Consider risks of the Top of the Hill Project

On Oct. 27, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the upcoming closing of Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern. It's been a rocky couple of decades for "the Euc," but Happy Dog co-owner Sean Watterson, quoted in the Plain Dealer, summed up the current situation in University Circle by saying, "The area changed pretty quickly with building going up rather than through organic growth." [The Euclid Tavern is owned by University Circle Inc.]

This could serve as a cautionary tale for the Heights' Top of the Hill Project. Could any of our organically grown treasures, such as Appletree Books, Luna, or The Fairmount, suffer because of too much building, too fast?

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Volume 12, Issue 1, Posted 11:11 AM, 12.04.2018

Forest Hill Church's 'new thing'

The sign in front of Forest Hill Presbyterian Church that proclaims “See, I am doing a new thing!” refers to the hiring of the Rev. Veronica Goines as the church's first African-American co-pastor.

The story of this historic call started in 2010, when a horrifying racial incident threatened one of the church’s young members. The young man, soliciting money for his football team, was searched at gunpoint by Pepper Pike police after a 911 caller reported a black youth trying to break into houses with a gun.

When church members demanded a public apology, the city of Pepper Pike refused, saying its response would have been the same if the call had been about a white youth with a gun.

The problem was, there wouldn’t have been a 911 call if the boy had been white. Only through the lens of implicit bias does a well-dressed, respectful and respectable young man with a cell phone, going door-to-door to raise money for his school, become a criminal suspect wielding a gun.

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Volume 11, Issue 11, Posted 12:25 PM, 11.01.2018

There is systemic racism in CH

When institutions give an unjust amount of resources, rights and political-economic power to white people while denying it to people of color, this is systemic racism. According to sociologist Joe Feagin, white elites and even people of color perpetuate systemic racism. The Cleveland Heights government is such an institution.

In 1972, it was revealed that the city had been redlining—limiting black families to homeownership only on the north side of the city. In 1993, city leaders acknowledged it had not invested in that area's infrastructure, housing stock and local business districts, and promised to change its ways. Today, after bearing the brunt of the foreclosure crisis in this city, the north side has yet to experience a change in the city's racist ways. It razes vacant and abandoned property and hopes to attract out-of-town property buyers and developers to build high-density, high-income residential buildings along the “Noble Corridor,” to bring in a more-gentrified class of people and businesses—forget the issues facing the low- to moderate-income, primarily black, residents currently living there.

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Volume 11, Issue 11, Posted 12:22 PM, 11.01.2018

Coventry School should be sold

While having an arts/nonprofit center is a wonderful idea and concept for our community, I don't feel the Coventry School site should be the location for it. A non-property tax generating building is not the highest and best use for this desirable location. It is a site that I presume would have a lot of interest from developers.

A site I presume won't have as much interest would be the Tudor buildings at the corner of S. Taylor Road and Superior Park Drive. These buildings are being transferred to the city of Cleveland Heights due to non-payment of property taxes. The first floor retail space in these buildings is essentially empty. Let's state some facts:

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Volume 11, Issue 11, Posted 12:19 PM, 11.01.2018

Show your pride in and gratitude for Heights schools

November is gratitude month. CH-UH school administrators and staff work continuously to bolster the educational experience and academic success of each of their students. While there are always ways to improve, there is also much to celebrate.

We want to hear your statements of pride and gratitude about the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools. Please go to www.reachingheights.org and complete the “Proud & Grateful” form. These statements will be compiled and shared on the Reaching Heights website, our Facebook page, and other media, to spread positive statements about the accomplishments of the students and staff of the CH-UH public schools.

Several Reaching Heights staff and board members shared statements of pride and gratitude for the community’s public schools:

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Volume 11, Issue 11, Posted 9:50 AM, 11.01.2018

Opinion: CDC: what does it stand for?

I would expect that when most folks think of what “CDC” stands for, they would think of Centers for Disease Control. But, for many of us who have had the opportunity to enjoy life in an established urban neighborhood, our response might more likely be “community development corporation” (CDC). So, what is a CDC, and why do we care?

Well, as the name suggests, the word “community” indicates a gathering and engagement of people with a common agenda or purpose—in this case, improving a place by taking action to remove or prevent deterioration, blight and decline.

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 2:24 PM, 09.03.2018

Opinion: Tiger Nation wants you

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District has a tiger as the district mascot and is known as Tiger Nation. Current and past students and school staff are fondly known as Heights Tigers. Are you a Heights Tiger, too?

If you live within the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, your property taxes fund the public schools. You are a Heights Tiger. If you work for or own a business within the CH-UH school district, your business taxes support our public schools. You are a Heights Tiger, too.  

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 2:22 PM, 09.03.2018

Opinion: I’m a proud member of the Forest Hill crank club

After 10 years of watching the alarming rise of vacant foreclosures in Forest Hill, I can no longer stomach our homeowners’ association’s (HOA) excuses for inaction. 

