CLEVELAND — A city councilman and a state senator are vowing to "take up the charge" to reform the Cleveland Division of Water.
The statements come just hours after the NAACP legal defense fund filed a federal lawsuit claiming the public utility discriminated against its customers.
Tonight on News 5 at 11 p.m., watch team coverage of the lawsuit filed against Cleveland Water and the community's reaction
The class action lawsuit claimed "rampant" water shutoffs, "widespread" over billing, and the destruction of neighborhoods by placing liens on homes with overdue bills.
The NAACP LDF said these unfair practices disproportionately impacted black residents in Northeast Ohio.
Cleveland city councilman Basheer Jones represents the 7th ward on Cleveland's east side.
“I am heartbroken as a young person who grew up in the city, experienced poverty and I know the trauma that comes with losing your house," Jones said. "But, to think that a system that should be put into place to make our community better is becoming a system that is increasing the trauma of poor people in our city. Our negligence has harmed people and I will be taking up this charge."
State Senator Nickie Antonio, a Democrat who represents Cleveland's west side and surrounding suburbs, says this lawsuit is personal for her as well.
"This hits home for me. When I was young and my mom was a single head of household, we had our gas cut off because she couldn’t pay the bill," she said. "To take a water bill and threaten to put people out of their homes, to me this is not only draconian but also displays lack of imagination in trying to find another way. Municipalities gain nothing by putting people out on the street. I applaud the class action lawsuit. As a result of bringing this to my attention, I am going to look into what it would take to put a moratorium against tax liens in Ohio into effect."
Senator Sherrod Brown's office weighed in as well.
"Sen. Brown has led efforts to eradicate discrimination in all of its forms, and he works to make Ohio housing more affordable and to keep Ohioans in their homes. Brown hopes the Court will give the parties an opportunity to present their claims, impartially hear the evidence presented, and apply our constitutional and Civil Rights laws in a fair and just manner."
Cleveland Water has not responded to our request for comment. Neither has the City of Cleveland or Mayor Frank Jackson's office.