During the early hustle and bustle hours of the day, at the start of the week, inside the ballroom at Cleveland State University, the Greater Cleveland American Rescue Plan Coalition (GCARP Coalition) held its first Public Meeting. It was an engaging sight to see, democracy in action in an exercise of thoughtful government. With four elected officials and two levels of local government represented, there was a rare opportunity to hear directly from our leaders about the plans for public recovery funds.
It was an engaging sight to see, democracy in action in an exercise of thoughtful government.
The full recording of the meeting can be viewed below:
Cuyahoga County Executive, Armond Budish, City of Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin, and Cuyahoga County Councilmember Dale Miller were in attendance to talk about their plans to use their respective allocations of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The county is set to receive $240 million, while the city will receive a total of $511 million in federal funding, while some parts of each amount have already been allocated, there are still many decisions to be made before all the funds need to be allocated at the end of 2024.
City and County emphasized the importance of alignment
Moderated by GCARP Coalition Director, Kate Warren, the elected officials began with opening remarks before being asked their first question, “How will you work together (both as different branches of government and from city to county) to have a greater impact?” Each of the panelists emphasized the importance of alignment, with Mayor Bibb stating that the city and county have a joint commitment to equity, including resident voice and both levels of government working together to ensure the region is well-positioned, beyond ARPA. His sentiments were echoed by County Executive Budish, who noted, “we are in a historical moment,” in reference to the city and county enjoying a more collaborative working relationship.
How to build racial equity with ARPA funds
In response to a question about racial equity, County Councilmember Dale Miller identified three specific solution-oriented priorities: workforce development, broadband access, and small business assistance. These three areas were a consistent theme throughout his remarks, demonstrating a targeted approach from County Council. Mayor Bibb indicated the need to be “explicit as possible,” explaining his administration’s approach may include the following: a pilot Universal Basic Income program to help Black women start businesses, investments in the commercial corridors on the southeast side of the city, and a strengthened home repair fund to help older adults age in place. Council President Griffin emphasized the importance of making sure people understood the difference between equity and equality. He shared that his colleagues proposed gap financing for homeownership programs and increasing mobile clinics in the areas where people are living on the margins.
Council President Griffin emphasized the importance of making sure people understood the difference between equity and equality.
Audience Questions highlighted community concerns
In dedication to the shared values of the GCARP Coalition, the last portion of the meeting was devoted to attendee and audience-directed questions to the officials. These questions challenged the officials to expound on many of the answers they had previously shared while also identifying some potential priorities the community may have during the advancement of this work.
The audience questions centered around five key themes: Functional government, community involvement & equity, economic development, social issues, and services for vulnerable populations. One audience question highlighted the need for increased community involvement in the decision-making process and ensuring outreach was being done to ensure the process was inclusive to residents. The officials each responded by committing to having community members at the table, with many of them personally acknowledging the audience member and humbly recognizing they were elected to listen to the people. Council President Griffin said of elected officials that “That is what we are here for, our job is not only to try to make people come to us, our job is to go to people and be able to understand and help hear the voices of people.”
That is what we are here for, our job is not only to try to make people come to us, our job is to go to people and be able to understand and help hear the voices of people.
This meeting served as a great introduction to the collaborative work ahead between community members, stakeholders, and elected officials. The GCARP Coalition is committed to building on this work in future Public Meetings, to ensure that ARPA dollars are invested in a way that reduces disparities plaguing our community. The Public Meeting was an opportunity to hear elected officials demonstrate democracy and exercise openness to bringing government to the people.
To learn more about the work of the GCARP Coalition, and to get engaged, visit our website.