Anybody who lives in Forest Hill sees the vacant houses that sit and rot, impacting our quality of life and property values. If our HOA is “nurturing the historic serenity of this area” as it claims, why is it ignoring the eyesores at 1024 and 1315 Hereford Road, 15780 Cleviden Road, 15472 Brewster Road, 1400 Forest Hills Blvd., and 3045 Monticello Blvd.?

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 2:18 PM, 09.03.2018

A well-defined brand can enhance a city's image

Each of us is passionate about our community and committed to sharing the story of what makes Cleveland Heights such a wonderful place [in which] to live, work, eat, shop and play. Developing clear messaging and engaging graphics will help shape our conversation and enhance our ability to clearly communicate who Cleveland Heights is and what it offers. The city made the strategic decision to invest in discovering and defining the brand of Cleveland Heights and establishing new tools and resources to help effectively promote the city brand to others.

A brand is much more than a logo or tag line. It is the DNA of the city and speaks to what Cleveland Heights stands for and what it offers visitors, business owners and residents alike. By discovering and defining the brand, the foundation for tools and resources will be developed to help us effectively promote this unique community to prospective residents and businesses, current residents and visitors.

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 12:31 PM, 08.21.2018

Court holds that property manager breached its own contract

A Cleveland Heights property manager sued its client to recover management fees but the strategy backfired. Municipal Court Magistrate Gary Benjamin found that the property manager had breached its own property management agreement and rejected the company’s claim for compensation. Instead, the magistrate awarded damages to the property owner on his counterclaim.

The property manager, Transnational Property Investments, manages more than 350 properties out of its office on Fairmount Boulevard. A July 2016 property management agreement provided that Transnational would rent and manage a duplex in Cleveland owned by Rodolfo Encinas, a California resident. The agreement was terminated in October 2017 after both units had been vacant for ten months.

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Volume 11, Issue 9, Posted 10:51 AM, 09.05.2018

A complaint-driven housing policy isn't enough to save our neighborhoods

Few places have as much potential for attractive residency as the racially and culturally vibrant Heights suburbs east of Cleveland.   Yet, like most aging suburban communities in mid-western states, these suburbs are confronting the residue of disruptive, predatory home sales and financing practices along with persistent middle-income wage stagnation.  Although recovery is evident in upscale neighborhoods, reported data shows ordinary legacy neighborhoods still face dire realities.

These realities pose a serious threat to housing quality and neighborhood sustainability. Increasing code compliance failures tend to normalize more negligence, abandonment and distress, leading to lower housing values, more absentee-investor home ownership, and property tax base erosion. Communities cannot afford to stand by and watch their most affordable housing stock turn into solid waste. Virtually all candidates for municipal office in the Heights said so in their 2016 election campaigns.

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Volume 11, Issue 8, Posted 1:32 PM, 07.31.2018

A 'Fool on the Hill'

The hill I am referring to is the near legendary “Top of the Hill” in the Cedar Fairmount neighborhood. Is it a place, a property, or maybe even someday a project? For me, and probably many others, is it more likely a dream that never seems to end?Can this dream become reality?

Looking back over two years ago, the city distributed requests for proposals, seeking a development partner. Five interested teams responded. (Full disclosure: I, along with my former architectural firm, submitted a detailed proposal in partnership with a local development group. We were not selected and moved on.)

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Volume 11, Issue 8, Posted 11:55 AM, 07.24.2018

'Charter-ing' the best course for Cleveland Heights

Over the past months, I have had a keen interest and emerging sense of civic responsibility to become involved with the discussion regarding Cleveland Heights’ charter review. I have found myself reading articles, letters, attending the public meeting, and sitting thru two sessions of the Charter Review Commission (CRC). I even felt compelled to express myself in various CRC meetings and forums.

My career has provided me the opportunity to work in the public sector in an appointed executive position, and as the owner and director of a professional business. I have met and dealt with many important people—even some considered powerful—these last 40 years, and have discovered a great deal about leadership.

The lesson I have learned, which I found of the greatest importance, is that leadership is not defined by a job title; it must be earned.

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Volume 11, Issue 8, Posted 6:01 PM, 07.09.2018

Forest Hill will smile again

Other than the azaleas and blossoming trees in Forest Hill, the best thing here is the homeowners association, regardless of what has been said in an ongoing dialogue. The "fuss" has been the private crusade of less than six people. Neighborhoods will always have "cranks," but ours has been extremely aggressive. Since the 1950s, the association has nurtured the historic serenity of this area.

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Volume 11, Issue 7, Posted 10:36 AM, 06.29.2018

Charter Review Commission should discuss before deciding

Months of opinion-gathering and fact-finding by the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission (CRC) went to waste at its June 7 meeting.

Instead of engaging in thoughtful discussion about our city’s form of government, and evaluating of hundreds of comments from residents, commission members stated their preferences, with a majority in support of preserving the current city manager-council form. This derailed the conversation, discomfited several commission members, and did little to move the process forward. A bit of conversation surfaced toward the end of the meeting, but the damage was done; the tenor was such that anyone even considering an elected mayor form of government had little ground on which to take a stand.

I urge the commission to get the deliberation train back on a better track at its June 21 meeting and beyond, for this and all other charter issues. Potential charter changes are too important to let the strongly and frequently expressed opinions of several preclude open and honest deliberation among all.

