Residents ask candidates to embrace environmental policy platform

We are Cleveland Heights and University Heights residents with a vision for a healthy environment within our own political boundaries and beyond. We are requesting that mayoral, council, and school board candidates incorporate environmental policies in their platforms.

We are looking for elected leaders who are knowledgeable about, embrace, and apply an environmental overlay to all policy proposals and actions. Each decision affecting the people and lands of our cities should have a documented and transparent review of how this overlay is applied. The overlay should include the impact on natural resources, environmental equity, and climate change.

Our cities are an integral component of Greater Cleveland’s ecosystem.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:42 AM, 04.30.2021

In-person learning is back

The CH-UH school district is officially back to in-person teaching. It’s been a long time coming. 

Staying remote for as long as we did was the safest choice for our staff, students, and families. The decisions the district made became more controversial as the year progressed, but it made no sense to return in-person when COVID numbers were on the rise and a vaccine was months away.   

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:48 AM, 04.30.2021

P.E.A.C.E. Park is ideal location for dog park

[There is] a landslide of support to have a dog park in Cleveland Heights.

I have been in contact with the director of Heights Libraries, which oversees Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park. I have laid out to her reasons why Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park is where I believe the dog park should be, but she has turned me down flatly, saying that this area is used for picnics, sledding, and other activities.

I would like to tell you why I think she has made a mistake, and why I have not given up and am appealing to Cleveland Heights residents and the powers-that-be to support a dog park at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Park.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:46 AM, 04.30.2021

What CH needs in its elected mayor

A leader does not wait to be appointed or elected. What have you [the candidate] already been leading? Where will you lead us?

We need to move forward into the 21st century, toward a brighter future for Cleveland Heights. Think of an unlimited future, attracting and retaining people, meeting crises, overcoming challenges. Too often I hear people talk in terms of the limits of current problems, shrinking population, and the restrictive framework of our current state and local governments. I never again want to hear someone say, "It is what it is." How will you lead us beyond these issues?

We are diverse even within our neighborhoods. Get to know something about us, not our "type." We do not fit into the pollster’s stereotypes. Don't take a group’s support for granted; you have to earn it.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:33 AM, 04.30.2021

Housing inspection and code enforcement are critical

The 2020 survey of Cleveland Heights residents found that, of all the services provided by City Hall, respondents were least satisfied with "enforcement of city codes and ordinances." (Safety services topped the ranking.) I wasn't surveyed, but I agree. Many, many properties do not look good. That's the number one issue for candidates.

It seems that past officials, over decades, never really appreciated just how critical inspection and enforcement are once structures lose their newness. Cleveland Heights is the third-oldest suburb in the county (behind East Cleveland and Lakewood). Half of our homes are 100 years old. Because officials failed to address adequately what was becoming old housing, shoddiness became an acceptable standard.

The worse the condition of housing, the more negatives occur.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:36 AM, 04.30.2021

Merchants support mixed-use development at Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook

The below-signed merchants in the Cedar Lee Business District strongly support a mixed-use development at the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook (CLM) site (the vacant land on the east side of Lee Road at Meadowbrook Boulevard, and on the municipal parking lot between Tullamore and Cedar roads). As Cleveland Heights City Council reviews and evaluates two proposals for CLM development, we strongly support the selection of a developer who can minimize the impact of construction disruption on our businesses by shortening and maximizing the construction period with a single phase of development for the entire project. We are excited about the catalytic possibilities of the CLM project, just as the Top of the Hill project is bringing to Cedar Fairmount.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 6:59 AM, 04.27.2021

Snodgrass announces CH council candidacy

I am excited to share with you that I am running for Cleveland Heights City Council. I hope to earn your vote this November. 

I am honored to have earned the early support of Ohio State Sen. Sandra Williams; Ohio Senate Assistant Minority Leader Nickie J. Antonio; Ohio State Rep. Janine Boyd; Ohio State Rep. Terrence Upchurch; Cuyahoga County Council Vice President Cheryl Stephens; business owners Quintin Jones (Rudy’s Pub) and Tommy Fello (Tommy’s); community leaders Earl Pike, Sue Dean, Marquez Brown, Rhonda Davis Lovejoy, Jennifer Holland, and George Sample. I am also honored to receive the endorsement of surrounding local elected officials, including Mayor Annette Blackwell (Maple Heights), Mayor Georgine Welo (South Euclid), Shaker Heights Council Member Carmella Williams, and Bratenahl Council President Pro Tem Keith Benjamin.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 12:20 PM, 04.19.2021

Fair housing ensures strong communities

At Heights Community Congress (HCC), we believe an open and fair housing market results in inclusive communities and neighborhoods. Since the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act in 1968, fair housing practices in renting and selling homes has been the law, but we know it is not always practice.

