Lois Romanoff, Move to Amend Cleveland
Charter schools fail and close for a variety of reasons all the time, namely financial malfeasance and poor academic performance.
Steven Norris, Move to Amend Cleveland
Defense contractor jobs building jet planes trump the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Terrence Ross, Move to Amend Cleveland
Transit funding under Wray, previously vice president of Flexible Pavements of Ohio, an asphalt
industry lobbying association, was at an all-time low at 56 cents per person while states nearby like Pennsylvania spending over $70.
Due to predatory loans propelling a foreclosure crisis, my mother and some wonderful neighbors' lives
were unfairly violated with complete disregard for their health, dignity, sense of self, and their
entitlements by being targeted.
Minimum wage of less than $15 an hour is not conducive to living in today's society. $15 an hour is not a nice thing to have. It's a necessity.
The corporatocracy controls the terms of the economic debate today; corporations, as fueled by
corporate personhood, stifles the conversation about workplace democracy
Steve Holecko, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus
Imagine if there were no corporate PACs, no corporate contributions, and no questions about why large sums of money switch from one PAC to another.
David Lima, Mentor Move To Amend
The proposed We the People constitutional amendment … holds the promise of returning our political system to one that is responsive to all of its' citizens.
Continued tax abatement ramps up a bizarre gentrifying force, increasingly unaffordable for those with
the least resources.
If you would trespass on any of these facilities, there’s a very good chance that you could be arrested under new draconian penalties that are really meant to intimidate protests.
Ted Seuss, SPAN Ohio
The lowest paid executive in pharma made more than twice in a week what the chief administrator head of Medicare / Medicaid made in a year.
Susan Murnane, LWV Greater Cleveland
LWV supports public financing of elections and until that happens, disclosure of the identity of the person or persons responsible for campaign expenditures and reasonable campaign finance limits.
Larry Bresler, Organize Ohio
It is an outrage that in a country with the wealth of the United States that we have the depth and the
breadth of poverty that exists in our country.
The first objection to our county's proposed tax was a plastic bag manufacturer from South Carolina called Novolex, a big company with manufacturing locations throughout the country.
Ashley Wilson, Detroit Shoreway Community Development
With a lot of African American homeowners, the disconnect between being able to find or obtain housing loans due to redlining.
Yvonka Hall, Cleveland Lead Safe Network
Lead poisoning... Our rates are higher, twice as high, as Flint, MI. Not because of water but paint.
Christopher Stocking, Clevelanders for Public Transit
So Uber pretty much wrote the [transit tax preemption] bill. They spent more than Apple, Microsoft, and Walmart combined on lobbying.
No Tax4 Tracks, led the fund-raising to oppose the transit initiative in Nashville. Nearly three-quarters of the $1.1 million it raised came from a single nonprofit, Nashville Smart Inc., which is not required to disclose donors.
Our public school system is being destroyed.....by wealthy businessmen, like Bill Gates, members of the Walton Family of Walmart, hedge fund managers (and many more).....It is also being destroyed .... by our State legislature, which has been reducing the funding for public schools for about the past 25 yrs ...... and bleeding public schools districts dry.... by giving away their taxpayer money... to charter schools and vouchers
ALEC gave the wealthy the opportunity to jump on the band wagon... to get rid of the PUBLIC School model, which they saw as inefficient & too costly ... So, they introduced a "BUSINESS MODEL"...w/ competition, fewer regulations, lower teacher salaries...and NO UNIONS! Charter teachers are paid 40 - 50% less than traditional public school teachers. Charters do not need to follow more than 200 codes which traditional public schools must follow. This is by deliberate design because it is directly related to their "free market" underpinnings.
The public continues to believe that their tax dollars are, in part, supporting their local public schools. Very few have come to realize that the Ohio legislature is giving billions of their money to charters and vouchers. 97% of the time, vouchers go the children who enroll in religious schools. The public has voted 100% of the time that they do not want their tax money to go to religious schools.
In the Cleveland Municipal School District, $148 million dollars was given to vouchers and charters this year alone. This is a serious depleting of public school district funds, meant for low income children.
Charters thruout the U.S.have problems wl accountability & transparency. Ohio's charters are considered the 2nd worst in the US after Nevada. In Ohio..... $36 million dollars were spent on 291 Charter Schools that never opened.
