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Our surprise

On February 4 a Crain's Cleveland Business reporter, mentioning that SHAD (our neighborhood community development corporation) didn't know about a $750,000 grant from the City of Cleveland for the Square, asked us if we knew what it was.

No, we follow the news of the Square closely and we also didn't know. A quick look at SHAD's latest Connection newspaper, published in December, said nothing. Nor did the websites of the Coral Company, their Shaker Square site, or SHAD tell about this good news. But more searching has turned up news of this $750,000 from Cleveland. Karen Kurdzeil had included it in her story in the July 14, 2005 Sun Press. Though the story is no longer on their website, we had saved it on these pages. To read it, click here.

What Cleveland City Council did

We visited the City Council website to find that at their meeting held on Wednesday January 28, our Ward 4 Councilman Kenneth Johnson had introduced this emergency resolution. I show it in full below, adding some bold for emphasis. (To read it on the City Council website, click here [pdf].)

Ord. No. 103-09.
By Council Member Johnson.
An emergency ordinance authorizing the Director of Economic Development to enter into a grant agreement with Coral Shaker Square, LLC to provide economic development assistance to partially finance capital improvements to Shaker Square.

Whereas, this ordinance constitutes an emergency measure providing for the usual daily operation of a municipal department; now, therefore,

Be it ordained by the Council of the City of Cleveland:

Section 1. That the Director of Economic Development is authorized to enter into a grant agreement with Coral Shaker Square, LLC to provide economic development assistance to partially finance capital improvements to Shaker Square.

Section 2. That the costs of the grant shall not exceed an amount of $750,000 and shall be paid from Fund No. 17 SF 652, Request No.185944.

Section 3. That the agreement and other appropriate documents needed to complete the transaction authorized by this legislation shall be prepared by the Director of Law.

Section 4. That the contract authorized in this legislation will require the recipient of financial assistance to work with The Workforce Investment Board for Workforce Area No. 3 to identify and solicit qualified candidates for job opportunities related to the City’s contracts, and place special emphasis on the hard to employ, including but not limited to the disabled and persons who have been convicted of or have pled guilty to a criminal offense, unless the criminal conviction or circumstances relate to the duties for the particular job sought.

Section 5. That this ordinance is declared to be an emergency measure and, provided it receives the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to Council, it shall take effect and be in force immediately upon its passage and approval by the Mayor; otherwise it shall take effect and be in force from and after the earliest period allowed by law.

Motion to suspend rules, Charter, and statutory provisions and place on final passage.
The rules were suspended. Yeas 21. Nays 0.
Read second time.
Read third time in full. Passed. Yeas 21. Nays 0.

Our first reaction was "What is the emergency?"

How does a project that has nothing to do with the daily operation of a city department become an emergency? We've since learned that such resolutions are the norm for City Council. As Councilman Johnson has noted, this avoids a 40 day delay. But it also precludes public comment and open discussion. (Yes, there is a review process in committees and approval of a funding source.)

Enter the Sun Press

We passed the news along to the Sun Press, which assigned a correspondent, Thomas Jewell, to report the story. Last week's edition had the news on the first page. To read Tom Jewell's good story, appropriately titled "Better late than never", on their website, click here.

The good news and the bad news

The good news is that the City of Cleveland is helping to improve the Square.

The bad news is that we shouldn't expect to see improvements. The funds will pay for projects already completed such as new roofs, parking signs, and security cameras.

Frankly we had hoped that the City would be financing further improvements, such as more parking and possibly a visitor center at the Square.

Two questions remain

  • Why so little information?
    Other than the City Council minutes, the Sun Press story is the only public information on this grant. Even today (three weeks later) there is no mention on the websites of the Coral Company, their Shaker Square site, or SHAD. In our view, as Cleveland taxpayers and friends of Shaker Square, we deserve to be better informed, especially about publicly funded projects.

  • "Is this a gift to the Coral Company or a loan?"
    UDAG (Urban Development Action Grants) funds were originally provided by our federal government years ago and usually required repayment by private developers. As Cleveland's first UDAG grants were repaid, the funds were recycled for other grants, such as the $750,000 grant just made. But neither the Council resolution nor the comments of Councilman Johnson and the Coral Company have mentioned a commitment to repay the grant. So we ask the question, "Does this grant have to be repaid?" We hope someone will tell us all soon.

Arnie Berger webmaster   revised February 25. 2009

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