Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks to a news reporter. Behind him, FirstEnergy Stadium's name is beginning to come down off the building.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks to a news reporter. Behind him, FirstEnergy Stadium's name is beginning to come down off the building. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

On Thursday, the day after People’s Budget Cleveland (PB CLE) learned that its proposed charter amendment would be on the ballot in November, Mayor Justin Bibb released a statement opposing the measure.

I supported creating a participatory budgeting pilot program here in Cleveland, to help direct a portion of our one-time federal stimulus. My Administration brought legislation for the pilot before City Council, which rejected the proposal. I continue to support resident involvement in the civic process and have demonstrated that with several city projects. 

This ballot issue is a permanent charter amendment rather than a pilot program. And instead of using federal funds, it will force critical cuts to other parts of the city’s budget. This is very different from the initiative I proposed. 

I do not support this initiative because I truly do not believe it is in the best financial interest of Clevelanders but it’s ultimately up to the residents of the City of Cleveland to decide.

On Wednesday, City Council President Blaine Griffin also attacked the measure, which would empower citizens to propose and vote on ways to spend up to 2% of the city’s annual budget.

“The $14 million that would be reallocated could lead to massive layoffs and have a devastating impact on the city,” Giffin stated.  It went on to cite examples, including “prevent[ing] hiring roughly 140 police officers at a time when our Division of Police is dramatically short-staffed” and eliminating or drastically downsizing various city departments.

Molly Martin, a PB CLE organizer, accused Griffin of using “scare tactics to dissuade residents from having real power to make real decisions about how public money gets spent. Where was this list of scare tactics when billionaires and wealthy real estate developers got millions in public dollars for stadiums and luxury condos?”

After Bibb’s comment, Martin expressed similar frustrations.

“We have to keep these receipts” in case the city sells more bonds in the near future to pay for improvements at Browns Stadium. “Up to 60% of the funding [for the People’s Budget] can come from the capital budget.”

The capital budget is for infrastructure spending. The rest of the People’s Budget fund would come from the general fund, which covers a wide range of city services, including those that Griffin fears would be impacted.

PB CLE’s partners include Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless,  Young Latino Network Cleveland, NAACP Cleveland and BLM Cleveland.

Director of the Editors’ Bureau (he/him)
Frank is an award-winning reporter and former editor at alternative newsweeklies in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He has worked with writers of all experience levels on beat reporting, features, investigative projects and books.