Cleveland Introduces Bill Prohibiting Release of Balloons into Atmosphere, And Not a Moment Too Soon

1.5 million balloons, almost as many problems - YouTube Screengrab
YouTube Screengrab
1.5 million balloons, almost as many problems
Cleveland City Councilmen Kevin Bishop, Brian Kazy and Anthony Brancatelli have introduced legislation that will prohibit the outdoor release of large numbers of balloons.

"The release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment
and public safety," the bill reads.

The emergency ordinance, which is scheduled for passage at next Monday's council meeting, holds that no person may release ten or more such balloons in any 24-hour period. (Balloons released for scientific research, recoverable hot air balloons and balloons released indoors are excepted.)

The bill arrives, alas, 35 years after Cleveland's famous balloon disaster of 1986, in which the United Way attempted to set a Guinness world record by releasing 1.5 million helium-filled balloons in downtown Cleveland. The mass of multi-colored balloons was swept away by an approaching stormfront, ultimately shutting down a runway at Burke, littering beaches as far away as Ontario and causing multiple car crashes due to distracted drivers. 

Though the bill's lead sponsor, Ward 2's Kevin Bishop, was not immediately available for comment, the legislation language notes that releasing balloons is, in fact, littering. Balloons frequently come into contact with power lines and have caused power outages and other disruptions.

All three of the bill's sponsors also serve on city council's municipal services and properties committee, which deals with matters pertaining to parks and recreation, including playgrounds and beaches. The bill cited, in that vein, a Plain Dealer report which found that about 18,000 balloons or pieces of balloons made of mylar or latex were recovered during Lake Erie beach clean-ups between 2016 and 2018.

Like all emergency ordinances, if the bill receives a two-third majority vote at Monday's council meeting, it will take effect immediately.

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About The Author

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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