It's time for an elected mayor to lead CH
I was honored to be appointed to the CH Charter Review Commission (CRC) in 2017, and elected vice chair of that body a number of months later. Despite being distraught at what I had characterized as a lack of vision and leadership in the city, I saw the CRC as an opportunity to learn more about the structure of our city’s government and determine for myself, based on the evidence presented, whether the lack of leadership in the city was a structural or personnel issue.
I was frustrated with the lack of attention to core infrastructure issues, such as water and sewer. Both issues got “cleaned up” only when it finally got so bad it was a crisis. And we had to pay for it. Our own former finance director stated clearly that infrastructure was not given the attention it warranted in years past, under the city-manager system. Where was the city manager with the vision and leadership to ask: What infrastructure planning and management does our city need, not just today, but for the next 20 years?
For years I have complained to city council about the disgusting state of garbage regulations. Prohibited from having garbage cans, our streets end up strewn with garbage each collection day, attracting vermin and significantly diminishing the aesthetic appeal of our city. Inattention has wasted tens of thousands of dollars on rehabilitating old sanitation trucks while we wallow in deciding (years behind!) what next-generation sanitation trucks the city should purchase. Where was a city manager with the vision and leadership to ask: Where do our sanitation system and ordinances need to be, to serve our city not just today, but for the next 20 years?
Our city has clearly lagged in economic development efforts. CRC members heard from some of the region’s most esteemed developers and business owners that, when they sought to do business with Cleveland Heights, there was no one there to make the decisions needed to move development deals forward. Where was a city manager with the vision and leadership to attract innovative development, not just today, but for the next 20 years?
After months of listening and asking questions, I concluded that CH government suffered from a structural deficiency. Where other cities of our size and type had elected mayors, Cleveland Heights has only a city manager with a very part-time elected body of seven bosses, none of whom can claim lead or sole oversight of the city manager.
My vision for a new government for Cleveland Heights is a directly elected full-time mayor who governs and leads with a full-time city administrator managing city operations—exactly what is on the ballot for a “yes” vote this November.
Cleveland Heights is in desperate need of vision, accountability, and leadership that will make our city a place in which people want to live, work, play, and do business. We need transparency about how decisions are made. We need someone who has a vision for where our city needs to be, and a full-time presence to oversee the city administrator’s management of operations. And when things fail, we need an elected mayor that we can call to get answers, who feels accountable to the residents, and who knows we are watching each election.
A part-time elected body without an elected mayor is just not enough to allow Cleveland Heights to flourish the way we need it to today.
Any legislative branch is only as successful as the vision and leadership of the executive branch allows it to be. But Cleveland Heights has no executive branch that residents have any influence over . . . yet—until we vote YES this November for an elected mayor and city administrator. Join me.
Jessica Cohen serves as chair of the Cleveland Heights Planning Commission and was vice chair of the CRC. A law-school student at night and nonprofit executive by day, Cohen, along with her husband and four children, is a proud Cleveland Heights resident.