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Council members frustrated as discussions continue over ARPA funding allocations

Cleveland City Hall
Posted at 6:12 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 18:54:50-05

CLEVELAND — After months of discussions, the Cleveland City Council still has myriad of questions and decisions to make regarding how to specifically allocate tens of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act. During a contentious joint meeting of the Finance and Development, Planning and Sustainability Committees on Monday afternoon, many council members expressed frustration at the length and speed of the process as the Council’s final meeting of 2021 draws near.

The joint committee discussed legislation that would outline the broad categories that are to receive a part of the $122 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding the city received earlier this year. With the exception of the proposed $26 million allocation for the city’s public safety needs, all expenditures above $50,000 require separate legislative approval from the City Council.

The $26 million for public safety was exempted from the legislation after a motion by Councilman Brian Mooney (Ward 11). Because lead times on the purchase of new public safety vehicles, including ambulances, fire trucks and patrol vehicles, can often stretch beyond six months, council members recognized the need to put orders in quickly.

“Our ambulances, 18 of them have almost 400,000 miles. They’re breaking down every month with people inside of them,” Mooney said. “I think it’s important to get these ordered.”

In August, members of outgoing Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration presented their recommended allocations to the council after soliciting questionnaires from city residents. The City Council has hosted a half dozen meetings to pour over the administration’s recommendations, ask questions and offer alternatives.

Councilman Basheer Jones (Ward 7), who unsuccessfully ran for mayor, expressed his frustration with his colleagues Monday afternoon at how long the process of doling out the stimulus money has taken.

“What we have done is prolonged and prolonged this,” Jones said. “You think you sound like a superhero but for people watching, they know exactly what you’re doing. There may be something that you put in but please don’t come into the next meeting talking about what you were talking about in the first one.”

Councilman Kerry McCormack and Sharon Dumas, the chief of staff and former finance director for Mayor Jackson, appeared to be at odds over the spirit of the legislation that was being discussed.

“What this is saying is this body is going to do its job and evaluate proposals like we always do instead of giving blanket $122 million authority,” McCormack said.

“First of all, any suggestion that somehow you’re not rejecting the recommendations from the administration is not accurate. You are,” Dumas said. “You’re rejecting the recommendations from the administration.”

The Council has one meeting remaining before a slew of new council members — and Mayor-elect Justin Bibb — are sworn-in in January.