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What will top the news from Cleveland City Hall in 2020? Poverty relief, environment and a mayoral race

Posted December 29, 2019
10:18 am

Written by Robert Higgs on on 12/29/2019

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- As Cleveland rings in the new year this week, here’s a look at some issues out of City Hall to keep an eye on in 2020.

Plastic solutions

Cleveland opted out of a ban on single-use plastic bags enacted by Cuyahoga County. The ban takes effect Jan. 1, although the county has pledge to not enforce it until July.

Cleveland’s decision was driven by concerns, particularly with City Council President Kevin Kelley, that the impact on grocers in the city had not been explored enough. Kelley also questioned whether the single-use ban on plastic bags was the best environmental answer – single-use paper bags are more expensive and also cause pollution.

When City Council voted to opt-out, it required that the city explore options that would best serve Cleveland. That study is to be done in the first six months of 2020.

Look for Cleveland to have some discussion before the end of June on whether to opt-in on the county ban or go its own way.

Meanwhile, the whole issue could become moot. Legislation that would bar local bans on plastic bags is pending in the Ohio General Assembly.

Clean power from the sun

Both Cleveland City Council and Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration launched solar energy efforts in 2019.

City Council is in the midst of a study to see if solar arrays would be practical on open city property or built as canopies over city-owned parking lots. Initial results looked promising.

The study, conducted by Cleveland-based YellowLite, culled a list of more than 200 city-owned properties to a list of 20 possibilities. YellowLite now will look at those 20 to consider where the city might erect solar arrays to collect energy.

Kelley envisions a pilot program for solar arrays could be set up at a couple of sites by early 2020.

In September, the administration began collecting proposals for designing and building solar facilities on city buildings – principally on rooftops.

The period for submitting proposals has closed. Look for action on that in 2020.

“I’m sure we’ll get together eventually and compare notes,” Kelley said.

New home for CPD

The city announced in November it intends to build a headquarters for Cleveland police along the future site of the Opportunity Corridor between Kinsman Road and East 79th Street.

The announcement raised some eyebrows, since it would move police headquarters out of the downtown. Jackson insists it will be a catalyst for economic development in an area known as the Forgotten Triangle.

Design work should begin on the complex in 2020.

Some proponents of the Opportunity Corridor told the plan could be compatible with visions of the corridor by bringing economic development and jobs to impoverished Cleveland neighborhoods.

But at least one cautioned that the design would be important – that it must be an open and inviting building and not a bunker.

Help for the impoverished

Programs approved by City Council and the administration to assist Clevelanders in maintaining their homes and to help impoverished families facing eviction should kick off in 2020.

City Council pushed through a plan to contract with Community Development Corporations in Cleveland’s neighborhoods to provide residents with coaching on housing violations and recommendations for where they can get help paying for needed repairs.

The council also established a program that will help provide painting supplies to residents – both homeowners and tenants.

Those programs are aimed at improving quality of life in Cleveland’s neighborhoods.

The program to provide free legal aid to poor families with children who are facing eviction also will kick off.

United Way will serve as point in the program, which also involves Cleveland State, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland bar and the Cleveland Legal Aid Society.

Qualifying families facing eviction in Housing Court will have an advocate who can negotiate terms to help them stay in their residence or to ease transition to new quarters.

Who’s the next mayor?

Cleveland won’t have its next mayoral election until 2021 but look for candidates for mayor to start announcing in 2020.

Jackson, already the longest serving mayor in Cleveland history, hasn’t said that he’ll run for a fifth term. But has not he ruled it out. He previously has said he would avoid such an announcement because it would make him a lame duck.

Many people in and around City Hall believe his fourth term will be his last. And if he doesn’t run, the number of would-be mayor lining up might outnumber the Democrats who dream of being the next president.

The filing deadline for mayoral candidates won’t be until June 2021, but don’t be surprised if some candidates announce their intentions in 2020 – especially if Jackson makes his intentions clear.

There’s lots of conjecture about who might run. Among the names that have been mentioned: City Council President Kelley, Councilman Kevin Conwell, Councilman Blaine Griffin, Councilman Matt Zone, former Councilman Zack Reed, former Councilman Jeff Johnson, University Circle Inc. President Chris Ronayne, former Councilman and state Rep. Martin Sweeney.

There could be others, too. Businessman Robert Kilo, a Republican, has run twice before. Brandon Chrostowski, president and CEO of Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute on Shaker Square, ran in 2017 touting his restaurant’s second chance formula as something that could be applied throughout the city.

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