Tuesday, January 29, 2013

East Cleveland citizens turn out in force to question mayor; council AWOL

East Cleveland residents arrive at citizen forum looking for responsive, civil, and intelligent government

About 80 East Cleveland residents showed up in assertive mode at New Covenant Lutheran Church near the corner of Hayden Rd. and Shaw Ave. last night. They were angry at proposed cuts to the city’s police force, the proposed shuttering of its treasured Helen S. Brown Senior Center, and the city’s return to fiscal emergency.

When the citizenry gets aroused, politicians either typically either pay close attention or head for the hills. Both reactions were in evidence last night.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton showed to take the questions. Not a single one of the five East Cleveland city councilors showed up, even though they had two weeks notice.

Their absence was lamented and denounced by several members of the audience during the public comment period that followed the scripted questions put to the mayor by Grannetta Taylor, president of the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope [NOAH], the forum convener and host.

One council confidant told me after the forum that none of the wanted to come because they considered the crowd to be “pro-mayor, and they didn’t want to come and get an a**-whipping.” When I pointed out that this was a public forum, to which council members could have brought their supporters, the response was the same.

Given that many in the crowd seemed to hold the mayor equally accountable with council for a relational hostility between executive and legislative branches that makes the last Congress look like a tea party [the old-fashioned kind], Norton would probably dispute that it was a mayor-friendly crowd. He did, however, take full advantage of council to show up and defend his administration.

Mayor Gary Norton defends his administration
as angry residents decry planned 70%
reduction in safety forces budget.
Norton suggested to the forum that council’s absence was characteristic, pointing out that they had repeatedly spurned his offer to meet with them on a weekly basis, and that when he was negotiating with the Cleveland Clinic in 2011 over compensation to the city for the closing of Huron Road Hospital, none of the council was willing to join in the talks.

Norton said that he has urged council to reconsider its 25% cut of the safety forces budget, saying it would lead to a 70% reduction in police street presence and that the cost savings would be minimal.

NOAH executive director Trevelle Harp
urges residents to attend
next council meeting 
The meeting ended with about 35 or 40 members raising their hands and promising to attend the next council meeting on February 5, where they will demand restoration of the safety budget, and that the mayor and council collaborate to find a way to keep open both the Helen S. Brown Senior Center and the Martin Luther King Civic Center that offers youth programming.

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