Nov 8, 2023 - News

Cleveland voters narrowly reject participatory budgeting charter amendment

Activists wearing masks hold a "People's Budget" handmade sign.

A local charter amendment that would have set aside 2% of Cleveland's budget for projects selected by residents failed Tuesday.

Driving the news: The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections took all night to tabulate vote totals, but by early Wednesday morning, according to unofficial results, Cleveland voters had narrowly voted against Issue 38 with a margin of 51% to 49%.

Why it matters: A coalition of establishment power players argued that participatory budgeting would imperil city safety and services.

  • The measure was opposed by all Cleveland City Council members and the North Shore AFL-CIO.
  • The Council Leadership Fund, a PAC overseen by council president Blaine Griffin, funded anti-Issue 38 advertising, with donations from members of the Haslam family and a PAC associated with Dan Gilbert's Rock Holdings.
  • Additional donations came from attorney and developer Jon Pinney (Turndev Development), developer David Heller (the NRP Group) and Laborers Local 860.

Between the lines: Under Griffin's predecessor, Kevin Kelley, activist initiatives like the Fight for 15 and the Q Deal referendum were suppressed before they reached the ballot box.

The other side: Despite the defeat, PB CLE organizers noted the David versus Goliath dynamics and celebrated their consciousness-raising efforts throughout the campaign.

  • "We took bold action to change this city's political culture, and we can rest assured that the next time city leadership tries to throw public money in the interest of billionaires, working people in Cleveland have another model for how to fight back," PB CLE lead organizer Molly Martin said in a statement.
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