Sam Allard / Scene
Members of CLASH at press conference, (6/5/19).
Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH), the coalition of activist organizations that has made lead poisoning prevention a marquee civic issue, suspended its second citizen petition drive with the passage of lead legislation earlier this week.
While the many amendments that CLASH proposed to Cleveland City Council's landmark law were not accepted — among them, a provision that would have made daycare centers subject to a lead-safe mandate — the coalition's members plan to support the law and work toward getting amendments added as they continue educating citizens.
“We have finally taken a significant step to ending a public health crisis in Cleveland, said CLASH member and former city councilman Jeff Johnson, in a statement provided to the media. Johnson was the city council sponsor of lead legislation in 2017 that was roundly ignored by his colleagues. "For too long inaction and inattentiveness prevented the protection of our children from lead poisoning. Let this first step of a new law, a new approach, keep us committed to our children and to their futures.”
CLASH attorney Rebecca Maurer celebrated the efforts of activists who have pushed the lead issue into the spotlight and kept it there. But for their relentless pressure on City Council, the city-led Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition likely would have never emerged.
"It is a victory for community organizing, a victory for good public policy, and — most importantly — a victory for Cleveland’s children,” she said in a statement.
In June, after Council's legislation was first introduced, CLASH said that they would not
suspend their petition drive. Johnson, speaking from his experience at City Hall, said that legislation can be changed significantly from introduction to passage and CLASH was worried about the bill being delayed or watered down. CLASH's first petition drive had been squashed by council on a technicality — the petitions failed to include a required all-caps disclaimed about election falsification.
Milo Korman, a CLASH member representing the Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America, said that CLASH had made a promise to the people of Cleveland: "that we would not stop fighting to stop lead poisoning until we had a law that was in place and on a path toward enforcement."
CLASH now feels that the city law, which moves from a reactive to a pro-active prevention approach by mandating a "lead-safe" status for all rental units built before 1978 in the city, is on that path. The city will begin enforcing the lead-safe mandate in 2021. All units must be certified by March, 2023.
Echoing comments from City Council, CLASH celebrated the law's passage but regarded it merely as a first step. Funding, implementation, education and enforcement will all require persistent efforts from both public and private partners over the next several years.
The law's passage was nearly unanimous Wednesday, (15-1), with Ward 1 councilman Joe Jones absent and Ward 12 (Slavic Village) councilman Anthony Brancatelli representing the only NO. That vote will surely be a dark mark on the councilman's record. His justification — that the legislation was rushed, that council had designed a spaceship without figuring out how to land it — is among the more risible he could've come up with, given the body's penchant
for emergency legislation.
*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the city council vote tally was 16-1. The vote was 15-1. Councilman Joe Jones was absent.
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