Cleveland City Council rejects negotiations over ‘People’s Budget,’ organizers say
Cleveland City Council has rejected an offer to reach a compromise over the contentious “People’s Budget” charter amendment proposal, which would divert part of the city’s budget to projects and programs proposed and voted upon by city residents.
PB CLE, the grassroots coalition behind the participatory budgeting proposal on November’s ballot, said Wednesday it sought to negotiate with Cleveland City Council to consider an alternate charter amendment that would allocate a “substantially lower amount” than the group initially proposed, which would reach a maximum amount equal to 2% of city’s general fund the year before — about $14 million based on the 2023 budget.
PB CLE organizers worked with Ward 12’s Rebecca Maurer, who was among a handful of council members who supported a proposal for a participatory budget pilot program earlier this year, to propose a negotiation with the city council. Council members, most of whom have been adamantly against the measure, were unwilling to negotiate, according to PB CLE.
“PB CLE welcomed dialogue and collaboration with City Council and the administration," PB CLE Campaign Manager Molly Martin said in a written statement. "PB CLE felt it was important to pursue a collaborative approach with council as the issue heads to the ballot in November. We are confident that the existing charter amendment going before voters is one the city can plan for."
Council President Blaine Griffin told Ideastream that the council declined to negotiate because members were still unclear where the money would come from — a move that he said could potentially hurt staffing levels and department operations.
"We didn't even go to the table to have that conversation because, quite frankly, these guys made a decision a long time ago that they were going to move forward with this," Griffin said.
City Council and PB CLE disagree on whether the money for the participatory budget must come from the general fund, which is used to fund city functions like police and fire services and the building department.
City Council contends the funds must come from the general fund. PB CLE organizers say up to 60% of the money can come from the city’s capital budget, which funds infrastructure and construction projects. Both groups cite the proposal language.
The deadline to file a charter amendment proposal for the November election is Friday, Sept. 8.
A debate between PB CLE organizers and Councilmember Kris Harsh and a yet-to-be-named partner will take place at 6 p.m. at the Little Theater inside Public Hall on Sept. 26.
This story will be updated.