The Council Leadership Fund, a political action committee run by the president of Cleveland City Council, paid for yard signs and other campaign material opposing Issue 38.
The Council Leadership Fund, a political action committee run by the president of Cleveland City Council, paid for yard signs and other campaign material opposing Issue 38. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

It’s possible that the state legislature will soon put the kibosh on participatory budgeting in Ohio. But even so, both sides of Cleveland’s Issue 38 – termed the People’s Budget by supporters  – plan to see their campaigns through to November. 

City Council President Blaine Griffin is taking his push against the charter amendment to Cleveland’s billboards and mailboxes. 

Advertisements on 10 billboards around town will tell Clevelanders to vote no on Issue 38. A companion mailer casts the issue as “too risky for Cleveland,” telling voters to “protect democracy” by rejecting it.

The charter amendment would set aside an amount equal to 2% of the budget for residents to direct through a system of neighborhood votes. An 11-member committee of city appointees would direct the process. 

Griffin’s mailer labels that committee a “shadow government” and urges electors to “protect safety and services.” The mailer features anti-Issue 38 quotes from Griffin, Mayor Justin Bibb and the city’s finance director. 

(The slogan “safety and services” is a familiar one for Griffin. In 2016, he successfully led the charge to raise Cleveland’s income tax, running the campaign through a PAC called Clevelanders for Safety and Services. If it ain’t broke, as the saying goes.)

Griffin is paying the No on Issue 38 campaign’s bills out of the Council Leadership Fund, a political action committee that council presidents have long used to boost their allies in the caucus. He retreated from an earlier effort to give council legal cover to campaign against PB in city mailings.

The People’s Budget Cleveland campaign is circulating its own literature adorned with pictures of smiling citizens and the slogan “streets over stadiums.” The flier implores voters to “give Cleveland residents real power to make real decisions.” 

The pro-Issue 38 campaign is trying to lobby state lawmakers as the ban on participatory budgeting, passed by the Ohio Senate last week, heads to the Ohio House.

But whatever happens in Columbus, the People’s Budget campaign wants Cleveland to have a vote on the issue. There’s value in winning, organizer Molly Martin told Signal Cleveland – even if the state clips the amendment’s wings.  

Both sides met last week for a lively debate.

There’s plenty on the council president’s plate, from the autumn legislative agenda to the early stirrings of next year’s budget process. But at a caucus meeting last Monday, Griffin made clear that his eyes are on Election Day. 

“I got one thing on my mind,” he told colleagues. “It’s November the 7th.”

Signal background

Suggested Reading

People’s Budget debate: four takeaways

Supporters said residents deserved to have a seat at the budget-writing table. Opponents of participatory budgeting said a flawed process would hurt Cleveland’s bottom line.

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.