Budish says East Cleveland is only one of 28 jail sites county officials are reviewing as a place for 500 jobs

Budish said his advocacy for East Cleveland was not based on secrecy; but on the city government's need for taxable revenue

CLEVELAND, OH – Noble Road resident Harry Drummond called to tell me he did not want Cuyahoga County officials placing a jail at the site of the General Electric’s former lighting division manufacturing plant behind their homes.  It’s the same location where county landbank officials once led by James Rokakis and Gus Frangos sent over 1000 demolished homes.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish called in a response to a text I sent him expressing Drummonds’ concerns.  He said 1740 Noble Road was one of 28 locations being recommended.  It was not “the” only recommendation.

“I spoke up for East Cleveland because the development comes with 500 well-paying jobs,” Budish told EJBNEWS.  “Out of all the cities in the county, East Cleveland needs help with its tax base.”

Noble Road resident Harris Drummond is concerned about a jail being in his backyard. He’s also concerned that his neighbors are experiencing cancer and no one from the county or state’s health departments have visited and tested them for the  toxins that came from more than 1000 demolished county landbank homes.

Budish said he is one of a panel of county officials discussing the location of a new county jail.  They include the judges, prosecuting attorney and public defender.

Budish said the county council appropriated funds to hire attorney Jeffrey Applebaum (Thompson, Hines & Flory) to lead a search for a new site.  Applebaum delivered 28 locations.  Four are in East Cleveland.  County committee officials are not releasing the 28 locations publicly, according to Budish, to avoid the inflation that comes with real estate speculators buying a property or obtaining an option on it to drive up the purchase price.  He is not the “chair” of the site selection group.

Drummond said he and other residents might be supportive if their paid-up and tax-current homes were purchased at a price that allows them to move into a new paid-up home with relocation expenses covered.  At 70 Drummond said no Noble Road resident with a paid-up home has the work-life left to start a new mortgage.

“I’m too old to start over,” Drummond said.

During my administration as East Cleveland’s mayor from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2009, I met and attended sessions with officials of the Cuyahoga County Port Authority about building a “duty-free zone” because of its proximity to the Norfolk Southern and CSX’s railroad lines.  I negotiated East Cleveland’s $6.2 million agreement with the railroad lines as Emmanuel Onunwor’s chief of staff in 1998.

The property had been used by General Electric (GE) to manufacture lights and is heavily-contaminated with mercury, lead and other toxins associated with manufacturing the products.  The railroad lines were the lifeblood of John D. Rockefeller’s ability to transport his oil products from Cleveland to his domestic markets.

This was the view from Harris Drummond’s 3rd floor for the three years James Rokakis and Gus Frangos were sending 1000 demolished county landbank homes. Pete & Pete’s trucks are seen on the property. Drummond said they dumped construction and “household” waste at the site that constantly caught on fire and spewed toxins like “glass particles” into their nostrils, mouths, lungs and eyes.

The soil is even further contaminated as a result of the illegal construction and demolition debris dump George Michael Riley and Christine Beynon created after ex-mayor Gary Norton, Brandon King, Thomas Wheeler, Mansell Baker and Barbara Thomas voted to give them the property to redevelop.  Norton transferred title of the property to Beynon and Riley without a resolution of council.  The city was supposed to recapture the GE property after the environmental mass murderering couple disregarded the ordinance for profit; and Riley starting paying off Norton and others in cash.

A General Electric vice president told me in 2017 the world’s 5th largest publicly-traded corporation had a “cradle to grave” duty to clean up their mess; but only if ordered to do so pursuant to the Resource Conservation Recovery Act of 1974. Without the environmental clean-up the site should not be used for a “human” development in an area where factories and the toxins they left proliferated.

If Budish and the county council enforced RCRA and asked Kurt Princic and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to order GE to clean-up the site; it would be ready for future development and eliminate immune-depleting toxins from the environment.  The clean-up costs would be borne by GE instead of the county and state’s taxpayer’s.

This is a Cleveland Division of Fire file photo of one of the many fires that occurred behind homes in East Cleveland; and in between Collinwood High School and Apex Charter School across the street from Helen S. Brown apartments and the former Christ the King. This is evil. The dump contains deadly toxins residents breathed in for three years because of the negligence of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Council President Kevin Kelly and 16 members of council who either did not know or did not care to enforce the city’s contract with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to protect us all from air, water and soil polluters. How many people living around this deadly shit were immune-weakened before CoVid because of public official ngeligence? Gary Norton should never be allowed any peace in Ohio for all the harm he caused. He should never be forgiven for his crimes against humanity.

Budish and I discussed our shared roles in getting the Arco site closed and cleaned.  He thanked me for obtaining the environmental report from Auburn Environmental’s Jim Riffle that pressured the Ohio EPA’s former director, Craig Butler, to act.  I thanked him for his quick “clean-up” response.  I’ve asked him to forward a copy of Applebaum’s contract and the associative public records that approved it.

I think that site’s location has challenges because of its proximity to CSX and Norfolk Southern’s railroad lines.  My recollection of the 1998 negotiations I was assigned to handle as chief of staff was the rail traffic would include 35 to 40 train crossings daily.  My negotiations included noise barriers CSX and Norfolk Southern had duties to maintain.  They haven’t.  The building would have to made sound-proof so that no outside noise from the daily parade of trains would keep American citizens locked up from sleeping.

There’s also the issue with the hazardous waste and hazardous materials the railroads are transporting through the city.  Derailments do occur even though rarely.  Ten times more hazardous materials are released by trucks than trains.  If railroad cars carrying ammonia derailed near the jail site, the fumes from the gas would kill the workers before they could release the prisoners.  I recall records CSX and Norfolk Southern delivering to the Surface Transportation Board identifying over 145,000 cars that would carry hazardous waste and materials through East Cleveland annually.

Currently, Ohio’s municipal income tax laws allows cities to collect from workers working inside their borders.  The benefit of the county jail is that its workforce will be present and in a city on three shifts.  500 jobs.  State Senator Bill Seitz and others are introducing legislation to cure what they see is the unconstitutionality of Ohioans working remotely from home and paying taxes to cities where they are neither residents nor working.

The word “jail” for this county’s bedroom communities always brings drama.  Budish said nothing is set in stone for “any” of the 28 sites. Who knows, a competing community’s politicians, some who may want it, could have tossed out the East Cleveland story to let residents against it act predictably and remove themselves from the running.  Some mayors and councils have the attitude “more for me.”

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.

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