Finance Committee Signs Off On LED Deal But Questions Remain

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After a five-hour plus meeting yesterday afternoon, City Council’s finance committee greenlighted a controversial proposal from Mayor Frank Jackson that would lock the city into a sweetheart deal with a Chinese-based manufacturer in exchange for job creation. The proposal, which failed to pass in full council but is expected pass at the next meeting, has kicked up opposition from local businesses who feel left behind.

According to the deal’s fine print, in exchange for setting up their North American headquarters in Cleveland, Sunpu-Opto Semiconductors will supply the city’s lighting needs for the next 10 years. The company, which has no presence on this side of the world, will use the Northeast Ohio location as a manufacturing and distribution hub, and claims the project will create 350 new jobs for the region.

At Monday’s meeting, administration officials maintained the deal is an out-of-the-box approach to job creation; critics countered the no-bid contract could drag the city into murky legal waters.

“This troubles me greatly, this whole process troubles me to the point where my gut tells me something’s wrong,” Councilman Mike Polensek told representatives from the administration at the meeting. “What you are suggesting we embark on, I believe it violates the charter.”

According to that charter, any government purchase over $50,000 must be bidded out through a competitive process. But the Mayor’s office maintains they can skirt the bidding process entirely if their requirements can only be met by a “sole source.” In the case of the LED fixtures, Cleveland Public Power Commissioner Ivan Henderson, the mayor’s point man on the proposal, told the committee Sunpu-Opto is the only option that meets the city’s needs.

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