Hoping to educate candidates and voters in the 2021 Cleveland mayoral and council elections, a coalition of more than a dozen environmental and policy groups have come together to publish the “Cleveland Comprehensive Environmental Policy Platform: 2021-2025.” The report, released before the holidays, will be coupled with community engagement strategies and events as the local 2021 election heats up.
The platform provides policy recommendations on issues of environmental justice, water quality and access, land and green space, infrastructure and transportation, and energy and air quality. The organizations behind the platform tried to create specific, actionable recommendations that could be implemented over the next four years. It was developed over a period of six months last year.
“What we want to do its elevate environmental justice issues and policies to the fore,” said Karlton Laster, Cleveland Metropolitan Director for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), arguing that the platform brings together issues of race, health, income and climate change . “We want to make sure that candidates understand environmental justice initiatives are not just nice to have, but they’re embedded in other policy issues.”
“We want to give the community the voice they need to make an impact,” added Angelique Salizan, Ohio Policy and Outreach Manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
The platform advocates not only progress in social equity issues like reducing lead poisoning in Cleveland, but also broader changes to the way “people can participate, provide input, and have their voices heard on policy decisions being made in city government.” While virtual forums have opened up access to local government during the Covid-19 pandemic, Cleveland City Council still does not allow public comment at its meetings.
In the area of water, the group recommends discontinuing water shutoffs due to inability to pay and recommends a number of policy fixes to address the issue. On parks, the groups would like to see all Clevelanders live within 10 minutes of a high-quality park by 2025. Many residents, particularly Black residents living on Cleveland’s east side, lack access to high-quality green space. They’d also like to see a “healthier and more dense tree canopy” and “a just and equitable system for Cleveland residents to acquire land as a means of building local wealth and spurring economic development.”
On infrastructure, the group recommends prioritizing multi-modal transportation options and streamlining city hall decisions. And on energy and air quality, they’re seeking community-owned solar energy and for Cleveland Public Power to become a leader in clean energy innovation.
Project partners include the Alliance, the OEC, Gray Consulting Group, Bike Cleveland, Black Environmental Leaders, Cleveland Owns, Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, LAND Studio, League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, NAACP Cleveland, New Voices, Organic Connects, Policy Matters Ohio, Solar United Neighbors, and Trust for Public Land.
Read the platform here.