Sam Allard / Scene
Pictures of County Councilpeople to mark their empty seats. (Both Yvonne Conwell and Jack Schron, along with the unpictured Dale Miler, eventually arrived).
"Make no mistake about it GCC, we are in a fight."
That was the Rev. Jawanza Colvin, preaching from the pulpit at Slavic Village's Elizabeth Baptist Church to a crowd of energized #NotAllInners Thursday evening. They'd just secured commitments from County Councilpeople Jack Schron, Dale Miller and Yvonne Conwell that they would work to delay the vote on the Quicken Loans Arena renovation deal, at least until the release of the state budget on or before June 30.
"This round is with the County," Colvin said. "The next round is gonna be with the city. And we are fighting above our weight class. Our opponents have deeper pockets, our opponents have a wider network, our opponents have political connections and corporate contributions to influence people's thinking — enough so that we should've been knocked out of this fight a long time ago. One thing I know about GCC is we know how to take a punch, but we also know how to throw a punch."
GCC members plan to take the fight to Dan Gilbert's doorstep later this month. A caravan will drive to Detroit on March 21st for a daylong demonstration there.
From the crowd at Elizabeth Baptist, City Councilman Mike Polensek chuckled to himself. Directly behind him, Councilman Zack Reed surveyed the crowd. (It was difficult not to be moved by Colvin's address — he's a powerful orator and, as such, is the GCC's deadliest weapon.) The city's legislative body will begin deliberating on Cleveland's contribution to the Q deal soon, but until now, the discussions have occurred at the County level. Both the pro-deal and anti-deal sides have rallied their respective troops, packing council chambers to capacity crowds in recent weeks' meetings — they have been the most highly-attended meetings in council's six-year history, and it's not close.
The Q discussions will continue this coming Tuesday at 1 p.m. There, council will vote whether to advance the Q resolution, which authorizes the county to sell $140 million in bonds for the renovations, from the committee of the whole to the floor. After that, barring a supermajority (8-3) vote, the resolution will be subject to a third reading and further discussion before passage. Amendments to the resolution are permitted at any point during the process.
"I don't think anyone has any desire to move this along faster than normal," said Councilman Jack Schron, in an interview with Scene
Schron himself certainly doesn't. He has been among the more vocal council members during deliberations thus far. He has asked probing, sometimes uncomfortable questions of the Cavs' and Quicken Loans Arena president Len Komoroski and County Financial Adviser Tim Offtermatt. He has also made no secret of the fact that he thinks a vote on the resolution ought to be delayed until the state budget is released in June, when its effects on the county general fund will be known. That's a sentiment he reiterated Thursday night, to the electric GCC crowd.
"I didn't equivocate," said Schron (an accidental reference, perhaps, to a recent Scene cover
). "I really believe that we're going to see an impact on the general fund. It'll be a lot of information Tuesday."
Schron will no doubt continue to ask tough questions of the presenters at that time.
"I'm not asking these questions to hear myself talk," said Schron. "I'm asking them to be probing, and to air these issues in the open. This is what democracy is about."
Both Miller and Conwell also said that they were in favor of delaying the vote too. All three said they would work with the GCC leadership to explore the funding of mental health crisis centers, which GCC has pegged as one of its big targets for funding with a proposed Community Equity Fund. Miller pointed out that he's open to conversation, but would be approaching those conversations with a desire to better coordinate existing non-profits, as opposed to creating something new.
GCC contacted each council member individually to invite them to Thursday night's meeting and to brief them on its contents. Only Schron and Miller were in attendance for the majority of the proceedings. Conwell arrived late, she said, after another meeting in Fairfax.
"I want you to notice these empty chairs," said Colvin, during his remarks, gesturing to the row of seats facing the crowd. "And I want you to notice the pictures on them because they say something. Some of them, I'm sure, have a very good reason for why they are not with us. But I want to tell you this: We will remember this the next time you need us more than we need you."
The crowd roared.
Those Councilmembers not in attendance
District 1: Nan Baker
District 3: Dan Brady (County Council President)
District 4: Scott Tuma
District 5: Michael Gallagher
District 8: Pernel Jones
District 9: Shontel Brown
District 10: Anthony Hairston
District 11: Sunny Simon