And you all know about the ECOT Scandal, the Electronic School of Tomorrow, which was closed by the State, because it was counting absent students as present. ECOT used $591 Million dollars of OH taxpayer dollars while it was opened, It had a low graduation rate, of 44 %, Cleveland's graduation rate is 69%.
Charter schools fail and close for a variety of reasons all the time, namely financial malfeasance and poor academic performance. Thousands of charter schools have closed in the US in under 25 yrs. leaving many families abandoned and betrayed
If the public and the legislature wants charters and vouchers that's fine, but the money to pay for them must NOT be taken from the traditional public school district's budget. It is not fair to OH's children or taxpayers.
Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen has revealed the influence of corporate power. The civil war in Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 14.3 million people are in acute need, more than the population of Ohio. Following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the US Congress voted to end support for the war in Yemen. To stop Congress's first usage of the War Powers Resolution, President Trump issued his second veto. What reason did he give?
"Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these. I don't want to hurt jobs. I don't want to lose an order like that." Each of these companies spends millions of dollars each year on lobbying with Boeing regularly in the top ten. Saudi Arabia uses Boeing's F-15 jets and the United Arab Emirates use Lockheed's F-16 jets.
Jeffrey Kohler, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who left the military and now works as the vice president of international sales and marketing for defense, space and security at Boeing. Weapons transfers are actually a foundation for stability, the executive argued. "More often than not, it is the military relationship that will keep the relations and the bonds between countries very strong," Kohler said. "When you sell somebody a big platform like an F-15, you build a 30-plus year relationship with that air force."
In 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was required to certify Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates were working to reduce civilian casualties. Staffer opposition was overruled by the legislative affairs team, led by a former Raytheon lobbyist. Lobbying dollars and the revolving door keep the conflict going over all objections.
Yemen has had over 1 million cholera cases. Even with humanitarian assistance, millions wake up hungry every day. How long will people suffer in sickness and hunger due to weapons sales and corporate power?
Saudi Arabia is the top US weapons buyer - but it doesn't spend as much as Trump boasts https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/15/saudi-arabia-top-us-weapons-buyer-but-doesnt-spend-as-mu ch-as-trump-boasts.html
For example, state funding in Ohio continues to decline and is among the lowest per capita nationwide. Jerry Wray, former director of the Ohio Department of Transportation under Governors Kaisich, Voinovich and Bob Taft, was previously vice president of Flexible Pavements of Ohio, an asphalt industry lobbying association. Transit funding under Wray was at an all-time low at 56 cents per person while states nearby like Pennsylvania spending over $70 and Michigan spending over $20 on transit per person every year. The state is not going to save public transit in Cleveland.
In an article on that appeared in the New York Times, June 19, 2018 titled How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country, Hiroko Tabuchi outlines how millions of dollars are spent by the Koch brothers to defeat local transit initiates. Despite the popularity of transit initiatives, with 80-90% passage rate nationwide in 2017-2018 per the American Public Transit Association, the indicatives the Kochs actively opposed had a much lower success rate.
The group Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, but supports spending tax money on highways and roads. Since 2015, Americans for Prosperity has coordinated door- to-door anti-transit canvassing campaigns for at least seven local or state-level ballots.
“In Little Rock, Americans for Prosperity made more than 39,000 calls and knocked on nearly 5,000 doors to fight a proposed sales-tax increase worth $18 million to fund a bus and trolley network. In Utah, it handed out $50 gift cards at a grocery store, an amount it said represented what a proposed sales tax increase to fund transit would cost county residents per year…
Central to the work of Americans for Prosperity is i360, the Kochs’ data operation, which profiles Americans based on their voter registration information, consumer data and social media activities. The canvassers divided the neighborhoods into ‘walkbooks,’ or clusters of several dozen homes, and broke into teams of two.
[Regarding the recent imitative in Nashvillle] Ms. Venable, [the Tennessee state director of Americans for Prosperity,] tracked, in real time [On a laptop in her S.U.V.], the progress of the four pairs working that day. By 4:30 p.m. they had knocked on 230 doors and connected with 66 people, a success rate of 29 percent…
A local group, NoTax4Tracks, led the fund-raising [to oppose the transit initiative in Nashville]. Nearly three-quarters of the $1.1 million it raised came from a single nonprofit, Nashville Smart Inc., which is not required to disclose donors. The rest of the contributions to NoTax4Tracks came from wealthy local donors, including a local auto dealer.