The law must be constantly monitored, upheld and protected. April is Fair Housing Month, and a perfect opportunity for the city of Cleveland Heights and its residents to recommit to upholding fair housing in our community.

A key element of Cleveland Heights’ commitment to fair housing is testing, which organizations such as HCC do for the city. Testing consists of sending two people, matched on factors such as age and gender, to inquire [separately] about renting or buying a home.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:25 AM, 04.01.2021

Two pools are better than one

We share so much—schools, libraries, friends, and more. Why can’t we also share our pools? Wouldn’t it be nice to double our communities’ swimming pools without the effort and expense of building? 

Wouldn’t it be nice for your kids to go to the pool with their school friends? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more single-sex swimming nights, and also to have another pool to use as a family on the nights designated for single-sex use? All this, and more, is possible.

Both the Cumberland and Purvis pools have amenities that benefit all residents. For example, Cumberland offers an established summer synchronized swimming team that might appeal to many UH residents. Purvis has 1-meter and 3-meter diving boards, which might attract a diving team.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:24 AM, 04.01.2021

Add your support to Cedar Lee park efforts

We all want to use the city-owned land at Meadowbrook Boulevard and Lee Road to help our city do better. We all share the same concerns about our community: high taxes, schools, keeping our wonderful local businesses, supporting the arts and our brand as an arts community, and having housing that will attract and keep residents.

Cleveland Heights city officials have tried, unsuccessfully, four times before—in 2011, 2013, 2018 and 2019—to have the Meadowbrook-Lee land developed as some sort of apartments/mixed-use project. They are now trying for the fifth time with the same kind of project.

Isn’t it time for the city to try something new?

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:07 AM, 04.01.2021

New CH mayor must protect environment

On the first Earth Day, 51 years ago, our eyes were opened to the realization that we are part of the Earth, not just visitors roaming the surface. Everything we do, every decision we make, affects everyone and everything on this planet, our home.

The world is in crisis—environmental, social, economic, and healthwise. We can act to resolve this crisis, or we can worsen it. Cleveland Heights has the opportunity to improve, rather than further degrade, our world. As we look at candidates for our first elected mayor, we need to ask how they will lead us in doing our part locally in solving this crisis.

Severance Forest is a rare treasure, a mile-long corridor of woods and wetlands at the headwaters of Dugway Brook.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:05 AM, 04.01.2021

Housing stock is CH's main asset

I don’t think anyone would disagree that our housing stock is our main asset. Without good housing we would not be able to afford schools. City government could be diminished by 25 percent. To maintain city services, we must maintain or increase property values.

I walked the Noble area twice with Greater Cleveland Congregations. We picked Noble because that was the neighborhood hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. We looked for vacant and blighted houses because on any block where there is such a house the values of homes on the block diminish.

Don’t get me wrong—Noble is a wonderful neighborhood. The city contains solid housing. We are not in imminent danger of [not] having enough funds to provide services.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:03 AM, 04.01.2021

Be an influencer about our public schools

Your opinions shape the narrative about your public schools. Maybe you’ve read an article, or heard a story, about a student attending a local public school. And maybe you then shared that story with your neighbor. Good news about inspiring teachers and successful students is expected and quickly forgotten, but bad news travels fast and lingers long. 

Rick Hanson, psychologist and author, explains that “negative experiences tend to have more urgency and impact than positive ones,” and that human beings are “naturally designed to internalize them.” Our brains have a “negativity bias” to help us survive.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:01 AM, 04.01.2021

CH's Democracy Day presented powerful testimony

Cleveland Heights City Council members, speakers and virtual viewers called January’s 8th annual Democracy Day public hearing “inspiring,” “informative,” and “enlightening”—hardly the “waste of time” claimed by Robert Shwab in a letter published in the March issue of the Heights Observer.

