How to stop the Cuyahoga County Commissioners

I don’t actually know how, but I was thinking about it this morning and set my mind on figuring out the answer. Here’s why:

We’re the voters, we’re the public, we’re the taxpayers.

We don’t like something that they’re going to do without our up or down vote? Then we need to find a way to stop the process so that our opinion not only is heard but governs. The commissioners are not our helicopter parents looking out for us. That’s not how it works in a democracy. We will suffer the consequences if our choice – to not build a new convention center – destroys our lives, now and in the future.

But that’s our choice to make. Just like it was your choice to vote for whichever county commissioners you wanted. (I know I did not vote for Jimmy Dimora and I’m pretty sure I didn’t vote for Tim Hagan. I may have voted for Peter Lawson Jones but I don’t remember.)

So – how does one research how to stop the commissioners?

1. I googled “how to take legal action against county commissioners.”

That didn’t turn up anything after about two minutes.

2. Next I googled “rules that govern cuyahoga county commissioners.”

That brought me to this policy and procedures page for people who work for the county commissioners.

It’s at this point that I scour my brain: who do I know, who do I know, who do I know who I could ask, How do you stop the county commissioners?

I know a few people who could probably give me solid direction, and I suspect a few of them even read this blog. So I’m hoping I’ll get some additional input.

But in the meantime, I decided to take another route:

3. I go to the commissioner’s home page.

4. I click on the lefthand sidebar link that reads, “Public Awareness.” Oooo.

5. On the front page of Public Awareness is a link to Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Authority.

I think I hit the jackpot, until I get there. All the info is old – the most recent news item is a 2/06 Crain’s story about things being on hold. By the way, just for fun, here’s the Calendar of Events. Nice, huh?

When I click on “About Us” and then “Members,” its list of commissioners is 100% wrong (outdated).

When I click on “FAQs” the information also is glow-y but stale PR stuff. You can get to the analysis done by PriceWaterhouse (it’s a pdf) but it too is stale, based on information from November 2004. (I did like this line, though, from the exec summary: “We take no responsibility for any events, economic conditions, supply and demand factors, or other circumstances affecting the findings or estimates provided in this report that take place subsequent to our last day of our fieldwork, January 28, 2005.”)

When I click on “Public Presentation,” nothing happens. The screen stays on the same page. Guess there’s no public presentation.

When you click on Testimonials, Woohoo! But before you let yourself get bowled over, ask:

-are you on the list?
-do you know anyone on the list?
-do those folks still live in the county, if they ever did?
-do you or they still agree with what they said?

(I’m such a skeptic sometimes)
When you click on Industry Info, you get to a page that let’s you get to a pdf of info on convention centers across the US (I haven’t checked it out).

And last and kind of least, when I click on Related Links, I get five links that are totally, totally uninteresting which I could get to myself, almost without thinking.

So, going to the commissioners’ homepage gives me no solid, good info, especially the pro and con I’m looking for, re: the convention center concept, let alone a place that would tell me how to challenge the commissioners. And, in addition, I find an ancient, deadend website set up nearly three years ago for a facilities authority which I’m not sure still exists or did much more than simply set themselves up. I just don’t know and I’ve run out of time this morning to research it more.

There are other primary links on the facilities authority’s home page, but I don’t have time to check them out. You can go to the site’s site map to see that there is some info about why they were looking at a new convention center. No doubt that the numbers in the summaries etc. are very different in 2007.

And, FYI – the Commissioner’s page itself, under Links? Doesn’t link to the facilities authority page. Guess someone hasn’t been aware of the public enough to make the pages internally consistent.

What I’m thinking now is –

1) What’s a citizen to DO? There is absolutely nothing on our county commissioner’s site that tells me what, as a citizen, my recourse is if I disagree with the actions of the commissioners. Nothing. Again, I might be missing something, going in the wrong direction. But I’ve been looking for nearly 90 mins. If a resident of this county cannot find, in THREE minutes, how to challenge the commissioners on their decisions or proposals, and can’t find most other info without opening up pdfs (as with agendas; forget actions – it’s “under construction), then county residents are not being served, let alone well-served.

2) How much did the county spend of our money on that facilities site? Here’s contact info for the company indicated as having done the website, NCCI, which, by the way, did Stephanie Tubbs Jones’ website (but the project is listed as a deallocation of over $83K on this federal spending website for 2005 – but I have no clue as to what that means; in 2002, NCCI received $69K in federal funds for work, but not necessarily for the congresswoman) and includes the facilities site as an example of its work. Hmmm, not sure I’d do that.

Of course, one of the consequences of letting that site get stale is that I didn’t reach the current site for the company, which I’ve now found, until almost 30 minutes later, totally by accident as I’ve been researching more info about NCCI.

Here’s the current site – I think it’s current anyway. [And FYI –
I’m now almost an hour into trying to learn about how to stop the commissioners, and look where I am?] It’s nice, and I reached it through a Google result connected to NEOSA, which has NCCI on its list, IT Industry Directory,

It’s a woman/minority-owned business run by Kimberly Sanders. According to Diversity Business, in 2005, NCCI had annual sales of $150 million and was the #10 Top African American Owned Businesses in the USA and #14 Top Women Owned Businesses and #32 in the Top 500 Diversity Owned Businesses in the USA.

I’m impressed by the numbers, I confess, but I’ve been unable, just through Googling, to find much specific information about Ms. Sanders.

3) I’m in the wrong place for finding info about recourse related to commissioners’ actions done without votes – maybe there’s something newer I don’t know about.

4) Nah, I doubt it.

