A photo of Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, speaking at the May 9 meeting.
Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, speaks at the meeting. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Covered by Documenter Keith Yurgionas

The ABCs of CBAs: Cleveland City Council members discussed a proposed law that would set city requirements for Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). In this context, CBAs are contracts intended to make sure publicly funded construction projects benefit the community. The city has used CBAs for 10-plus years. This legislation “sets the legal framework for how Community Benefits Agreements are developed,” said Jennifer Heinert O’Leary, a City Council lawyer.

Equity and opportunity: 
If the city gives a project $250,000 or more in funding or financial incentives, here are some things developers would have to do:

  • Meet the city’s diversity goals with vendors (O’Leary said there is room for improvement, noting that in 2021, only 6.5% of the city’s contracts went directly to minority-owned businesses)
  • Mentor minority- and women-owned businesses and Cleveland small businesses
  • Offer pathways to jobs for Cleveland adults and Cleveland high school students

If a project costs $20 million or more, and the city’s contribution is at least $250,000, developers would be required to provide some additional benefits. They would work with city directors to choose from a list of benefits listed in the legislation, including:

  • Improving neighborhoods with street paving, greenspace, bike paths and more
  • Offering affordable housing or putting money into a fund for it
  • Giving job opportunities to people who were formerly incarcerated

[Clarification: We updated this brief to clarify that the three examples of community benefits included come from a longer list that developers of projects that cost $20 million or more would be required to choose from. Find the full list included in the legislation.]

The proposal allows the city to recover money it gave to a developer if it violates a CBA.

Chill the market? Some in attendance said parts of the legislation could slow development. Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, expressed concern about tax abatements and tax-increment financing being considered city financial assistance under this law. Doug Price, CEO of apartment developer K&D Group, shared Shah’s concerns about tax abatements and explained why. Ward 3 Council Member Kerry McCormack said he would support removing tax abatements from the legislation, saying he felt council already addressed that issue last year. Council President Blaine Griffin said he wanted to discuss it more. He added that council doesn’t want to halt new construction. “We definitely don’t want to chill the market. If we chill the market, it won’t be a benefit,” he said.

Officials also discussed a community survey about new construction. City Council launched it last December. As of May 6, 350-plus people had taken it. Take the survey.

Read the Twitter thread by Documenter Keith Yurgionas:

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Assignment Editor (he/him)
Doug, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a copy editor and reporter. His work includes: The Pace of Passage about how quickly Cleveland City Council passes legislation; a look at the challenges of the city’s Exterior Home Paint program; and University Circle Police Department’s complaint-review process. Doug has also written explainers and guides and launched #CLEDocsAnswers, which answers questions Documenters have about local government.