Public transit is just one example where the issues of money in politics and corporate personhood destroys our community. It encourages outside interests, such as the Koch Brothers, to interfere with local issues like transit that our community would benefit from.
Also when RTA does go to the ballot for local funding, consider a high turnout election. Special elections are harder to fight the outside money. A higher turnout election with more voters is RTA’s best shot.
I was raised in the Mount Pleasant area on Gay Avenue. I lived there from the age of 5 to 21 years old. It was a very diverse population. We had neighbors on each side that were Czechoslovakian, there was a preacher and his family directly across the street that baptized me and took me and my younger sibling on camping trips, along with his 7 children. Next door to them, there was an older married couple with 5 children. The father drank too much and the mother was a stay-at-home mom. We all got along well and the adults looked out for each other's children. It was a safe neighborhood. We used to watch television on each other's porches at night. My mother lived in that house for 50+ years.
I noticed the neighborhood started to change when I was about 17. I had gotten married and moved in walking distance from my mother's house. I had to move back home when I was around 19 and I had one child. I was very preoccupied with my son and the changes in my own life, that I didn't realize a lot of neighbors were moving. Some of them moved out of state and I didn't understand why until much later. At the age of 21, I moved to Youngstown, Ohio and I would periodically come back and visit my mom. She would talk about how much the neighborhood had changed and I was surprised to learn that some of the neighbors I thought would never move out of that neighborhood already had.
About 6 years ago, I came to Cleveland to celebrate my birthday with my mother. She had been hospitalized due to a blood clot on her brain and leg. I opted to wait until she got out of the hospital before I came up from Youngstown because I knew she would try to be discharged before it was time. I would talk to her over the phone and made arrangements to stay with her until I found out what she would need from me. She informed me that she had gotten a letter that she didn't understand, but was very concerned about. I promised her that I would take a look at it when I came to Cleveland. Once she was released from the hospital. I came up and we celebrated for a while before she had to lie down. I decided to get comfortable on the couch and read the letter she was concerned about.
I carefully read the letter and by the time I finished it, I went from laying on the couch to standing straight up without even realizing it. A loan had been taken out on the house and her signature was not on it, but my brother's was. The house was in foreclosure and my mother wasn't aware of this and didn't understand what was going on. I tried to contact my brother, but could not. We tried to fight the foreclosure especially after learning it should have taken 2 signatures to secure the loan. The attorney's that were hired were working against us. I realized that they didn't care about my mother's condition, or the facts involved that caused the foreclosure, which was predatory lending. After losing the case, tried to help my mother secure a deal to make payments to keep the house or buy it back. She had money put up and stated that is what she wanted. But, the attorneys for Chase bank didn't allow her or myself to voice or make any deal. They wouldn't even talk to us stating that her name was not on the loan. This should have been a tool for her to keep the house or make arrangements to buy it back, but instead they used it to limit our ability to try and keep the house she lived in for over 50 years. The house had been paid for twice. She had taken out a loan to do some work on the house, like real wooden floors, painting, and other things to keep the house up and looking nice, and had paid it back in full.
Once it was official that she could not keep the house, I had to find her a house that could hold 50 years of belongings and memories. She had a live in boyfriend who was in bad health himself. However, he was a veteran and I was able to get assistance because of this. Veteran's Affairs was very helpful after learning about this situation. Due to the fact that they lived together so many years and his request, everything was taken care of. All I had to do at that point was find a house big enough for all her belongings and convince my mother that it was best to move. That was the most heartbreaking and hardest thing to do. At the time she was 76 years old and had just had brain surgery. Through prayer and determination, I found a house that was large enough for all of her belongings and close to the same area. She knew the neighborhood so this was a blessing in itself. Veteran's Affairs paid for the trucks and helped secure the rent to move in. I finally convinced her to move and made sure the house looked nice when she came to live there.
I had a lot of family member that came to live with us at some point and somewhat raised in that house. The memories are priceless. I later learned that there had been several foreclosures up and down the street. Once I had moved my mother, I would check every once in a while to see if anyone had moved in. A year later, there was still no one living in the house or any of the other houses that had been foreclosed on. The houses were left empty, broken into, and some were badly damaged. It didn't even look like the same street!
