Longtime Cleveland resident Nora Rodriguez speaks about speeding on West 81st Street.
Longtime Cleveland resident Nora Rodriguez speaks about speeding on West 81st Street. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Clevelanders made so many memorable public comments at Cleveland City Council meetings in 2022 that we couldn’t fit them all into one list. This week, we hear from residents about the shuttering of vital neighborhood institutions and quality-of-life issues that residents want to see fixed.

Missed the other memorable comments? Here’s some more that resonated with Signal Cleveland and Cleveland Documenters team members.

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.

April Urban, Signal Cleveland’s director of research and impact, said it was hard to pick which comments were the most compelling. April was struck by a comment from a Cleveland schools teacher who wanted to honor a student who was shot and killed and by a commenter advocating for the need for better translation services for residents who live with hearing or other disabilities. 

Vincent Stokes, a teacher, spoke about the loss of a student to gun violence

Vincent Stokes in Cleveland City Council chambers in June.

I received a phone call from one of my students who was very frantic, and between inaudible moans and cries, they said, he’s gone. And I didn’t know who was gone, I just answered the phone. Eventually it got out that one of our other students, Mr. Anthony Dejuan Hughes, was murdered. He was murdered, walking back from the Boys and Girls club at King Kennedy, walking back from that at a community event, ironically about policing, policing in the Ward 5. And he was shot down on 55th.

Vincent Stokes, Cleveland teacher

Watch Stokes’ full comment.

Rico Dancy urged better interpretation services for law enforcement

Rico Dancy in Cleveland City Council chambers in September.

In the District of Columbia, Washington D.C., is the only police place in the country who have a deaf or hard-of-hearing unit. If we could do it in D.C., I know damn hell we could do it here and all across this country.

Rico Dancy, Cleveland native

Watch Dancy’s full comment.

Doug Breehl-Pitorak, Cleveland Documenters assignment editor, remembered comments from a September meeting about the impact on workers and the community from the restructuring at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and from a November meeting about expiring federal rental assistance programs that could affect housing stability. 

Angela Hines spoke about the community impact of cutting services at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center

Angela Hines in Cleveland City Council chambers in September.

Hines said she and her co-workers did everything they were “supposed to do during this pandemic.”  

“The news was very fresh, and I thought she spoke to the impact of how the restructuring was already affecting workers and the community,” Doug said.

We have developed relationships with people around the street, down the street, around the corner. We are heartbroken not only as the employees; we are heartbroken for our community because this community needs that facility.We are disgruntled. We are hurt.

Angela Hines, longtime employee of St. Vincent

Watch Hines’ full comment.

Josiah Quarles, of Cleveland Heights, spoke about the loss of pandemic rent assistance

Josiah Quarles gives a comment in Cleveland City Council chambers
Josiah Quarles, who works for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, talks about the end of a federal rent assistance program at a meeting in November. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

That has been the greatest tool that we … have had to keep people housed. And we will be losing that tool…. It’s like if you have a table and you kick one of the legs out from under it, it’s very easy for that table to be upturned.

Josiah Quarles, Cleveland Heights

Watch Quarles’ full comment.

Angelo Trivisonno created the Public Comment CLE website to amplify the voices of residents who step up to the mic. Angelo especially appreciates hearing from first-time commenters and also comments that “break the script” or are unconventional – like a poem, a song, or sharing the mic. Angelo also enjoys seeing movements emerge on topics such as wage theft, fare evasion, American Rescue Plan Act spending on arts, Complete and Green Streets and participatory budgeting. 

Teralawanda Aaron shared the mic with some younger residents to talk about participatory budgeting

Cleveland Ward 8 resident Teralawanda Aaron speaks in the Cleveland City Council chambers.
Cleveland Ward 8 resident Teralawanda Aaron urges City Council to support participatory budgeting. She brought several young people to the Cleveland City Council public comment session on Nov. 21. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

We have here three students that went through our voter education series. And one of the things that we’re trying to do is get our youth involved in the process.
And I think that this would be a good opportunity–if we could let our young people get involved with the process.
Also, it gives transparency to the budget. And lets people see exactly how the money is being spent.

Teralawanda Aaron, Ward 8

Watch the young residents share their comments.

Keshawn Walker, from Ward 4, also pushed for resident participation in budgeting

Keshawn Walker, from Ward 4, tells Cleveland City Council that he wants to see more of a participatory democracy and urges council members to consider allowing a participatory budgeting process to move forward. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

I’m challenging y’all’s Cleveland pride. And I’m challenging democracy tonight. You know what I mean? So, I’m asking y’all to have a little Cleveland pride. Let Cleveland decide and then you know, I mean the rest of you know the cards are gonna fall where they may. It ain’t no solvent. You know what I mean? It’s not no, you know, super solution. It’s not gone, you know what I mean? You know, make everything alright. But it is going to give people, you know, a more so of a initiation into understanding. And being, you know, proud of where they live at. You know what I mean?

