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Greater Cleveland RTA re-establishes Community Advisory Committee with eye to more public feedback

Members of the Community Advisory Committee stand in a line while being sworn in by GCRTA  Deputy General Manager of Legal Affairs Janet Burney.
Zaria Johnson
Ideastream Public Media
Community Advisory Committee members Joseph Sopko, Alicia Howerton, Jonathan Sieck, Loh, Brian Gibbons, Paul Meissner, Cole Ware and Johnny Brewington being sworn in by GCRTA Deputy General Manager of Legal Affairs Janet Burney on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is revamping its Community Advisory Committee to strengthen its connection to the public and promote rider feedback.

Committee members were selected from a group of applicants to serve as a point of connection between current and future riders, and GCRTA staff.

An ad hoc committee intentionally chose a diverse group of people from different background and professions who have connections to both public transit and further community development, Deputy General Manager Natoya Walker Minor said.

“One’s a retired firefighter, one's a retired doctor, two very different professions, but both thinking about and serving our community,” she said. “So, we really wanted people who are actively engaged in the community beyond public transit, but with an eye on public transit, because we want to make sure that we service everyone.”

The committee was put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. This time members will receive training and participate in frequent in-person meetings and public events to shift the narrative around public transit, Walker Minor said.

“Public transit is not for the poor, the downtrodden. It is not for the least amongst us. Public transit is for everyone,” she said. “Public transit benefits everyone. Public transit takes you to our primary areas, which are education, work and health care, but it also takes you to our public events.”

Eleven members have been sworn in to serve two-year terms on a staggered basis. Four additional members will be selected next year.

Current Community Advisory Committee members include:

  • Johnny Brewington, a retired chief of fire for the Village of Woodmere. Brewington previously served on the Community Advisory Committee and is currently board member for the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center.
  • Brooklyn Burmeister, a self-appointed public transit advocate. Burmeister is an architectural designer for the DLR Group and member of the American Institute of Architects and American Institute of Architects Cleveland.
  • Brian Gibbons, a member of Clevelanders for Public Transit and Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality, with experience representing labor forces, senior management of public media, nonprofit and government agencies.
  • Charles Kennick, neighborhood development coordinator for the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation and member of the Franklin Clinton Book Club.
  • Alicia Howerton, strategic partnership manager for the Cleveland Sight Center. Howerton also serves on the Cuyahoga County Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities and is co-chair of the group's Subcommittee for Transportation.
  • Nichole Laird, a planner for the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, advisory at Look Up to Cleveland and member of the American Planning Association.
  • Loh, a member of multiple community organizations including Clevelanders for Public Transit, ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County Action Committee and Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation.
  • Paul Meissner, a member of Clevelanders for Public Transit and a Precinct Election Officer for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Meissner currently works as Financial Controller for the Realife Real Estate Group/HSK Management.
  • Jonathan Sieck, a board member for Neighborhood Family Practice and member of the South of Lorain Block Club.
  • Joseph Sopko, a retired physician who worked at St. Vincent Charity Hospital for 40 years. Sopko previously served on the Community Advisory Committee.
  • Cole Ware, an associate with Results of America, a member of the Cleveland Heights Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee and co-founder of the Coventry Neighborhood group.

The committee will be tasked with finding ways to improve the RTA experience throughout Cuyahoga County by participating in surveys, focus groups and public engagement events.

Board President Charles Lucas, General Manager India Birdsong Terry and other members welcomed the Community Advisory Committee members upon being sworn in and expressed gratitude for the insight committee members will be able to provide.

“Your resumes, I believe, are fantastic just to be able to have the experience and the ridership. We look forward to having a lot of your voices be heard,” Birdsong Terry said. “We're doing a lot of good things, having a lot of robust programing, and it's great to be able to have the diversity across the county as well.”

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.