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Volume 11, Issue 7, Posted 11:38 AM, 06.19.2018

Libraries are the true 'third place'

By now, most people have heard about the dismaying incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks, where two African-American men were arrested after the store manager called 911. Their offense? In a nutshell, waiting for a few minutes in the store for someone without buying anything. And asking to use the restroom.

Much of the media coverage contrasted the men’s treatment with the company’s stated desire to be a “third place”—someplace other than home, work, or school where people feel welcome to spend time. Indeed, Starbucks’ website asserts that the stores are “A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”

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Volume 11, Issue 6, Posted 4:02 PM, 06.01.2018

CH can do better with garbage

As a new resident of Cleveland Heights but a real estate broker who has worked in areas from Sandusky to Solon, I get a pretty good idea of how each city differs from its neighbor.

The city of Cleveland Heights has a trash collection policy that is incredibly baffling to me. We throw our garbage bags on the tree lawn (do they still call it that?) and the animals pick at it for dinner leaving gaping holes in the bags which then are influenced by mother nature and—suddenly!—garbage everywhere!

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Volume 11, Issue 6, Posted 4:05 PM, 06.01.2018

Slay the gerrymander: Vote Yes on Issue 1

Chances are you’ve been asked to sign a petition to stop the gerrymandering—drawing district lines to favor a candidate or party—of Ohio’s congressional districts. Spearheaded by the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition, this constitutional referendum effort culminated in successful negotiations with state legislators to put Ohio Issue 1—an alternative, but solid, solution—on the May 8 ballot.

Issue 1 has the full endorsement of the Fair Districts coalition (which includes the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause), the Democratic and Republican parties, and a growing list of organizations statewide.

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Volume 11, Issue 5, Posted 4:26 PM, 04.30.2018

Forest Hill can be the next Tremont

For Greater Clevelanders, it has been the best and the worst of times depending on the neighborhood you live in. Destination neighborhoods like Cedar Fairmount and Tremont are thriving with increased property values and the buzz of restaurants and retail.

Forest Hill as a neighborhood once enjoyed this status. No more. Now it is lumped into a collection of neighborhoods many call “north of Mayfield.” Instead of buzz, there is the ghost town called Severance Town Center and the only restaurants are fast food. Retail consists of Walgreen’s and The Dollar Store.

Forest Hill is at a crossroads. We can look west and connect to the vibrancy of Little Italy and University Circle. Or continue to plod along and stagnate.

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Volume 11, Issue 5, Posted 4:23 PM, 04.30.2018

HCC decries proposed HUD mission statement change

Recently, Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), issued a statement that alarms Heights Community Congress (HCC) members, who feel it should alarm their neighbors as well. Carson said that HUD will amend its mission statement to remove, among other things, references to creating “inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.”

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Volume 11, Issue 5, Posted 4:21 PM, 04.30.2018

Compassion or stigma: You choose

I read a comment on NextDoor in Cleveland Heights where a writer referred to another person as "the Tourette's guy." Based on the person’s behavior of having uncontrollable outbursts, apparently the writer assumed the person had Tourette’s syndrome (TS). I responded that TS is a genetic brain disorder and I doubt the person suffering from this disorder appreciated being categorized.

[TS is] usually symptomatic early in life. Can you imagine how young classmates treat a child diagnosed with Tourettes? 

That's not the only genetic brain disorder. I've been hearing from more and more people who’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. People diagnosed can suffer from uncontrolled mood changes, on the spectrum of depression to mania.

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Volume 11, Issue 5, Posted 10:59 AM, 05.01.2018

CH judge provides municipal court update

On or before the last day of March each year, municipal courts throughout Ohio submit a report of their operations during the preceding calendar year to the legislative authority and to the board of county commissioners of each county within their territory. The report shows the work performed by the court; a statement of receipts and expenditures of the civil and criminal branches; the number of cases heard, decided, and settled; and any other data that the supreme court, the secretary of state, the legislative authority, and the board of county commissioners requires. As I prepared the data for the report for 2017, which occurred before I took office, I found myself reflecting on the first two and a half months that I have been in office.

Let me begin by stating that it is an honor to serve Cleveland Heights as its judge. It has at times been trying, for example, setting bail for an accused who is pulled over and allegedly found to have a small amount of drugs, but also a loaded, unlicensed, semi-automatic handgun in the vehicle. The preeminent purpose of bail is to ensure that an accused appears at all stages of the criminal proceedings. It is also necessary to take into consideration the potential danger to the community of the accused. All this has to occur while affording the greatest degree of fairness to the accused, who is just that, accused, and innocent until proven guilty.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 11:22 AM, 03.29.2018

A popularly elected, accountable mayor would be better for Cleveland Heights

As a 26-year resident of Cleveland Heights, I took great interest in community issues and learned a great deal about them through my stints as a city of Cleveland Heights Housing Service consultant; as one of a number of concerned citizens who rallied around quality of life and city planning issues by creating FutureHeights in 2000; and as a volunteer in Grant Deming’s Forest Hill Historic District.

