City Council Just Misses Two-Thirds Vote For Emergency Q Deal Passage; Will Likely Pass Measure Next Week

click to enlarge L-R: Jeff Johnson, Kevin Conwell, Zack Reed; one half of City Council's opposition on the Q deal. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
L-R: Jeff Johnson, Kevin Conwell, Zack Reed; one half of City Council's opposition on the Q deal.
Zack Reed - Ward 2

T.J. Dow - Ward 7

Mike Polensek - Ward 8

Kevin Conwell - Ward 9

Jeff Johnson - Ward 10

Brian Cummins - Ward 14

It's not much, but it's something. The above six councilmen voted "NO" to suspend council's rules at Monday night's council meeting. That means that ordinance 305-17, known among its exponents as the  Quicken Loans Arena Transformation deal, couldn't be passed as an emergency measure. Council would have required 12 votes to pass on a second reading.

What does that actually mean for the future? Council will now vote on the deal on a third reading, at next week's council meeting. It will likely pass 11-6 (or 12-5, if, as one City Hall staffer speculated, councilman Zack Reed flips).

Council President Kevin Kelley told Scene Monday evening, prior to the meeting, that council has heard as much as it's going to hear about the Q deal in committee — the finance committee heard testimony Monday afternoon after two previous meetings of the Planning, Development and Sustainability committee — and that the benefit of passing the legislation on emergency, in his mind, was that it would be effective immediately.

It would not, Kelley said, affect the possibility of a voter referendum on the issue. There is nothing specifically in the City Charter that precludes the possibility of a referendum, whether the legislation was passed on emergency or not. There was some chatter earlier in the day that the deal's pro-side wanted it passed on emergency to make a voter referendum more difficult.

Jeff Johnson spoke at the council meeting, a speech — like most of his speeches these days — that doubled as a campaign oration, directed squarely at Frank Jackson. He called into question the Mayor's "deafening silence" on the arena issue since the initial December press conference. (Councilmembers have told Scene that Jackson knows the issue is "toxic" and doesn't want his name associated with it.) Kelley told Scene, however, that he thought there was nothing unusual in the Mayor's absence at council committee hearings. Other than during budget proceedings, it's not the mayor's custom to appear before council.

Johnson said there were "dark clouds" and "discontent" swirling through the city. He said there was "something deceptive" in the fact that the city campaigned so hard for Issue 32, the income tax increase, while actively negotiating the deal. Ken Silliman, on Monday afternoon, disputed that the city was actively negotiating the Q deal during the campaign for the tax increase, saying that Jackson wasn't directly involved until the "latter half" of November, 2016.

Councilman Mike Polensek, who's been vocal in his opposition, spoke Monday evening as well. He said he was encouraged by the energy of the debate, and said he believed this was an opportunity for Cleveland to survey more closely past and future "deals."

"This is the people's house," Polensek said, of City Hall. And to those who have come to meetings to speak in support of or in opposition to the deal: "Do not be dismayed. Believe it or not, you do have a voice. We hear you."
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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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