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Bibb administration reverses course on Cleveland leaf pickup program

A pile of leaves on a tree lawn in Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood.
Stephanie Czekalinski
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland will resume curbside leaf collection as of Nov. 13, 2022.

Just days after Cleveland announced it was requiring residents to start bagging their leaves, the Bibb administration reversed course and announced it would resume its curbside leaf collection program in previously designated high-generation areas. The decision comes after an outcry from residents and city council members.

“I appreciate the feedback we’ve received from residents and members of council,” said Mayor Justin Bibb in a press release. “We heard you and we are resuming the traditional program for 2022. We are also exploring ways to enhance leaf collection and other critical city services as we prepare for the 2023 budget and beyond.”

Word of the plan to suspend leaf pickup from tree lawns began to filter out through official channels earlier this week. In a statement release by Cleveland City Council Wednesday morning, Councilman Kevin Bishop, chair of council’s Municipal Services and Properties Committee, said, ”Council has been told that the administration is asking residents to bag their leaves. However, at this late date many residents who expected leaf pickup have already raked their leaves to mounds on their tree lawns.”

Council President Blaine Griffin laid the blame squarely on the mayor’s office.

“They have said it is because of capacity,” Blaine said in the statement. “Many people were looking forward to this service. Council has already received calls from angry constituents.”

a map of neighborhoods covered by Cleveland's leaf collection program.
City of Cleveland
Cleveland's leaf collection program shows previously designated "high generation neighborhoods" where the program is focused. Collection is once again set to start November 13.

In a subsequent release on Wednesday, Bonnie Teeuwen, the city’s chief operating officer, said, “The City’s program was never applied equitably citywide. In some cases, one side of the street was part of the program, and the other side was not. Now, our message to all residents is the same: if you want your leaves picked up, bag them and set the bags out on your designated waste collection day.”

But the mayor's office reversed course Friday morning, announcing in a press release that leaves would no longer need to be bagged. Curbside collection is once again scheduled to begin Nov. 13 and will continue for several weeks. The city also reminds residents that they can “leave the leaves” or turn them into mulch or compost. The Bibb administration says it will reevaluate the program, prioritizing equity and building capacity.

“I heard directly from residents on what we need to do and making sure we deliver is my priority,” Bibb added. “Delivering on the basics is critical. Despite our current capacity challenges, my administration is committed to making it work and ensuring Cleveland residents have the level of services they need and deserve.”

Andrew Meyer is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.