Public commenters talk Police Commission budget cuts, housing issues; rec centers to get more security

Meeting coverage by Cleveland Documenters | Compiled by Signal Cleveland’s Doug Breehl-Pitorak and Anastazia Vanisko | Edited by Rachel Dissell and Mary Ellen Huesken

Here’s what happened last week in local public government meetings covered by Cleveland Documenters.

Cleveland Public Meetings Report – The week of March 6

Issue 24 advocates critique cut to Community Police Commission budget

Covered by Documenters Kellie Morris and Jenna Thomas
Clark-Fulton resident Robert Rice discusses gentrification at the March 6 City Council meeting. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube).
What happened: Commenters representing Citizens For A Safer Cleveland and Black Lives Matter Cleveland made public comments criticizing City Council’s decision to cut $224,000 from the proposed 2023 budget for the Community Police Commission (CPC). They said the CPC would use the money to hire more staff. Commenters argued that stripping the commission of additional funding ignores the desires of voters who supported Issue 24. The ballot initiative changed the city charter in 2021 to give the CPC final say over police discipline. The remaining 2023 budget of CPC — about $2 million — meets the minimum requirement set in the charter. Signal Cleveland’s Nick Castele has more.
Housing concerns in Ward 7: Public commenter Robert Rice represented the Greater Cleveland Housing Justice Coalition. Rice shared feedback he received from residents while canvassing on housing issues in Ward 7. He said he spoke with renters about tenant unionization. Homeowners near East 90th Street and Chester Avenue expressed concern about aggressive real estate agents trying to buy their property for less than market value, Rice said. “It is clear that the concerns around gentrification aren’t abstract apprehensions of the future but a real material reality,” Rice said.
Kia and Hyundai in the hot seat: Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging the mayor to join cities across the United States in suing Kia and Hyundai for damages related to local car thefts. Mayor Justin Bibb announced in a press conference Wednesday morning that his administration would, in fact, sue the companies for failing to install safeguards against thefts.
Watch the full public comments or read transcripts edited by Carolyn Cooper on the Public Comment CLE website created by Ohio City resident Angelo Trivisonno.
CFO explains changes to 2023 budget, committee OKs security services for rec centers 
March 6 – Finance, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Cleveland City Council
Covered by Documenters Carolyn CooperTina Scott and Nick Ventura 

Cleveland Chief Financial Officer Ahmed Abonamah discusses changes to the proposed 2023 budget. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube).

What happened: Committee members reviewed changes to the proposed 2023 city budget with Chief Financial Officer Ahmed Abonamah. The budget calls for spending nearly $711 million from the General Fund. Some agreed-upon changes include:

  • Addition of $200,000 to the Office of Equal Opportunity
  • Removal of $224,000 from the Community Police Commission
  • Removal of $750,000 from the Division of Corrections
  • Addition of $600,000 to the Department of Building and Housing
  • Addition of $1.275 million for council’s discretionary Capital Repair Fund

The committee approved the amended budget ordinance, and it was read a second time at the council meeting later that night. Learn more about Cleveland’s process for passing a budget.

Rec center security: The committee also advanced legislation allowing the city to spend an estimated $1 million on additional security at rec centers. The full council passed this proposal that evening as well. Sam Gissentaner, commissioner of the Division of Recreation, said the city wants off-duty officers who are good role models. Council President Blaine Griffin requested information about the officers’ background and training. The city sometimes looks to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office for assistance, Gissentaner said. The Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance also collaborates with rec center staff.

Union negotiations: The Ohio Nurses Association and Teamsters Local 507 unions have new agreements with the city. The committee approved the proposals, called collective bargaining agreements. Full council later approved them. Council Member Mike Polensek asked how many unions partner with the city and how many agreements the city was still negotiating. The city expects to complete negotiations with 11 of 33 unions by this week, said Chief Human Resources Officer Paul Patton.

Cleveland recently hurried a contract renewal with the Peacemakers Alliance. The city had left the group working without a contract for months. Signal Cleveland’s Nick Castele has more.
Board approves contract for maintenance of surveillance cameras, new prices for police escorts 
Covered by Documenters Karima McCree-Wilson and Marvetta Rutherford
Cleveland Board of Control illustration. (Credit: John G | Shiner Comics).
What happened: The board approved a contract worth $250,000 with Paladin Protective Systems, Inc. to maintain citywide surveillance cameras. Larry Jones II, the deputy commissioner who focuses on information technology projects, said maintenance of the cameras has improved. Of the 2,300 across the city, 85 are down, many due to construction projects, he said.
Price changes for police escort: Board members discussed a change in the amount the city charges for police to do escorts through the city. It’s a service used for funeral processions and trucks pulling oversized loads. Mayor Justin Bibb asked how much money the city makes on police escorts. Director of Public Safety Karrie Howard wasn’t sure. The new fee schedule, which the board approved, starts at $52.69 per hour for a patrol officer to provide an escort. Prices vary based on the rank of the personnel needed, and they increase for overtime. The new hourly rates are up slightly from previous rates for all personnel except traffic controllers and dispatchers. Overtime rates increased across the board.
Left wondering: Documenter Karima McCree-Wilson asked, “Has the city become more transparent with information regarding surveillance cameras or developed policies regarding their use since coverage by Documenters and The Marshall Project last year?”

What is the Cleveland Board of Control? What power does it have? Abbey Marshall answered those questions and more in this Board of Control explainer.

Committee discusses plans for new city park, management of Highland Park Golf Course

March 6 – Municipal Services and Properties Committee, Cleveland City Council
Covered by Documenter Christina Easter
City officials approved new nonprofit management of the Highland Park Golf Course. (Credit: City of Cleveland news release).
What happened: Council approved legislation last week about the management of Highland Park Golf Course. This committee discussed the new law, which allows the city to pay the Highland Park Golf Foundation to manage the course for up to 30 years. Annual management fees would be about $250,000, officials said. The city will also provide funds for capital improvements for five years. Officials confirmed that the city can end the contract if the course isn’t producing the desired revenue. Cleveland owns the course, located in suburban Highland Hills. Historically, it has been a preferred destination of many Black golfers.
The 161st city park: A new park is coming near the Clark Recreation Center. The city will accept a roughly $461,000 grant from the National Park Service to develop Clark Avenue Park. It will be the city’s 161st park. The proposal requires the city to match funding equal to the grant amount. Full council passed the legislation at its March 6 meeting.
Curious about how council moves legislation? Check out our one-page guide to council’s legislative process.
Civic Term of the Week

On deck

It’s mid-March, so naturally Documenters have a spring in their step (despite the recent snow). Check out what local government meetings they’re set to cover this week.

March 13
  • 9:30 a.m. –  Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals (livestream)
  • 2 p.m. – Finance, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, Cleveland City Council (livestream)
  • 7 p.m. – Cleveland City Council (livestream)
March 15
  • 9:30 a.m. – Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals (livestream)
  • 10 a.m. – Joint Committee, Cleveland City Council (livestream)
  • 3 p.m. – Cleveland Board of Control (livestream)
March 17
  • 9 a.m. – Cleveland City Planning Commission (livestream)

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