Jan 24, 2023 - News

City Council enters adversarial era with Bibb administration

Blaine Griffin and Justin Bibb stand outside the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.

Blaine Griffin (L) and Justin Bibb (R) outside the Cuyahoga County Justice Center in April 2021. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Over the course of six heated hours Monday, Cleveland City Council clashed with the Bibb administration, demonstrating a new willingness to push back against the mayor's spending priorities while asserting their own.

What they're saying: "The honeymoon is over," Ward 8 Councilman Mike Polensek told Mayor Bibb's CFO Ahmed Abonamah at an afternoon caucus. "I'm not here to do the rubber-stamp stuff."

State of play: Council President Blaine Griffin has acknowledged the perception of the body as a "rubber stamp," but told Ideastream last year that he believes the current council is "edgier" than in years past.

Driving the news: City Council discussed the allocation of casino revenue funds at their noon caucus and debated the recently introduced participatory budgeting legislation at a 2pm Finance meeting.

  • Both pieces of legislation are on hold for refinement.

Details: The council receives 15% of casino revenue funds to be used for discretionary spending in their wards. The rest goes to the city's general fund.

  • Council wants an even split, but Abonamah told them in a presentation that there's no wiggle room in the general fund to accommodate what would be roughly a $5 million annual reduction.

The other side: Multiple council members rejected the notion that the discretionary spending goes to "pet projects" in their wards.

  • "These dollars are important to our neighborhoods," said Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy. "When the administration asks for something, you always find a way to make it work in the budget. But when we ask for something, you make it sound like the sky is gonna fall."

Later in the afternoon, a majority of council members vehemently opposed the PB Cle legislation, which Bibb introduced two weeks ago alongside four council co-sponsors as a tool to increase civic participation by allowing residents to allocate $5 million in ARPA funds.

  • Between the lines: If we can't get money for our "pet projects," the animated council opposition implied, why should Bibb get money for his?

💭 Sam's thought bubble: Rowdiness aside, it was stunning to see council members earnestly plead for money to fund neighborhood projects with casino revenue and then, hours later, dismiss with extreme prejudice money for neighborhood projects allocated by residents.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Cleveland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Cleveland stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Cleveland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more