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
Dear Cassandra McDonald (Campaign Director) for Dr. Una Keenon for EC Mayor
Tweet Pin It East Cleveland Ohio U.S.A. – 6/13/2017 – Open Letter to Cassandra McDonaldRead More
Vanessa Veals – Upset as Hell (My Facebook Friend)
Tweet Pin It East Cleveland Ohio U.S.A. – 6/10/2017 – Today we showcase one ofRead More