Ross DiBello pictured with his wife Lauren and their dog “Baby”.
Ross DiBello pictured with his wife Lauren and their dog “Baby”. Credit: Ross DiBello

Hi, I’m Najee Hall. Community Reporter for Signal Cleveland. On this segment of walking and talking, our conversation on Issue 38 continues. I spoke with Ross DiBello of Westpark, Aanaiyah Kemp of Buckeye-Shaker, and Leonard Dicosimo of Edgewater about their thoughts on the charter amendment. Is 13 too young to be involved in the civic process? Will this charter increase voter turnout? Hear what these three passionate Clevelanders have to say. 

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Read a transcript of the podcast below

Leonard DiCosimo is local musician and union leader
Leonard DiCosimo is local musician and union leader Credit: Dave Nash

Najee: Good morning! If you could just tell me your name, what neighborhood you live in, and how long you’ve lived there.

Leonard: Leonard DiCosimo, I live in the Edgewater District and we moved there in about five years ago. I’m speaking on behalf of positions that I hold as a Executive Secretary of the North Shore Federation of Labor and the music union presidents, a local AFM so I’m really happy for the opportunity to speak with you.

Leonard: It is hard for me and I will not vote for a 2% annual draw in from the annual budgets of one of the major cities that is always on the list of one of the poorest cities in the nation.

Any way I read the language of Issue 38, I can’t escape the idea that it’s another bureaucratic layer. It’s more red tape and we have elected officials, we have a process that works.

Najee: So what are some things that maybe are not participatory budgeting that you think we could do to bridge that gap?

Leonard: Each city council person in their ward has discretionary funding. It is incumbent upon the councilmen and I’m sure many of them, if not all of them, have their own processes to engage their residents. We have to keep them honest about that, that they would create programs for their wards from council meetings, from interaction with, with ward clubs, with community meetings, and having that kind of interaction, surveys with their community.

At least with elected officials, we can vote them out. We can vote them out every two years, we can vote out the mayor every four years. Here, as the language of PB Cleveland Issue 38 is written, it remains. With the voter turnout as low as it is, and with the no evidence of of any increased turnouts throughout the country for participatory budgeting, I’m just concerned. I’m just so concerned that it’s just another race to the bottom, a circle to the drain. I don’t know what cliche I want to say Najee, but I I’m just concerned that we’re going in the wrong direction.

Ross DiBello

Ross DiBello pictured with his wife Lauren and their dog “Baby”. Credit: Ross DiBello

Ross: My name is Ross DiBello. I live in West Park. My wife and I moved here in October of 2018, that’s Ward 17.

Najee: Are you aware of PB Cleveland and what they do and if so, what do you think about the proposal?

Ross: I am aware of PB CLE and what they do. I was aware of it before the mayoral campaign, I ran for mayor and I endorsed their proposal.

Najee: Okay. And so would you say that you support PB CLE?

Ross: Yes, absolutely.

Najee: If Issue 38 does pass, can you share what you would like to see some of that money spent on?

Ross: Well, small business grants or people’s roofs or construction on their houses. These are things that the City Council does now but I would not invest any of it, people that don’t need the fiscal investment. People, projects, or businesses that don’t need an influx of cash. You know you want to invest in people to where the return on that investment pops out more money.

Why would I give the owner of a sports team 130 million(dollars) when they already have multiple billions? That doesn’t really make any sense and, they don’t live here. The guy that runs the pizza shop down the street that lives in Cleveland and his employees live in Cleveland, they might need $50,000 or $20,000 or something like that. Whatever it would be, it would be things that would show a positive return on investment, instead of the bloodsucking that you currently have happening with our tax dollars.

Aanaiyah Kemp

Aanaiyah Kemp is a student at Cleveland High School for the  Digital Arts
Aanaiyah Kemp is a student at Cleveland High School for the Digital Arts Credit: Aanaiyah Kemp

Aanaiyah: My name is Aanaiyah Kemp. I live in the Collinwood neighborhood, I recently moved from the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. I’m a senior. I major in film photography studies at Digital Arts on Lakeside.

I’ve been majoring in film photography for three years now. My aunt, she asked me if I wanted to go to the the City Council debate because her friend was one of the advocates for PB CLE. That was the first time I actually heard about it.

Najee: How do you feel about 13-year-olds being able to participate in the process?

Aanaiyah: One thing that I did not like at the debate, was when they brought up the topic about the 13-year-olds. How are 13-year-olds supposed to vote or how are 13-year-olds are supposed to engage in this act?

For them to make it seem like it can’t be done that was extremely uncalled for. You have some of these 13-year-olds out here with jobs. These 13-year-olds are smart. These 13-year-olds are getting stuff done.

Why not show them at a young age? You have all these old people in office, all these old people as political leaders and they need to hear from the kids because the kids are next. Once they are dead and gone we are the ones that have to be able to pick up the pieces, so it it makes sense for them now to see this is how our political process is going.

I feel like they were trying to shield people from trying to understand. You’re telling me that you didn’t have to learn your positions? That’s how you got your position because you learned.

If you have an idea for walking and talking, you can reach me at Walking and Talking is produced by Gennifer Harding Gosnell.

Community Reporter (he/him)
Najee has been a Cleveland Documenter since it started in 2020. He joins Signal Cleveland from a role as an organizer with New Voices for Reproductive Justice. He leads the Central Community Listening Team.