(Plain Press, January 2010, Chuck Hoven) Speaking at a December 2nd political forum sponsored by the West Park Republican Club, Ward 3 Councilman Zackary Reed called Cleveland City Council President Martin Sweeney a “terrible leader.” Reed said Sweeney’s leadership was “bad for City Council and bad for the City of Cleveland.”
Reed charged that under Sweeney’s leadership, Cleveland City Council no longer served the role as a check on the power of the executive branch – Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration. Reed said collaboration between the Sweeney led City Council and the Jackson Administration blended the two branches of government – legislative and executive – into one. He said this has resulted in a lack of public dialogue about crucial issues facing the city of Cleveland. Reed called this lack of public discussion “bad for democracy.”
Reed cited several issues where the lack of public discussion and lack of proper oversight by City Council led to a failure to reach “the best deal for the citizens of Cleveland.” Among the issues cited by Reed were the Medical Mart/Convention Center project, the breakdowns in the administration that led to the tragedy at Imperial Avenue, and the failure to retain key businesses in Cleveland.
Reed said Cleveland City Council failed to weigh in early in the Cuyahoga County deal for the Medical Mart. He believes that Cleveland City Council should have backed efforts to place the issue on the ballot in Cuyahoga County. Three private property owners are now blocking Medical Mart from obtaining the proposed site, said Reed. Because it is a deal with a private developer – Medical Mart, and not a public project, eminent domain can’t be used to move the project forward, he said.
Despite opportunities in 2008 to bring Anthony Sowell to justice, “the system allow him to come back out,” said Reed of the Imperial Avenue tragedy which occurred in his City Council Ward. Reed called for Cleveland City Council to perform an “evaluation of the system so this won’t happen again.” However, under Sweeney, Reed said, “No evaluation” will be done. He said, “We don’t even talk about it.”
Reed said that the Cleveland Health Department denied getting calls from him from 2006 – 2009 with complaints about the stench on Imperial Avenue. He said when the Department of Public Health Director Matt Carroll came before Cleveland City Council for a review, “Not one Councilperson asked a question.” Reed said, Council President Sweeney told Carroll, “You are doing a good job. Keep it up.”
Reed took City Council to task for its failure to take steps to intervene the move of Eaton Corporation from downtown Cleveland and in the take over of National City Bank by PNC. Reed said Cleveland City Council should have insisted that the administration offer more incentives to try to keep Eaton Corporation. He said Port Authority Director Adam Wasserman should not have been allowed to get in the way of Eaton Corporation’s plans to build on the water front. Reed said, “Companies that are here. Should be kept here.”
He said the Council should have used its oversight responsibilities to “evaluate what would be the impact of losing National City Bank.” Reed said PNC bought NCB with federal bailout money. Money he believes could have gone to NCB. He said now top jobs that were in Cleveland are now in Pittsburg.
Reed polled those in attendance at the forum about whether or not they supported the Jackson Administration’s proposal to charge a monthly garbage collection fee, which would be added to water bills of Cleveland residents. All in attendance, both Republicans and Democrats, opposed the fee. Reed predicted Cleveland City Council would once again back the administration’s proposal. (Editor’s note: Council voted in early December to back the proposal with some modifications – only three council members voted against the proposal.)
Reed said he opposed the fee because he represents poor people – and a proposed fee of up to $120 a year would be a hardship for those he represents. Reed said, “I don’t see the pain being spread to those living outside the city of Cleveland.” Instead he said that the Mayor’s office has proposed balancing the budget on the backs of the residents of the City of Cleveland.
As an alternative to raising the water rates Reed suggested that the City Council propose other revenue streams that would impact those living outside the city more than Cleveland residents. Some suggestions included increasing parking meter fees and charging non-residents a fee to use Cleveland recreation centers.
Reed urged those in opposed to the new garbage fee to not only call their councilperson, but to come down to a City Council meeting to voice their disapproval. If City Council fails to find a budget fix to their liking, he suggested citizens gather signatures and place the issue on the ballot in the form of a referendum.
Offering an assessment of the new 19 member City Council that will begin in January, Reed, (now Councilman Elect in Ward 2) said that he expects only three or four members in the new City Council will be willing to challenge Council leadership and the Jackson Administration. At least there will be a voice of opposition, he said, however, he noted that under City Council rules, it would take 7 votes to put a hold on any legislation. Given the dire need to change the way Cleveland government functions, too many City Council people ran unopposed this past November, said Reed.
Editor’s Note: Council President Sweeney was a guest at the West Park Republican Club Forum earlier in 2009. To review an article on his speech, visit the May 2009 archives on the Plain Press website at http://www.plainpress.org.