Due to predatory loans propelling a foreclosure crisis, my mother and some wonderful neighbors' lives were unfairly violated with complete disregard for their health, dignity, sense of self, and their entitlements by being targeted. They took something away from them that was worth much more than money. They were willing to pay to keep their homes, not completely understanding how or why they were being foreclosed on. The entire neighborhood is nothing more than a skeleton of what is used to be. All of the dreams and achievements that were pursed and accomplished before it was so rudely invaded are just cherished memories at this point.
I’m recently retired, but while I was working I was making $22 an hour, yet still I struggled to make ends meet. So from my standpoint F. C. Say the Minimum wage of less than $15 an hour is not condusive to living in today's society. $15 an hour is not a nice thing to have It's a necessity.
It’s been said and I quote “Absolute power corrupts, Absolutely. With that being said corporations that sleeps with polititians that the people have elected to represent them is bad business. The people elected them to protect their right and interest. By failing to do so you build a poor vs them policy the can destroy the very fabric of American democracy.
- they are inspired by the example of the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain, which runs 200 worker owned co-ops, and the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, where 40% of the region's GDP is generated in co-ops
A poll commissioned by the Democracy Collaborative and YouGov. Blue found overwhelming support for a policy that would give workers the right of first refusal when their workplaces were slated for sale or closure (69% in favor 10% opposed, including 66% of Republicans)
- corporate personhood enhances the ability of private, unaccountable power to leverage short term gain, and externalize the civic damage done to the communities they discard; workplace democracy diminishes it.
What I’m going to describe to you is completely legal and that’s the problem. I have with me the campaign finance report, actually two years of a campaign finance report, of a PAC called the Council Leadership Fund also known as the Victory Fund. It’s a PAC that members of city council use to help themselves get reelected and to help their political allies get elected. Now in 2018 this PAC received $76,280. In 2017, presumably because Cleveland City Council was up for reelection, it was more. $128,405.52.
Now, all campaign finance reports have a cover sheet which list the address and the treasurer. The address of the Council Leadership Fund PAC is 3615 Superior Ave. Suite 4401A, which coincidentally is the also address of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. And the treasurer of the PAC and the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party’s PAC is the same person, Rudy Stralka. I like Rudy by the way. Now, The PAC’s contributors include a number of small contributors. But for most part, the contributions, the max contributions close to $12,500 come from this group:
Now, expenditures or campaign contributions. Very little in 2018, not an election year. But a lot in 2017. A lot went to Cleveland City Council members seeking reelection. And a lot went to their political allies seeking election. But curiously, a large number of the expenditures and the contributions went to the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party shortly after Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelly was named vice chair of the County Democratic Party. Now, what I described was perfectly legal. And that’s the problem. But imagine if there were no corporate PACs, no corporate contributions, and no questions about why large sums of money switch from one PAC to another.
Imagine if when every vote by every legislative body is taken, you know that that vote is being made by a legislator who has the interests of his or her constituents at heart and not the interests of the campaign contributors. Now, you may say I’m a dreamer, but based by the attendance here today and the Democracy Days that are occurring all over the country, I’m not the only.
I’ve been a … I would like to go and just say a few words about activism because I consider it to be the pulse of democracy. And the challenges of it and the things that are being done to it right now by the oil and gas interests throughout the country.
But just one minor aside for Mike’s testimony. When I started working in the near west side in 1981, and we. I was working for the Near West Housing Corporation. And we had a poster on our office wall that said Cleveland is an Ohio city. This is a neighborhood. In the middle of the sign was a semaphore with dollar sign with a cross through it. because you could tell pretty much who was on who’s side in the neighborhood by whether they said they were from Ohio City or the Near West Side. And I identified with the Near West Side to this day. That’s just a little aside.
One of the things that’s concerning me right now is that there is a wholesale assault going on against the people who are critics, opponents of the oil and gas blitzkrieg that’s going on in this country. This blitzkrieg is called energy independence but I call it berserk energy is what it is. It features such things as tar sands, mountaintop removal, coal mining, fracking, and pipelines. What’s going on right now is there is there is a campaign to crack down on protests under the guise of protecting what’s called Critical Infrastructure Facilities. And Critical Infrastructure Facilities, I call them Critical Donor Facilities, because they can just about name anything a Critical Infrastructure Facility.
If you would trespass on any of these facilities, there’s a very good chance that you could be arrested and be arrested under new draconian penalties that are really meant to intimidate protests. That are meant to intimidate organizers against the fracking, these pipelines, and all. Now the peculiar thing about this is that you read the people who are backing this legislation and there are lurid descriptions. They virtually say that the Taliban is coming to get the critical infrastructure facilities. I mean a lot of these people are just, express almost paranoia. This being backed by the oil and gas companies.