Federal and state court decisions, and laws created by the president, governor, U.S. Congress, and state legislature directly impact our city government and residents. Those decisions and policies are increasingly influenced by, and disproportionately benefit, the super-rich and corporations.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 9:56 AM, 03.31.2021

FutureHeights supports mixed-use development in Cedar Lee

FutureHeights has become aware of a request by some in the community that all or most of the Cedar/Lee/Meadowbrook development site become green space or a public park, rather than a mixed-use development. FutureHeights fully understands and appreciates the value of public parks in our community as significant contributors to our quality of life, and believes that both the need for economic development and public access to green space can be accommodated in either of the two development proposals that are currently before the city. 

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:28 AM, 03.23.2021

Participant complains of 'falsehoods' in library's 1619 Project programs

The CH-UH library has sponsored and promoted a [series of programs about] The 1619 Project, a collection of essays compiled by a New York Times staffer about the role and impact of slavery in the U.S.

Shortly after the program [about the project] was distributed to schools and libraries in 2019, [some] prominent American history scholars condemned The 1619 Project for its bias and falsehoods about America’s founding and the role of slavery. Mary Grabar of the Alexander Hamilton Institute called it a "jumble of lies, half-lies, bad history and bad faith." Historian Robert Paquette of Hamilton College called it "dangerous rubbish."

The materials on the library’s 1619 Web page do not include any of the criticisms, and exclude the views of dissenting Black intellectuals. Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the dubious history of The 1619 Project hurts the cause of racial reconciliation by creating a "false narrative".

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 2:40 PM, 03.17.2021

Cuda announces candidacy for CH City Council

I am running for city council to serve our community and give something back to the city that has given me so much. If elected, I want to seize this unique opportunity to work with my fellow council members, the new mayor, and the community to set a bold vision for all of Cleveland Heights. 

My family moved here in 1960. My brother and I were raised on Desota Avenue, and later on Woodview Road, by the only single mom we knew of at that time. We went through the entire CH-UH school system and graduated from Heights High. I went on to become the first person in my family to graduate from college and get a master’s degree. Cleveland Heights, for me, is a place where dreams come true.

Now, I own a home on Fenley Road (in the Oxford neighborhood) with my wife, Sandy Moran. I have three stepchildren and eight grandchildren.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 2:19 PM, 03.08.2021

New podcast focuses on Cleveland Heights' first mayoral race

If you’d asked fourth-grade me in 1983 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have told you I wanted Phil Donahue’s job. I would have also considered taking over for Nev Chandler as voice of the Browns, or Peter Tomarken, the host of "Press Your Luck." 

Nearly 40 years later, I’m finally ready to chase the dream. I’ve determined that my most logical path to becoming "Press Your Luck" host begins with a twice-monthly podcast devoted to the place that made me, Cleveland Heights, and to the brave souls who hope to earn your vote and become our first-ever elected mayor.

Sign up for the Heights Observer’s weekly e-mail newsletter (bit.ly/HO-enews) to make sure you receive the link to episode one, which is scheduled to debut on March 1. 

And you can always find it on the main menu of the Heights Observer website under "Podcasts". 

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 10:38 AM, 02.26.2021

Resident shares design concept for Cedar Lee Park

The city of Cleveland Heights is in the process reviewing proposals to build a mixed-use development at the corner of Meadowbrook and Lee roads. Some previous developments had merit, and also have been a source of revenue for the city. However, the only consideration for the use of our city’s vacant land in the past decades has been residential development. Other uses of the land, such as improving the quality of life for residents, have not always been considered.

The one-acre parcel at Meadowbrook and Lee, in the middle of the Cedar Lee Business District, may be the last parcel of land to be developed. There has been conversation by the residents of Cedar Lee, on Nextdoor, about converting this piece of land into a park. I share their view.

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 10:30 AM, 02.26.2021

Cleveland Heights is (still) Home to the Arts

In the last month I’ve heard people express the opinion that “Cleveland Heights used to be Home to the Arts” and “Cleveland Orchestra members used to live in Cleveland Heights.” I don’t know where this misperception comes from. We are still, and have been for decades, Home to the Arts! Cleveland Heights was a home to the arts before we claimed the title!

