Cleveland Advocates Submit Petitions To Prevent Lead Poisoning In Rentals

CLASH members holding boxes of petitions outside Cleveland City Hall.
CLASH members holding boxes of petitions before they submit them to the Clerk of Council. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
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Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH) has delivered what it says are 10,300 signatures to the Clerk of Council to petition for a change in the city's lead paint law.

The proposed ordinance would require rental properties built after 1978 be safe from lead paint.

CLASH attorney Rebecca Maurer says their proposal wants to flip the current method.

“Right now we do not test homes for lead until after a child becomes poisoned,” she said. “The core idea is for rental properties in the city of Cleveland, we begin by testing properties before a child is ever poisoned.”  

Maurer says their plan would raise money to help landlords test and then fix the property to be lead-safe.

“When you buy a property in Cleveland you take on certain responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is providing a safe home for kids,” said Maurer. “So we know costs are involved and we’re committed to providing support for them. We’re not expecting every landlord in the city of Cleveland to have $800 to spend out of pocket.”

She says the median price of mitigation in Syracuse, NY, is about $300. Maurer hopes the city, state, and private sector will help to defray lead mitigation costs.

CLASH member Milo Korman says citizens they met were eager to sign the petition, even when stopped in cold, winter weather.

“When I talked to people the response wasn’t, ‘Oh, lead is bad. I’ve heard about that.’ They were, ‘My daughter, my nephew, my son, my cousin had lead poisoning. Where do I sign? I’m so glad someone is finally doing something about this.’”

Jeff Johnson points to a map where he says red areas mark lead poisonings at a rate higher than those found in Flint, Michigan. [Mark Urycki / ideastream] 

Former councilman Jeff Johnson submitted similar legislation in 2017, but he says it never got a hearing. Once the council clerk validates at least 5,000 signatures, council will look at the proposed ordinance. 

“If they choose to ignore it,” said Johnson, “if they choose not to support it, we will go to the November ballot.” 

But Johnson said CLASH doesn’t want to fight city hall, they want to work with city hall. 

Cleveland city officials and a coalition of community partners have launched a separate effort to reduce lead poisoning in the city. 

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