And they have a bill called Senate Bill 33 in the Ohio Senate that just passed that’s headed to the Ohio House. We’re hoping to stop it. It is a campaign, I don’t think that they actually want to go and put all of us in jail. I think what they want to do is to get into our heads and intimidate us. And I’ve seen how that has operated before. But I think just more broadly. You’ve got to understand, this all is asymmetrical warfare is what it is. Because you go to these hearings. I don’t care whether it is about a coal mine or fracking outfit. You see the first two rows of any hearing room and they’re all the suits from the oil and gas industry.
My name is Ted Seuss and I’m a region coordinator for SPAN Ohio. SPAN is an acronym for Single Payer Action Network and I’m going to talk about money in politics affecting our healthcare here in Ohio and in America. But just for background for this I want to give you a little insight into perspective on how our health care in America compares with the rest of the world.
Of all the industrialized nations in the world. I didn’t say most. Of all the industrialized nations in the world, we’re the only nation that has a for profit health care system. Where in America the healthcare that you get depends on the amount of money that you have. Only in America.
Which is another way of saying we have the highest preventable death rate of all industrialized nations. Of all industrialized nation. Think of what that means. That means that people die in America that don’t have to die. We have people die because they get an infection in their mouths and they can’t afford a dentist. I mean if you’re gonna die from something, die from something that you can’t help. But to have to die because you don’t have the money to take care of yourself. Only in America.
So now I’m going to just now give some ideas of how crazy this is that we can’t get this. In 2018, we had two bills before Columbus, the Senate and the House. HB 440 and SB 91. If these bills were passed ... Let me give you an idea of how much that would mean. Public and private entities in the state of Ohio alone would save, anybody want to guess? $25 billion. Everybody, the average person in this room, would have $3300 more gross in their pocket the first year. And all this stuff grows in multiple years. I’m talking about just the first year. If those bills were passed, we would get 265,000 to 330,000 new jobs. Who doesn’t want that? The pharmaceuticals don’t want that.
Big business would gain so much, small business would gain so much. They would get access to the same job pool that big business gets. The list goes on and on and on in terms of the benefits. Not to mention the fact that we would see our doctors more because there wouldn’t be copays and deductibles. We would live longer. We now in the last two years in America, our life expectancy has gone down while the rest of the world’s goes up. So we could talk more and more about …
So why don’t we have the same kind, I mean every other country has some version of a single payer system There are lots of different versions. But every single country has some version. And by the way, our system is so poor. Our pre and post natal numbers are worse than many third world countries. Only in America.
Remember California Proposition 61? Anybody remember that? Remember Ohio Issue 2. Both were in 2017. California’s was earlier. Ours came later. Here are the numbers on that. In California, the opposition to that, which all it would have done. It would have allowed the state to save money on pharmaceuticals. They spent $109 million opposed against $19 million for. Almost 6 to 1. Two weeks prior to that election, the polls were showing that Californians were 2 to 1 for the issue. Money won. 53-47.
In Ohio, same bill almost. The opposition spent almost $60 million to $18 million. 4 to 1. And again, money won. So here’s money in politics. Lobbying money in 2018, pharmaceuticals spent $281 million. Hospitals and nursing homes spent $101.4 million. That’s a total of $383+ million which is more than was spent in the presidential election on both sides in 2016. So what does that tell you, what’s more important? Healthcare, money, or who wins the presidency?
If you look at executive pay, big pharma’s … I looked at the top ten largest big pharmas. Their executive pay ranges from $17.6 million to $38 million. If you look at the top administrator of Medicare / Medicaid administering a $1 trillion budget. They made $165,000. So just one thing. In other words, the lowest paid executive in pharma made more, made more than twice in a week what the chief administrator head of Medicare / Medicaid made in a year. Only in America.
My name is Larry Bresler. I am executive director of Organize! Ohio, coordinator of the Cleveland End Poverty Now Coalition and Co-Chair of the Ohio Poor People's Campaign, a National Call for Moral Revival.
It is an outrage that in a country with the wealth of the United States that we have the depth and the breadth of poverty that exists in our country. At a time in the United States when our economy is presumably booming and our unemployment rate is at its lowest, those who are poor and low income have not been sharing in the benefits of the economy. In fact it has been the corporate wealthy at the top that have substantially gained from the economy. Over the past 50 year the top 1% of Americans have doubled their share of the national income while those who are who below the poverty line have for the most part stayed the same. That trajectory has been increasing in recent years.
