Kevin and Yvonne Conwell have been friends since he was a 12-year-old music teacher and camp counselor at St. Martin de Porres Family Center. She was 8 and took classes at the center while her mom volunteered.
Hands of Fate: Kevin and Yvonne ended up in local politics, with both trying to improve Glenville, the neighborhood in which they grew up and still live today, as well as all of Cuyahoga County. Kevin has been a Cleveland councilman since 2001, and Yvonne has been a county councilwoman since that body formed in 2011.
Transforming Glenville: Kevin is working with Mayor Frank Jackson on the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative. The program aims to grow neighborhood economies through entrepreneurism, with investments from private companies and nonprofits, and some public money. Glenville, in Kevin’s Ward 9, is one of the targeted neighborhoods. Glenville CircleNorth, a business-residential mixed-use building on East 105th Street, was scheduled to open in January 2020. The bottom floor holds Glenville’s first retail incubator, where local residents can learn how to run and grow a startup before moving to a permanent location. The upper floors contain more than 60 apartments.
Coming Alive: Meanwhile, across the street on East 105th stands a new Greater Cleveland Fisher House, consisting of two buildings with 16 guest suites for out-of-town families whose loved ones are receiving treatment at the nearby Louis Stokes VA Medical Center. “No building has been on the CircleNorth site since the Glenville riots in 1968,” Kevin says.
Taking Charge: Yvonne co-sponsored county legislation, passed in early 2019, that appropriated $30 million toward the creation of affordable housing. The money may go toward home repairs for seniors or finding places to live for homeless women.
Equity and Equality: Yvonne co-sponsored an ordinance that will adopt an “equity plan” for the county. This concept is in the county government’s charter, which calls for “an improved focus on equity for all our communities and citizens.” Some county residents say they don’t have equal access to social safety nets provided by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services. To some, it seems like infrastructure, including roads and bridges, is maintained better in some communities more than others. “We want to form a citizens advisory group that will oversee the county administration on implementing the
equity plan,” Yvonne says.