'People's Budget' group delivers more than 10,000 signatures to Cleveland City Hall
People’s Budget Cleveland, or PB CLE, the group pushing for residents to control a portion of Cleveland’s budget, dropped off petitions with 10,582 signatures to city hall Monday.
PB CLE needs 5,906 valid signatures — 10% of the total votes cast in the last municipal election — to get its initiative on the November ballot.
“There’s a movement behind us, right? It’s not just you that was interested in signing our petition," said PB CLE’s Moses Ngong to a group of supporters on the steps of city hall. "It’s you and 11,000 other Clevelanders who are excited about this idea and ready to have a bigger say in our democracy."
If approved, the proposal would allocate money to projects voted on by Cleveland residents. The amount would be equivalent to 1% — and eventually 2% — of the city’s general fund, or the city’s primary operating fund, according to the charter amendment petition. PB CLE said that money could come from the city's capital budget, which finances capital construction.
PB CLE started collecting signatures in May knowing enough valid signatures could bypass city council approval to get the initiative on the ballot. Cleveland City Council turned down PB CLE’s proposal to use $5.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for a pilot participatory budget program in January.
“The people’s budget is about giving a voice to Clevelanders and cutting out the middle man,” Ngong said. “For so many of us, when we have a great idea, we can’t really trust that our council person or the mayor will immediately jump on it.”
The city’s Clerk of Council has 10 days to determine the validity of the signatures.
The group registered nearly 900 voters alongside its efforts to gather petition signatures, said Molly Martin, PB CLE’s campaign manager.
“This is about creating an on-ramp to city government,” Martin said. "It’s about creating more democracy."
PB CLE reps also made a point to encourage voters to vote against State Issue 1 on the ballot August 8. Issue 1 would require 60% voter approval for citizens to amend the state constitution.
“Understanding this connection is incredibly important because at the end of the day, it is about taking power away from people,” PB CLE’s Erika Anthony said. "We do not want power taken away from people."
PB CLE said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration supported the creation of this ballot initiative. Participatory budgeting was one of Bibb’s campaign promises during his 2021 mayoral campaign.
Although the city council turned down PB CLE’s participatory budgeting proposal in January, it did have the support of four council members: Deborah Gray from Ward 4, Stephanie Howse from Ward 7, Rebecca Maurer from Ward 12 and Jenny Spencer from Ward 15.
PB CLE, the group advocating for residents to control a portion of Cleveland’s budget, said that money could come from the city's capital budget, which finances capital construction.