My experiences have led me to the conclusion that Cleveland Heights has not been well served by its current council-manager form of government. This structure may have worked well in the early 20th-century Progressive-era view of government needing to be placed on a business footing, but today’s challenges require a new approach.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 11:09 AM, 03.29.2018

Thinking about Big Fun's going-out-of-business sale

Big Fun is about childhood—revisiting our own, enriching our children’s, and then watching our children discover nostalgia for themselves.

Big Fun is about commerce. It’s a tourist attraction in an unlikely place, and an anchor for Coventry Village and Cleveland Heights—reliably drawing more than its fair share of traffic. Its presence has probably enriched other businesses more than it’s enriched the owner, Steve Presser.

Big Fun is about community. Steve is everybody’s close friend, whether he knows you or not. I’m not sure he’s ever turned down a reasonable request to support a local cause.

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Volume 11, Issue 3, Posted 1:54 PM, 03.01.2018

Change the charter to directly elect CH mayor

I drafted a statement of my opinion and submitted it to the CH Charter Review Commission (CRC). I would encourage everyone write in and let your voice be heard.

I have attended two CRC meetings. At one, a resident stood up and said that he didn’t care who the elected council members wanted as mayor; he cared who he, as a voter, wanted as mayor. I thought this simple statement got to the heart of the debate between having a mayor directly elected by the voters as opposed to a “mayor” selected by four of the seven CH council members.

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Volume 11, Issue 3, Posted 1:48 PM, 03.01.2018

CH needs a full-time mayor

Cleveland Heights needs to elect a full-time mayor. Currently, our part-time city council elects a part-time mayor who has no executive power. The city manager (a full-time position) is hired by city council and runs the day-to-day operations of the city.

Our city has decent city services and a school system that is moving in the right direction. But the problems we have require a full-time elected mayor with the vision, the time and the skills to move our city forward. The problems are:

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Volume 11, Issue 3, Posted 1:47 PM, 03.01.2018

About the Observer

The Heights Observer is not an ordinary newspaper; it is a nonprofit publication for residents of Cleveland Heights and University Heights.

The Observer has no writing staff; it is written by you—the readers.

Individuals throughout the community decide what stories they want to write, then submit them for publication. Anyone in University Heights or Cleveland Heights is welcome to contribute regularly, occasionally or even just once.

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Volume 11, Issue 1, Posted 2:17 PM, 01.02.2018

Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus vision closer to reality after recent developments

The members of the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus team are pleased to report that all relevant parties are engaged in active discussions over the immediate future of the Coventry site and our proposal to build on its success as a center for arts, education and community gatherings.

On Nov. 20, the Heights Libraries Board of Trustees authorized Executive Director Nancy Levin to enter into negotiations with the P.E.A.C.E. Campus group about partnering to take possession of the Coventry property from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. School districts are limited by law in how they can dispose of unused buildings and land; cities and libraries are two entities to which districts can transfer ownership. But this is not just a legal maneuver—the library’s formal involvement is a welcome and promising development.

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Volume 10, Issue 12, Posted 11:20 AM, 11.30.2017

Vouchers are bad for most

I have two adult children that I love more than anything in the world and always have. They went to Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools and received an imperfect but great education. I worshiped some of their teachers, tolerated others, thought some administrators knew what they were doing and didn’t care for others. All in all, CH-UH schools and my family were a good fit. I never thought about sending them to a different system.

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Volume 10, Issue 11, Posted 2:26 PM, 11.01.2017

Flags are being stolen from Forest Hill Church

Since February, two flags have flown on the steps of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian, at the intersection of Monticello and Lee boulevards: the “rainbow” flag which celebrating LGBTQ persons, and the green, black and red flag known as the “International African Flag” or the “African-American” flag.

Four times since February, the African-American flag has been stolen.

Perhaps the flag was taken by a white supremacist. Perhaps some young person, who thought it was a good-looking flag and wanted it for a dorm room or apartment, took it. Or perhaps someone who believed that these two flags should not be in the same space removed it.


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Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 11:01 AM, 09.12.2017

What matters to you in our council members?

Our homes are our sanctuary from the world. But our contentment there can be hard fought.

We’re busy, consumed with thoughts about jobs, kids, repairs, bills and doctors’ visits. Pricking that contentment are outside issues as well. Streets with damaged trees; sinking sewer grates; broken curbs; cracked, crumbling surfaces; and empty storefronts and homes. But your calls to [Cleveland Heights] City Hall go nowhere. Council members don’t respond to your calls or e-mails.

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Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 2:10 PM, 09.29.2017

An appreciation of Cumberland Pool

My earliest memories of Cumberland Pool go back to the middle 1950s. In those days water was fed into the pool with considerable force through two above-ground sculpted lions’ mouths on the pool’s east side. People of a certain age will remember ropes (as in “get off the rope”) at the north and south ends. But before the ropes there were chain-link fences in the pool separating the deeper from shallower water. During the middle and late 1960s I worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor there.

