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'Let's take care of people' — Changes to Cleveland Council committees reflect leadership's priorities

Cleveland City Hall
Posted at 5:35 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 18:58:20-05

CLEVELAND — Just hours after five new council members were sworn in on Monday night, Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin announced significant changes to the council committees to reflect the new council leadership’s priorities, including a broader focus on equity, diversity and inclusion.

The change in committee structure applies to what were previously known as the Finance Committee, Health and Human Services Committee, Utilities Committee, Transportation Committee and Workforce and Community Benefits Committee.

The Finance Committee, which acts as the most powerful committee because almost every piece of legislation passes through it, has been changed to the committee on finance, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Council President Griffin said in a news release that the changes to the finance committee reflect a new focus on examining legislation through a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Tuesday’s announcement follows Griffin’s speech at Monday night’s swearing-in ceremony, in which he reiterated to the new-look council that their job is to “take care of people.”

“We’re going to take care of people in this city,” Griffin said. “Not the infrastructure, not the bricks and mortar, not the institutions but the people will be our guiding principals of what we’re trying to do.”

Changes were also made to the Utilities Committee, which will see an expanded role in providing oversight of a possible implementation of a city-wide broadband network. In the waning days of the 2020 legislative session, Council passed a $20 million allocation in American Rescue Plan Act money to fund broadband services in Cleveland, one of the least-connected major cities in the country. Councilman Brian Kazy will chair the committee.

Additionally, the Health and Human Services Committee, to be chaired by Councilman Kevin Conwell, will be broadened to also include the arts. The arts community has long lacked a specific committee to which they can provide insight and comment.

The council’s Transportation Committee will also have a larger umbrella, providing oversight of not just automobiles but also other modes of transportation, including public transit, rail, e-bikes and e-scooters. Councilman Kerry McCormack will chair the new committee.

Finally, jobs and employment will have a renewed focus at the Workforce, Education Training and Youth Development Committee, which was previously known as the Workforce and Community Benefits Committee. In the news release, Griffin said the committee, which will be chaired by Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, will take a comprehensive approach that impacts the workforce and educational opportunities for children and adults.