This past summer, there were socially distanced pop-up “porchestra” concerts presented by several resident orchestra members and their colleagues. There is the annual Donut Day put on by bassist Tom Sperl and his family. We have robust orchestra representation in our city, as well as musicians of every genre.

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 10:28 AM, 02.26.2021

Reaching Heights is not an arm of the school district

The relationship between Reaching Heights and the CH-UH City School District was referenced online recently, in questions and comments by community members.

Does Reaching Heights speak for the district at city council meetings? Is Reaching Heights a policy arm of the school district? 

The answer is no to both of those questions. Reaching Heights is an independent nonprofit that facilitates meaningful parent and community engagement in the Heights public schools.

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 4:00 PM, 02.25.2021

Resident invests in a 'P.E.A.C.E.' of CH's future

I’m a lifer. Save for a few years after college, Cleveland Heights has been home since I was born. We are far from perfect as a community, and we do love to squabble. But this past Christmas morning, I was reminded of why I cannot get enough of living in Cleveland Heights.

The snow was thick on the ground, the wind was harsh in the face, but I thought it a good idea to bundle the children, grab the sleds, and march over to Coventry P.E.A.C.E Park to flatten all that snow on the hill. We were alone at first, but gradually a small, hardy crowd gathered for the simple pleasure of sledding down a hill. 

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 3:56 PM, 02.25.2021

Barbara Danforth announces candidacy for CH mayor

After much thought and 40 years of preparation, I am running to be mayor of Cleveland Heights. Between now and Election Day, I will share my vision and experience on a campaign platform I’m calling “Competence – Not Politics.” 

I’m running because I love the Heights and I want to make a difference, which is the same philosophy that’s guided me over my entire career.

First, a little about me: Along with my husband, Obie Shelton, children, Hallie and Owen, and our dog, Onyx, I’ve lived on Bolton Road in Forest Hill for 16 years.  

For 15 years, I served as CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cleveland.

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 9:43 AM, 02.12.2021

Im Josie Moore, and Im running for CH mayor

I’m throwing my hat in.

It’s audacious, I know. We moved here four years ago to be near family. After moving around a lot—for my master’s degree work and my husband’s job—we needed to put down roots. We chose Cleveland Heights because we wanted community. From the moment we arrived, this has felt like home. For our family it is true that, here, all are welcome.

My professional work is in communications. But the work that fuels me is political activism. Back in Schenectady, N.Y., I helped build an organization to advocate for progressive issues, like universal healthcare, climate action, and a living wage. I led outreach: connecting with marginalized communities and increasing engagement.

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 10:52 AM, 02.08.2021

Are all welcome in Cleveland Heights?

I am writing in response to the opinion piece by Eric J. Silverman, “Former BOE member feels Millikin déjà vu,” in the December 2020 Heights Observer. Although I have only been a resident of Cleveland Heights for the past six years, my husband’s family has lived here for almost 70 years! To say that we are a loyal Cleveland Heights family would be an understatement. I love the diversity of Cleveland Heights, and I thought the "All Are Welcome" initiative was a very fitting way to mark the city’s centennial celebration.

As a mother of four who also works full time, I admit that I do not have much spare time to closely follow local issues related to taxes or property development. However, when someone showed me Mr. Silverman’s article, I felt very hurt. I would like to give Mr. Silverman the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that he did not intend his words to come across the way they did. However, the tone of his article made me feel that perhaps the Orthodox Jewish community, which I am proud to be a part of, is actually NOT welcome in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 11:54 AM, 01.29.2021

COVID-19 and CH Municipal Court

We have all had to adjust and re-examine how best to carry out our everyday activities this past year. This public health emergency has also impacted Ohio courts, including Cleveland Heights Municipal Court (CHMC). There have been many challenges, but CHMC has adapted and responded to the COVID-19 crisis. Our focus has been on protecting the health of the staff and all those who enter the courthouse, while serving our vital purpose of administrating justice without denial or delay.

Shortly after Gov. DeWine first declared a state of emergency, I issued a temporary order suspending nearly all in-person hearings, including arraignments, criminal and traffic trials, and evictions.

