West side Cleveland Councilpersons Brian Cummins and Dona Brady, both of whom opposed the $30 million stadium deal for Cleveland Browns along with east side Councilmen Jeff Johnson, Kevin Conwell and Michael Polensek
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who convinced city council to pass an ordinance by a 13 to 5 vote at its meeting Monday night to fund $30 million over a period of 15 years for upgrades to the First Energy Stadium for the Cleveland Browns. Councilman Zack Reed was the only councilperson that did not vote on the measure and he was absent from Monday night's meeting.
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News.Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com, Ohio's No 1 and No 2 online Black newspapers (www.clevelandurbannews.com) and (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com). Reach us by phone at 216-659-0473 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
CLEVELAND, Ohio-Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance at its meeting Monday night to allocate $30 million over a period of 15 years to fund improvements to FirstEnergy Stadium for the Cleveland Browns. The measure was approved 13 to 5 with Councilman Zack Reed absent and straddling the fence. To pass it required a super majority.
The monies will be distributed at a rate of $2 million annually, lawyers for the city said.
East side councilmen Jeff Johnson, Kevin Conwell and Michael Polensek, and west side council persons Dona Brady and Brian Cummins voted no. All five have said that the money could be put to better use in Cleveland neighborhoods with Johnson and Polensek saying the majority Black city needs more firefighters and policemen on the streets, and Polensek saying further that the city has too many abandoned and foreclosed homes.
Simply put, they say that Jackson's priorities are misplaced.
"That is the fund that we use to pay police, that is the fund that [we use to]sweep streets," Johnson told reporters on Monday.
Jackson said at a press conference last week that the football stadium monies put up by the city, part of a $120 million overall project, will come from the general fund and will not interfere with other city services. He said that the funds could have be used elsewhere but that stadium upgrades are important too.
"Now could we have hired another police officer? Yes," the mayor said.
Johnson said that Jackson is dreaming when he says that residential services will not be impacted.
"For the mayor to say it's not going to have any impact on the neighborhood is just unrealistic," said Johnson.
Conwell, Johnson and Polensek have been at odds with Mayor Frank Jackson and his administration since Council President Martin Sweeney targeted Conwell and Johnson to oppose each other in this year's city council elections due to a redistricting map that he drew earlier this year that council approved that reduces the 19-member city council by two seats next year. The other seat was eliminated when Ward 19 Councilman Jay Westbrook retired, effective next year.
Voters approved the redistricting measure that saw city council go from from 21 to 19 seats in an election four years ago, and from 19 to 17 beginning next year, a charter amendment pushed by Jackson, Sweeney and former Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, who is general counsel for the Call and Post Newspaper, a Black Cleveland print weekly with distributions also in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Johnson chose not to run against Conwell, and instead took on Councilman Eugene Miller in the new ward 10 and beat him in an election runoff earlier this month by 462 votes, and with help from Conwell and Polensek.
Miller, an ally to Jackson and Sweeney, will be the only council person not to return in January, aside from Westbrook's retirement.
Brady and Cummins have not been patsies for the mayor in recent years either. They tried to block Jackson before, the only two members of city council that voted against a resolution passed by council last year that endorsed his education reform plan, a controversial plan subsequently initiated through a state law that saw Cleveland teachers lose seniority and tenure, among other sweeping changes.
Under state law, the city mayor controls the Cleveland Municipal School District and appoints the members of the board of education.
Before that it was smooth sailing for Jackson, who enjoyed overwhelming support from city council since he became mayor in 2006 after ousting one-term Cleveland Mayor Jane Campell in 2005 as a then council president, and with support from the Old Black Political Guard.
Ken Silliman, the mayor's chief of staff, and city lawyers, said the stadium deal is needed because the Cleveland Browns are a city investment.
Browns CEO Joe Banner told reporters after the ordinance passed Monday night that it is in the best interest of the city and that upgrades to FirstEnergy stadium could begin as early as next month, though after the football season ends. (www.clevelandurbannews.com)