People’s Budget Cleveland, a grassroots coalition focused on bringing participatory budgeting to the city, delivered petitions bearing more than 10,500 signatures to City Hall on Monday. This was nearly 4,700 more signatures than the minimum required by law to get the group’s proposal to amend the city charter on the ballot in November.
“We are here today not only to officially file these petitions,” said Molly Martin, a People’s Budget Cleveland (PB CLE) organizer, at a press conference in front of City Hall. “We are here to celebrate and acknowledge what it looks like for people to come together collectively to participate in the democratic experiment of keeping power with the people.”
PB CLE proposes adding a new chapter to Cleveland’s charter that creates a process for residents to make more direct spending decisions. A portion equal to 2% of the city’s General Fund would be set aside each year, and residents would vote on how to spend it. The process would be run by a steering committee of city residents.
PB CLE worked with other nonprofit groups to send about 180 signature-gatherers — some paid, most volunteers — to events and street corners, according to Erika Anthony, another organizer. They collected 1,000 signatures at Pride in the CLE alone. They also helped 900 people register to vote.
Charlesretta Wynn, one of the petition-circulators, said she sometimes encountered reluctance from people she approached to sign, especially older people. Their hesitance stemmed from many years of hearing about promised change that never came, she said. But she didn’t give up.
“I told them, I’m not a politician,” she said. “But this is a way to make real change. I can’t do it myself, but we can do it together.”
‘Residents that are ready to present their own ideas’
Moses Ngong, a member of the PB CLE steering committee, stressed that “the people’s budget isn’t about spiting anyone” in City Hall.
“We want to celebrate the ingenuity and the wisdom that exists already in Cleveland’s neighborhoods without having to worry that an elected official may or may not support our energy,” Ngong said.
“There are no perfect [elected] representatives,” he continued. “And when they inevitably fail to meet the expectations, the heavy expectations that come with their positions, there will be residents that are ready to present their own ideas for how to make their neighborhoods better places to live.”
After the press conference, PB CLE organizers carried their box of petitions to the Clerk of Council’s office. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has until July 20 to verify that at least 5,907 of the petition signatures belong to Cleveland voters. After that, PB CLE will have 15 days to gather more signatures if necessary.
If these and a few other hurdles are cleared, the charter amendment will appear on the ballot in Cleveland in November.
The next step? “We go out and get those votes,” Wynn said.
People’s Budget Cleveland is collecting signatures for a proposed charter amendment that would give residents a more direct say in how some city money is spent on projects and programs in their neighborhoods. Learn more about the proposed charter amendment and ballot initiative.