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Cleveland citizens group concerned city lead paint plan still lacks enough oversight

Posted at 7:51 PM, May 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 23:17:06-04

CLEVELAND — Members of Cleveland Lead Advocates For Safe Housing, or "CLASH," are now working with city leaders, as they move forward with a plan to solve the on-going lead paint poisoning crisis.

CLASH believes the city plan lacks some key enforcement components that would better hold landlords accountable if they aren't lead free compliant.

The Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition unveiling 33 policy recommendations to help solve the problem, that health leaders have reported has an average of four Cleveland children diagnosed with lead poisoning everyday.

Cleveland's Health Commissioner Brian Kimball, and Ayonna Blue-Donald, Director of Building and Housing, told News 5 they believe the city is on the right track.

The plan will require a lead safe certificate at some 80,000 city rental units and a three year plan to full enforcement.

City leaders say the city will assemble the needed funding and create outreach and education for residents, in an effort to try and stop the lead poisoning that is effecting 14% to 35% of children in many Cleveland neighborhoods.

"We have to look at our legislation to see what are the best practices, what can we take away from other cities who have addressed this issue," Kimball said.

“We recognize this is not solely a health issue, not solely a building an housing issue, it’s a community issue.”

Blue-Donald told News 5 city housing inspectors will be ready for the challenge in holding lead paint violators accountable.

We will let people know, let landlords know, hey we're serious about this issue," Blue-Donald said.

"Let tenants know, if you have an issue, let us know, and we'll come inspect."

However, CLASH members like Jeff Johnson believe the city plan has some serious gaps.

Johnson told News 5 the plan lacks a component for criminal charges if a landlord doesn't take care of lead paint issues in rental units.

Johnson said the plan doesn't allow a tenant to place their rent in a court appointed escrow account, if a landlord is out of compliance.

Johnson also said the plan doesn't call for lead paint enforcement at home based daycare centers.

“We wanted to take care of daycare centers, because many of the daycare centers are in old structures, some of them are in homes," Johnson said.

"Some of them are in buildings that fall into an area of a threat to children."

Johnson said the city will once again be meeting with CLASH on May 20.

Meanwhile concerned parents who have children that have been poisoned by lead paint are sounding-off.

Parents contacting News 5 via email and social media, sharing their frustrations over decades of city inaction.

Alex Manti told News 5 her 2-year-old daughter suffered through the effect of lead paint poisoning, causing Manti to join the Lead Safe Living Campaign and Alpha Lead citizen group in 2004.

But Manti said very little was accomplished.

"When I saw News 5's story last night on the news I was inspired to try and come forth and bring my story," Manti said.

"I hope this is the time, children in 2019 should not still be suffering from this."

Yvonka Hall, Co-Founder of the Cleveland Lead Safe Network, told News 5 CLASH will continue with legal action to get its lead legislation on the ballot.

Hall said proposals, recommendations and summits are good, but legislation is the key to solving Cleveland's decades long lead epidemic.

"Things won’t get better until we actually have legislation," Hall said.

“In order to make the summit a legitimate piece, we have to create legislation, that legislates the findings we find in these summits, and we’ve never done that.

“Cleveland can not be safe, it cannot be a safe city, until it is a lead safe city.”