‘The residents of East Cleveland are collateral damage of mismanagement’
Kevin Chill Heard | 5/1/2014, 9:18 a.m.
By KEVIN CHILL HEARD
When East Cleveland City Council President Barbara Thomas issued the words “collateral damage” in regards to the inhabitants of East Cleveland, it was done so more as a plea for residents to get up to speed and informed about what she referred to as “This mess in front of us.”
Yes, this is East Cleveland’s second time being placed in fiscal emergency. But, this time around, the stark reality of the situation is much more foreboding. The state’s auditor has drawn a line in the sand as to what the city needs to do if it hopes to remain in control of its own destiny.
Members of the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission for the City of East Cleveland convened Monday afternoon in the Greg L. Reese Performance Arts Center at the East Cleveland Public Library. It is the commission’s task to manage the state ordered recovery plan of the fiscally deteriorating suburb. With report after report being issued, it was painfully obvious to everyone in attendance operating as part of the commission, including East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton and City Council President Thomas, that the suburb’s money problems are titanic.
To say that the city of East Cleveland has a “cash flow problem” would be a gross and misleading understatement.
From payments of city services such as employee payroll, pension, health insurance, trash removal and fire department/EMS service, the city is either making, partial payments, late payments, or no payments at all. Even the city copy machines are in jeopardy of being repossessed.
As recently as Monday, East Cleveland was staring down a $400,000 payroll with a measly $15,000 in the city’s piggy bank.
At one point during the meeting, the planning commission’s chairperson Sharon Hanrahan prodded Mayor Norton to offer a definitive answer as to how he intended to make certain payments.
“We will make them when needed,” Norton responded.
As an act of futility, when no definitive answer from the mayor seemed to be forthcoming, she inquired if maybe Norton intended “to hold a bake sale.”
Norton stated that “no matter how ugly the picture, [his administration] was prepared to ride the ship no matter what.”
City Council President Thomas referred to the city’s ineffectual method of making payments as “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Holding in her hand a long list of debts and monies to be paid out with no existing plan on how to pay it, Thomas exclaimed, “Understand what these numbers mean.”
Chairman Hanrahan stated, “The budget is not balanced, the commission has not seen a plan to balance the budget and, if revenue does not come into the city, it cannot operate.”
If all of this doesn’t get the attention of East Cleveland as to the hole it is in, maybe a resolution drafted by the Planning Commission will. The resolution is titled – “(2014-01): To inform the city of East Cleveland of its failure to substantially comply with the Financial Recovery Plan submitted on August 27, 2013 and its repeated failure to submit a revised recovery plan as heretofore instructed and promised by the city and to direct the mayor and council members of the city of East Cleveland to submit an amended financial recovery plan by May 30, 2014.”
And as pointed out by Hanrahan, “that is only what the resolution is called.”
In conclusion of the meeting, Hanrahan said, “We don’t need a city being run on a series of promises, we need a plan.”
The meeting was adjourned and a date of May 28 was decided upon for the commission’s next meeting.