Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 8-1-22
AUGUST 1, 2022 - regular meeting
- Public comments
- Mayor’s report
- Council action
- First readings without a vote
- Council member comments
- Committee of the whole
Present were Mayor Kahlil Seren, Council President Melody Joy Hart, Council Vice President Craig Cobb, and Council Members Tony Cuda, Gail Larson, Anthony Mattox, Jr., Jose Moore, and Davida Russell. Also present was Law Director William Hanna. The meeting ran one hour and 18 minutes.
Three residents addressed a proposal, to be presented by Mr. Cuda on first reading only, for putting a charter amendment on the November ballot. They spoke about the importance of transparency and inclusion, the ability of council members to request and receive information, and the need to codify this function. One speaker noted the Model City Charter published by the National Civic League, where, under the topic of non-interference with the city administration, council members are prohibited from giving employees orders, but not from making inquiries. Another speaker urged considerations of the pros and cons for the ordinance and claimed the language still needs revision.
Nine residents made comments about issues not on the agenda. Most dealt with housing issues including deplorable conditions such as mice and rats, people living in a garage, neglected rental property, trash, obnoxious Airbnb renters, absentee landlords, and late-night basketball and other noise. One pleaded that the city should try to make people take care of their property, especially on the north side of town. A resident asked how to get curbs restored in her neighborhood. One resident eloquently described the problem of large households unable to obtain additional refuse containers. Residents noted increasing damage done by deer, especially at the Delmore Community Orchard, and asked that Cleveland Heights work with neighboring cities on this problem.
Mayor Seren spoke at length about a recent car crash that caused serious damage at a house on Fairmount Boulevard at the south end of South Taylor Road. For the third time a speeding car missed the turn and caused serious property damage. The mayor felt news coverage had some inaccuracies about the circumstances and the efforts the city has made to help the homeowner. Efforts continue to rectify the situation. The motorist was badly injured.
The mayor spoke about the August 2 primary election and encouraged residents to attend National Night Out with the safety forces on August 2.
On first reading, council amended the 2022 budget to account for transfers covered by revenue or grant funding.
Also on first reading, council established the OneOhio Opioid Settlement Fund to segregate funds received from the settlement from the rest of the budget and to account appropriately for their disbursement for mitigation and prevention services.
On second reading, council amended description of the standing council committees to add environmental sustainability to the Municipal Services Committee and to expand the committee’s scope.
Council authorized, on second reading, a lease agreement with T-Mobile Central LLC to place a tower on at Fire Station #1 on Mayfield Rd. which will replace a taller tower in the same location.
First readings without a vote
An ordinance to create a charter amendment issue for the November 8 ballot specifies the terms and parameters of permissible inquiry between city council members and city department heads to benefit the efficient operation of city government.
An agreement to purchase 13234-13238 Cedar Road at market value ($765,000) would provide the last parcel needed for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development
Another resolution authorizes purchase of software licenses and support for utility billing from Link Computer Corporation for a one-time payment of $30,000 plus $4,800 monthly.
Council member comments
Ms. Larson reported that MetroParks will invest in Forest Hills Park in East Cleveland, movies are being shown outdoors at Milliken School playground, and the Noble Neighbors Farmers Market is open on Saturdays.
Mr. Cuda praised Ms. Moore for her environmental leadership. He commented on people resigning from the Transportation Committee because they feel ignored and reflected on public comments about animal control (deer and rodents).
Ms. Russell reflected on the public comments and reminded residents about the Hillcrest Market on Thursdays 4-8 p.m. She appreciated the community support in evidence at the July 28 ARPA funds meeting.
Ms. Moore also expressed appreciation for this meeting’s public comments, stating council needs to know these issues and that they are trying to find solutions.
Mr. Mattox spoke about the July 28 ARPA meeting and mentioned that the related survey is still live and available online at: https://www.clevelandheights.gov/1434/American-Rescue-Plan-Act. Council wants feedback and there will be more meetings in the future. He noted that for residents with children in the East Cleveland Schools, the East Cleveland Library has free school supplies.
Ms. Hart thanked the public for coming and giving input, especially about housing problems and ARPA funds.
Committee of the whole (COW)
The COW ran from 6:48 to 7:30 p.m, then resumed after the regular meeting and continued for 39 minutes until the council went into executive session to consider appointment of a public employee.
Ms. Hart opened the COW by requesting that members stay on schedule and have cordial and factual discussions without confrontation.
Council reviewed legislation before the regular meeting.
Upon reconvening after the regular public meeting, they discussed the proposed city charter amendment to Article III, Section 6 regarding council inquiry of administrative staff, proposed by Council Member Cuda. He explained that timely access to information is necessary to make good decisions and that the current charter language is vague and does not enumerate the power of inquiry. There are numerous concerns about the flow of information and the late issuance of packets on Fridays for Monday meetings. Many other communities have a better right of inquiry. He agrees with others that a complete charter review is needed, but that this problem cannot wait for a review.
Mayor Seren presented his point of view, stating that this measure would fundamentally and dramatically change the relationship between the mayor and the mayor’s employees. He pointed out that voters approved the strong mayor/council form in 2019 and added that he does understand checks and balances. He said he had received no recent requests from members despite the fact that, for example, they claimed having insufficent information on the civil service legislation presented in July.
All members stated their individual opinions and feelings on this subject except Ms. Russell, who said she was not ready to speak. There were substantial disagreements among members. An alternative to this legislation was proposed involving a written mutual agreement with the mayor and staff. Mr. Cuda responded to all the comments saying that his proposed legislation is not a dramatic change because it is consistent with that in many other city governments. He concluded this is about what kind of government council wants to set up and that having nothing in place leaves the interactions open to abuse.
Upcoming council meetings will be on Aug. 8 and 15.
LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.
Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: https://www.clevelandheights.com/1142/2021-Agendas-and-Minutes
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ClevelandHeightsOH