One in nine workers in the United States have jobs that pay them salaries below the poverty line. However, using the poverty line to describe those who are poor in the United States greatly underestimates those who are poor in the United States. Our current poverty line was adopted in the mid-1960's based on the formula that defined poverty as the cost of a basic food plan for a family times three. Accounting for inflation, that has been the formula that we have been using ever since that time. Even if this was an accurate formula for defining poverty in the 1960's, economists agree that today a basic food plan 1/6"" of a basic family budget rather than 1/3. Consequently, using the more up to date formula we would have double the number of poor than the government statistics publish.
Furthermore, even a revised poverty formula is undercounting the number of poor in the United States. I would ask you to put together monthly budget for a single parent along with a preschool and school age child. Include the costs for rent for a two bedroom apartment, utilities, food, phone, home and school supplies, health care, child care, transportation and some miscellaneous costs such as some family recreation. The multiply it by 12. A University of Washington study in 2015 came out with a self-sufficiency standard in Cuyahoga County at over $48,000. You might come out with a lower figure, but it will almost certainly the current poverty line figure of $21,330 for a family of three.
Meanwhile, a person earning a minimum wage $8.55 per hour in Ohio working $40 hours a week 52 weeks a year still earns $4,000 less than even our existing poverty line. Nevertheless there are continual battles to fight any efforts for a minimum wage that comes close to a living wage.
Testimony of Dean Sieck The name Ohio House of Representatives implies representation, doesn't it? Who should we suppose it represents? In school we learned that our representatives speak for us, the people who elect them. So how does this quote square with that idea? “My priority serving as a member of the Ohio House is to put business first.” Or this? “Reducing and preventing the tax burden in our state makes Ohio a more attractive destination for businesses." The first of these statements came from George Lang, Ohio state rep district 52; the second from Scott Lipps, Ohio State District 62. Messers Lang and Lipps are the two primary sponsors of House Bill 625, a bill proposed in 2018 which would preempt ANY city in Ohio from passing ANY bill that would tax or outlaw the use of plastic bags.
After Cuyahoga County Council considered a law in October 2017 taxing plastic bags (that was not enacted), the threat alone was enough for Reps Lang and Lipps to get busy using your Ohio government to do the bidding of their corporate sponsors. By May of 2018, they had introduced their preemptive legislation. Preemption, state laws which prohibit local governments from passing their own legislation, is a primary tactic of corporate creatures such as ALEC. In fact, the first objection to our county's proposed tax was a plastic bag manufacturer from South Carolina called Novolex, a big company with manufacturing locations throughout the country. One of those, located in Rep Lang's tiny district way down in southwestern Ohio far from Lake Erie, asked him to present legislation protecting its business from concerned citizens. His cosponsor, Scott Lipps, who comes from a district nearly adjacent to Lang's and has said that he entered politics to curtail local government power, stated, “Allowing local taxes on auxiliary containers would be the type of government intrusion that can harm our business environment."
Lake Erie, of course, is the unwilling beneficiary of this legislation and is polluted with an estimated 2755 tons of plastic debris every year, second only to Lake Michigan. Naturally, communities along Lake Erie's shoreline want to address this growing problem. They would choose to join hundreds of cities and countries (such as Rwanda) around the world that have legislated against a substance that cannot die and pollutes the entire world's waterways: plastic. Since the average American uses about 500 disposable plastic bags annually and recycles only 5% of them, the problem clearly is out of control.
But when Lang and Lipps' legislation was debated this past November, some powerful business voices came forward-from plastic bag concerns to the Ohio Retail Association and the Chamber of Commerce. True, their bill had only eight proponents, easily outbalanced by its thirteen opponents, citizens who live along our lake and environmental lobbies who recognized the peril of preemption. Also opposed were organizations who still believe in the silly old mythology called "Home Rule,” Ohio law which grants local communities power and seems to apply except when it doesn't. As Keith Faber, former President of the Ohio Senate bragged, “When we talk about local control, we mean state control.” The measure passed the House easily 59 to 30.
