Four Documenters covered an 11-hour Cleveland City Council committee meeting on Aug. 16. Council discussed 30-plus pieces of legislation.
Here are some highlights:
Loan pros (and cons):
Council members discussed and approved giving $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds for low-interest home repair loans citywide. The loans would be distributed through four agencies:
- CHN Housing Partners ($4 million)
- Cleveland Restoration Society ($3 million)
- Local Initiatives Support Corp. ($1.5 million)
- Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity ($1.5 million)
Several council members said they felt grants for home repairs would help residents more than loans. Council Member Jenny Spencer said she was concerned it would be difficult for residents to receive assistance if they have to navigate and choose among four different agencies with four different processes.
Kathleen Crowther, president of the Cleveland Restoration Society, said her organization works with Key Bank to provide loans with modified requirements. She gave the example of a lower minimum credit score requirement of 580.
Director of Community Development Alyssa Hernandez said that providing loans instead of grants would be more sustainable because the money that is repaid can be loaned out again.
$7.3 million to revitalize middle neighborhoods
Representatives from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) presented the Middle Neighborhoods Investment Plan. Council later voted to invest $7.3 million to stabilize the neighborhoods with federal stimulus money.
Tania Menesse, the CEO and president of CNP, described middle neighborhoods as areas with mostly single-family homes, aging housing stock and declining or plateauing property values. Menesse also said that the State of Ohio recently invested an additional $3 million in the plan, bringing the total new investment to about $10.3 million.
Briana Perry, CNP’s senior vice president of equitable neighborhood revitalization, gave some examples of how the organization has used a prior grant from the state. She said they have distributed $267,034 to 175 small businesses in Cleveland and secured new tenants for two “white box” commercial districts. Perry said the white box program refurbishes privately owned commercial buildings to attract small businesses and development along main roads.
Council Member Brian Kazy asked if CNP was filling a role that should be taken on by the city’s Economic Development Department, saying this project is “saving the day for Economic Development.” Menesse, the city’s former director of community development, told him that this plan grew out of the city’s neighborhood transformation initiative. She added that it’s normal for partners to implement programs that come out of the city.
Emergency repairs for Browns Stadium
Council approved nearly $3.5 million for emergency repairs at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Director of the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects James DeRosa said the money was needed for pedestrian ramp replacement and gutter replacement. Both were identified as problems in the 2018 capital repairs audit of the stadium. The city approved roughly $238,000 for a new capital repair audit earlier in August.
Council Member Michael Polensek asked where the money for the stadium repair fund came from. DeRosa told him it was funded by ticket sales, taxes and surcharges. DeRosa said the Browns are not helping with these repairs, but the team has funded other repairs. Kazy asked what would happen if the city didn’t pass this legislation. DeRosa said they would be in violation of the lease and risk a lawsuit from the Browns.
Council delays parking fee increases
Cleveland’s parking is significantly cheaper than in similar cities, administration officials told council members. That might change in parts of the city based on a plan to raise the price of parking. But, council wants to iron out the details first.
After an hours-long debate, Council President Blaine Griffin held the parking rate-raising legislation from moving forward. The legislation would allow the city to adjust rates at parking meters between $1 to $8 per hour. It also would increase the maximum amounts people would pay at four city lots. For example, the maximum special event rate at the Muni Lot — a popular tailgating spot before Browns games — would rise from $30 to $70.
Administration officials said the current pricing does not bring in enough money to keep facilities up to date. Some council members expressed concern that raising prices would deter people from visiting downtown. Council Member Charles Slife said the proposed increases were designed with downtown in mind and should not apply to all of the city’s neighborhoods. Council Member Stephanie Howse urged the administration to consider parking needs near buildings such as the Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services building at East 17th Street and Payne Avenue. That is where residents go to apply for food and childcare benefits, she said, adding that they may not have the means to pay for parking.
Director of Public Works Frank Williams and Commissioner of Parking Facilities Kim Johnson gave this presentation in the meeting. It shows some specific rates the city would propose if council approves the new maximums.