Taking a page out of Cleveland activists' playbook, a small group of protesters in East Cleveland blocked traffic at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Forest Hills Boulevard Monday morning, to demonstrate against the permanently flashing red traffic lights there.
Residents say Mayor Norton has delayed fixing the lights as a tactic to generate income for the cash-strapped city
“They’ve been broken for two months,” said Councilman Nathaniel Martin, gesturing to the lights overhead. Martin was the only East Cleveland council member in attendance at the protest, which lasted for roughly an hour. “And the question must be asked: Where is Mayor Norton? I can’t speak for him because he’s not here… but he aint here.”
Martin said this particular traffic light issue has come up once or twice at council meetings, but that solutions have not been discussed.
“Nothing’s ever done about it.” Martin said. “This is a safety issue and it must be fixed. If it costs $2,000, $3,000 if you’ve got to rob Peter to pay Paul, we’re elected officials and we’ve to got to find a way.”
Members of the Black Man Army
, waving their red, black and green flags, stood in the center of the intersection and chastised Norton on a megaphone — “Someone is going to die at this intersection,” one man proclaimed. “We’ve got so many problems and no competent leadership!” “The City’s falling apart!” “Where’s the Mayor?”
East Cleveland school board member Patricia Blochowiak said that though the finances and the demonstrably poor leadership are important, for her, this is primarily a safety concern.
“This is right down the street from Superior Elementary
,” she said. “It’s dangerous when you have drivers who don’t reliably know what to do.”
Are there crossing guards before and after school, at least? Scene
“Not that I’ve ever seen,” Dr. Blochowiak said.
Gerald Strothers, who mans 44112news.com
and organized the protest, said that the traffic lights' circuit boards weren’t broken; the lights were deliberately switched to a blinking red position so that cops could enforce the complete stop rule.
“And they mean complete
stop,” Strothers said. “The police will sit here all day writing you up.”
Strothers estimated that each moving violation can cost nearly $300, after extensive court costs
Judge William Dawson, East Cleveland's presiding municipal court judge, wasn't immediately available for comment, but reportedly asked that stop signs be placed at the intersection in addition to the blinking red lights, in accordance with state code. Stop signs have been placed at the intersection, but high on the traffic lights' crossbeam overhanging the street.
Though representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation weren't available for comment, the USDOT / Federal Highway Administration's stop sign regulations
certainly seem to side with those protesters who feel the current stop sign placement is, if not illegal, than at least unsafe.
"At intersections where all approaches are controlled by STOP signs, a supplemental plaque (ALL-WAY or 4-WAY) shall be mounted below each STOP sign." (This is not currently the case at Euclid/Forest Hills).
"The STOP sign shall be installed on the right side of the approach to which it applies. When the STOP sign is installed at this required location and the sign visibility is restricted, a Stop Ahead sign shall be installed in advance of the STOP sign." (Again, not currently the case).
Moreover, the USDOT recommends that stop signs never be installed on major roads (which Euclid indisputably is) without a thorough engineering study beforehand. Though East Cleveland officials were unavailable for comment — many of the City Hall phone numbers have been disconnected for weeks — it's highly unlikely that Mayor Norton commissioned a study of any kind before this maneuver.
An employee in East Cleveland's service department who would not provide his full name confirmed that the flashing red position is not accidental.
"We call it flash mode," he said. "Sometimes we can use it for special events — Mardi Gras or something like that. It's on a toggle switch."