I’ve lived on the east side for most of my life and around the age of 15 I became homeless. When I turned 21, I moved into my first apartment in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. One of the things that’s really important to me is the understanding that … or at least a lot of folks have the understanding that owning a home is one of the very first steps that you can take to build wealth in the United States and doing so one of the main issues that we see is with a lot of African American homeowners, kind of the disconnect between being able to find or obtain housing loans due to redlining. Thank you.
So what we know as the Federal Housing Association or the I’m sorry Administration or the FHA or what we know as the thirty year mortgage refused in 1934 through 1968 to loan to black homeowners or for even for minor things such as home repair. A lot of things that you that were created in the past. You can see that as a representation of Cleveland cities today. Respectively some of our East Side and some of our West Side neighborhoods are continuing to decline in quality housing due to those discriminatory policies in the 1930s.
I want to make note that we as a society and as you sit here on the Council for Cleveland to keep in mind that we need to continue to learn, engage, and grow from the things that have happened in our past and just to ensure that we are being inclusive when thinking about new housing policies we put on the table to ensure that those that have been left behind by such things as FHA that we’re creating more inclusive policies to ensure that they can have quality housing in the future.
The other thing that I’d like to add, is that I’m also an employee of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development organization as a community organizer and we are very happy to host the Undesign the Redline exhibit created by Designing the … we and Enterprise Community Partners. It is extremely important to me that I ask this question of the Council to take a moment of their time between now and June 30th to please or at any point in next year either at Trinity Cathedral or WYCA within the next year to visit the exhibit and learn about some of the ways in which those policies have specifically shaped Cleveland and some of the neighborhoods that you all live in, which is extremely important.
The other thing is that I want to extend an invitation to you all to a production by Cleveland Public Theater known as Central Concern which is a production about redlining and if you reach out to me, I can help you with that. Thank you.
We live in a city that boasts world championships sports teams and world renowned hospitals. Some say we are a green city on a blue lake. But to our babies blue has another meaning. Lead poisoning. That’s what color that severely poisoned children’s lips are. Our rates are higher, twice as high, as Flint, MI. Not because of water but paint. What will it take to fix this crisis? All of us. Public, private, and community members coming together to say “Enough is enough. Our babies matter. This is a crisis.”
In the hospital we use the term code blue when someone is having a heart attack or needs resuscitation. The heart of the city is failing and our children need resuscitation. We are here because this crisis is dire and we can no longer ignore something that has a negative impact on our children for a lifetime. We pay now or we pay later, but we are going to pay.
In late 2015, myself and Spence Wells formed the Cleveland Lead Safe Network to address the issue of lead safe housing by drafting an ordinance to make Cleveland lead safe. In late 2018, after inaction by Cleveland City Council members, our organization and 7 others formed CLASH to force the legislator to protect our babies. We can’t have viable quality and viable educational, economic, and health systems until we fix our housing stock and protect our most vulnerable citizens.
In Cleveland, we freely give hundreds of millions of dollars to millionaires and billionaires, passing emergency legislation that at the drop of a hat and passing the burden of payment to our hardworking community members. Placing citizen based initiatives on the ballot has become a monumental task designed to silence the voice of the community. Our leaders have failed to be the voice of the disenfranchised, all while giving corporate contributors not only a seat at the table, but in many instances, the whole table.
As a community 50 years after the burning of the Cuyahoga County River, the community is still waiting for environmental justice. We have allowed big money to pollute our air, water, and neighborhoods one house at a time. And now when it’s time for the cleanup, we go to the citizens through a tax the poor to fuel the rich system. This is wrong. My home and the homes of our neighbors have lost values but our taxes are on the rise.
I’m not here to complain about the Q. I’m here to talk about you. Need us the community. Our efforts to make the community lead safe have to make sure with ensuring the community has a voice that can’t be bought. We need our leaders, transparent, and trusted. We need an emergency declared on our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are on fire and we are are watching the fire spread because the water hose only reaches downtown.
Thanks to Terry for reading my statement. I thought I would just jump in and talk about another related issue. I don’t know if anyone remembers in February of last year Cuyahoga County tried to pass a $0.27 fee on Uber and Lyft to redirect that money to be spent on public transportation. This was was at a time when there was a fare hike going on with RTA and fares are some of the highest in the country for public transit here in Cleveland.
A group that I volunteer with, Clevelanders for Public Transit, had worked with County Council to propose this $0.27 fee. Unfortunately what happened was we were preempted by the state and we didn’t even know it. Most lawmakers didn’t even know that this existed. In 2015 an Uber lobbyist with Ohio ties send State Representative Mike Duffy with a draft of a bill. So Uber pretty much wrote the bill. They spent more than Apple, Microsoft, and Walmart combined on lobbying, Uber does.