Before the pandemic, I changed the bond so that almost all non-violent misdemeanors received personal bonds. I have since modified the court’s non-monetary personal bond schedule to include all non-violent felonies of the 4th and 5th degrees.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 11:48 AM, 01.29.2021

Seeing inequities via Chromebook

Winter break is here, and this retired public-school teacher has time to reflect on being the home teacher for my granddaughter, a first-grader. I’ve had a Chromebook view of education in our diverse community during the pandemic. There’ve been conversations about the implications of educational inequality on a national scale, but educational inequality is also a problem here in the Heights.

Our district’s teachers are doing a remarkable job, under difficult conditions. But remote learning is fraught with problems—devices freeze, websites don’t work the way they are supposed to, and lesson plans that were triple-checked before class suddenly have issues. But the real reason I’m writing is to call attention to the glaring inequities I’ve observed.

Everyone is on the same device, but not everyone is in the same portal. At the beginning of the year, it was clear that some kids had more experience and greater ease with technology.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 11:12 AM, 01.29.2021

Barbee announces candidacy for CH City Council

Greetings fellow Cleveland Heights residents, my name is Lee E. Barbee II. I would like to introduce myself as a candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council.

I was born in Cleveland. My family moved to the Forest Hill area of Cleveland Heights in 1970. My parents (Lee Barbee Sr. and his wife, Marlene) wanted to move from our home on 124th Street, off of St. Clair Avenue. The neighborhood was changing, and our home was robbed several times. I remember an incident as a child: We returned home and I saw the robber inside; he walked past the front window. My father became the protector he was and enacted his Second Amendment right and reached for a gun. He instructed us to go to his brother’s house around the corner while he secured the premises.

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Volume 14, Issue 1, Posted 10:50 AM, 01.01.2021

Seconding the call for an 'excellent' CH mayor

Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg’s November column in the Heights Observer, “Wanted: An Excellent Mayor for Cleveland Heights,” listing the qualities we should seek in a new mayor, was accurate and on-point.     

Having worked in and around Cleveland Heights City Hall for 45 years, and serving a quarter-century on the faculty of the Leadership Academy at Cleveland State University, I can say from experience that the job of mayor of a large, diverse community, with a budget of $45 million per year, should not be held by anyone with a thin résumé. 

I voted against the CH charter change to eliminate the city manager form of government because of my belief that the deficiencies of that form of government could be mitigated with a strong city council led by a strong council president. But nature abhors a vacuum.

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Volume 14, Issue 1, Posted 10:55 AM, 01.01.2021

Outsourced Safebuilt inspection 'a joke'

As an opponent of privatizing city services, I had an interesting experience in mid-October, when I had a new driveway installed. I watched the crew pretty closely, and at one point I noticed a man approach them from my neighbor’s yard and hand one of them a piece of paper. He then turned and walked away. Curious about who he was, I watched him leave and saw that he got into a car with a Safebuilt logo on the door.

Safebuilt is the private, for-profit company that now handles all the duties of the former building department of the city of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 14, Issue 1, Posted 8:31 PM, 12.21.2020

Local businesses deserve support

I worry about how the small retail businesses in our community are doing, and whether they will be able to survive this winter. Grocery stores seem to be leading the way in adapting to the pandemic environment; my wife just came back from Zagara’s Marketplace, where she was able to pick up six bags of pre-ordered groceries without entering the store.

My reluctance to go inside any building, with the second wave of the contagion raging in Cuyahoga County, has kept me from visiting S’Wonderful Gifts, a delightful little shop at 2254 Lee Road. I’ve purchased gifts there before, as have my wife and daughter. Curious about how the store is doing, I called the owner Bill Wort and had an enlightening conversation with him.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:03 AM, 12.01.2020

Former BOE member feels Millikin dj vu

When I came across Jessica Cohen’s piece in the October Heights Observer [“BOE can no longer abdicate responsibility for Millikin”], I had a sense of déjà vu. Was it the late 1990s, when elements of Cleveland Heights City Council came to the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), to do the bidding of Hebrew Academy, to get us (BOE members) to part with the property? Was it around 2010, when Jason Stein, then a library trustee (now a CH City Council member and ceremonial mayor), was a vocal advocate for the BOE to sell the property to Mosdos? Was it 2014, when CH City Council was encouraging us (BOE members) to sell the property to Mosdos, intimating that we might be denied the ability to use the property for uses other than as a school if we did not sell; and then council [was] exploring how to loan Mosdos the money to close the deal, when Mosdos couldn’t get financing?