We had rules covering just about everything, mostly dealing with what you could not do or must not bring (food, toys, suntan lotion, training equipment, reading material, and much more) into the pool area. Who remembers having to present your feet for inspection prior to emerging from the locker room?

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Volume 10, Issue 9, Posted 11:03 AM, 08.22.2017

Coventry P.E.A.C.E. park is an essential community asset

The Coventry P.E.A.C.E. playground was created 23 years ago by a group of passionate and engaged citizens, in collaboration with the school board and city of Cleveland Heights.

Since that time, Coventy P.E.A.C.E., a nonprofit organization, has endured. Its volunteer members are stewards of the park, caring for the grounds, gardens and play equipment through biannual park work days.

Coventry park is really a campus, as it encompasses the multi-use Coventry School building, the park itself, the ball field, the P.E.A.C.E. arch, the Coventry Village Library and the south entrance to Coventry Village.

The park serves at times as a soccer and Frisbee field, a summer movie theater, an amphitheater for Shakespeare plays, a great sledding hill for little kids, a gathering place for a drum circle, a concert venue, a place for outdoor yoga classes, a reading garden for library patrons, a place to meet neighbors, a place to make friends and a place where one can just “be.” Per square foot it is the most-used ground in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 1:31 PM, 07.31.2017

Heights Observer local candidate policy

With the November election approaching, the Heights Observer is publishing its policy for contributions by candidates for local office.

As a community newspaper committed to equal access for everyone, the Observer is unique among publications in providing opportunity for any member of the Cleveland Heights and University Heights communities to raise and discuss issues of local interest.

At election time, however, this commitment creates a challenge in managing the finite space that is available for community members who are running for public office.

The policy, approved by the FutureHeights Board of Directors, is designed to address that challenge. It states the following:

  • The August-November issues of the printed publication will not carry any editorial contributions from known candidates for office.
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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 10:39 AM, 07.17.2017

Opinion: FutureHeights declares its intent to become the CDC for Cleveland Heights

On April 21, the FutureHeights Board of Directors unanimously and enthusiastically approved a resolution declaring the intent of the organization to become the Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Cleveland Heights. FutureHeights has been in discussion with city leaders about becoming the CDC for more than a year, and feels that now is the time to move forward.

Consistent with our name, for 15 years FutureHeights’ mission has been to promote a vibrant and sustainable “future” for Cleveland Heights (and University Heights, since 2008), through innovative ideas and civic engagement.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 12:19 PM, 05.01.2017

It's hard to recommend teaching as a profession

My holiday tradition for several years was to go backpacking overnight between Christmas and New Year’s with Boy Scout alums from my days as scoutmaster. For the last several years, we seem to get a better turnout if I host a party at my house instead. This year, one of the young men, who is in his mid-20s, and I discussed whether he should go into teaching. This would have been an easy discussion years ago, but now it is not so simple.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 2:55 PM, 02.28.2017

County overvalues Heights properties

Has the county valued your home accurately for property tax purposes? In other words, does the value comport [compare?] with other properties that have sold on your street? Do you think that your home would sell for the amount at which the county has valued it? If the county's appraised value seems out of line to you, you are not alone. There seems to be a pattern of overvaluing homes for property tax purposes in Cuyahoga County, and this miscalculation by the county could be costing [homeowners] thousands of dollars.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 3:00 PM, 02.28.2017

Forest Hill Home Owners association enforces covenants and protects housing standards

The Forest Hill Home Owners association (FHHO) is a nonprofit founded in 1950. Forest Hill spans both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, containing 991 single-family residences and a small number of apartment buildings. It’s important to understand that FHHO does not possess the mechanisms of a modern HOA—mandatory dues, the ability to make repairs and bill the homeowner, or the ability to easily attach liens to properties. FHHO does, however, have standards relating to siding, roofing, landscaping and general exterior maintenance that go beyond both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland housing standards.

FHHO views its relationship with Cleveland Heights as a strong and productive one. Cleveland Heights has been responsive in assisting FHHO to address non-operational vehicles, broken streetlights and damaged fire hydrants.

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Volume 10, Issue 2, Posted 11:20 AM, 01.24.2017

Forest Hill residents consider autonomy

With the recent recall of East Cleveland’s mayor and city council president, along with that city’s struggles to stay afloat, some residents in the neighborhood of Forest Hill are voicing support to secede from East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights in favor of forming an autonomous municipality, The Village of Forest Hill.

These homeowners believe the creation of a self-governing entity is needed to combat the growing number of neglected and abandoned homes that are plummeting property values and contributing to a negative perception of Forest Hill as a neighborhood on the brink.

A number of toxic houses, many of which have been vacant for years, continue to blight Forest Hill—a direct result of the 2008 housing crash, foreclosure crisis and incompetent oversight. 

One of the most egregious examples is the home at 15922 Forest Hill Blvd., in East Cleveland. This eyesore has sat vacant for more than a decade.

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Volume 10, Issue 2, Posted 10:35 AM, 01.17.2017

How CH-UH district evaluates its teachers

How often should teachers be evaluated to make sure they are continuing to grow and improve in their job? The state of Ohio does not give us much of choice in CH-UH about how often, or what should be scrutinized, even though we control some aspects of teacher evaluation locally.

