Two sides on Issue 26 have similar goals; different paths
When debating between two propositions, sometimes it helps to consider similarities. Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM), which supports Issue 26, and Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government (CHCGG), opposing Issue 26, actually share several goals—we just believe in different paths to attain them:
Strong executive leadership: The current CH City Charter defines the city manager as “chief administrative officer.” The amended charter that was tabled by city council elevates that position to “chief executive officer,” as does the revised agreement with the current city manager that council approved this summer. Both sides agree on the need for strong executive leadership. Issue 26 supporters just don’t think it’s practical or effective for that leader to be an employee of, and subordinate to, seven part-time council members; a city’s chief executive should be directly chosen by and accountable to all the people.
Limiting that executive’s outside employment: Unless a charter or ordinance specifies otherwise, a full-time city executive can hold outside employment. Both sides agree on the need to limit that possible outside employment to jobs that don’t interfere with the executive’s city job. City council included a limited-employment provision in its revised agreement with the city manager that is very similar to the provision included months earlier in Issue 26.
Maintaining qualified, professional city management: Despite CHCGG’s implication that the city would lose professional management under Issue 26, the amendment specifically creates the position of a city administrator who would do the same job as the current city manager. We agree on the need for a professional manager. The difference is CEM doesn’t believe the position should be beholden to, and have to navigate for approval by, at least four of seven council members. The person in the position needs one supervisor, like most of us have—not seven.
Accountability: Both sides use this word; the difference is in asking “Accountable to whom?” For CEM, it’s simple: directly accountable to all citizens at the ballot box and in day-to-day interactions with residents and businesses; and directly accountable to anyone else (developers, regional interests, etc.) who wants to interact with the city. CEM doesn’t believe a system where council controls the executive and legislative branches provides enough accountability to the citizens.
Keeping corruption out of city hall: CHCGG has raised the specter—indeed, the imminence—of city hall corruption by an elected mayor. Doesn’t CHCGG think voters are smart enough to elect someone who is not corrupt? Shaker Heights, South Euclid and Lakewood have been managing to; our voters are at least as smart. Council candidates solicit and accept political endorsements and donations; does that constitute the same corruption CHCGG worries about from a mayor running in a nonpartisan election? CHCGG’s own study about corruption in mayor-council structures acknowledges that changing from one system to the other is not likely to increase corruption.
A vote on Issue 26 for an elected mayor is not about right or wrong, or good vs. evil. Mayor-council and council-manager forms of government are both valid.
Thousands of Issue 26 supporters believe that at this time, and in this community, a mayor-council form will better serve our goals and needs. We face challenges that could not have been anticipated when the current form of government was established here in 1921. The status quo no longer works.
CEM believes a mayor will better position our community to move into the future. Please vote “Yes” when you see Issue 26 on the ballot asking if you want to amend the charter of Cleveland Heights to create an elected mayor.
Michael Bennett is a 29-year resident of Cleveland Heights, and is secretary of Citizens for an Elected Mayor.