After a petition drive that lasted a little over six weeks, Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing turned in 10,338 signatures to the city Tuesday that could put the advocacy group’s lead safe legislation in front of City Council this month.
Delivered in five banker’s boxes, each bearing a letter of the group’s acronym – CLASH — the petitions were determined by City Council Clerk Patricia Britt to be “valid on their face” within hours of being submitted.
Cleveland’s charter requires 5,000 voter signatures to put the bill before City Council to consider. If council doesn’t adopt the legislation, it can then be put on the ballot for voters to decide.
Britt now will send signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to verify that the signatures are valid and belong to registered Cleveland voters.
CLASH’s proposed legislation would require owners of most Cleveland rental homes to prove their properties are lead-safe by 2021 or face fines. It also includes protections for tenants and requires landlords include whether a home is lead safe in any advertisements.
The delivery of the 10,338 petitions brought “the voices of the street to City Hall,” Yvonka Hall, a CLASH member and outreach director for the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus said from the front steps of the building on Lakeside Avenue.
Hall said that when she co-founded Cleveland Lead Safe Network two years ago, she thought that educating council and city leaders on the best ways to prevent lead poisoning would be “an easy sell.”
“I thought it would be simple. Explain it, justify it and they will come.”
The premise is to test homes before children are poisoned, a strategy in line with recommendations by the Ohio Children’s Budget as well as the proposed Federal Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act, Hall said.
Another CLASH member, Milo Korman, said for many who signed petitions that lead poisoning wasn’t an abstract idea but a “fact of life” for their daughters and sons and sisters and brothers.
Korman, a member of the Cleveland Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, said the effort represented more than just copies of legislation with names attached. It represents the “power of citizens” and the “hopes of a city,” he said.
Councilman Joe Jones, who represents a swath of the southeast side of the city that includes the Lee-Harvard and Union-Miles neighborhoods, told CLASH members, as they delivered the petitions. “I support you 110 percent. It’s a no-brainer.”
City Council President Kevin Kelley, as the signatures were being counted, said he planned to continue on the path to legislation through the Lead Safe Cleveland coalition.
“That a petition was submitted means a petition was submitted,” Kelley told The Plain Dealer.
“This isn’t going to take us off track with the plan that we have.”
Kelley said he expects City Council’s lead safe legislation to be based on the coalition’s recommendations, which are expected by May 1, and the legislation to be passed sometime after the Lead Safe Home Summit June 21.
If enough of CLASH’s signatures are verified, city council will follow the charter and the ordinance will be introduced, as soon as April 8 or 15, and considered by a council committee, Kelley said.
Council has about 90 days total to consider and vote on the legislation, according to the charter.
Kelley said if parts of CLASH’s legislation are similar, they could be incorporated into the legislation City Council will draft and introduce.
Councilman Blaine Griffin, who heads the health and human services committee where both pieces of legislation will be referred, said he believes that the Lead Safe Cleveland coalition will come up with recommendations for legislation that will prevent lead poisoning in a sustainable and comprehensive way.
“I know this is a priority issue the community wants resolved,” he said. “Whoever wants to be a part of that I welcome wholeheartedly.”
Rebecca Maurer, an attorney for CLASH, helped write the legislation submitted to City Council Tuesday and is also a member of the Lead Safe Cleveland coalition’s policy committee.
Maurer said she and other CLASH members are hopeful the whatever is passed require mandatory lead-safe testing of rental properties.
For too long Maurer said, “This city just accepted lead poisoning as the cost of living here.”
That doesn’t have to be the case, she said.
“We all have the same goal: protecting our City’s children from lead poisoning. We hope we can achieve that goal collaboratively,” she said. “But if not, CLASH is prepared to head to the ballot box in November.”