Teachers must undergo two cycles of observations per year. These cycles make up the teacher-performance part of the evaluation. Each cycle comprises a pre- and post-conference, a full-length lesson, and short walk-throughs. Before the pre-conference, most administrators require the completion of an extensive worksheet as well as a detailed lesson plan. During the pre-conference, teachers must explain what they will be doing and why, how they determined what to do, how students will be grouped, what data supports the differentiation that each student will receive, and on and on and on.

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Volume 10, Issue 1, Posted 11:50 AM, 01.03.2017

A school nurse's job is complex and essential

In the CH-UH school district, we have six school nurses. The salaries of these individuals have been highly criticized by levy opponents, even though they are on the same pay scale as social workers, counselors and program specialists. The argument has been that we should not have to spend so much for nursing services. It may be helpful [for critics] to know what our school nurses do and what they are responsible for before making assumptions about their worth.

Our school nurses have Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing and are registered nurses. More than half hold master’s degrees in education, and all are licensed as school nurses—a rigorous certification with many requirements, including a 300-hour practicum with a licensed school nurse.

All district nurses had at least 10 years of experience in nursing before CH-UH hired them. They are responsible for the welfare of every child in our schools, as well as for the adults.

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 6:05 PM, 12.01.2016

Don't be fooled by levy opponents' misleading claims

Several [opinion] articles in last month’s Observer cited so-called “facts” about the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school levy (Issue 109). We are writing to correct just three of the false or misleading arguments of levy opponents.

First, levy opponents love to compare graduation rates from 2006 to today, but they do so in misleading ways. They don’t explain that they're comparing 2006’s five-year graduation rate with today’s four-year rate—and so today’s rate is understandably lower. They omit [mentioning] that, in 2007, the state made the graduation test significantly harder, which lowered graduation rates across Ohio. And they simply ignore that the district's four-year graduation rate has gone up four years in a row to 85.7 percent—much higher than the 83 percent statewide average.

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:22 PM, 11.01.2016

An public school insider's perspective

Between us, my husband and I have lived in many exciting cities, both in the U.S. and abroad. We are so grateful to have landed in the wonderful community of Cleveland Heights, with all of its richness, diversity, convenience and complexity.

Our family has been enriched by our use of the public schools, where we've encountered a community of interesting citizens contributing good to our society. By serving as good neighbors and using the public schools, we are investing in the future viability of this community.

Because we experience the public schools every day, we see the real, tangible work occurring within them, and we see beyond the state's very narrow definition of quality and success. We see all kinds of children learning and growing together. We've witnessed progress in many areas in recent years, and we advocate and work together for further improvements.

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:19 PM, 11.01.2016

Setting growth targets for students

I have never really been a football fan, but now that I have a daughter at University of Michigan, I find it impossible not to pay attention, at least a little. As I wrote this article, an Ann Arbor steakhouse was offering patrons a percentage discount by whatever point spread Michigan might win over Rutgers. Michigan won 78-0, which is a little more than was expected.

How did the restaurant decide to make this offer? Did [the owners] look at data and then gamble how much they could afford to give up in profits versus the advertising they would get? Looking at past games with Rutgers, coupled with the individual players’ abilities, could they have predicted the point spread?

As I wrote this article, teachers in the Cleveland Heights- University Heights schools were setting targets for how much our students will grow this year.

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:17 PM, 11.01.2016

Please leave the leaves

Nature can help us improve our lawns and landscaping if we mulch and leave our leaves in place this fall. As leaves fall, rather than raking or blowing them to the tree lawn, run over the leaves several times with your lawnmower to work them into the soil. Be sure to chop the leaves finely so they don't clump up and smother the lawn. (You can watch this being done in a video created by Good Nature Lawn Care: http://whygoodnature.com/why-not-to-rake-your-leaves-this-year?q=leaves.)

Chopped leaves create a natural compost that’s good for your lawn. Chopped leaves will improve the tilth of your soil, allowing the roots of your grass, trees and shrubs to grow stronger, longer and deeper. Leaves add carbon to your soil that will act as a sponge for water, allowing roots to breathe during wet times and holding moisture during drought. Leaves feed soil microorganisms that create a strong, diverse, symbiotic soil community to improve your entire landscape.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 11:15 AM, 10.24.2016

Advocate, alum and mom is 'All In' for Heights schools

As a graduate of Heights High and mother to one current and one former student, I am a firm believer in our community’s public schools. My belief, however, is not blind; it is based on what I have seen and experienced as a parent and advocate over the past 13 years.

My older son graduated from Heights High last year and has just begun college, where he continues to build upon what Heights instilled in him: the confidence to pursue his passions. Each year when football season ended, he would jump headlong into school and theater. Between the Heights drama department, clubs, sports, and community theaters, he had a wealth of opportunities to grow as an athlete and a performer, and he took advantage of all of it.

