By Doug Breehl-Pitorak (he/him)
The Public Meetings Report is produced by Signal Cleveland and Cleveland Documenters.

Cleveland Public Meetings Report – The week of Oct. 9
Residents ask for community investment, not another jail
Byline: Dakotah Kennedy and Documenter Aaron Skubby
LaTonya Goldsby, president and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, speaks during the Cuyahoga County Council meeting on Oct. 10. Credit: Cuyahoga County YouTube.
Challenging the status quo: During public comment, several residents spoke out against the recent purchase of land in Garfield Heights for a new jail. “This proposed jail is a tax on our future and evidence that our county leaders’ bold vision for our future is more mass incarceration,” said LaTonya Goldsby, president and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland.

Goldsby also called attention to the people who recently died in custody at the Cuyahoga County Jail. On Oct. 6, a man died following a medical emergency. He is the third incarcerated person in three months to die at the jail.

$10 million for housing help: Council approved funds for emergency rental assistance to help Cuyahoga County residents who are at least 55 years old and meet income requirements. The funding will support Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP)’s efforts to provide financial counseling and assistance to residents.

ESOP is a nonprofit housing and counseling agency that is part of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. ESOP hosts free online classes to help residents navigate buying and selling property. Its classes also boost financial wellness and offer advice for aging homeowners.

MomsFirst participation on the decline
Byline: Anastazia Vanisko and Documenters Janenell Smith and Alicia Moreland

Oct. 9 – Health Human Services and the Arts Committee, Cleveland City Council
Commissioner of Health Equity and Social Justice Lita Wills shares updates about the MomsFirst program. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube)
MomsFirst: Cleveland’s MomsFirst program is down more than 150 participants compared to the past two years. The program provides free support to parents until babies are 18 months old and pairs participants with a community health worker.
Council Member Kris Harsh asked about the reason for the drop. Lita Wills, Cleveland’s commissioner of Health Equity and Social Justice, attributed it to staffing. She said they had to shrink the staff size after they “right-sized” community health worker pay, increasing the hourly wage to be more comparable to what other organizations pay. Before these changes, Wills said there were “several positions with multiple vacancies.”
Despite the drop in participants, MomsFirst increased the number of visits where they provided a service to mothers, according to Wills’ presentation. Harsh said it appeared that participants were receiving more intensive care, which Wills affirmed.
Opioid settlement dollars: “Cleveland will receive around $360,000 from an opioid settlement with drug manufacturers and distributors”, Wills said. She said the money will be used to support addiction recovery. The services include individual and group counseling, rides to medical appointments, and training on how to use naloxone, a medication used to reverse opiate overdoses.
Brenda Glass Trauma Center set to get $500,000 grant
Byline: Doug Breehl-Pitorak and Cleveland Documenters Marcy Clark, Tim Zelina, and Chanel Wiley
Oct. 9 – Cleveland City Council

Council President Blaine Griffin responds to a public comment at the Oct. 9 City Council meeting. (Credit: Cleveland City Council YouTube)
Support for trauma care: Cleveland City Council passed 10+ pieces of legislation, including a grant of up to $500,000 for the Brenda Glass Multipurpose Trauma Center. The money is to assist with repairs and upgrades to the center, which offers trauma recovery services for survivors of violence.

Affordable senior housing: Council OK’d a grant of up to $1 million for the Northwest Neighborhoods Community Development Corp. The money, which comes from Cleveland’s pot of American Rescue Plan Act dollars, is to help construct 51 apartments for seniors in Detroit-Shoreway. The units would be for people aged 55 and older. Eight units are reserved for residents whose annual income is $15,960 or less.

‘Don’t know what else to do’: Isaiah Dixon made a public comment. He said he was experiencing homelessness and asked the council for help. “I sleep on the ground pretty much every day. I dodge the rain as much as I can,” Dixon said. “But it’s getting cold, and I don’t know what else to do.”

Council President Blaine Griffin asked audience members to connect with Dixon to see what help they could offer.
Walk-up public comments at CMSD board meetings may end 
Byline: Doug Breehl-Pitorak and Cleveland Documenters Tina Scott and Marvetta Rutherford
Oct. 10 – Board meeting, Cleveland Metropolitan School District

District CEO Warren Morgan II and Board Chair Sara Elaqad at the Oct. 10 board meeting. (Credit: Cleveland Metropolitan School District YouTube)
12 o’clock rock: Residents may no longer have the option to just show up to speak at Cleveland school board meetings. They’ll have to sign up ahead of time, if board members approve new rules at their Oct. 24 meeting. Speakers would have to complete an online form by noon on the day of board business meetings, which typically start at 6:30 p.m. “They may also call the board’s office at 216-838-0030 to register”, Board Chair Sara Elaqad said. The speaking time limits would remain the same: 40 minutes total for public comments and three minutes for each speaker.

On the agenda: The board discussed 10 other resolutions set for a vote later this month. One would let the district participate in a program to get its slice of property tax revenues from Cuyahoga County earlier than scheduled in 2024. It would receive two advances of about $20 million each, according to District CEO Warren Morgan II. Another resolution would put up to $1.6 million toward digitizing student records.

Fuzzy demographics: During a presentation about Riverside PreK-8 school, Principal Jessica Gamble said the school’s official racial and ethnic demographics, which show 52% of students identify as Caucasian, are a little skewed. Some races and ethnicities aren’t options on the demographic form, Gamble said, adding that many students who may otherwise identify as Arabic or Middle Eastern select Caucasian. Of the school’s 481 students, about 15% speak Arabic, according to Gamble. The school is in Ward 17 on the West Side.

Seat at the table: There is an open seat on the Board of Education. “Lisa Thomas resigned from the board after 12 years”, Elaqad announced. The term ends June 30, 2025. Check out the application.