East Cleveland vacant home problem was addressed

TO: Kim Wheeler, WKYC TV

I haven’t seen you since the Barbara Byrd Bennett news conference we attended years ago and you asked how I knew so much about education. LOL.
FYI. Gary Norton served as East Cleveland’s council president in 2009 when I wrote and council approved the toughest vacant property registration ordinance in the nation. I gave the ordinance to council in 2008. Norton failed to order committees to meet to discuss it until I went public with his more than 8 months of inaction. It was finally approved in 2009, but he led an effort to remove my name as the author and inserted Barbara Thomas’ name in place of it. It didn’t matter. I wanted the ordinance passed and didn’t care whose name was on it.

I had already assigned the building department to implement the ordinance. Property owners were beginning to register their properties. Fees were coming in the door. Collette Clinkscale and some of the water department employees were going to concentrate on its implementation full time beginning in January 2010. All forward movement stopped as soon as Norton was sworn in as mayor. We expected to generate over $200,000 the first year and about $600,000 the second due to the escalating fees associated with owners leaving properties vacant. Peak fees would have been about $1 million a year as long as the properties remained vacant. The money was to be used to support the administrative effort, but also as part of a demolition-rehabilitation plan that I had envisioned.

The plan was fairly simple. Every vacant property owner was required to register the property each year with the building department, and mandated to provide real names and physical addresses. There were no federal government or land bank exemptions. If HUD or a county landbank property was vacant, they had to register and maintain the property just like they do in Shaker and Cleveland Heights. Maintenance meant cut grass, no falling gutters, no chipped paint, no hanging doors or open windows. Fees were to be paid and then double for every year the property remained vacant. Landlords had to be actively trying to sell or rent the property. The ordinance is still on the books and available for the next mayor to implement.
I also notice that you showed video footage of Mayfair Street near Mayfair Elementary School. It was a street I showed to national, regional and state HUD officials on a tour of the city before my “unprecedented” meeting in 2009 with former U.S. HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson. HUD Undersecretary Nelson Bregon told me I was the only mayor in the nation who simultaneously managed the department of community development. He stated, too, that I was the only mayor in the nation who had been access to 16 top HUD officials by any Secretary during his more than 25 year career.

I had targeted Mayfair street because there were 37 homes on it and only 12 were occupied. I personally wrote the city’s Neighborhood Stimulus Program grant that brought $2.2 million for us to demolish 150 homes and rehab 15. All 15 were on Mayfair because it didn’t make sense to me for there to be a brand new school next to a street with vacant properties. Gus Kious, Huron Hospital’s former president, supported the plan as we agreed to target them to be sold to employees who lived in the city and wanted to walk or catch a bus to work.

I don’t know if Norton demolished the 150 homes, but I do know he didn’t rehabilitate the 15 on Mayfair. Instead of spending $3000,000 to implement the rehab plan I’d written, Norton spent all $300,000 to rehabilitate “one single family home” and then let Famicos, who’d done the rehabilitation, sell it to one of their employees for $80,000. My plan included selling the 15 homes to low-wage workers for less than $20,000 each, and then reinvesting the proceeds into rehabbing and selling more homes.

You indicated that there were over 4000 vacant “houses” in East Cleveland. In 2009 I assigned firefighters to count all the vacant structures in the city and they counted 2662 “vacant units” of housing, which also included the “units” in apartment buildings. I doubt that 1400 more homes have been abandoned in four years.

I further note that as of today, Norton has failed to properly spend the city’s block grant dollars to deal with the problems East Cleveland faces with its blighted housing stock. The city received about $2 million a year from HUD when I served as mayor. Norton has to reimburse HUD for about $1.5 million in misspent funds. That doesn’t include dollars that have been recaptured.

I’m aware that there’s a continuing series on East Cleveland scheduled for this week. I’ll be watching and hoping for accuracy and fairness in the reporting. The residents of East Cleveland are plagued with a person in the mayor’s office who has a well-known reputation for trashing the truth. Even alleged serial killer Michael Madison called him a liar for saying he he was inspired by Anthony Sowell.

I encourage the station’s news team to verify any information it gets from the mayor with Council President Dr. Joy Jordan, Clerk William Ellington and Sharon Hanrahan, chair of the financial planning and supervision commission.

Eric Jonathan Brewer, Publisher
Cleveland Challenger

3 Comments to East Cleveland vacant home problem was addressed

  1. Anyone trying to figure out what’s taking place in East Cleveland city hall under the current mayor might want to stop. There’s an old saying that you can’t predict “crazy.” Even alleged serial killer Michael Madison was vocal in calling the mayor a liar when he claimed the alleged murderer of three women was emulating Anthony Sowell. For the latest follow the link to the Cleveland Challenger.


