February 7, 2024
Lots of action at County Council in 2023! Here are some of the major things that happened:
Executive Ronayne Takes Over: Chris Ronayne took over as County Executive in January, becoming the third executive since the new government began in 2011.
Selection of Site for the New County Jail: The 70+ acre site in Garfield Heights off Transportation Boulevard was approved for purchase in September as the site for the new Cuyahoga County Jail. The next step, expected during the middle of this year, would be approval of a construction contract with a guaranteed maximum price. There is a separate article on this website that provides a detailed report on the recent history of the jail project.
Approval of Sales Tax Extension: The County's portion of the 8% that we pay in sales tax is 1.25 percent. The last quarter percent was added in 2017, primarily to pay for the Convention Center, but it has also been used for other expenses. This final quarter percent was set to expire in 2027, but in December, 2023, Council extended it for an additional forty years. The final quarter percent will be used to pay for the debt service on the jail construction; however, it is expected that not all of the money will be needed for this purpose. Some may be used to upgrade courthouse facilities or for other purposes.
Passage of the 2024-5 Biennial Budget: In December 2023, Council passed the biennial budget for calendar years 2024 and 2025. The budget featured little in the way of new programs, mostly providing necessary funds to cover anticipated increasing costs of existing services. However, we did provide a small allocation for the Literacy Cooperative/Imagination Library, which makes free books available to all children in Cuyahoga County through age five. This program has been shown to help with kindergarten readiness.
Placement of the HHS Levey Renewal on the Ballot: Also in December, Council placed renewal of the Health and Services Levy on the ballot for the March 19, 2024 primary. We kept our promise that the 2024 levy submission would be a renewal, not an increase. The levy pays for vitally important services used by hundreds of thousands of people, including MetroHealth care, services to help seniors stay in their own home, and services to protect children from neglect and abuse.
Preparation for Upgrade of the County Courts: The chances are increasing that the County will build court facilities on a new site. We sent out a request for proposals and received seven possible sites, which we are currently reviewing.
Wage Theft Legislation Passed: Legislation that I sponsored was passed to make a finding of wage theft a cause for which a contractor may be excluded from doing work for the County. Wage theft occurs when an employee does not receive compensation to which he/she is properly entitled, such as failure to pay time-and-a half for overtime or failure to provide one's final check. Wage theft is much more common than generally believed.
Pay-to-Stay Legislation Introduced: I introduced countywide Pay-to-Stay legislation, which would protect a tenant from being evicted if the tenant makes good on rent owed and reasonable late fees prior to completion of the eviction process. Eight municipalities in Cuyahoga County currently have pay-to-stay legislation.
Development Underway on Drone Flight Information System: The County is assisting in the development of a system that will provide flight information to drone operators so that they will know where it is and is not safe to fly. We believe that development of this system will help attract drone industry business to Cleveland. The Cleveland Clinic recently announced a program to deliver medications by drone.
NOACA Makes Progress on 5-County Climate Action Plan: NOACA, the region's planning agency is continuing its work toward developing a five-county Climate Action Plan. At their January meeting, NOACA adopted a resolution which provides a summary list of the best local actions that we have identified to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A preliminary version of the Climate Action Plan will be submitted to federal authorities by March 1, followed by an application for federal implementation funding. Blue Abyss Acquires Land in Brook Park for Astronaut Training Facility; Blue Abyss Company acquired a 12-acre parcel in Brook Park where it intends to build a world class astronaut and deep-water training facility and a hotel. Space exploration is moving more and more to the private sector. Both public and private agents engaged in space exploration will need high quality facilities for astronaut training. The project requires a complex combination of private, state, and local funding. Considerable work on design, planning, and financial development must occur before construction can begin.