Resident Walter Collins addresses City Council
Resident Walter Collins addresses City Council about supporting veterans. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Clevelanders stepped up to the mic in Cleveland City Council chambers in 2022 with public comments about the need for services in their neighborhoods, safety concerns, fare evasion and to raise awareness about issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Some even returned to thank council members or city leaders for responding to their concerns.

Here are some comments–from the 30 public comment periods this year–that resonated with Signal Cleveland and Cleveland Documenters team members. 

The Public Comment CLE website has all residents’ comments and transcripts, edited by Cleveland Documenter Carolyn Cooper.

Register to make a public comment when meetings resume on Jan. 9 or learn more about the process in our Guide to Public Comment at Cleveland City Council.

Documenter Carolyn Cooper appreciates comments that don’t “sugarcoat” the plight of Clevelanders. Two recent comments that stuck out to her were from meetings in November. 

Angelo Anderson of Mount Pleasant spoke about bringing back services for residents in need 

Clevelander Angelo Anderson speaking at public comment in City Council Chambers
Angelo Anderson, a lifelong Clevelanders, speaks in City Council chambers on Nov. 28. Credit: Cleveland City Council

It was a program that utilized the youth in our community, put them to work, gave them the equipment. They came out. You made a phone call: ‘Hey, I can’t take my trash out. I can’t get out of bed.’ They came and did it for you. ‘I can’t cut my grass. I don’t have any family.’ They came and did it for you. ‘I live at the mouth of an alley and I can’t get out. I’m in a wheelchair.’ They came and did it for you.

Angelo Anderson, Mount Pleasant

Watch Anderson’s full comment.

Fred Mowery, Ward 15, spoke about short staffing for safety forces

Fred Mowery speaks in City Council chambers on Nov. 21.

One of the challenges facing Cleveland is the state of its safety forces. Depending on the article, or official, we are short 300 or so police officers, eight dispatchers and 50 paramedics. I believe that everyone agrees that the city needs a safety force that is properly staffed, trained, equipped and paid. Otherwise, morale and trust suffers. Gaps form, and powerful actors within these departments can influence others, sowing chaos.

Fred Mowery, Ward 15

Watch Mowery’s full comment.

Documenter Lauren Hakim, who tracked every public comment for a year, said several comments stuck with her, including one from a veteran who spoke about post-traumatic stress disorder, residents who reminded us to tend to the needs of veterans, people who framed the conversations on fare evasion as a public health issue, and residents who raised questions about who gets to publicly honor deceased loved ones with street signs. 

Lauren’s father is a Vietnam veteran: “When Mr. Collins spoke, the room listened. I haven’t heard much discussion in council about veterans, so it was good to hear from that community because many of them suffer, sometimes quietly, and need support,” she said.

Walter Collins, Ward 5, spoke about post-traumatic stress disorder and supporting veterans

Walter Collins speaks in City Council chambers on March 22.

PTSD is invisible. It acts out. We need to be informed on what to do, what to say when we see someone particularly getting ready to act out. This past Veterans Day, we had a veteran go to the Lincoln Memorial steps and commit suicide. He was sending a message to us. Cleveland, we can do better with our veterans.

Walter Collins, Ward 5

Watch Collins’ full comment.

Lauren thought a comment from Robin Goist was one of the most concise of the many given on fare evasion. “She did a great job of placing this issue in the context of racism as a public health crisis.” 

Robin Goist, Ward 7, spoke about fare evasion

Robin Goist in Cleveland City Council chambers on April 18.

In closing, I leave you with this: What kind of a legal system financially punishes people for being poor? What kind of justice system throws people in jail, weaponizes their poverty against them for the crime of being poor and needing to get from place to place? What consequences does that have for individuals, for teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them? What consequences does that have generationally in a city and county that have declared racism a public health crisis?

Robin Goist, Ward 7

Watch Goist’s full comment.

Lauren was also struck by Kimberly Brown’s questions in November about which community members get to be memorialized publicly and the fairness of current rules for naming a street in a person’s honor. 

“We all want to honor the deceased, but who gets street-naming honors, and is it a fair process? What qualifies as an impact in the city? Not everyone is going to get a street,” Lauren said. “Are there other ways a family can honor their loved one that the city can support? Murals, benches, gardens, annual events, lighting ceremonies that honor specific things like gun violence, domestic violence, children, veterans, those who struggled with addiction?” 

Kimberly Brown, from Ward 1, spoke on rules for honoring lost loved ones with street names

Kimberly Brown speaks in City Council Chambers on Nov. 7.

What I do know is this: If she was your daughter, I would be fighting for your daughter. This is not about the mom, this is about council rules. Council, if you want rules and if you want respect from your constituency, you gotta follow your own rules. So tonight, I’m asking this: Either take down these signs that did not meet the requirement or do something for Saniyah Nicholson. Because the story is not going away.

Kimberly Brown, Ward 1

Watch Brown’s full comment.

Lawrence Caswell, Signal Cleveland’s Managing Editor, Community, noted comments from two residents who returned to thank council members and the city for responses to their earlier comments. 

“When City Council began holding public comment last year, it was a real question whether council members would really engage residents on the issues they were bringing to council. These comments are evidence that council is taking residents seriously and that these issues are being addressed when the meeting is over,” Lawrence said.

Lady Palmer, from Ward 3, returned to council chambers to follow up on her Jan. 31 public comment on parking and safety issues at her apartment building

Lady Palmer in City Council chambers on Feb. 7.

Actually, I came back to say a hearty appreciative thank you. Because I was here on Monday, and I mean things started moving like I had never seen before.

Lady Palmer, Ward 3

Watch Palmer’s full comment.

Walter Collins, Ward 5, originally spoke to council on March 21 about the lack of support for Cleveland’s veterans and returned to thank the city for its response

Resident Walter Collins addresses City Council
Resident Walter Collins addresses City Council about supporting veterans. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Previously I was here complaining about the city did not have a program for our veterans. Since that time, speaking with the mayor, mayor’s senior advisor Angela Woodson, we not only have been working and talking, we’ve been meeting on a regular basis dealing with Veterans Day and also a Veterans Day program to carry on from the Veterans Day celebration.

Walter Collins, Ward 5

Watch Collins’ full comment.

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