Reasons to fear a change
As an opponent of Issue 26, I fear what will happen if it passes and we lose our special system of local government.
I am afraid our current city manager will quit if she considers passage a vote of “no confidence.” City services have been good during her tenure. She deserves credit for that. During recent bad storms, she personally knocked on doors to make sure our fellow residents were safe. It would be good if she still is here when the next crisis happens.
I am afraid other high-level administrators will quit. Some will leave because of their professional commitment to a council-manager system. Others will leave because a “strong mayor” will hire loyalists. Safety, security and health protections from police, fire, ambulance and service departments that we often take for granted will decline. We pay high taxes and demand, in exchange, excellent services. Passage of Issue 26 will jeopardize that arrangement.
I am afraid some talented members of CH City Council will quit and not be replaced by others with similar qualifications. One member already has expressed to me privately an unwillingness to serve under the new system. It will become more difficult in the future to find that quality of elected officials we have come to expect.
I am afraid a two-year transition to a new system will disrupt city hall during the changeover and thereafter. Disruptions can affect services. They also can be costly. Governmental performance determines municipal bond ratings. A rating determines interest rates for municipal bonds. Cleveland Heights regularly issues such bonds to pay for capital improvements and equipment. Higher borrowing costs mean less money left to pay employees and provide services. That means higher taxes might be necessary just to maintain the current level of services.
I am afraid future elections for mayor will resemble those in other communities. The choice of a single chief executive will become a political matter. That can result in problems. A recent study found municipalities with a council-manager form are 57 percent less likely to have corruption convictions than municipalities with the mayor-council form. We would give up a 100-year history of good local government and take a risky plunge into the political unknown.
I am afraid passage of Issue 26 will destroy confidence many have in our city. Families moved to Cleveland Heights because our high quality of life is protected by good municipal government. Many chose not to live in cities such as Cleveland and East Cleveland that have massive political problems. They often voted with their feet. If Issue 26 passes, many again will vote with their feet and leave. That would have negative consequences.
Cleveland Heights is special. It does not vest exclusive power in one person. It delegates power to seven elected members of city council who each are accountable. This council acts collectively. It controls the performance of a non-partisan and professional city manager. There are checks and balances. Political deals do not determine how, where, when, or to whom services and public resources are allocated. Employees are more likely to be hired based on merit than on political connections. [As demonstrated] by history, the council-manager system has given us stable and effective municipal government. This was neither an accident nor a coincidence. Retaining our special system will continue to provide us with good basic services and with unique programs such as those at Cain Park and the Recreation Pavilion.
Issue 26 instead would bring about drastic and negative changes. And so, I urge a “NO” vote on Issue 26 to keep our city special.
Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council 1980–1987, and was CH mayor 1982–1987.