5) I need a primer on this entire topic – raising taxes without votes and the convention center – because I’ve only followed it sporadically. In the interest of Public Awareness – that link on the front page of the commissioners’ website – I urge the commissioners, especially since they want to act without letting us vote, to provide a historical up to now primer on the move to build a new convention center. I would suggest that they get someone from the Center for Community Solutions to write it, if they want readers to trust it.

Short of that, maybe Crain’s would be willing to do this review of the developments and keep it available on its site for free at least through July.

Later today: emailing everyone I can imagine for more info. If you want to save yourself the email, you can just leave me a comment to help me – and I have to believe others – understand and learn, particularly about how to stop the commissioners.

NB: Last thing – I have to go, but last thing: there’s not a single woman in charge at the commissioners’ office, is there?

Ugh.

12 thoughts on “How to stop the Cuyahoga County Commissioners

  1. Thanks, G. I changed by errand order this morning so that I can listen to the SOI this morning w/Lawson Jones, Hagan et al.

  2. Oooo – Anastasia! That is one low blow -with which I agree re: comparison to OLE. But you’re absolutely right. So – what do you recommend?

  3. Thanks for the reflections, Tom. The approach just undermines everything that being a citizen is about. Why are we spending money to teach and test our kids on civics if our commissioners, parents themselves I assume, are going to be real-life examples of how you can’t trust anything?I do really, really hate that kind of thing.

  4. Well, if it’s the sales tax increase you want to stop, the answer is:1) a referendum petition with valid signatures of 42,000 county votersOK!!! Where do I sign up?

  5. Well, if it’s the sales tax increase you want to stop, the answer is:1) a referendum petition with valid signatures of 42,000 county voters filed within 30 days after the tax increase resolution is passed; and then2) a successful campaign to get 50% plus 1 of voters this November to vote to repeal the resolution.See ORC 305.31 through 305.41.

  6. Well, if it’s about a new and/or expanded convention center, something virtually certain to bankrupt the city, provide absolutely no economic benefits and hammer a few extra nails in Cleveland’s coffin for good measure, well, no wonder the commissioners want to rush this through as stealthily as possible and with as little public feedback as possible. To learn about the utter uselessness of convention centers as economic drivers at a time when dozens of cities of all sizes have squandered money on this over the last decade simultaneous with convention business declining for good due to company mergers, the disappearance of the sort of middle-management jobs that used to populate such conferences and advances in communications (internet, cell phones) that keep people in much closer constant contact and less in need of convention-type events. The research of Heywood Sanders is a good place to start to learn about the waste of money such a project inevitably is for every city except Las Vegas. Cities are giving away the space in their brand-new fancy schmancy convention centers and governments are bailing them out and covering their operating deficits with taxpayer dollars that would be better used to seed REAL economic development and provide social services. Bulding a convention center would likely make Sam Miller richer but it would shatter the city and drain its resources. Look at what happened in Eastlake with the misbegotten minor league baseball stadium. That is exactly what would befall Cleveland if it were stupid enough to bow and scrape to Sam Miller and build this white elephant. Fact is, Cleveland has all the convention space it needs for the business it is likely to be able to attract, now or in the future. The rest is all hot air.The convention center initiative is about as beneficial as Ohio Learn & Earn.

  7. Jill, I think this does the trick at a high level:+++++++++++++++++http://www.ncsl.org/programs/legismgt/elect/localrecall.htmScroll down to Ohio (ORC §705.92):– “Officers subject to recall — Any elective officer of a municipal corporation”– “Key Steps in the Recall Process”:- Recall may not commence during last 190 days in office.- No specific grounds are required- Time for gathering signatures is 90 days.- Signature requirement is number equal to 15% of the total votes cast in the last regular municipal election+++++++++++BIG question appears to be whether commissioners are “elective officers of a municipal corporation.”You can take it from here. :–>It IS frustrating. I surely would have the same problems Jill had if I tried the same info at Hamco’s site.Went to Chas Rich’s post. What a con job that CuyaCo increase is. 7.75% (mentally rounds to 8%) will be enough to convince at least some people near the county border to buy stuff in adjoining counties, where the tax is probably 1.25% – 2.00% lower. Fewer people in the adjoining counties will come in to CuyaCo to shop. For some, it’s going to be one of those “tipping point” things.Down here in Hamco, our commission just voted in a .50% “jail tax” after the voters rejected the idea last November. An aggressive repeal initiative is underway:http://wedemandavote.com/Y'all should be doing the same. It should be a perfect bipartisan cause, though down here in HamCo, the Dem establishment is on the record defending it.

  8. Damn!! Been waiting for ever for this post!!! :)Jill – would LOVE to talk more about this with you.It is more than just the commissioners that need to be stopped to change the failings of our county.I have still yet to see ANY politician, or anyone for that matter to really want to discuss county reform and regionalism.The RPCC has a supposed platform I will be posting on in the morning. It is a joke…The democrats have run the area into the ground. That leaves us with nothing but a call for wholesale change at all levels.OUr party has been unable to put up a credible candidate for commissioner in who know how long.You guys have the same retreads.So where do we start?Airport? NEORSD? Regionalism/Reform? Education? Jobs? Crime?As for Paul claiming Home Rule is disappearing – I could not disagree more.The Home Rule concept is trying to be redefined by municipalities that like to abuse it.

  9. The county commissions seem to very much be the stealth body of government in Ohio. Even school boards have better visibility, and that’s not saying much.The last great authority county commissions had was the approval over annexations, but the last update of the annexation law all but took away that role (and from the township governments as well).Home rule is a disappearing concept in Ohio. More and more power is being concentrated at the state level. The GIRFOF amendment is a prime example.

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