube / Org: Cleveland Metropolitan School District).

What happened: Current and past students from Almira PreK-8 Academy spoke about their positive experiences with the school’s tech team. Almira has a 5G Tech Lab sponsored by Verizon. It offers students the chance to experiment with coding and 3D printing. The team presented Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon with a tech team t-shirt.

Grant for enhanced safety: A $2.4 million grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission is on the table. It would be put toward safety and security in the form of parking-lot lighting, new metal detectors, new cameras, and more. The board is set to hold a vote on the grant at a future meeting.

And also: Gordon is set to step down as CEO at the end of the school year. Board Chair Anne Bingham referenced a newly launched page on CMSD’s website where community members can track updates on the search for a new CEO and take a survey about the search. It also has details on how to attend community meetings in person or virtually. There is a meeting scheduled for tonight, Jan. 18, and Jan. 19. Visit this page to register to attend virtually. Get a history lesson on CMSD’s mayor-appointed school board with this timeline from Signal Cleveland’s Paul Rochford.

RTA planning to upgrade rail systems dating from the 1920s
Jan. 10 – Standing Committees, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Covered by Documenters McKenzie Merriman and Gennifer Harding-Gosnell

Kathleen McGervey, resident engineer/architect with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), explains plans for signal repair on the light rail system. (Credit: GCRTA YouTube / Org: GCRTA).
What happened: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) board of trustees Operational Planning & Infrastructure Committee approved a proposal to select Clark Transportation Consultation & Services to help with repairs to the signal system on the Blue and Green Line light rail lines. The project, to replace equipment from the 1920s, would result in a six-week shutdown affecting service between E. 79th Street and Shaker Square. The full board of trustees is set to hold a final vote on the contract at a future meeting.

Surveys coming: A separate GCRTA committee approved the hiring of ETC Institute to produce community and customer surveys. A community value survey will focus on perception, while the customer survey will focus on service satisfaction, presenters said. The proposal goes to the full board next.

Left wondering: A committee also advanced plans for updating GCRTA’s Title VI program. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits recipients of federal grants from discriminating based on a person’s race, color or national origin. Recipients must update their Title VI compliance program every three years. Documenter McKenzie Merriman asked, “What Title VI complaints has GCRTA needed to address in the last three years?”

Did you know fare evasion on public transit is a criminal offense in Ohio that carries the possibility of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail? Find more facts on fare evasion from this Cleveland Documenters’ reporting.

A Look Back

Sidaway Bridge moves closer to landmark status

Jan. 6  – Cleveland City Planning Commission
Covered by Documenters Juice McKennaChristina Easter, and Tina Scott

Commission members watch a presentation on the Sidaway Bridge, which is up for a Cleveland landmark designation. (Credit: Cleveland City Planning Commission YouTube / Org: Cleveland City Planning Commission).

What happened: The commission signed off on designating the Sidaway Bridge a Cleveland landmark. Cleveland City Council has final say over city landmark designations and still must approve the legislation. The Sidaway Bridge is a pedestrian footbridge that rises above a wooded area off of Kinsman Road and the Opportunity Corridor. An unknown person set some of the bridge on fire and removed planks during the Hough Riots in 1966, disconnecting a mostly Black neighborhood and a mostly white one. The city, which owns the bridge, never repaired it.

One less barrier to Public Square bollards: Plans to remove jersey barriers at Public Square and replace them with bollards took a step forward. The commission gave conceptual approval to the plans with conditions. Commission members questioned the number and spacing of the proposed bollards. Signal Cleveland’s Nick Castele has more on the project.

Signal Cleveland’s Gennifer Harding-Gosnell took a close look at the Sidaway Bridge last summer. Check out her Twitter thread.

Civic Term of the Week:

Curious about more local-government lingo? Check out this glossary of terms from Signal Cleveland’s Paul Rochford.

What’s ahead?

A look at the meetings Documenters are set to cover the week of Jan. 16.
Jan. 17
  • 9:30 a.m. – Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee, City Council (livestream)
Jan. 18
  • 9:30 a.m. – Cleveland Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals (livestream)
  • 9:30 a.m – Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (livestream)
  • 3 p.m. – Cleveland Board of Control (livestream)
Jan. 20
  • 9 a.m. – Cleveland City Planning Commission (livestream)