Russell reports on Noble/Taylor ARPA meetings
Residents of the Noble/Taylor communities came out in force to attend meetings in my “You Talk, I Listen” series, to address concerns in their respective neighborhoods and narrow down their “wishlists” for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds earmarked for them, in a continuation of two fall meetings.
The first meeting focused on the use of ARPA Funds earmarked for the area. Representatives from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's office, the Center for Community Solutions, and Policy Matters Ohio participated. The second focused on gaining the perspective of Noble/Taylor residents, and learning what they want to see accomplished. Residents discovered that each neighborhood has different visions, but also commonalities around serious issues affecting both.
At the March 13 meeting, Noble and Taylor residents focused on narrowing down broad “wishlists” for ARPA funds, to ensure compliance with ARPA requirements.
On the table is $5 million: $2 million for Noble, $2 million for Taylor and $1 million for all of the businesses in Cleveland Heights adversely impacted by the pandemic.
To help guide residents through their ARPA funds wishlist, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish sent a representative from his office who was knowledgeable in ARPA funding guidelines. Also in attendance was Keesha Allen, director of Cleveland Heights’ Home Repair Resource Center. She provided information to the residents to ensure [duplication of] resources would not occur.
A lively discussion ensued. Business owners in attendance engaged in the development of a solid, doable wishlist. They wanted to be heard regarding the hardships they experienced due to the pandemic, and learned there would be an application process and eligibility criteria for ARPA funds.
To our surprise, every item business owners discussed was eligible for ARPA funding. This gave them hope that help was on the way.
As I moved through this process with Noble/Taylor residents, I began to understand why they had insisted on closing the meeting to non-residents. They wanted an exclusive voice as to the use of ARPA monies in their neighborhoods, and were adamant about not letting outside pressures dictate what needed to be done.
I witnessed the comfort level residents had in expressing themselves to others who lived in the same neighborhoods, and their total engagement in the task. The few disagreements were resolved, and consensus reached. The meeting was extremely productive and successful.
Residents told me this was the first time they had a meeting among just themselves, to talk about their issues. They were thrilled! They felt that non-Noble/Taylor residents dominated discussions of their issues, which ended up with their concerns being ignored, or unwanted solutions imposed on them.
At the March 7 city council meeting, I was attacked for conducting a closed meeting. Ironically, this person had never attended previous open “You Talk, I Listen” meetings, nor was [any objection raised] when the meeting was publicly announced in January.
I am so happy I was able to bring Noble/Taylor residents together, to provide a platform where they could address their issues with a strong voice. As an elected public servant representing the residents of Cleveland Heights, I will always be aggressive in listening to constituents' concerns and representing their wishes. I will always be aggressive in giving them a voice. I believe that’s my job!
A full report will be presented to the city’s Finance Committee by Noble/Taylor residents. This will include the full wishlists of what they are looking for over the next four years, and narrowed-down wishlists of what they want immediately from ARPA funds. They have asked me to request an itemized price list for items they are prioritizing so that, if extra funds exist, they can further help their communities.
Davida Russell is a Cleveland Heights council member.