By Bruce Checefsky

Four voting issues headlined the Ward 7 meeting on Sept. 28, held at the East Professional Center on E. 79th St., with three Ohio Statewide Issues and one, Issue 38, directly affecting residents of Cleveland.
Issue 1, Reproductive Health, is an amendment relating to abortion and other reproductive decisions. A “yes” vote supports the Ohio Constitution’s establishment of a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including…decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.” According to Ohio’s Attorney General, David Yost, this would also conceivably remove any age restrictions and parental consent requirements. The amendment will allow the state to restrict abortion after fetal viability only when “necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.” Also, unlike a change to the Ohio Revised Code, a Constitutional amendment, once enacted, can only be replaced or modified by the ratification (authorization) of a new amendment.
A “no” vote opposes amending the Ohio Constitution and leaves it as is, for now.
Issue 2, Adult Cannabis Use, if passed, would legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio for adults 21 and older, who would be permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. The proposal allows adults to grow up to six cannabis plants at home. The Division of Cannabis Control would have the authority to license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult-use cannabis operators, adult-use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.
Opponents of Issue 2 say that, if approved, recreational marijuana would go the route of legalized alcohol, with all the accompanying factors of easier access for minors, rise in death toll, and greater need for more rehab facilities.
Cuyahoga Community College is asking county voters to endorse Issue 5, a 2.1 mill renewal tax levy with a new 0.4 mill increase. Property taxes would increase by $67 annually for every $100,000 assessed home value if passed. The money will keep tuition affordable and support technical education and workforce training, according to promotional materials released by Tri-C.
A “yes” vote supports a property tax of $67 for each $100,000 of appraised value to provide funding for Cuyahoga Community College. A “no” vote opposes the property tax.
The Cuyahoga Community College Board of Trustees voted for the renewal levy to keep higher education affordable and accessible for county residents. “By providing accessible, flexible education in industries vital to our region and connecting people to life-changing work, we can create inclusive prosperity for all Northeast Ohioans,” said Michael A. Baston, president of the college. “Tri-C’s impact is far-reaching and can be seen in the lives of the students we serve. Many of our graduates have gone on to pursue successful careers, start their businesses, and contribute to the economic development of our region.”
Issue 38, People’s Budget, would set aside about $14 million, or 2% annually, from the City of Cleveland general fund to give residents control over spending via a voting process overseen by an 11-person steering committee. Mayor Justin Bibb and Council President Blaine Griffin oppose the amendment along with the 17-member city council, saying the plan is “not in the best financial interest of Clevelanders.”
Supporters of the Peoples Budget (PB CLE) declared victory after House Speaker Jason Stephens, a Lawrence County Republican, said Senate Bill 158 would not pass through the House before the November 7 election. The legislation, sponsored by Kirtland Republican Senator Jerry Cirino, prohibited localities from any budgeting scheme that allows public funds to be distributed or otherwise disbursed by a vote of residents.
Proponents claim that giving limited budgetary control to citizens will make the government more responsive to the needs of the people, foster civic engagement, and boost voter turnout, which has lagged in the city. Critics argue that passing Issue 38 could force cuts to critical city services like first responders and take officers off the streets amid an ongoing labor shortage.
A “yes” vote supports the charter amendment allowing for participatory budgeting. If passed, the amendment would give residents age 13 and older the power to directly vote on how to spend 2% of the City of Cleveland’s budget annually.