Ward 3 resident Ellen Kubit talks about participatory budgeting. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube / Org: Cleveland City Council).
Ward 3 resident Ellen Kubit talks about participatory budgeting. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube / Org: Cleveland City Council).

Dec. 5 – Cleveland City Council
Covered by Documenters Kellie Morris and Jenna Thomas

What happened: Eight community members wrapped up public comment for 2022. Ward 15 resident Sabrina Otis thanked council for passing paid safe leave legislation. Justin Strekal, of Guardians for Fair Work, thanked community leaders and city officials for taking a stand against wage theft.

Half of the speakers urged the city to support participatory budgeting, a process allowing community members to decide how to spend public money.

Rosie Palfy, a community advocate (and Cleveland Documenter) spoke about the uncertain state of the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee (MHRAC). Palfy serves on the committee. The Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board informed the city in early November that it would no longer lead MHRAC, leaving it to complete city control. “That was 31 days ago. We have not heard anything from Cleveland Division of Police or the administration,” Palfy said. “We have not heard anything about the future plans for moving forward.”

Lots of legislation: Council passed 55 city laws at its last meeting of the year. Here are some examples:

  • Lease for police headquarters: The city renewed the space it leases at the Justice Center for its police headquarters. It’s a space the city previously owned and sold to the county for $9.25 million in 2018. “This piece of legislation here may go down in history as one of the biggest dupes that the city ever got,” said Ward 16 Council Member Brian Kazy in the Committee of the Whole meeting earlier that day. Kazy voted against the legislation. Signal Cleveland’s Paul Rochford reported that the city is on track to pay more in rent than it earned from the sale. 

  • Wage theft: The city will not contract with companies that have engaged in wage theft, which could mean not paying workers minimum wage or stealing workers’ tips. In the Committee of the Whole Meeting, Ward 15 Council Member Jenny Spencer spoke about funding community education around wage theft. Guardians for Fair Work pushed for this legislation. Signal Cleveland’s Olivera Perkins has more.

  • ARPA shuffling: The city created a “Strategic Priority Subfund.” It will transfer $215 million from the General Fund into the new fund. The $215 million was American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money the city received in the summer, said Chief Finance Officer Ahmed Abonamah in the Committee of the Whole Meeting. He said the ARPA requirements — summarized here — gives cities options to calculate actual revenue loss due to the pandemic. That amount — $215 million — can go into the General Fund for typical government services. Moving the money to the Strategic Priority Subfund is partly for transparency, Abonamah said. He added that the federal restrictions tied to ARPA funds do not apply to this money. However, the city’s legislation does require the city to spend money from the subfund on previously identified ARPA uses, such as housing for all and violence prevention. 

And also: Council approved all 13 nominees to the Community Police Commission, which has final say over police discipline. Signal Cleveland’s Stephanie Casanova has more.

Read Documenter Jenna Thomas’ live Tweet from the meeting:

Read our weekly public comment roundup here.

You can also watch the full public comments or read transcripts edited by Documenter Carolyn Cooper on Public Comment CLE (website created by Ohio City resident Angelo Trivisonno).

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.