    Eric Jonathan Brewer

  2. Keith B McGlothin says:

    You should have implemented my plan, and I really wouldn’t have cared if you had put your name on it. With the funds you claim to have been available, an even GREATER impact could have been made. After you lost the election, I submitted the same proposal and plan of action to the current Mayor, and like you, lack of action equates to problems remaining, and GROWING. They say 3’s the lucky number, so when he’s ousted, I’ll submit my proposal again and see what happens. My Father had successful businesses on both ends of Hayden Avenue, I don’t honestly see how anyone can walk the strip, and see the progress you speak of. East Cleveland is steadily approaching a state of no return, nonexistence, a slow death before our eyes. While I can appreciate you taking the time to keep citizens informed of YOUR opinion, don’t talk about it, be about it. If we SEE what you’re doing, we don’t have to hear you say it. You have to bring back neighborhoods to bring back people. You DON’T have to be an elected official, to act as a public servant.

  3. EJB says:

    There’s an assumption on the part of individuals with ideas that their ideas should be embraced by an elected official whose conduct is governed and limited by laws, charters, ordinances and resolutions. It’s an assumption that the elected official should ignore all they’re legally “limited” to doing to appease the individual who offers “their ideas,” and who are insulted when that official doesn’t embrace them.

    There is no legal process for accepting so-called “plans” from individuals with ideas, and if you’d read any of the governing documents I identified above you’d know that. I doubt that the next mayor, who will also be governed and “limited” by the documents you have not read, will implement your ideas. I recommend that you stop wasting your time waiting for a new mayor every four years to see if one will be elected to embraces your ideas.

    Your Dad didn’t need outside help to build his businesses. He had his own vision, obtained funding and built his dream. If you were more like him, and you really wanted to help East Cleveland, you’d have invested in your own ideas and be a living example of your belief in them. We’d see something you’ve built on Hayden.

    So I ask, Kent, what have you done for East Cleveland other than to offer a plan you want someone else to implement? You didn’t attend any council meetings or volunteer to serve on any boards or commissions during my four years as mayor. You didn’t attend any of my economic development meetings or town hall meetings, and I doubt that you’ve done anything other than complain about your ideas not being accepted by the city’s mayor over the past four years.

    You never reached out to HUD or the city’s block grant program to learn if you could organize and be certified as a Community Housing Development Organization. As cheap as property is in the city, you could have bought and developed an entire block for under $1 million if you’d had the ability to get funding. I also know you have no knowledge of the funding I got to do a streetscape plan for Hayden Avenue, that the current mayor failed to implement. Not one time did you ever submit a public records request for any of the plans I worked on, including the one that brought $2.2 million into the city to demolish 150 homes and to renovate 15. Gary spent all the renovation money on one house that’s not been sold. That was dumb. My plan included rehabilitating 15 houses around Mayfair Elementary School so children didn’t have to walk by a street with 37 houses and 25 vacancies.

    With all due respect, you’re wasting time. Life is short and we’re now senior citizens. Will you be complaining to the mayors who take office in 2017, 2021, 2025, 2029 and 2033 that “four score and 5 mayors ago” East Cleveland would have been better if mayors had listened to your ideas? It costs $45 in filing fees and less than 100 signatures to run for mayor. You could have put your ideas on the table just like I did, and just like every other person who’s sought the office if your thoughts were that powerful. Do something. Anything. But quit complaining.

    While my words may be direct, they’re not intended to be unkind or demeaning. I offer them only as insight into how you might find a way to help the city within the structure authorized by laws all mayors are required to follow: laws the person who serves as mayor has chosen not to follow. It’s why I have no fear of being prosecuted for anything I did. It’s his decision not to follow any laws that has the current mayor facing a federal investigation.

    I choose now only to help East Cleveland by providing a modicum of information to people who want it. It’s their option to read it if they choose; and they can ignore it if they choose. The city’s readers represent a very small percentage of my readership. I’m also under no obligation, and will accept no obligation, to do more or to pursue a path you or anyone else thinks I ought to follow with MY life. I have nothing to prove to you or anyone.

    Thanks for reading my “opinions.” Don’t forget to follow the link to http://www.clevelandchallenger.com to read my newspaper if you’d like more than just my opinions. I’m actually a pretty competent investigative journalist and I love it.

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