A robocall is pushing Mayor Justin Bibb to address East Side food deserts, where residents lack access to fresh food, before he spends $15 million on the West Side Market.
The call tells recipients to lobby Bibb to hold off on spending American Rescue Plan Act dollars on the market – adding pressure to a debate over how much the city should spend on the historic Ohio City attraction.
It was unclear how many people received the call, which landed in a Signal Cleveland reporter’s voicemail on Tuesday.
“Action is needed,” the voice in the robocall says. “Call Mayor Bibb’s office at 216-664-3990 and tell him not to allocate $15 million in federal funds for a proposed expansion of the West Side Market until he tells us, the community, his plan to solve the food desert on the East Side and incentives to support more grocery stores in the community.”
The call was sent through Call Multiplier, a national robocall and robo-text service. According to the service, the message was placed by Miller Mosley Company, a local consulting firm registered to former Cleveland City Council member Eugene Miller.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Miller said he had a policy of not disclosing his clients – but that City Council did not commission the call.
Bibb faced pushback from council members after he proposed spending $20 million the market. After talks with the council president, the mayor dropped his ask to $15 million. Even that idea came in for criticism from some council members, who said East Side neighborhoods faced more urgent food needs.
Last year, council hired Miller Mosley Company to place calls and texts to Cleveland residents. But a council spokesman said the legislative body had nothing to do with the West Side Market call. Council President Blaine Griffin said he had no involvement with the call, either.
“I have absolutely nothing to do with that. Don’t know who put it out,” Griffin told Signal Cleveland.
“There’s always going to be instigators from the outside that want to see a messy City Hall,” he added. “Our job is to try to keep the car on the road and try to keep the city running.”
Griffin and council have received their own earfuls on the issue. Vendors have criticized council, and advocates of West Side Market spending have voiced their views during public comment at council meetings.
The West Side Market’s official Twitter account – which is run by the tenants’ association – recently shared council members’ office numbers and urged followers to call them.
“I probably have gotten hundreds of calls from people just treating me as if I stole their firstborn child,” Griffin said.
Bibb’s communications office did not offer a response to the call.