What is the City's Plan to make Cleveland Lead Safe?
Residents First proposal will have an impact on Lead Safety goals in 2024 and 2025. Here's some early observations.
What is the City's plan to make Cleveland Lead Safe?
Back in 2019 when CLASH forced City Council to enact the Lead Safe Certificate Program, the deal was that Council and Mayor Frank Jackson would enact the ordinance and their public-private partnership would implement the program. Things have changed since the 2019-2022 roll out of the Lead Safe Certificate program. Over the next few months, CLASH will be offering some clues as to the direction of the plan.
Cleveland has two operating entities providing lead safe housing services
City Departments that have legal authority to implement city and state laws concerning lead using tax revenue, fees, and grants. Departments include the Department of Building and Housing, Cleveland Department of Public Health, the Department of Community Development, and the Cleveland Law Department. In an effort to assist the City Departments, CLASH asked Mayoral candidates to appoint a cabinet level Lead Czar to coordination lead programs across the departmental lines. Mayor Justin Bibb appointed Karen Dettmer, a former Health Department employee, to be his lead czar.
However The Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition (LSCC) carries out lead related programs (public information, loans/grants for property owners, and research using mostly private donations from corporations, United Way, and private foundations through their non-profit operating entities including the Lead Resource Center, the CHN Housing Partners, Enterprise Community Partners and others.
LSCC is an unincorporated association of nonprofit entities each of which receives funding through LSCC and each of which has a vote on the Steering Committee of LSCC. There are two "chiefs". The Mount Sinai Health Foundation (Mitchell Balk) and the Enterprise Community Partners (Ayonna Blue Donald).
Over the past four years (2019-2022), LSCC has gained control of the oversight of the city program without offering much, if any, information about how LSCC operates.
Examples of LSCC control of city departments:
Ms. Blue Donald is the former Director of Building and Housing who set up the overall strategy for the Cleveland Lead Safe Certificate program, before moving over to Enterprise, the fiscal agent for LSCC.
While Director of B&H, Ms. Blue Donald gave an unbid contract to the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Center on Poverty to be the independent Lead Safe Auditor for the Department of Building and Housing. Dr. Robert Fischer is the primary staff person who is evaluating the city's progress at implementing the Lead Safe Certificate. Dr. Fischer is on both the City's Lead Safe Advisory Board and the LSCC Data Committee.
The Lead Safe Advisory Board includes Dr. Fisher, and 7 citizen members, five of whom are nominated by the LSCC and appointed by the Mayor. The auditor reports, meeting minutes and videos are posted on the CWRU website.
The times may be 'a-changing...or not.
With the slow pace of progress being reported to City Council, the Mayor and some city Council members may revamp the "public private partnership" to improve accountability of the privage partners. Or, maybe elected leaders will be content to have the private sector carry out public policy with increasing reliance on general fund dollars and pass-thru grant funding.
Will LSCC use their civic power to keep control of the city programs and while increasingly drawing on city tax and grant revenue to support their non-profit entities. (see below-an analogy).
Here's some signs of change
Sep. 20, 2023. cleveland.com Cleveland prosecutes 50 owners of homes that poisoned children with lead "The city of Cleveland is prosecuting 50 homeowners for failing to clean up houses where children have been lead-poisoned. Mayor Justin Bibb is levying 75 counts of first-degree misdemeanors against each of the property owners, which include a mix of individuals and LLCs or corporations that own properties all over Cleveland, city officials announced Wednesday morning. It’s a prosecution strategy that City Hall has not pursued in decades, and one that aligns with the city’s “moral obligation…to fight for equitable, fair neighborhoods,” Bibb said.
Public - Private Partnerships
What is a Public - Private Partnership?
A public - private partnership takes place when the public sector (Mayor, Council) wants to start a program without raising taxes or fees. The Philanthropic and Corporate sectors step forward to provide financing and management through a network of private non-profit corps.
In the case of lead safety, the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition was formed to provide lead info to residents through the Lead Safe Resource Center and financial assistance to landlords through the CHN Partners..in exchange for control of the city program through 3rd party advisors. Private sector jobs; no public accountability. Then, after a while, the private sector funding is converted to public funding going to the private non-profit corporations.
Example: Mt. Sinai Foundation (fiscal agent for LSCC) is seeking $800.000 from Cuyahoga County for operation of the Lead Safe Resource Center--so far no itemized budget, list of goals and objectives, or staffing positions or salaries. Did Mt. Sinai Health Foundation run out of money to pay for this program they created? Hardly: Mt. Sinai Health Foundation awards medical school $2 million to accelerate new treatments for devastating diseases. What starts as a public-private partnership shifts over time to a system where the public sector pays and private sector hires without any public accountability.
Meanwhile Environmental Health Watch which operates the LSCC funded Lead Safe Resource Center is a partner is a consortium of agencies providing technical assistance on environmental organizing thanks to a $10 million grant from US EPA. The Blacks in Green grantees recently sent staffers to the Climate Conference in Dubai.
In fact, in 2022, one of the representatives to the City's LEAD SAFE ADVISORY BOARD told the other board members that the city-paid City Lead Safe Auditor (CWRU) was not allowed to evaluate LSCC operations...he's only allowed to audit the City Departments.
Another example: In 2019, civic leaders formed a public-private partnership to bring Say Yes to Education to Cleveland. "Say Yes to Education helped provide startup experience and funding but has fully wound down its operations as anticipated in June 2021, with Say Yes Cleveland now fully independent and locally governed." Part of that "full independence and local governance" has turned out to be frantic public appeals to the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to provide funding for the health, education and social service non-profits who provide supplemental services to students in the Cleveland Municipal School District. More on the struggle to find public dollars to support the private Say Yes employees. UPDATE: Say Yes Cleveland family support specialist program gets $4.5 million from state budget
How the Philanthropic/Corporate Oligarchy "buys" civic influence
Cleveland Mayor Bibb, others to announce fair-wage program for restaurant workers, Mayor takes credit for a pay increase for restaurant workers and foundations foot the bill for a "pilot project" that will eventually morph into a tax supported expense. Who needs campaign donations to influence elected officials when wealthy tax charitable foundations can foot the campaign messaging?