CH council should prioritize city services
The most important question in Cleveland Heights is, will city council give proper priority to delivering quality city services that protect health, safety and welfare?
[In his January 2022 Heights Observer opinion, in which he summed up the “top issues” candidates who ran for CH City Council in 2021 heard about from residents,] Council Member Tony Cuda noted that high taxes are a common complaint, but many residents said they would not mind paying them if city services were better. What he and his colleagues should ask is, to what “city services” were residents referring? And how can these services be performed better?
Candidates during the recent election campaign were more concerned about “equity and inclusion.” I do not doubt their sincerity, but I question their priorities. Municipal services affect everyone. Our city provides policing, fire suppression, ambulance service, and refuse disposal. It also pays for recreation programs, snow and leaf removal, repairs of public buildings, and purchases of equipment. Maintaining high quality municipal services is important, but candidates spent too little time on that subject. Perhaps they were taking city services for granted.
Cleveland Heights government often has spent too much time on issues unrelated to city services. One such issue was the “nuclear free zone” movement. Signs to declare that zone, decades after the end of the Cold War, have made our city the laughingstock of Cuyahoga County. Establishment of a legally non-binding “domestic partner registry” was a similar exercise in pure virtue signaling. Supporters of the irrelevant occasionally get their way. Unfortunately, in Cleveland Heights that means an annual ceremony called “Democracy Day,” which requires a publicly funded hearing to discuss the role of money in national politics.
Time spent at public expense on such matters has not been time productively spent.
Mr. Cuda properly suggests that attention should be paid to what successful candidates said they wanted done if elected. He noted candidates raised some important municipal issues, such as the need to maintain aging housing stock and build new housing.
But one of the first actions of the new council was passage of an ordinance to adopt a “climate action plan.” That plan will sound good to some who want to save the planet, but it will not improve life on the local level. Such planning will consume time that could be spent on other projects.
Some will argue that city council can do it all, and stand for social justice while still providing for high quality city services. But council members only work part time. They must use their limited time wisely. They should concentrate on truly relevant matters. They should focus on maintaining and improving the quality of city services. They should not engage instead in ineffective ideological posturing, no matter how virtuous that makes them feel.
Taxpayers expect elected representatives to act in the true best interests of our community because of high taxes. They want their money’s worth. That is the real message [candidates heard from residents].
Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as mayor (1982–87).