Letters to the Editor

Variance for Youth Drop-In Center applauded

To the Editor:

   I have been a resident of the Near West Side for over 25 years, and I am grateful that the City of Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals granted the variance needed for the Youth Drop-In Center project on Franklin Blvd.

   Finally, a new project that so many neighborhood residents support will move forward. This project reflects our history and identity as a neighborhood that meets the needs of our vulnerable residents.

   Sadly, it has been a tough fight for all those involved in the planning of the Youth Drop-In Center, especially for the young adult leaders of the project. As a resident who chooses to remain on the Near West Side despite the accelerated commercial and luxury housing development for wealthy new residents, it gives me hope that all is not lost.

   If developers such as Knez and Dalad received the resistance that the young adult leaders experienced, then maybe we would have more equitable housing in our neighborhood. Instead, the green lights that for-profit developers are granted have created an economic disparity in our neighborhood that shows that profit is valued over affordability and community for low-income families.

   Cleveland’s legacy of exclusionary zoning has played out so many times in hearings of the Board of Zoning Appeals, but today we are celebrating a rare inclusionary zoning win for our community that affirms the existence of people in need on Franklin Blvd.

Paula Miller

PB CLE is fighting for residents to have real power to make real decisions

To the Editor:

Participatory Budgeting Cleveland (PB CLE) starts with the simple idea that Cleveland residents deserve real power to make real decisions about public spending in their neighborhoods. Participatory budgeting, or a People’s Budget, builds new knowledge about how budgets work and how our City spends money.

In his comments to the Plain Press, Councilman Kris Harsh opposes the idea of a People’s Budget. He calls PB CLE’s proposal to convene hundreds of residents in Ward 13 and thousands of residents across the city to vote on how to spend public money through a People’s Budget ‘asinine’, ‘Reganesque’, ‘Orwellian.’ 

His comments show a misunderstanding of PB CLE’s proposal and a flaccid vision for democracy in Cleveland. PB CLE, a grassroots coalition of 800 residents and 60 organizations, wants deep democracy in Cleveland, where a modest portion of the City’s budget is in the hands of residents to discuss and then decide how to spend on projects that matter to them. That is power to the people – real democracy. Mayor Bibb and four members of City Council – all of whom are female – have endorsed PB CLE’s proposal to enable residents to have power. They see it as an investment in new civic infrastructure at a time democracy is under attack in Ohio and beyond. 

Councilman Harsh suggests PB CLE predetermine how the money gets spent. We disagree. Residents are experts in their neighborhood. They know better than any single group or any single person, including their Councilperson, what’s most needed in their neighborhood.

A People’s Budget invites residents to develop ideas and select the best ones over a 12-month process. It’s hand-on, grassroots leadership development at a time when we need more leaders willing to take on tough fights to unify neighborhoods and challenge corporate power and inequality. It’s popular and it works: A recent statewide poll by Policy Matters Ohio shows nearly 8 in 10 residents of cities in Ohio support participatory budgeting. And a 2021 study showed that voters living in a district with PB in New York were 8% more likely to vote in an ordinary election. 

We hope –that instead of battling a group of residents trying to strengthen our city’s fraying civic institutions, and instead of defending the status quo in a city full of injustice — Councilman Harsh embraces PB CLE as a strategy to deepen democracy in Cleveland. 

Jonathan Welle

Co-coordinator of PB CLE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: