Opinion

Beyond race, CH marketing video remains problematic

I have no doubt that the Cleveland Heights marketing department now has an understanding that race was mistakenly misrepresented in its initial marketing video. While the marketing staff is bound to fix it, it was unfortunate, and certainly preventable.

I have a profound concern that the original video failed for a second, and entirely different, reason, and I’m concerned that, for likely contractual reasons, it will not be fixed on the second go-round.

The video’s stagnant camera work, the rigidly scripted "older" voice of the voice-over talent, the editing, and music were ‘80s old-school and corporate in approach.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 4:55 PM, 12.02.2019

A modest proposal to participate in CH redevelopment

After presenting many rejected concerns about Top of the Hill (TOH) [to the city], I realize that it’s time to stop resisting and join the city in its redevelopment efforts. I’m offering the city a proposal: instead of selling my 100-year-old house, I will stay in Cleveland Heights and convert it and the house next door into a high-density, mixed-use residential property including a restaurant. In return, I expect the city to grant me the same financial and other assistance it gave to the Indiana-based developers for TOH.

My credentials are that I’ve lived in my house for 40 years, restored the interior to its original condition and added amenities, including a second-floor enclosed porch and a formal garden. I have successfully developed and sold property in Novelty, Ohio and Sedona, Ariz. Unlike the TOH developers, I know that the main road is called Cedar Road, not Cedar Street.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 4:45 PM, 12.02.2019

Top of the Hillóbottom of city council

For the last six issues of the Heights Observer, there have been two major subjects addressed in its pages—the first, the CH elected mayor and new council members; and the second, the Top of the Hill (TOH) development project at Cedar Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard. We have been relieved, after an election, of the first issue—and the right thing happened at the polls.

The second issue, not subject to election, or any other visible means of effective citizen response has, after nearly 40 meetings, and approaching 50 years, not been relieved, and portends even further absence of relief.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 4:38 PM, 12.02.2019

CEM says 'thank you, letís work together'

Cleveland Heights voters made history on Nov. 5, 2019. They voted—by a majority in every precinct across the city—to transform a nearly 100-year-old council-manager system to an elected-mayor form of government they believe will be more accountable to the voters.

They said they want a mayor who will spend full time leading Cleveland Heights in a new way to address our challenges and maximize our assets—a mayor who will be our voice across the region and state.

Now that voters have spoken, we need to pull together and make the transition as one community: city council, the administration, city employees and citizens need to collaborate to transform our government into one that is truly representative of the voters’ decision.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 10:09 AM, 11.26.2019

2019 Heights Observer Holiday Gift Guide: For the person who has it all

Find something for everyone on your list at the many independent merchants in the Heights. Most will gift wrap or ship your items, too.

For the month of December, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the city of Cleveland Heights is offering free parking in each of its business districts—one more incentive to visit the brick and mortar stores featured in the Gift Guide and beyond. 

Here are some of our favorites:

Pharaoh cylinders, a relaxation and meditation tool. ($60.00 to $350.00, Cleveland Rocks and Beads)

“Wind Breaks Over the Marsh.” Collector’s edition of 10; 24” by 16”. Archival pigment ink print on watercolor paper depicts winter in Northeast Ohio. ($895.00, Still Point Gallery & Boutique)  

Two Tickets to an upcoming Speakeasy Cocktail Class. ($80.00 plus tax, Quintanta’s Barber, Dream Spa and Speakeasy)

“Untitled 1”, framed embroidery by Katie Mongoven. ($920.00, Heights Arts)

French Macaron. ($2.00 each, Luna Bakery & Cafe) 

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 3:17 PM, 11.01.2019

2019 Heights Observer Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts more than $150.00

Find something for everyone on your list at the many independent merchants in the Heights. Most will gift wrap or ship your items, too.

For the month of December, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the city of Cleveland Heights is offering free parking in each of its business districts—one more incentive to visit the brick and mortar stores featured in the Gift Guide and beyond. 

Here are some of our favorites:

Natural amethyst point. ($520.00, Cleveland Rocks and Beads)

Necklace, Julie Cohn Design. Lapiz stone and bronze. ($495.00, Still Point Gallery & Boutique)

Tall serving bowl by Amy Halko. ($175.00, Heights Arts)

Italian leather handbag. ($175.00, Jubilee Gifts)

A gift certificate for an Aveda Signature Dream Ritual Package. Includes a 50 minute Aveda Customized Facial, 50 minute Swedish Relaxation Massage, Signature Manicure, and Dream Pedicure. (Quintana’s Barber and Dream Spa)

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 3:16 PM, 11.01.2019

2019 Heights Observer Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts from $50.00 to $150.00

Find something for everyone on your list at the many independent merchants in the Heights. Most will gift wrap or ship your items, too.

For the month of December, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the city of Cleveland Heights is offering free parking in each of its business districts—one more incentive to visit the brick and mortar stores featured in the Gift Guide and beyond. 

Here are some of our favorites:

“KongZilla.” ($65.00, Blank Canvas CLE)

Crocheted necklace. ($150.00 or learn to make your own for $35.00 plus the cost of materials, Cleveland Rocks and Beads)

Incense and ceramic hand holder. Made by Astier de Villatte from Paris. (Incense $50.00, ceramic hand holder $135.00, Still Point Gallery & Boutique)

Wine Spot customizable gift baskets featuring wine, craft beer, and locally-produced products. ($50.00 and up, The Wine Spot)

Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand and Body Wash. ($73.00, Quintana’s Barber and Dream Spa)

Framed print by Joan Lederer. ($75.00, Heights Arts)

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 3:14 PM, 11.01.2019

2019 Heights Observer Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts less than $50.00

Find something for everyone on your list at the many independent merchants in the Heights. Most will gift wrap or ship your items, too.

For the month of December, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the city of Cleveland Heights is offering free parking in each of its business districts—one more incentive to visit the brick and mortar stores featured in the Gift Guide and beyond. 

Here are some of our favorites:

“Welcome to Cleveland' coaster. ($20.00, Blank Canvas CLE)

Carved shungite pendants. ($24.00, Cleveland Rocks and Beads)

Tresi necklaces with variety of stones. ($38.00 each, Still Point Gallery & Boutique)

Mariposa frames. ($49.00, Jubilee Gifts)

Aveda Men’s Pure-Formance Grooming Clay. ($26.00, Quintana’s Barber and Dream Spa)

Red glass bird by Sue Berry. ($25.00, Heights Arts)

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 3:13 PM, 11.01.2019

What happens after the Issue 26 vote?

My wife and I moved to Cleveland Heights in August 2016, returning to Greater Cleveland after moving back and forth to Toronto on and off for about five years. (The company I work for moved me to Toronto several times on expat assignments.) This was difficult for my wife and I, but we made it work. When we moved back the last time, we were ready to settle down, find a home, and raise a family. We had several ideas of where we wanted to be but didn’t know exactly where that was. We wanted to be within the inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland as we both work in the city, but more importantly, we wanted to move somewhere that was conducive to raising a family, where you could feel the history when you drove through the city, somewhere that was walkable, and into a community that shared similar values.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 11:01 AM, 11.01.2019

Issue 26 is about competing in an ever-faster-paced future

Did you hear about that one guy who moved to Cleveland Heights because he wanted to live under a council-manager government? You didn’t because he doesn’t exist. There are lots of things that make Cleveland Heights special. Our plodding and dour system of municipal governance is the least of our appeal.

Cleveland Heights is blessed with innate advantages in terms of layout, housing stock and location. And yet we continue to be saddled with a seemingly incurable case of hidden-gem status, living in a self-imposed state of suspended animation, paralyzed at times by denial, fear and nostalgia. A “no” vote on Issue 26 is a vote to continue waiting around to be discovered.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:54 AM, 11.01.2019

TOH doesn't meet city's own stated goals

After many months of presentations, discussion and review, the developer, Flaherty & Collins (F&C), has revealed the fundamental architectural failure of the now-approved Top of the Hill (TOH) design.

From the TOH page of the city’s website, dated July 2, 2019:

“Goals Established for the Project: The Developer and the City seek to collaboratively create a signature mixed use destination district that serves as a gateway to the City and a link between the City and the adjacent University Circle area of Cleveland. The City’s goal is that the development of the Project Site shall, at a minimum:

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:44 AM, 11.01.2019

City fails community on TOH

Concerns expressed at Top of the Hill (TOH) Architectural Board of Review (ABR)  meetings have been ignored. At the Feb. 6 meeting, I represented the Historic Resources Committee of the American Institute of Architects Cleveland Chapter (AIACLE) and observed that the project, as designed, fails to follow any of the guidelines for new construction in a historic district. The project is fundamentally unchanged from that original design.

The U.S. Department of the Interior states that new construction in a historic district should “be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.”

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:42 AM, 11.01.2019

TOH process demonstrates city's lack of leadership and response

A change in the structure of Cleveland Heights city government is urgently needed for three reasons: the current council-manager structure does not provide leadership, transparency, or responsiveness to the citizens of Cleveland Heights.

Until recently, I thought our council-manager form of government was working fine. However, participating in the public meetings about Top of the Hill (TOH) changed my mind. After attending several meetings, I decided that the proposed TOH apartment project was ill-conceived, unattractive, and inappropriate to the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood. But I was more dismayed by how the city related to the public during these meetings.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:49 AM, 11.01.2019

Noble corridor plan is not noble

The Noble Road Corridor Plan focuses not on Noble Road but instead functions as an extension of the city of Cleveland Heights’ Mayfield Road Corridor Plan.

For more than 50 years city leaders have not invested in or allocated city resources in an equitable way to the north side of the city. Numerous past city plans imply this, beginning with the 1976 Nine-Point Plan, which, among other goals, aimed to prevent re-segregation.

This time city leaders state Noble Road will not receive any city resources or investment until the area “stabilizes.”

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:28 AM, 11.01.2019

View from the bench: Bail reform

The Cleveland Heights Municipal Court is making dramatic changes to its bond schedule based on recommendations from a task force created by the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. The new schedule gives me more discretion in setting cash bail, putting fewer non-violent defendants in jail while awaiting trial. It's fairer and saves taxpayers money.

A person arrested will now be released on personal bond (a signed promise they will show up in court) unless charged with certain offenses, or where the prosecutor or police request a bond.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:09 AM, 11.01.2019

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.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:58 PM, 10.30.2019

Reject the fear of voters

The current “NO on 26” campaign delivers a single message: “Don’t trust the voters.”

This distrust and fear of the voters was actually the genesis of the council-manager form of local government in the early 20th century, when establishment leaders reacted with horror to the prospect of universal suffrage.  It was a brilliant way to dilute the power of the electorate and keep those pesky voters away from government as much as possible.

I think a balance of power between the executive and legislative bodies in Cleveland Heights will be good for the city.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:53 PM, 10.30.2019

Yes on Issue 26 puts us in charge

Cleveland Heights is about to make history on Nov. 5. This is the first time in almost 100 years that our citizens have had the opportunity to decide how they want to be governed. This opportunity was provided by 10 ordinary citizens who formed a committee and started a petition drive by gathering 4,000 signatures (with a lot of help from volunteers) to put Issue 26 on the ballot.

Our committee of concerned citizens calls itself Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM); very simple, and self-explanatory. We wanted the voters of Cleveland Heights to be clear on two things:

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:51 PM, 10.30.2019

Whom should voters trust?

The campaign being waged in Cleveland Heights to discard our professional chief executive (city manager) in favor of a political mayor comes down to this: Trust us, it will be better. Why such a weak position? Because despite repeated challenges to make an evidence-based case, the proponents have never demonstrated that the daily circumstances of our residents would be safer, more prosperous, less taxed, or otherwise better under their replacement system. Hence there is only, "Trust Us."

Even if a position of this sort might ever work, it could only be when its proponents show worthiness of trust. Just the opposite has happened here. Here are two significant examples:  

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:41 PM, 10.30.2019

Power sharing is the opposite of power concentration

As a volunteer for Citizens for an Elected Mayor, I started out collecting signatures on the initiative petition and I now knock on doors—literally knock on them, because rare is the house with a working bell. I’m long retired, and while the walking is good for me, all this knocking is bad for my hands. But I keep doing it because I believe power sharing in government is a good thing, and the concentration of all political power in just one branch of government—as is currently the case in Cleveland Heights, where all power is vested in the legislative branch—is a not-so-good thing.

I have always thought of Issue 26 as a power-sharing ballot issue. Its passage would change our government so that political power is shared between the legislative branch (where all of it currently resides) and an executive branch.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:55 PM, 10.30.2019

CH government 'ain't broke'

Today there is a push to change the form of government for Cleveland Heights. I have lived in Cleveland Heights since about 1967. While attending Case, I rented an apartment in Coventry. After getting married, my wife and I bought a house near Severance center. Our children went to the Heights schools and graduated from Heights High. I have seen a lot of changes in this area over the years. Most of the changes made by the government have been for the good. I am not in favor of making any changes in government. I do not see where a change will affect any of our problems.

With the idea of “If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” I have tried to think of what is broke. My trash gets picked up every Wednesday (not broke). The police do a good job of keeping us in line (not broke).

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:36 PM, 10.30.2019

Supporting Democracy by supporting Issue 26

Of late I’ve been re-reading The Federalist Papers, the essays written in 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay “to decide the important question, whether societies of men [sic] are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice.” I wanted to understand more deeply how our founders discussed the exercise in democracy they were launching—what they thought of its scope, its limitations, its benefits, its challenges.

We’re going through something like that original debate right now in Cleveland Heights. It’s not nearly as consequential as The Federalist Papers disputes, but our debate has been similarly passionate, widespread and fundamental.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:40 PM, 10.30.2019

Keep Cleveland Heights cooperative

If you ask folks what they like about Cleveland Heights, they almost always mention “the people.” We are a diverse, open, welcoming community.

At the core of that positive attitude is our form of government. About 100 years ago, the city chose to adopt a progressive, new form of government that was designed to prevent corruption and foster cooperation. It’s no coincidence its goodwill has spread throughout our community, like the trees that line our streets. That’s Cleveland Heights.

Our current council-manager form of government requires at least four members of our seven-person city council to agree with an idea before it moves forward to a professional city manager they control.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:31 PM, 10.30.2019

Does a campaign of "Say NO to Political Deals" build community?

A quorum of city council and the Washington D.C. city-manager lobby are spending $50,000 to promote "Say NO To Political Deals."

[They are doing so] for no reason other than to defeat the grassroots citizen-initiated (4,000+ petition signatures) Elected Mayor charter amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot.

  • Does that campaign make you proud of your city council and your community?
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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:48 PM, 10.30.2019

CH can elect a mayor under current form of government

Issue 26 asks Cleveland Heights voters to choose between electing a mayor and retaining its current form of government. That doesn't need to be a choice. We could elect a mayor under our council/manager government. Why is no one talking about that? Why would we throw away the proverbial baby with the bathwater?

If I'm listening correctly, the desire in the community is for a mayor who is a strong and visible presence, who articulates the city's vision, represents the people to council and staff, champions Cleveland Heights locally and regionally, and, perhaps most importantly for a mayor elected by voters, [is] not appointed by council. But Issue 26 abolishes our whole system of government.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:28 PM, 10.30.2019

An elected mayor provides essential pro-active leadership

I moved to Cleveland Heights 22 years ago with my wife and our two children because it embodied a vibrant, diverse community. Our city was a leader in the country for its diversity, beautiful, walkable neighborhoods, and vibrant business districts. Our children attended Coventry Elementary School, known as the “peace school” for the values it taught. Coventry Village was bustling and Severance Center was thriving. We were thrilled to be a part of a city on the rise.

Over the last decade, Cleveland Heights has fallen from its leadership role and is struggling to keep pace. The housing foreclosure crisis hit our entire region, but our home values have not recovered at the pace of many of our surrounding communities.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:35 PM, 10.30.2019

An elected mayor will be accountable

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, I will vote "Yes" on Issue 26 in support of an elected mayor for Cleveland Heights.

A mayoral candidate will speak directly to our citizens, public and private stakeholders, and declare “as mayor I will . . . .” That candidate will be forced to listen to all segments of our community—demographically and geographically—hearing our joys and frustrations alike. A mayoral candidate will be charged with articulating a vision that speaks at once to young people we want to attract, elders we want to retain, and everybody in between. A mayoral candidate will have to listen to our businesses while they describe what the city can reasonably do so that they can be as productive as they know they can be.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:26 PM, 10.30.2019

There is no 'magic mayor'

The strong mayor advocates want you to believe that the mayor-council style of government is the elixir that will cure the supposed ills of our city. That is simply not true.

What will work and is working today in Cleveland Heights is hard work by our city council, our city manager and our citizens, collaboratively, professionally and passionately. We are proud of and greatly encouraged by the work that all of us, together, are doing.

All of us, council, city manager and staff, and residents alike, are working mightily to support good economic development and services in our community. Look around you: We have more current commercial projects than we have had in years.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:10 AM, 10.29.2019

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.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:10 AM, 10.29.2019

East Cleveland, mayors and the rest of the story

The opposition to an elected mayor in Cleveland Heights, in their continued fear-mongering, negative campaign, raise the specter of East Cleveland as a reason to vote against Issue 26. They cite the fact that East Cleveland was once a city run by council-manager form of government, that switched to an elected mayor-council form of government in 1986, and then . . . well, you know, East Cleveland fell apart.

However, their narrative leaves out significant context and facts; facts and context which lead to the conclusion that if any lesson is to be learned from East Cleveland it’s that remaining with the status quo and ignoring issues is far riskier than taking bold, transformative action.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:10 AM, 10.22.2019

Vote No on Issue 26

The League of Women Voters forum on Issue 26 clarified my thinking on the topic. Here are some reasons that I will vote to retain the city manager form of government by voting no on Issue 26:

First of all, I am dismayed that this issue is on the ballot at all. What message does it send to residents when a recommendation by a wide majority of a committee is co-opted by a minority who disagree? Will this be the fate of the Recycling Task Force and future citizen task forces as well?

The Charter Review Commission met for 16 months. Because the city manager form of government was adopted almost 100 years ago, it was a great idea for a citizen committee to review this choice.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:05 AM, 10.22.2019

CH City Council candidate Russell outlines her experience and priorities

My name is Davida Russell and I am asking for your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5, for Cleveland Heights City Council. I have lived in Cleveland Heights for 37 years and this is where my family and I call home.

As a lifelong Democrat and labor leader at the national, state and local level, I have worked tirelessly on behalf of working men and women around this state, many of whom reside in Cleveland Heights. Now it is time that I bring my energy home. If elected, my top priorities as your next CH City Council representative will be to focus on:

  • Increasing the safety of our community
  • Attracting residential and business investment
  • Securing economic development opportunities
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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 9:05 AM, 10.21.2019

Elected mayor proposal lacks critical element

Elected mayor proponents want you to believe that a mayor with all administrative power in our city is the fix we need for what they claim is a “vacuum of administrative responsiveness.” Yet their proposal omits a critical element of good government that protects citizens from the Achilles heel that so often hinders the responsiveness and effectiveness of mayor-led governments.

Their proposal doesn’t forbid the mayor from appointing relatives or any individuals who contributed financially to the mayor’s election. It also fails to prohibit the mayor from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions from employees of the city, before, during, or after the campaign.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 10:17 AM, 10.03.2019

Where I disagree with Cheryl Stephens

Cheryl Stephens supports a “strong mayor” charter amendment on the November ballot. I am a good friend and big fan of Cheryl. She has been—and continues to be—an exceptional public servant. We each have served Cleveland Heights as mayors. We agree about much, but I disagree with some points she has made:

“Cleveland Heights can’t be afraid of voters.” I agree. But strong mayors too frequently are elected because of name recognition and political affiliation rather than their ability to govern effectively. City managers, on the other hand, are selected in a non-partisan manner based on merit, professional qualifications and experience. Voters elect to city council those who hire, retain or fire city managers. Nothing about such a system reflects a fear of voters.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:16 AM, 10.03.2019

Vote No to changing CH's form of government

I want to urge people to vote No on the issue of changing the Cleveland Heights system, [in which] the voted-in city council choose a qualified city manager to run the government, to that of a “strong mayor” who appoints his/her people to run the government.

I worked for the Cleveland Heights Division of Parks and Recreation for 33 years, and was head of the division for the final 17. During my tenure I was selected following an interview process, always worked hard, and had the best interests of our city at the forefront at all times. I was always supported by a qualified city manager and a strong, elected city council, and I always felt that they allowed me to promote our great city, and improve and build our second-to-none programs and facilities.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 10:37 AM, 10.03.2019

In support of an elected mayor

When the city manager form of government emerged in the Progressive reform era, it often did serve as a good government response to political corruption and incompetence. I believe that it no longer serves as the best governance model for the city of Cleveland Heights. Our city has been challenged on many fronts as it has had to compete not only with exurbs in the region but also with some of Cleveland's inner-ring suburbs (e.g., Lakewood).

To compete successfully—to retain present, and attract new, residents and businesses in the face of factors such as population decline, more aging residents, a housing stock that has problems, and reliance upon a mostly residential tax base—the city needs to take more aggressive and innovative action. The city manager system does not readily lend itself to this.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:45 PM, 10.02.2019

Where is the evidence that a strong-mayor system would be better for CH?

In the nearly two years since a group promoting a strong mayor emerged, its members have poured out thousands of words. But they still have not demonstrated (as opposed to merely claimed) that the daily lives of Cleveland Heights residents would have been, or will be in the future, safer, more prosperous, or otherwise better if only the city were run by a political executive and appointed underlings. This failure is not surprising. There is no meaningful foundation for any such conclusion. The evidence points strongly in the other direction.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:43 PM, 10.02.2019

Fostering a resilient city doesn't demand change in form of government

Citizens for an Elected Mayor’s (CEM) advocacy for changing the form of Cleveland Heights government from council/city manager to strong mayor relies on three propositions: 

1) Our city is in severe decline.
2) The approach of our current city government to our problems is ineffectual.
3) We cannot solve those problems unless we change the structure of city government.

I think there is ample evidence to refute each of those propositions. Here’s just a sample:

• In 2018 violent crime decreased by 28 percent, and burglaries and breaking and entering by 50 percent from the previous year.
• Median home-sale prices increased by 37 percent from 2014 to 2019. 
• In 2017 and 2018, 95 new businesses opened in our city, nearly one each week. 
• Even at CEM meetings, participants praised our police, fire, public works departments, parks, and senior center.

Certainly we have serious problems, as do many inner-ring suburbs. But these are not data that portray a city in severe decline. 

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:41 PM, 10.02.2019

Elected mayor is a step toward more-real democracy

People the world over are increasingly demanding a greater voice in the decisions directly affecting their lives, communities, nations and natural world.

Many/most government, corporate, media, educational and religious “leaders” are increasingly publicly perceived as unaccountable, not transparent, captured by special interests, corrupt and disconnected from the problems affecting people in their everyday lives. Rather than exploring real alternatives to our fundamental problems, our “leaders” seem visionless.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:40 PM, 10.02.2019

Donít follow In East Clevelandís footsteps: Vote no on Issue 26

Cleveland Heights should take a lesson from East Cleveland and vote “NO” on Issue 26 to stop the politicization and destabilization of our city. I’ve seen this show before and it isn’t pretty.

I was raised in East Cleveland, and I was part of the second black family on my street. I remember the days when we had ice skating rinks on Shaw Avenue, dances at the YMCA, and three outdoor swimming pools with tennis courts. I graduated from Shaw High School in 1974, and I gave back by teaching at Kirk Middle School in East Cleveland. My children were born in East Cleveland. I loved East Cleveland, and I still do.

But in 1987 we left it.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:29 PM, 10.02.2019

A park at Meadowbrook-Lee?

Cleveland Heights residents may be interested to know that Ralph Solonitz, Garry Kanter and I submitted a plan for turning the city-owned space at Meadowbrook-Lee into a small urban park. Over the years we have submitted three similar proposals in response to CH City Hall’s RFPs for that space.

Our proposal is that the city work with us, and a committee of like-minded residents, for two years to raise $1 million to pay for the design and creation of an interesting urban space, with a fountain kids and people can interact with, a small stage, and an open space for food trucks and a farmers’ market, etc.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:12 AM, 10.01.2019

Issue 26 seen as a recall vote

Though it hasn’t been presented as such, the November ballot Issue 26, regarding the future of city government in Cleveland Heights, is a recall vote on the performance of City Manager Tanisha Briley. If the proposed switch to a mayor-council form of government is approved by voters, the deposed city manager would be expected to continue in her role until the mayor arrives in January 2022. Of course, Briley could not be required to stay on as a lame-duck city manager.

If citizens are unhappy with Briley’s performance as city manager, they should address that, rather than propose a structural change in the city’s form of government—a change that will be time-consuming, expensive, and completely unproven in terms of how well it would work.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:27 AM, 10.01.2019

New resident advocates for leadership, not management

As a relatively new Cleveland Heights resident, I write in support of an elected mayor. My fiancee and I moved to Cleveland Heights in January 2018 after living downtown. Over the past two years, we have fallen in love with this city and its people. It certainly helps that restaurants, coffee shops, a gym, and a movie theater are all within walking distance of our house, but what resonates with us the most are the people and our community—neighbors lending a hand to clear a fallen tree; running up and down streets seeing block party after block party; and seeing standing-room-only city council meetings. At an initial meeting regarding an elected mayor, I met people from all over the city with different opinions about its successes, management, and future.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:31 AM, 10.01.2019

Claims that the CRC was biased are unfounded

I am often asked why the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission (CRC) voted overwhelmingly against changing to a strong mayor. The answer is simple: We determined it was not in the best interest of Cleveland Heights residents.

Claims that the commission was biased are unfounded. The council was split 4-3 in favor of keeping the council-manager system. Each of the seven council  members appointed one CRC member who, one can assume, supported their point-of-view. I was appointed by Council Member (now Mayor) Carol Roe. Though we both opposed a strong mayor, we disagreed on other issues, including my initial preference for ward representation.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:35 AM, 10.01.2019

Study says mayor-council government more likely to have corruption convictions

A new study, published online in April 2019, concludes cities with the council-manager form of government, like Cleveland Heights, are 57 percent less likely to have corruption convictions than cities using the mayor-council form of government. CH will vote on Issue 26 on Nov. 5 to decide whether to switch to the mayor-council system in 2021.

The study was done by two professors in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, Kimberly Nelson and Whitney Afonso, and was published in the latest edition of Public Administration Review, a peer-reviewed academic journal (https://tinyurl.com/mayorcorruption). They looked at 2,759 U.S. cities with populations of at least 10,000.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:38 AM, 10.01.2019

The case for an elected mayor

Cleveland Heights needs leadership that is directly accountable to the voters.  That means an elected mayor. We don’t have that now. City council appoints a part-time mayor with no executive authority. The vast majority of voters we have spoken with do not think the current system is working and believe a full-time elected mayor will be more responsive to the needs of our community. 

That is why Issue 26 is on the ballot. Not because a 10-member committee calling itself Citizens for an Elected Mayor thinks so. It is because 4,000 voters signed a petition saying they want to be able to vote for mayor.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 11:40 AM, 10.01.2019

Hart describes her experience and motivation in running for CH City Council

Let me introduce myself. I am Melody Joy Hart and I am running for Cleveland Heights City Council. I am running because I am concerned about the future of my city and, particularly, its housing stock and tax base. I believe that we are all neighbors in this city and we need to work together to make every neighborhood strong, vibrant, safe and stable.

I have been attending council meetings for over 3.5 years.

I am a member of the Greater Cleveland Congregation’s (GCC) Cleveland Heights Housing Committee. That committee was concerned that the Noble neighborhood was hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, and that the city was not paying enough attention to the beautiful housing stock in Noble.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:21 PM, 09.16.2019

In support of a directly elected mayor

Cleveland Heights' current system of government is an inefficient, outdated structure that is ill-equipped to meet the needs of a dynamic, growing city. The title of mayor in Cleveland Heights is simply an honorific, and the executive with actual power—the city manager—is an appointed role, not an elected one. This bureaucratic obfuscation is unnecessary, and only serves to dilute accountability.

The solution is a directly elected, full-time mayor. This mayor would be accountable directly to the public, and able to devote all of his or her energies into making our city a great(er) place [in which] to live and work.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 6:32 PM, 09.03.2019

We need an elected mayor, here and now

Cleveland Heights is having a healthy and long-overdue discussion about our form of government. This is a good thing: it has been 98 years since there has been any similar discussion.

Self-government is not easy. History has made this crystal clear, from our original Constitutional Congress to today’s news stories.

There are many examples of local governments that work well. There is also no shortage of examples where local governments have failed in their responsibilities. These examples include commission, council/manager and mayor/council forms of government.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 6:35 PM, 09.03.2019

Change to elected mayor is an unwarranted proposal

Here in Cleveland Heights there is a political scrum shaping up over the city’s type of government. “Citizens for an elected mayor” want to replace the city’s council-manager form of government with an elected full-time mayor to administer the city.

The council-manager plan of city government arose during the progressive era in American history, at a time when municipal corruption was rampant. Lincoln Steffens documented the nation’s civic sins in “The Shame of the Cities,” which appeared as a series of articles in McClure’s Magazine in 1904. 
  
Reformers sought a way to clean up the corruption that was led by big city mayors. They decided to replace the corrupt mayor-council governments with council-managers.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 6:29 PM, 09.03.2019

An elected mayor would empower citizens and bring opportunity

As a high school history teacher, I teach my students to find parallels between the world around them and the world in which we live. Brent Larkin, in his Aug. 1 Plain Dealer column, wrote something that resonated with me, as we approach the November ballot, where CH voters will be asked to decide if they’d like to directly elect a mayor: “Perhaps more than ever before, Cleveland needs leadership that can articulate and inspire a vision of what needs to be done. It needs a mayor who can explain in detail how government will partner with corporate and civic leaders to make it happen.”

Cleveland Heights also deserves leadership that can articulate and inspire a vision. To get there, we need to start by empowering voters with this one simple choice: Do you want to elect your mayor?

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 6:24 PM, 09.03.2019

To protect abortion rights, we need to say 'abortion'

I’ve recently been criticized for using the word abortion too much because it makes people uncomfortable. 

Well, you know what makes me uncomfortable? Abortion bans. Abortion stigma. People who have never been in my shoes, who don’t know what’s in my heart, ridiculing me, judging me, and calling me tunnel-visioned or clueless because I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to fighting for abortion access. 

I’m a small business owner in Cleveland Heights. I’m civically active. I’m a parent of a young child who will grow up in the Cleveland Heights–University Heights school system.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 1:11 PM, 09.02.2019

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.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 7:48 AM, 08.27.2019

With elected mayor, partisan politics would be the norm

Proponents of a new form of Cleveland Heights government offer several arguments. None justifies drastic change they advocate.

Argument One:  A full-time, elected mayor would appoint and work with a full-time professional city administrator. We already have talented city managers who are full-time professionals. Proponents of change insist that an elected mayor who also is a “chief executive” can focus on “the community, neighborhoods, residents, businesses, and our position in the region.” But such focus already exists. It comes from our city council with its proven record of working in cooperation with city managers and in-house professional staff to create and implement new strategic plans. The Top Of The Hill project is one good example and the project to redevelop the Noble Road commercial corridor is another.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 12:27 PM, 09.16.2019

Elected-mayor issue is really about discontent with status quo

First off, I want to say there are bright and conscientious people making some good arguments for why the city-manager system is right for our city.

Second, I'm not a political science expert, but I've researched this topic, and it is clear that successful and unsuccessful cities exist with a variety of structures.

Third, I want to say that the people arguing for preserving the system are utterly missing the bigger picture.

If people were largely content, there is no way a handful of part-time volunteers would have been able to get this far.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 1:16 PM, 09.02.2019

City managers are not immune to corruption

The August Heights Observer contained a series of opinions written by former members of the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission and members of the Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government PAC. They had headlines containing words like “risk,” “conflict,” “cronyism” and “politics.” The authors went heavy on the scare tactics, regaling readers with examples of directly elected mayors acting badly. They claim the only way to prevent scary outcomes and bad behavior is to rely on city managers and “professionalism.”

The problem with such a contention is that professionalism does not guarantee the absence of corruption, or cronyism, or conflict, or even politics. We all have read about corrupt professionals—doctors who scam Medicaid, business persons who skirt regulations, attorneys who embezzle client funds—professions of all sorts are at risk of having corrupt professionals in their ranks.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 2:15 PM, 09.02.2019

What about ethics?

A strong-mayor system of government in Cleveland Heights would concentrate power in a single politically elected ruler. The proposal on this November’s ballot to do that lacks a modern ethics provision putting boundaries on how this power can be exercised.

Currently, city council is the sole legislative authority, with substantial say over the structure and powers of the city’s administrative units. Executive authority is in the hands of a professional city manager educated for the task—an at-will city employee who is hired, monitored and, when called for, removed by council. This distribution of governing authority is completely upended by the strong-mayor initiative.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 1:45 PM, 09.02.2019

'Soul-crushing mediocrity' makes case for change

After reading opinions in the Heights Observer in defense of a city-manager system, I am confused. We need to maintain the status quo because the residents of Cleveland Heights are easily persuaded sheep apt to fall under a Tammany Hall style of corruption, which will lead us on a path of ruin? But these same voters are smart enough to elect a council that is a paragon of pure virtue?

I’ve been very much on the fence in regard to altering our form of government, not because I think it is hitting on all cylinders, addressing major challenges with a council and city manager who have a bold, comprehensive and viable vision for the future—they don’t. My reticence has been due to my concern regarding who might be waiting in the wings to run for mayor.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 12:33 PM, 09.02.2019

CH Citizens for Good Government supports CRC's conclusions

Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government (CHCGG) is a political action committee (PAC) created by former members of the Charter Review Commission (CRC). I co-chair this group with Jack Newman, former CRC chair, and Lee Chilcote, former CH City Council member.

We provide continuing support for the conclusions of the CRC—a group of 15 CH residents who worked for 16 months to make recommendations to improve our government. We are committed to the citizens of Cleveland Heights, to clarify what is at stake on Election Day this November.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 1:30 PM, 09.02.2019

Separating fact from fiction in the elected-mayor issue

Incorrect assumptions, false accusations and—dare I say it?—“alternative facts” populate political discourse. Let’s consider the facts and clear up misinformation about Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM) and the charter initiative on the November ballot in Cleveland Heights:

The mayor is full time. The initiative says the mayor “shall serve the city on a full-time basis” and allows for “limited outside employment” provided such “does not conflict or interfere with carrying out the duties assigned by this charter or general law.” The clause, similar to Lakewood’s charter, provides a limitation on outside employment since none exists in the current charter. Typically, when an item is not addressed, it is permitted. The clause protects against unchecked outside employment.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 12:22 PM, 09.02.2019