University Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-18-2019
MARCH 18, 2019
- Public comments
- Mayor’s comments
- Tobacco sales to minors
- 2019 Budget
- UH City Beautiful Corporation
- Grants received
- City-issued credit cards
- Cuyahoga County Employment Collaborative
Present were Mayor Michael D. Brennan, Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, Pamela Cameron, John Rach, Steven Sims, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Phil Ertel was excused. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director James Goffe, and Clerk of Courts Kelly Thomas. The meeting was held from 7 to 9:25 p.m.
Nicotine ordinance: Michael Kupfer of Groveland agrees that the sale of nicotine products is a problem but feels the proposed legislation is flawed. He argues that ff you ban sales in University Heights, the teens will simply cross the street to South Euclid. Smoking has been on the decline for many years due to improved education, and education on the dangers of vaping is what is needed now rather than further restrictions on neighborhood businesses.
Cars and trash everywhere: Sherry Dewer of Washington Boulevard continued her pledge to speak at each council meeting within the time limits allowed. She once again asked council to either enforce or enact legislation regarding the number of cars per address and also trash disposal at rental properties. She praised Patrick Grogan-Myers who made phone calls to the owner of the apartment building [she brought up at the March 4 UH council meeting], and the problems were partially addressed.
Finances: Kate Uhlir of Fenwick Road noted that eighteen new positions have been added to city hall under Mayor Brennan’s tenure and wondered how this was possible with the newly reported budgetary shortfalls. Based on the reports, which she located on the finance page of the website, these expenditures are not sustainable.
Mayor Brennan participated in the recent process of choosing a new superintendent for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district. He was pleased to be able to participate as a resident and wholeheartedly supports the selection of the new superintendent [Miss Elizabeth Kirby, who is coming from the Chicago Public Schools].
Tobacco sales to minors
Council approved legislation to allow sales of cigarettes and tobacco products to only those 21 or older. Rick Novickis of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health praised council for proposing this legislation, noting that it is a process of restricting sales in more and more communities. Research has shown that such restrictions do limit access and reduce the number of new smokers over time. In his understanding, vaping is seen by teens as much better than nasty cigarettes, and they don’t realize they are still becoming addicted to nicotine. There is as much nicotine in one vaping pod as in a pack of cigarettes. Wendy Hyde of Tobacco 21, a national organization working to raise the age of smoking to 21, reported that research shows that restricting access does reduce initiation rates by 25 percent over several years, with the impact increasing over time. Councilman Rach noted that John Carroll University and CVS have stopped selling nicotine products, feeling it was important to do what they could to reduce access and send a message. Councilwoman Weiss introduced the legislation.
Council approved the 2019 budget for the period commencing January 1 and ending December 31. The full document is available on the city’s website for the public to review. The mayor and vice mayor gave credit to James Goffe for providing full transparency, noting that current council members have never seen this level of detail. Councilman Rach noted that the campaign promises to reduce taxes were genuine but based on false financial reporting by the previous administration. He felt that the expenditures that have been made are making the city a better place to live and are addressing the needs of residents and businesses. He also noted that the newly hired police and fire fighters would enable the city to reduce overtime hours paid at time and a half. Also, further savings come as the new hires replace senior employees who were at the top of the pay grade.
UH City Beautiful Corporation
The former City Beautiful Commission has been removed and replaced with the UH City Beautiful Corporation. The prior legislation included many stipulated events that were no longer being held, and required a large commission. The new corporation is intended to signal change and codify new guidelines, but the very popular awards to homeowners and citizens will continue.
Council accepted two grants. The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) has awarded the city $42,314 as part of their Energized Community Program, which the administration can use for any energy-reducing programs it chooses. There is also money remaining from last year, which is still available for use. Also, the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District (CCSWD) awarded a grant of $5,000 as part of their Community Recycling Awareness Program. The city will use the money to send a postcard and informational magnet to all households.
City-issued credit cards
In response to Ohio HB 312, the city needs to designate someone to serve as the city’s credit card compliance officer. The only credit cards issued are to the police, fire, and service departments for use during emergencies in off hours. Rita Drew, the city’s deputy finance director, will oversee use of the credit cards.
Cuyahoga County Employment Collaborative
Economic Development Director Susan Drucker has announced that the city will participate in the Cuyahoga County Employment Collaborative. Businesses in University Heights will be able to report open positions to the collaborative, which will then send notices to more than forty workforce agencies and assist in matching applicants to positions. The service is free to businesses.
LWV Observer: Wendy S. Deuring.
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