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Councilman Cummins Wants More Open, Flexible Deal for LED lights in Cleveland

Councilman Cummins says Mayor Jackson had good intentions when he announced the deal with Chinese LED maker Sunpu-Opto.

CUMMINS: The deal itself has really good goals.

It would have helped get Cleveland Public Power to 25% green energy in the next 15 years. But speaking to ideastream’s Dick Feagler, Cummins says the mayor’s plan had all sorts of problems. For one thing, it would lock the city into a 10-year deal with an unproven company for unproven technology. Plus, the no-bid contract shut out competitors like General Electric.

The mayor is once again looking for a company to supply all of the city’s energy efficient lighting in exchange for job creation, and Cummins wants a very different process this time.

CUMMINS: We need to compete this. We should not be doing a no-compete bid. We need to do it in which we break up the product lines and buy what’s on the market and buy a known item.

And, he wants to give East Cleveland’s GE Lighting a fair shot.

Mayor Jackson admits there were problems with the process. The administration was still waiting for replies from other LED suppliers when he announced the Sunpu-Opto deal in March. That’s the main reason, he says, he shelved the plan.

JACKSON: it wasn’t a matter of not having the votes to move forward. It was the fact that I found some flaws and it would be better for us to start over.

But there were also the conflict of interest accusations that Peter Tien, the man who helped orchestrate the deal, would own half the US subsidiary. Councilman Cummins:

CUMMINS: That was part of what one of my colleagues called one of the layers of the rotten onion.

The mayor remains committed to what he calls a new business model for the city. The idea is to use the city’s purchasing power—for things like light bulbs—as a way to also create jobs.

JACKSON: To me it doesn’t matter which company is able to do it. What matters to me is their end result of a higher technology that will reduce the cost of our electric bill, that will create business investments here and jobs.

Sunpu-Opto could still be a winner, but if Cummins gets his way, it will be a shorter, more flexible deal.

You can hear the whole interview with Councilman Cummins tonight on Feagler and Friends at 8:30 on WVIZ/PBS.