Keshawn Walker, Ward 4

Mary Ellen Huesken, Signal Cleveland’s copy chief, was impressed by the five residents who coordinated to make comments in support of Eliza Bryant Village, which had recently announced it would close its 99-bed skilled-nursing facility. The organization, based in the Hough neighborhood, is 126 years old.

Danny Williams, president and CEO of Eliza Bryant Village, spoke about the decision to close the nursing facility

Danny Williams in Cleveland City Council chambers on May 9.

As the city and county work to develop your criteria for distributing American Rescue Funds, we urge you to strongly consider the need to support older adults who’ve paid their dues to society and now need us to show in a tangible way respect for their contributions by ensuring that essential services such as affordable housing, home care, home health services and elder abuse sheltering are properly funded so that trusted organizations such as the Eliza Bryant Village can continue to provide such services to your constituents.

Danny Williams, Eliza Bryant Village CEO

Watch Williams’ full comment.

Pamela Denton, of Ward 7,  told council how Eliza Bryant Village provided her refuge

It is the only shelter program focused exclusively on the needs for older adults in the entire state. No other program is designed for those of us who are aged 55 and older.

Pamela Denton, Ward 7

Watch Denton’s full comment.

Lila Mills, Signal Cleveland’s editor-in-chief, appreciated comments from Cleveland Documenter Kellie Morris on parking for residents during council meetings and raising awareness about the hurdles faced by people who return home after being exonerated. 

Kellie Morris, Ward 9, thanks city leaders for allowing residents to park for free during regular City Council meetings

Kellie Morris in Cleveland City Council Chambers on April 18.

Thank you to all of those who worked on this. I want to thank Patricia Britt for keeping us abreast of the progress. I thank President Griffin, who I understand brought this to Chief Teeuwen, and I thank Mayor Bibb for the commitment to accountability and transparency. But I do note that this is not an ordinance…. Public comment and parking should be not at the whim or feeling of any person who was in charge at any time. 

Kellie Morris, Ward 9

Watch Morris’ full comment.

Timothy Lewis, of Ward 5, raised awareness about the hurdles for Clevelanders freed after being wrongfully incarcerated

Timothy Lewis speaks in Cleveland City Council chambers in May.

Lewis spoke about the struggles of Clevelanders who are exonerated after serving time for crimes they didn’t commit, including: Charles Jackson, Ru-El Sailor, Alfred Cleveland, Rickey Jackson and Isaiah Andrews. The men collectively served 151 years in prison, Lewis said.

When these guys are coming home and they have this time taken away from them, how can we help add them back into society as productive members of society and show some type of support? So I’m searching and while I’m in search of a proclamation from, you know, the city and why I got you guys’ attention, trying to get some of these guys recognized as free men through proclamations, because 151 years, and that’s only five guys that I’m talking about. And the list goes on and on and on for many families that are affected by guys that have been incarcerated from this.

Timothy Lewis, Ward 5

Watch Lewis’ full comment.

Rachel Dissell, Signal Cleveland’s community & special projects editor, is always interested when residents take time to comment about improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods. The comments by homeowners such as Beverly Owens and by neighbors Nora Rodriguez and Gloria Aron, who have each lived on the same street for more than 50 years, show how deeply many residents care about working to fix safety issues such as tall grass and speeding on residential streets.

Beverly Owens, Ward 5, spoke multiple times about city services, including grass cutting

Beverly Owens in Cleveland City Council chambers in September.

I continue to call, email, text the City of Cleveland about the vacant lots, the high grass where it keeps the animals. We even have deer sometimes.
It’s a safety issue and concern I’ve taken myself and one of my neighbors to go out there and clean the grass that has grown from the vacant lots over to the side lots, across the sidewalk where you are unable to walk down the sidewalk. I was told you shouldn’t do that, but I take pride in where I live at, and I will wish and hope that individuals that are in the power to take pride in the homes in the neighborhood in which I reside.

Beverly Owens, Ward 5

Nora Rodriguez and Gloria Aron, of Ward 15, spoke about speeding cars on W. 81st Street

Nora Rodriguez in Cleveland City Council chambers in May. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

We got a bus stop that I have to watch those kids get out of the bus and get in the bus on West 81st on the corner because some people don’t stop. The traffic don’t stop. They think it’s a Coca-Cola sign there. And they smile, they laugh. We got to stop that because I don’t want another incident to happen like it happened on West 50th because the people of Cleveland, the city, they didn’t want to listen to us, they didn’t want to listen to Gloria my partner. We’ve been a community activist for the longest time, to put the bumps there, the speed bumps in there. We’re willing to pay for it, I’ll pay for it if I have to.

Nora Rodriguez, Ward 15

Watch Rodriguez’ full comment.

Gloria Aron in Cleveland City Council chambers in May.

I see young children getting off the bus, the school bus, … or like me with a walker trying to cross the street. And I worry when the hell are we going to get hit by a car because they don’t stop–they just keep on going. We need you to do what we’ve asked for over the years. Put speed bumps on our street to slow them down. As for the stop sign, you’re going to have to come up with something. I thought you could put a camera, but I hear the cameras are not happening anymore.”

Gloria Aron, Ward 15

Watch Aron’s full comment.

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

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