Issue 1 opponents are ready to party

Issue 1 campaign signs
Two Old Brooklyn neighbors post clashing Issue 1 campaign signs in their front yards ahead of the Aug. 8 special election. Credit: Jeff Hayes / Signal Cleveland Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Democrats are not quite ready to declare an outright victory in the Aug. 8 election, but they are ordering the party hats.

“I’d rather be us than them right now,” Elizabeth Walters, the Ohio Democratic Party chair, said about Republicans, who are largely lined up in support of Issue 1, the only item on Tuesday’s ballot.

Issue 1 is a state constitutional amendment that would make it harder for citizens to change Ohio’s founding document. Republican leaders put it on the August ballot after outlawing such special elections. They say Issue 1 is needed because the constitution is too easy to change, thereby giving special interest groups with a lot of money an easy way to force harmful policies on Ohio.

Democrats are campaigning against it, arguing the proposal reduces the power of voters by requiring a supermajority to make future changes to the constitution.

Voters don’t seem to be buying the Republicans’ argument, according to internal and external polling and an interpretation of early voting totals.

But any party by the Democratic Party could be short-lived because recent election results show Ohio is a solid red state.

Walters told Signal Cleveland that Issue 1 could spark a color shift because it has already rallied Democrats and their allies to a level not seen in years. She said she hasn’t seen such unity among allies and unions since 2011, when voters smacked down Senate Bill 5, a controversial collective-bargaining overhaul that reduced power for state unionized workers.

“They are turning out members in a way and on a scale I haven’t seen since Senate Bill 5,” Walters said. 

Push polling on People’s Budget

It didn’t take long. Just three weeks after a city charter amendment  – which would give residents a direct say in a small portion of Cleveland’s budget – was cleared for the November ballot, some residents are being solicited to participate in a poll on the issue. The amendment would require 2% of the budget, or about $14 million, to be directed by residents.

The poll initially frames the amendment in benign terms before mirroring the criticisms and messaging by opponents. This makes the poll sound like what is known as a “push poll,” a public opinion survey meant to reshape a respondent’s view of an issue or candidate.

One statement, for instance, reads: “The amount of money this small group of people want to control is larger than the city’s entire annual budget for repaving and repairing neighborhood streets.”

Another one reads: “If this passes, the city may be forced to increase taxes just to continue to provide basic services.”

Molly Martin, who is behind the amendment campaign known as People’s Budget CLE, has a copy of the poll and said some of the questions misrepresent the amendment.

“Whoever is funding this is willing to use the same scare tactics as council members have,” she said.

The Council Leadership Fund, a campaign account controlled by Council President Griffin, is paying for the survey, a spokesman for the fund said, adding that the survey is trying to understand what residents actually know about the proposal and what concerns they have about its potential impact.

Blaine, some council members, Mayor Bibb and a number of unions are campaigning against the proposal, which they say could lead to cutbacks of some city services. You can read more about the issue and the arguments for and against it here.

A late-September public debate on the issue is in the works. Signal Cleveland will provide more details when it is set.

Failure to launch

Last year, City Council rushed to put $2.8 million in federal stimulus money toward overhauling the police department’s two helicopters. During a Safety Committee meeting this week, Council President Griffin asked why the helicopters, which police brass have said were vital to safety by tracking down fleeing suspects, have been grounded. Griffin also noted two of the department’s licensed pilots have retired.

Police Chief Wayne Drummond said the helicopters were undergoing maintenance and would be back up in the air soon.

It turns out that two days after council passed that legislation, MD Helicopters Inc. filed for bankruptcy, which delayed the city’s contracting process. The company’s assets were picked up by a new operating company. Drummond said the contracts can now move forward and the two helicopters will be taken down to the bones and refurbished one at a time. It’s unclear when we will see these police birds in the air above city streets. (Update: one copter was put into service late last week.)

Managing Editor, News (he/him)
Mark is a veteran journalist with experience in alternative media, print, digital and television news. For 19 years, he was a groundbreaking reporter and metro columnist with The Plain Dealer and Most recently, Mark spent three years as an investigative, enterprise and breaking news reporter at WKYC-TV, where his "Leading the Land" series on Cleveland's 2021 mayoral primary race earned a regional Emmy.

Community and Special Projects Editor (she/her)
Rachel leads our special projects work on topics that demand deeper coverage, and works with Cleveland Documenters and Signal staff to report those stories for wider understanding and accountability. She is our liaison with the Marshall Project in Cleveland where she focuses on including residents' voices in criminal justice reporting. Rachel has reported in Cleveland for more than two decades on stories that have changed laws, policies, hearts and minds. She was part of the team that helped launch Cleveland Documenters in 2020, and she was a John S. Knight Community Impact Fellow in 2021. Dissell is a two-time winner of the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for narrative stories about teen dating violence and systemic failures with rape investigations.