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Cleveland community leaders want neighborhood improvements to be part of rescue funds spending plan

Millions in federal dollars sitting in Cleveland coffers
CLE community leaders want neighborhoods in rescue funds spending plan
CLE community leaders want neighborhoods in rescue funds spending plan
Posted at 10:29 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 23:35:34-04

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland sent it's initial report to the U.S. Department of the Treasury Wednesday on how it plans to spend some $511 million in federal American Recovery Act Funds.

Anita Gardner is the founder of Concerned Citizens Community Council and a temporary council person for Ward 4. Gardner told News 5 she's hoping a significant portion of those dollars will go directly toward helping some of the cities poorest neighborhoods.

Gardner said she chose not to run for Ward 4 council seat that was lost by former Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson, because she wants to continue to help low income families in the Kinsman, Buckeye and Union-Miles neighborhoods with her community organization.

“I do not want to run," Gardner said. "I am not political, I do not want to be political.”

“They ought to stop focusing on downtown and start focusing on the area’s where the people are actually living. I want to hear about putting some furnaces in people’s houses, I want to her about making food more available to them, I want to hear about jobs down here.”

“We have houses that we have turned into building and housing in 2011 that are still standing and they are still in the same condition. The distribution should be on needs and not passed out equally.”

The 14-page-plan, submitted by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's administration, called for improving city safety as the highest priority for the federal funds, a priority that was echoed in a survey taken by 2,139 city residents.

Cleveland Safety Committee Chairman, and Ward 6 councilman, Blaine Griffin said the plan includes equipment upgrades for police, fire and EMS. The plan also prioritizes the continued expansion of the "CLE Safe Smart" neighborhood video surveillance system and other technology upgrades.

“Number one is safety, safety in the morning, safety in the evening, safety in the noon time," Griffin said. “That the police department has the right computer aided dispatch systems in place, because right now these systems are antiquated.”

Griffin also talked about two pieces of legislation under consideration that are calling for $20 million in broadband internet upgrades in neighborhoods of most need, and $5 million for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Ward 8 Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek agreed with the city safety upgrades, but said the city is not moving fast enough in implementing the federal funds into programs that could have already produced results.

Polensek said the city has yet to put any of the federal dollars to work, some $255 million, Polensek said has been sitting in city bank accounts since June.

“I’m so tired of just the talk, let’s see some end results, let’s see some programs," Polensek said. “Where we can award dollars to entities that can run with it, where we can put it in the street, where we can start having positive impacts."

“This is what we have to do now, we can not be waiting, we can’t be talking about this at the end of the year.

“The money is not there to do it, so let’s plug some money in so we can do demolitions, so we ca go after the worst places in the city. We know about people’s utility bills, we know about rental assistance, again, we know that there is an issue with demolition.”

Polensek said he's hoping Cleveland City Council will finally come up with specific spending plans for the federal rescue plan dollars when the council resumes regular Monday meetings on Sept. 20.