CLEVELAND (WJW) — In less than two weeks, Ohioans will head to the polls to vote on some very important and controversial issues.
In Cleveland specifically, supporters and opponents of Issue 38 say it is just as important in shaping the future of the city.
Issue 38 is a charter amendment that would basically allow the residents of Cleveland to decide what a portion of the city’s nearly $2 billion budget would be spent on.
Supporters say it gives Clevelanders input on how their tax dollars are spent, but opponents say it could be disastrous for the budget and lead to a cut in city services.
“I’m knocking on doors, making sure that I hit people who I know vote in every election,” said Ward 17 Cleveland Councilman Charles Slife.
Slife spent an hour or two Wednesday afternoon walking door to door talking to residents of the West Park neighborhood, urging them to vote “no” on Issue 38 on Nov. 7.
“Every year, the city of Cleveland will have to take 2% of the budget, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s $14 million and set aside for this program,” said the councilman.
If it passes, Issue 38 would create a steering committee that would get public input from residents and create ballot issues that Clevelanders can vote on for the programs and services they feel are important.
“Anybody in the city 16 and up could apply for these positions and they would be half appointed by the mayor and half appointed by council, and there would be one full-time staff person,” said Evan O’Reilly, a steering committee member for the People’s Budget Cleveland.
People’s Budget Cleveland is the grassroots organization that got the issue on the November ballot.
“The only way to create a $14 million program is to cut $14 million from public safety and all the city services that Clevelanders are relying on,” said councilman Slife.
“It gives them full leeway in where they want to find the funding, but I will say that when it comes to making tax abatements for big developments downtown, they don’t ever seem to have trouble finding money for that,” said O’Reilly.
Andre White, also with People’s Budget Cleveland, says out of the hundreds of voters he’s spoken to at the Board of Elections, two have been against it.
“Everyone else I have talked to, they always are saying that the people need to have this money, they need to have the power,” said White.
It’s been nearly unanimous in people feeling really skeptical about this,” said Slife, contradicting the grassroots organization’s prediction of support.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb says, in part:
“The mayor continues to support resident involvement in the local government, particularly with respect to how the City spends taxpayer money, but does not support Issue 38 — a permanent charter amendment that will force critical cuts to the city’s budget.”
“People hear this idea and it makes sense to them … this is giving power back to the people,” said O’Reilly.
Mayor Bibb’s statement adds: “Last Fall, Mayor Bibb supported creating a participatory budgeting pilot program here in Cleveland, to help direct a portion of our one-time federal stimulus dollars. The administration brought legislation for the pilot before city council, which rejected the proposal.”