Cleveland Councilman Argues A City Hall Division For Special Events, Film And Tourism Is Unnecessary!

FEATURED PHOTO: CLEVELAND CITY COUNCILMAN CHARLES SLIFE D-WARD 17

MICHAEL E. COX, CLEVELAND DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS

Cleveland.com, By Robert Higgs, Posted May 27th 2021

Cleveland Councilman Charles Slife says he opposes a plan by Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration to expand the city’s special events office into a division that would also work to promote film productions and major events.

Slife, who wrote of his opposition in a letter to Jackson, told cleveland.com and The Plain that the expanded office is unnecessary.

“My fundamental opposition is I think it is duplicative,” Slife said, citing work already being done by the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and Destination Cleveland.

Slife also has grown frustrated that neighborhoods have not been able to start planning their own events that were scrapped last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As they await the announcement of a policy from City Hall, event organizers are not even being offered an opportunity to begin the application process, hold a tentative date on a calendar and allow the city to begin aligning its resources,” Slife wrote in his letter.

Jackson late last month proposed legislation before the City Council to create a new division to promote Cleveland for major events and as a location for filmmakers.

The Office of Special Events would be replaced by the Division of Special Events, Filming and Tourism under the Department of Public Works.

The administration has said the plan is not an effort to supplant the film commission or Destination Cleveland. Rather, the new division would work more closely with those organizations and streamline permit processes.

“This is about being more efficient and competitive,” Jackson said then in an interview. “Cleveland has the potential for growth with special events and major events.”

Several motion pictures have been filmed in Cleveland in recent years, ranging from Marvel’s “The Avengers” in 2012 to one of this year’s best picture nominees, “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

“We believe we can get even more,” Public Works Director Michael Cox said.

As envisioned, other duties of the new division would include easing the permitting process by acting as a one-stop-shop for smaller, local events and activities.

Between 100 and 150 events are held in a non-pandemic year, Cox said. That slowed in 2020, but there is an expectation that more will be allowed this year.

Slife has for weeks sought information about when permitting for those events would resume and complained about poor communication from the administration.

His point: The administration acknowledges that activities will likely open up this year and it takes time to plan events. In particular, he has asked about resuming an annual July 4 parade that was canceled last year in his West Side ward. He also is seeking permission for a movie-in-the-park event for the fall.

“I don’t know exactly how the [NFL] draft was permitted but we can’t get approval for a small event in a park,” he said.

Not allowing them to get permits is inconsistent, he said. And he expressed frustration that the administration has not been clearer about coronavirus health restrictions.

“I’m not trying to be fast and loose with the rules,” Slife said. “Obviously, a Cavs parade doesn’t seem like a good idea, but a smaller parade seems feasible.”

Shortly after the legislation was introduced, the administration announced it would resume processing permit applications for summer events, such as parades, festivals and concerts.

New permit requests will be accepted and letters were sent to members of the council asking them to provide information about events in their wards.

Meanwhile, the City Council has taken up the administration’s proposal for the new Division of Special Events, Filming and Tourism, Council President Kevin Kelley said.

The ordinance is under review by the law department. Once that administrative review is complete, it likely will be vetted by the council’s Municipal Services and Properties Committee and perhaps by the Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee, Kelley said.

Kelley said he has not heard of any strident opposition to the idea. But in the committee meetings, members will be able to ask questions to address their concerns.

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