Sam Allard / Scene
Rebecca Maurer explains the CLASH lead legislation, (2/4/19).
Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH) will launch a petition drive this afternoon, the first step in getting a "Lead Safe" ordinance on the ballot in Cleveland's 2019 general election.
The coalition of seven member organizations will make its announcement at 1:30 p.m. on the steps of City Hall, and will proceed to file a petition document with the City Council Clerk. CLASH will have to gather 5,000 valid signatures from registered Cleveland voters for the petition to succeed, and former City Councilman Jeff Johnson, a CLASH member, said at a recent press conference that they group would shoot for collecting 10,000 signatures at a minimum.
When CLASH members explained
the details of, and the motivations for, the proposed legislation earlier this month, they said they were eager to work alongside — not in opposition to — the public-private Lead Safe Coalition that the city of Cleveland announced in January. CLASH's Yvonka Hall and others were dismayed by the evident lack of urgency on the part of city leaders, but CLASH planned to distribute its legislation to City Council members and attempt to set up one-on-one meetings with members in the Mayor's administration.
But in a followup conversation
on the lead crisis on WCPN's Sound of Ideas, councilman Blaine Griffin wouldn't even commit to action by the end of 2019. (In early 2018, he'd promised that the city would complete legislation by the end of the year, which obviously didn't happen, and Griffin said he didn't want to make that mistake again.) Councilman Tony Brancatelli, phoning in to the news program, hotly disputed the idea that council had "done nothing" on lead, and challenged the wisdom of legislation that holds landlords accountable for certifying their properties (built before 1978) are lead safe.
As CLASH's Rebecca Maurer has explained, "holding landlords accountable" may sound punitive, but the legislation's penalties are designed only as "backstop" measures. The law is intended to be "positive and incentive-based," and would provide funding for landlords to test and abate their properties.
In a press release Friday morning, Yvonka Hall said that civic leaders said
they were committed to addressing Cleveland's lead crisis at their Jan. 22 announcement, "but we still haven't seem a timeline for action. While we’ve waited, 92 Cleveland children have tested positive, and the number is rising at the rate of 4 children every day. They continue to talk, but our children can't wait. We must act to solve this public health crisis in Cleveland. Our Babies Matter!"
CLASH reiterated what it has said before: They look forward to City Council adopting the legislation, even of amending it, in the context of legislative hearings,
which are designed so that proposed bills may be strengthened and modified. CLASH will continue collecting signatures regardless, and if City Council refuses to pass a lead safe housing bill, CLASH will file the petitions to trigger a public vote.