A screenshot of public commenter Chris Martin being asked to remove himself from the microphone during the September 25, 2023 Cleveland City Council meeting.
Public commenter Chris Martin is asked to remove himself from the microphone. Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube

Covered by Documenters Chau Tang (notes) and Courtney Green (notes)

Impugning character vs. stating facts

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin ordered security to remove a public commenter, Chris Martin, after he began listing Cleveland City Council members who accepted donations from the Council Leadership Fund. The fund was set up to support City Council incumbents’ reelection campaigns and was recently used to pay for campaign materials against Issue 38. Issue 38 would change the city’s charter to require that part of the city budget be allocated through a participatory budgeting process.

Martin asked if any council members were planning to travel to Columbus to speak against Senate Bill 158, which would ban participatory budgeting in Ohio. He received no response. He then listed the dollar amounts that several council members received from the Council Leadership Fund in 2022.

Griffin warned Martin that commenters are not allowed to address individual council members.

Martin responded, “I am not impugning the character of any council member. I am simply stating the fact of who accepted money from the Council Leadership Fund.”

When Martin continued naming council members, Griffin cut the microphone. Martin continued speaking but eventually left the chambers on his own.

This article was corrected to reflect that security did not escort Martin out of the room.

Shutting down hate speech

A frequent public commenter veered away from her stated topic into hate speech against the LGBTQ and Jewish communities. Griffin cut her off, saying, “We cannot keep on using this public forum to insult different constituencies.” 

Council Member Kerry McCormack referred to the comments as “unhinged” later in the meeting. He reminded everyone that Yom Kippur, a Jewish high holiday, was that day.

Documenter Chau Tang asked about the incident, “Homophobia has been brought up in public comments before–why wasn’t it stopped before?”

New developments

City Council ok’d a $3.5 billion project to develop Tower City and the riverfront. The deal is with Bedrock, a commercial real estate firm owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Watch the full public comments or read transcripts edited by Documenter Gennifer Harding-Gosnell on the Public Comment CLE website created by Ohio City resident Angelo Trivisonno.

Read more from Documenter Chau Tang:

Read more from Documenter Courtney Green:

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