My younger son has had a dramatically different experience. He was diagnosed with a brain abnormality known as Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC) when he was 7 months old. He faces numerous challenges, including difficulties with learning, language, motor coordination and understanding social cues.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 12:08 PM, 09.30.2016

Real facts about school funding

There is a false belief being perpetrated about tax levies for the CH-UH school district.

To begin with, in over 90 percent of the districts in Ohio, operating tax levies expire after 3–5 years. Those districts have to go back to voters to request the same millage level (such as a "replacement" levy), or to increase the millage to cover unexpected, often short-term, expenses (typically called "addition" levies), every 3–5 years. The reasoning is that the districts are supposed to have demonstrated good stewardship of the money they are given to educate children in order to keep getting that much money or more "additional" money.

Once a levy is passed, the dollar amount that millage provides [to] the district remains unchanged during the life of that levy—typically 3–5 years.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 12:04 PM, 09.30.2016

A teacher suggests ways to help your student

Many parents and guardians want to support their students in school, but may not always know what to do. School is not the same for students today; what students are responsible for has changed significantly over my career teaching in the CH-UH City School District.

Here are a few tips for parents and guardians to help the students in their care:

Organization: Students may require help staying organized. Sometimes they need help creating a system where they can find their work.

Help students by asking these questions: Do they know how to use a folder or notebook? Do they have a single place where completed assignments go? How do they remember what was assigned—are they using a planner or some other tracking tool?

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 12:03 PM, 09.30.2016

Why conservatives should vote for the Heights school levy

Why should political conservatives consider voting FOR the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school levy this November? Here are a few reasons why doing so is consistent with conservative principles and why I, a lifelong Republican, am voting FOR the levy.

Conservatives care about fiscal responsibility—and this school board is committed to fiscal responsibility. The district has negotiated hard with local teacher and governmental employee unions and limited their raises in recent years. The district has closed schools in the past decade to eliminate overhead. The district took the unpopular step of laying off teachers and eliminating teaching positions this spring to right-size staffing. It is clear that the district is committed to spending taxpayer resources wisely.

Conservatives prefer local control over governmental [entities]. In public education, Washington and Columbus do not dictate to our community—we get to decide right here what kind of schools we have.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 11:58 AM, 09.30.2016

School district has a spending--not funding--problem

The CH-UH school board fails to provide a fair communitywide explanation for a tax increase and needs to show more concern for the broader interests and health of the 60,000-person community beyond the roughly 5,400 student families, and including the children who are not attending district-run schools. Data [from] the CH-UH district’s financial report or the Ohio Department of Education Department (ODE) provides a fuller picture.

In 2015, the unemployment rate in the district was 6.7 percent, which is higher than national and state levels. In Cleveland Heights, the median family income has dropped to $49,056, far less than half the compensation of the average school administrator. The figure was $58,028 in 2006. The district is getting poorer, and smaller. Population in Cleveland Heights has decreased, from 50,769 in 2006 to 46,121 in 2015. For a home valued at $100,000, the 2015 property taxes were $3,920, compared to $3,203 for Lakewood, [another] inner-ring suburb. There is no doubt that high taxes are a deterrent to families seeking homes in the district, which puts an even greater burden on the remaining residents.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 11:57 AM, 09.30.2016

Cedar Lee parking deck could host a dog park

As the United States becomes increasingly urbanized, the need for public space also increases, and, as people have moved towards denser urban centers, their canine companions have come along. According to a Humane Society report, 60 percent of households have at least one dog, and 15 percent have three or more. Dog parks are a community need. 

The first "official" dog park opened in Berkeley, Calif., in 1970. Since then, the number of "bark parks" has risen steadily, with the number of off-leash dog parks having increased 20 percent in the past five years.

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:03 AM, 09.01.2016

We have a chance to speak out against too much testing

Should my dentist’s performance be rated by how many cavities I have? Or my physician be evaluated based on my body mass index? Of course not. Yet, 50 percent of each teacher’s evaluation in the Heights and throughout Ohio is based on how well students perform on tests. Some of the measures used to determine whether there is sufficient student improvement are standardized state tests. This method for evaluating teacher performance is one of the causes of excessive testing in Ohio. Much of this mandated testing is really about rating and ranking teachers, schools, districts and communities instead of determining how to improve student learning.

Students in our school system are learning, but some students start further behind. Some children enter kindergarten in our district and don’t know their colors, can’t recognize letters of the alphabet, or don’t know their own first names. In many cases our dedicated teachers are able to help bring these children up to grade level by third grade—an amazing accomplishment.

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:19 AM, 09.01.2016

CH-UH teachers and students earn top scores

Congratulations are in order for the teachers and students of Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools.

Numerous studies have shown that scores on standardized tests (what much of our State Report Card grades are based on) do not reflect the quality of a school’s education so much as they reflect the socioeconomic background of the particular children in a school.

The report card’s only real measure of how well teachers are teaching and how well students are learning is called “Value Added," which means pretty much what its name says: how much academic value was added to a child’s educational life in the course of one school year?

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:16 AM, 09.01.2016

CH-UH district seeks support for November levy

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District will place a 5.5-mill operating levy on the November 2016 ballot. This request, the smallest in more than 20 years, is necessary for the district to continue meeting its mission, which, according to the district’s website, is “to provide a challenging and engaging education to prepare all our students to become responsible citizens and succeed in college and career.”

