Cleveland, OH. - Controversy with honorary secondary street signage is a problem for some City of Cleveland residents, business owners, and stakeholders. The practice of granting an individual a street-named signage is celebratory to honor and recognize their contributions to the City, while other times, it is to show reverence to the individual's family due to a mishap at no fault of their own.
In 2019, former Council President Kevin Kelley placed a moratorium on secondary street-named signs. He also established guidelines after the City denied the request to honor the life of nine-year-old Saniyah Nicholson. Saniyah died at the hands of gunfire in June 2018. Saniyah Nicholson was shot in the head while sitting in the back of her mother's car eating ice cream. Her older sister sat in the front seat of the vehicle. The shooting occurred between Cloverside and Westview Ave on Lee Road in the Cleveland WARD ONE neighborhood in the 4000 block of Lee Road in Cleveland on June 20, 2018. According to the Cleveland police report, the baby was caught in the crossfire by two groups of males shooting at one another in broad daylight.
The Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County requested Councilman Joe Jones and Mayor Frank Jackson to show reverence to the family with an honorary secondary street-named signage. The Commission orchestrated a petition drive. They received support from 90% of WARD ONE Cloverside residents, business owners, and stakeholders. The group also received letters of support from Senator Kenny Yuko, County Councilwoman Shontel Brown District 9, Mayor Trevor Elkins, Mayor Georgine Welo, Councilwoman Ruth Gray, and the National Congress of Black Women, County Executive Armond Budish, Business Owner Janet Williams, and a host of other individuals. Former Mayor Frank G. Jackson issued a Proclamation, thanks to Valerie McCall, the former Chief of Affairs.
The City received pressure from the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County following the child's untimely death. Former City of Council President Kevin Kelly and Councilman Joe Jones vehemently fought against this kind and respectful gesture. Councilman Jones alleged that Cloverside residents voted against the measure. The Brown Report Newspaper sued the City of Cleveland and pulled a public records request, and found that Jones was not honest. Jones had a secret meeting at the Harvard Community center with individuals who did not live in the Cleveland WARD One community or on Cloverside Ave. According to documentation, one lady lived in Maple Heights.
After placing a moratorium on honorary designations in 2019, he directed the council's internal Operations Committee to draw up a well-defined set of rules.
Among the new requirements (as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer"s Rober Higgs):
- Individuals must be deceased for at least two years, be retired at least ten years from a distinguished career, or have made an accomplishment or contribution to the City or region.
- Organizations should operate in Cleveland for at least 25 years and be significant to the City.
- A street receiving an honorary designation must be in the sponsoring council member's ward, and the honorary road cannot exceed one block.
- The designation will expire in 10 years.
- Council members will be limited to two honorary street names during a four-year term.
- If the designation involves a residential street, the request must have signatures from 70 percent of the property owners.
In addition, the Plain Dealer Reporter Robert Higgs reported that the new guidelines also recommend the honor recognize individuals and organizations for specific areas of contribution. The honorees should have:
- They made significant contributions: to arts, science, religion, entertainment, philanthropy, and business.
- Generously volunteered time and effort to improve the City, state, or nation.
- They served with distinction in the United States armed forces or community safety forces.
"Again, this is a disrespectful act by Cleveland City Council members. We want to be precise. Any untimely death is heart-wrenching, especially when a family loses a child at no fault. Our condolences and prayers are with the family of Anthony D. Hughes. We take notice of Councilman Richard Starr of WARD 5 heartfelt gestures. We are taken aback by the actions of Councilman Jones and City Council members who were present during the death of this 9-year-old baby,' scoffed members of the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County.
In 2017, Former Councilman Jeff Johnson issued secondary street signage to Mr. Robert Godwin. The Facebook Killer Steve Stephens randomly killed Godwin.
In 2022, current Councilman Richard Starr sponsored legislation for a secondary street signage for Hughes. Hughes died in December 2020. The rule says that the deceased must have been dead for two years in addition to contributing to the City of Cleveland.
In both instances, Cleveland Council members unanimously voted yea but refused to entertain the idea of honoring Saniyah Nicholson. Jones later promised the Nicholson family a memorial bench to be placed in WARD ONE. Cleveland City Council Communication Director Joan Mazzolini had the family select a memorial bench. Jones reneged on his promise. Mazzolini ceased communications with Saniyah's mom, Marshawnette Daniels. Jones also made the same promise to the family of Shamonte (Hardy) Etheridge. Etheridge was killed in a vehicle accident when a motorist slammed into her vehicle while she drove on Miles Ave in Cleveland WARD One. The Hardy Family reports that Jones approached them following Shamonte's death about a memorial bench. To this date, there has been no follow-up with Jones or Cleveland City Council members.
"To add insult to injury, the current council did not follow its rules regarding the secondary street-named signage. We will certainly address this issue during an upcoming council meeting. The council must follow the rules. We will not sit quiet and allow Cleveland City Councilmembers to continue disrespecting Black women and girls - All Lives Matter," said members of the Commission.
In 2020, The Village of Newburgh Heights passed the Saniyah AWE Law. The Saniyah AWE is a measure to help identify "hotspots" where crime is likely to occur.
The Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County will hold a press conference. They are planning to attend an upcoming City of Cleveland Council meeting to address this matter of denying signage for little Saniyah.