So the Intercept, which is a national media outlet, reported on this. Just 8 months after the Uber lobbyist emailed our State Representative Duffy, the bill found itself on Ohio Governor John Kasich’s desk. Considered to be an “inner circle member of his kitchen cabinet.” Kasich promoted this and signed a bill that closely resembled the original bill despite the opposition of the Ohio Municipal League. So again you know home rule is being crushed by these corporations that come in and spend a lot of money to lobby.
This is all despite that Uber lost more than 3 billion dollars in 2018. So these venture capital keeps putting money into Uber and Lyft even though they lose about $0.58 per ride. We’re actually looking at Uber going public here coming soon on the stock market. If you look at their S1 IPO release, they’re directly targeting public transit riders to convert them into Uber customers. All while public transit fares continue to rise.
So what can City Council do? I think there’s a lot we can do to work together. Clevelanders for Public Transit has worked with Cuyahoga County to have a permanent standing committee that includes public transportation. You know Phyllis Cleveland is chair of transportation committee and Kevin Conwell is a member of transportation committee. I’d like to extend my hand and that we can partner together and talk about some creative solutions to fund public transit. Things like a parking tax in the city of Cleveland could generate revenue and help reduce fares for RTA.
Unfortunately right now, the parking tax is capped at 8% at the state. But we think it’s an easy fix if we have some conversations with some legislators that hey, If you’re not going to you know spend money at the state for funding transit because we’re one of the worst and I think we all know that. At least let us tax ourselves and do it this way. So I would like to extend my hand to the transportation committee and maybe we can work together to find a proposal to make this work.
The last thing I want to add is that through the work that we’ve done trying to find cost efficiencies with public transit, RTA is looking at a fare equity study and a system redesign study currently. The big public meeting was actually tonight at the same time. But they have meetings going on all throughout the month.
I wanted to formally invite you to attend a public meeting. It’s a little bit short notice but Phyllis Cleveland in your district tomorrow at Cedar high rise at 10 AM there’s a public meeting. Matt Zone, my polling place, La Familia, on May 15th at 5:30. And I don’t believe there’s any one directly in your district, Kevin Conwell, but Collinwood Rec Center is on May 13th at 5:30 PM. So I’d like to invite you guys to be involved with these studies for RTA system redesign and fare equity and I think we can at least try to fight corporate power as best we can and work together to find some ways to make public transit better in the city. Thanks so much for your time.
For fare equity I would CPT volunteers try to open the public comment by explaining fare capping and asking RTA to include this in their plan. Also discuss the need for transfers when building a ridership network (the idea is you have a grid of high frequency routes which may require a transit (though you'd be waiting less than 15 minutes for high frequency routes). We need these included in base fares. I would also say that compared to other cities fares are too expensive, we would like to see cheaper fares: CPT member Dan M has always said we want "$5 all day and $2 and a transfer."
Depending on what routes riders take there are going to be controversy over the ridership vs. coverage map. We have not come to consensus as where CPT stands on the exact ratios of coverage to ridership, but given we are concerned with low ridership I think the general opinion
The maps shown today (and in the article below though hard to see) are high ridership and high coverage given constraints of current budget. There will be meetings this summer that will look at maps with increased funding (providing more service, less drastic cuts with more frequency). I think that is the goal - we know we need to push for funding.
More info on the maps that will be shown here. Hopefully we can get a higher res graphic. https://www.cleveland.com/news/2019/05/rta-asks-public-if-it-should-design-service-for-maximu m-frequency-or-geographic-coverage.html
A local group. No Tax4 Tracks, led the fund-raising sto oppose the transit initiative in Nashvillel. Nearly three-quarters of the $1.1 million it raised came from a single nonprofit, Nashville Smart Inc., which is not required to disclose donors. The rest of the contributions to NoTax4 Tracks came from wealthy local donors, including a local auto dealer.
Public transit is just one example where the issues of money in destroys our community. It encourages outside interests, such as the Koch Brothers, to interfere with local issues like transit that our community would benefit from.
Also when RTA does go to the ballot for local funding, consider a high turnout election. Special elections are harder to fight the outside money. A higher turnout election with more voters is RTA's best shot.