CH-UH voters last approved an operating levy five years ago, in November 2011. The levy was expected to last three years but, through careful spending and strategic cuts, the school board and administration have stretched those dollars over five years.

Because state law freezes the dollar amount going to school districts at the time of last approval, district budgets are unable to keep up with regular cost-of-living increases.

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Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 6:39 PM, 07.28.2016

CH Teachers Union provides summer professional development for members

When I was in college, the big joke among those pursuing teaching as a career was “what are the three best things about being a teacher?” The punchline was “June, July and August.”

Most teachers I know look forward to summer, but few are sitting on the beach eating bonbons for nine weeks. Many teachers spend a week or two cleaning up their classrooms, and do the same with their houses; then, it is almost time to set up classrooms for the start of school. Teachers are also required to take graduate-level courses to be eligible to renew their license every five years. Almost all teachers who stay in the profession earn a master’s degree.

Members of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union (CHTU) have the opportunity to learn from their colleagues after they have earned a master’s, in the Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) program. The American Federation of Teachers, CHTU’s national affiliate, developed ER&D more than 35 years ago. Since 2003, CHTU has been sending teachers to the eight-day national training program so that they can prepare to teach the material to colleagues locally.

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Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 6:36 PM, 07.28.2016

Businesses should bear some education costs

In his May opinion piece, “An argument against standardization in education,” Ari Klein makes an excellent point that not all students need to take Algebra II. I would like to put his ideas into a larger context.

Let me start by relating my personal experience. I recently retired from a 43-year career as an actuary. Actuaries have a well-deserved reputation as the geeks of the business world. In STEM fields, geekiness is more the norm, but in business we actuaries stand out, or, more accurately, disappear into the woodwork. I studied math in college, and when I applied for my first job, my math degree was a necessary qualification. I also had to pass three-hour exams in both calculus and statistics, and in other subjects more directly related to actuarial work—10 in all in my time—to obtain my professional credentials.

You might think I spent more than 40 years solving equations and calculating probabilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:36 AM, 07.01.2016

Understanding school funding: House Bill 920

No matter where you live in Ohio, regardless of whether or not you have children or whether or not they attend public schools, you will be asked to vote periodically on a local school levy. You might as well understand why.

House Bill 920, the Ohio law that outlines how public schools are funded, is complex and confusing. But it has a huge impact on all of us.

H.B. 920 was passed in 1976, during a period of unprecedented inflation. Home values were soaring every year, sometimes by double-digit percentages, and property taxes were growing at the same alarming rate. The state legislature attempted to lessen the burden on homeowners by freezing the dollar amount paid to school districts and libraries at the 1976 level; not at the rate or percentage, but at the actual dollar amount.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:20 AM, 07.01.2016

How my family views education in the Heights

The next school year will be the first in 16 years that my wife and I will have no children in the CH-UH public school system. Our two daughters attended our schools from kindergarten through graduation from Heights High, just like both of their parents, and their paternal grandparents (my mother is an alum, but moved here in 10th grade). Our experience was similar to that of many other Heights families—our girls thrived and excelled in our schools. Certainly, there were moments when we were concerned about one issue or another, or that teacher or something else, but they both received a good education.

There are other lessons that our kids learned beyond academics by attending CH-UH schools. They navigated challenges that one doesn’t learn in a classroom, but does still learn at school, mostly about how to get along with others—how to play together on the playground, get along with others during lunch, and how to work on academic teams.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:27 AM, 07.01.2016

Support Cedar Lee businesses during construction

I hope Cleveland Heights residents will join me in supporting our Cedar Lee businesses over the next few months. While the new streetscape construction is exciting, and will create a more attractive, safe and inviting district, construction activities will certainly disrupt “business as usual.” It will be dusty and traffic may be inconvenienced. However, I am confident the result will be worth it for our city.

Let’s work together to ensure the businesses that have continually invested in one of our best mixed-use districts are healthy when the ribbon is cut on the new street. Make sure to visit the Cedar Lee website (www.cedarlee.org) to see where parking is available, and consider using back streets into the district to minimize frustration and traffic. Please be patient.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:46 AM, 06.28.2016

Support transit in Cleveland Heights

The Cleveland Heights mayor and City Council have sent a letter to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) pointing out deficiencies in transit service for Cleveland Heights and other eastside communities, and noting how proposed cuts in service will further exacerbate deficiencies (see below).

It could be helpful if Cleveland Heights residents sent endorsements of this letter to RTA General Manager Joseph Calabrese (jcalabrese@gcrta.org) and GCRTA board members prior to June 7. The RTA board is due to vote on proposed cuts at a special meeting on that date.

Here is a link to a website that provides RTA board members’ e-mail addresses: http://www.riderta.com/board. Please note that RTA lacks funds to continue operations at current levels so it must make some cuts, but the problems go beyond that. 

Thank you for your support.

Here is the letter CH City Council sent, which clearly explains the issues:

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 1:14 PM, 05.30.2016