Following some indecision – three council members each changed their votes twice – Cuyahoga County Council voted against purchasing land in Garfield Heights for a new county jail. Council members first amended the legislation in a committee meeting earlier that day. The move would have let the county begin a $38.7 million purchase of the 72-acre site. Under the proposal, the county could have moved forward with the purchase only if an additional .25% sales tax – set to expire in 2027 – is extended. Council voted against a 40-year extension of that tax in this meeting. Council Member Sunny Simon discussed amending the proposal on July 24. She cited concerns about approving the purchase of land without a clear funding source to build a jail. Some county officials estimate the total construction cost would be $750 million or more.
Denied, but not done
The Garfield Heights location is not off the table. All legislation remains pending until sponsors withdraw it, said Michael King, council’s legal advisor. County Executive Chris Ronayne could also introduce a new proposal similar to the original, which would have allowed for the purchase without requiring a sales tax extension. Some council members said they think residents should vote on the tax change.
Residents including current and past Garfield Heights mayors made public comments that supported the proposal. Local activists – such as Kareem Henton and Loh – opposed it. State Rep. Darnell Brewer called for council to support Ronayne’s vision for a jail “campus.” And he tasked the county with ensuring that the campus has the necessary resources – a cooking school, healthcare, gardens – to eventually reduce the need for the jail altogether.
What else happend?
Council approved 30-plus pieces of legislation. Some included:
- $2.1 million for an addition to the County Animal Shelter
- $225,000 for a partnership with Baldwin Wallace University to create shared policies for commercial drone use
- $10,000 for Enlightened Solutions for Project Noir, which aims to boost livability for Black women in Cleveland