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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cleveland City Council Asks: Why Don't We Know What's Going On For RNC?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 12:21 PM

click to enlarge SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
Cleveland Safety Director Michael McGrath assured members of the City Council Public Safety Committee Wednesday morning that Cleveland would be prepared for the RNC, both in terms of equipment and personnel.

He said that Cleveland's neighborhoods would be staffed at a level of 115 percent during the July convention. 

But he warned council members, who asked why they'd been kept in the dark on matters pertaining to the acquisition of security gear and officer deployment, that certain information simply could not be divulged. The city's safety department has no authority to do so. It's the Secret Service who hosts and controls the "Executive Steering Committee" for RNC security, and the dissemination of information (or lack thereof) is at that agency's discretion.  
A City Council briefing has nonetheless been scheduled for next Wednesday at 1 p.m., at which Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba will apprise council of ongoing preparations and the progress of the security plan. 

Both Public Safety Committee Chair Matt Zone and councilman Mike Polensek expressed dismay that they hadn't been better informed.

"Last time I looked at the City Charter, the 17 members of this body are one half of city government," Polensek said. "We are the legislative branch. We have every legal right to know what is transpiring here: what is being purchased with city dollars and deployment... it's something we need to be aware of. It's up to us to be informed so that we can educate our citizens." 

Zone added that the legislative body is a "co-equal" branch of government, and that sharing information "in a pro-active way" wouldn't put the city in a vulnerable position. In fact, he said, it would ease anxiety and frustration and prevent the spread of inaccurate rumors.

"I think we owe it to the community to really daylight what is happening," Zone said.

He also said it was frustrating that information had been shared with the business community and "other key stakeholders" while council remained out of the loop. On March 22, a "Business Impact" meeting was held in which Secret Service Rep. Ron Rowe provided updates to business leaders: No RTA routes would be cut as a result of the RNC, Rowe said; the Secret Service would not respond to media reports about riots; rumors of designated "protest zones" were untrue.

On another hot-button issue, Zone said he'd spoken with Ron Rowe himself, and Rowe had personally guaranteed that no weapons would be permitted inside the Quicken Loans Arena, or even inside the special security perimeter around the "RNC Complex." That perimeter is still being established, but the RNC Complex includes the area of The Q, Progressive Field, the Plaza, and Gateway East Garage.  

Zone's comments were in response to Councilman Brian Kazy, who asked McGrath to address the petition, currently circulating, calling for the open carry of firearms inside the Q. Kazy, along with other members of council, had not been informed that the petition was almost certainly a bad joke, and that the Secret Service had already responded.   

"This is a good example of the types of rumors that we have to squash," Kazy said.

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