I keep noticing a recurring theme here—that the BOE, for some reason, is apparently obligated to dispose of PUBLIC assets if someone wants them, regardless of the amount of the offer, or if the BOE wants to keep using the property.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:10 AM, 12.01.2020

Millikin's wetlands and stream must be preserved

The fate of the Millikin school—11 acres, mainly densely wooded wetlands bordering Severance Center—is far from settled. There is a chance, in the foreseeable future, that the land will be transferred by the Cleveland Heights-University City School District [to the city of Cleveland Heights, and then] to a private residential developer.

Losing these woodlands would also [mean losing] the only place in the Heights where we, and our wildlife, can experience the headwaters of a stream that is part of our local watersheds, Dugway, Shaw and Nine Mile. The other starting points of these ancient streams are mostly covered by the past century’s concrete, asphalt, houses and businesses.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 12:17 PM, 11.24.2020

Develop parking lots instead of Millikin forest

People plan travel on weekends to see this type of view. 

This photo was taken from Severance Circle, looking at the urban forest of the Millikin School property—the section some call the Severance Woods. These acres of wooded land clean our air, reduce stormwater runoff, protect the community against noise and light pollution, and provide beauty and tranquility. If this were a public park, no one would dare suggest these woods should be destroyed. 

Stand on the same spot, and tilt the camera down. The foreground is one of the barren, sunbaked, windswept parking lots surrounding Severance Town Center.

These vast parking lots are a poor use of land. They provide no clean air. They are impermeable, so they contribute to stormwater-runoff problems. They contribute to noise and light pollution. They are ugly. 

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:13 AM, 12.01.2020

CH should lead in green energy

On Oct. 19, the city of Euclid, under the progressive leadership of Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer and city council, took a historic step towards a better future for its residents and the planet by passing a resolution to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Over the past several years, Euclid has shown its dedication to sustainability through several local projects. The city council created a sustainability committee to elevate these issues and create a venue for discussion among residents and local government leaders.

Euclid has been actively working toward a greener future with the installation of solar panels on top of the public library and city hall, to meet the energy needs of these government operations. The projects reduce carbon by 150 tons per year. The city has also partnered with the business community, building four wind turbines that make it a unique home to wind power.


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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:19 AM, 12.01.2020

Getting Personal: Attack on personal character creates greater divide

In the most recent Heights Observer e-News, Mo Lynn contributed a letter regarding the compensation of CH-UH City School District Treasurer Scott Gainer. Lynn serves as treasurer for the TigerNation4LowerTaxes committee, which opposes the upcoming district levy. 

In the letter, Lynn personally attacks Gainer as a “poor performer” who has “never submitted a balanced five-year forecast,” and is “grossly overcompensated.”  She argues that Gainer benefits from the city’s “high taxes,” and thus is personally vested in the levy passing. 

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:16 PM, 10.29.2020

LWV supports CH ballot Issue 6

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland endorses passage of Issue 6 on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot.

This proposed amendment to the Cleveland Heights City Charter relates to time frames for candidates to qualify for election. The League supports passage of this amendment, as it will assist the city’s transition to an elected mayor form of government, which was approved by a substantial majority of the city’s voters in the November 2019 election.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:23 PM, 10.23.2020

A tribute to RBG and women's rights

When RBG passed away, I, like many women of my generation, felt a loss of my personal champion for women’s rights.

When I was 18, I entered into a very brief marriage. My parents gave me the down payment and we purchased a house in Conroe, Texas, where my husband had taken a job. I, too, was working and going to school. Our FHA loan carried a monthly payment of $125. After a year, we moved back to Illinois and got divorced. I decided I could afford the payment if I moved back. My employer was willing to rehire me. So, I notified FHA that I was going to take over the payments myself. They told me I was not permitted to own a house on my own because I was a single woman. They would foreclose on me even if I paid the payments. So, I was unable to own a home.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:52 PM, 11.01.2020

Resident asks BOE to examine fringe-benefit expenditures

I read the following into the record of the Oct. 6 CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) meeting:

I am a graduate of Heights High (1970) and have sent children to the high school. I am here to address the recent last best offer to the teachers' union this board voted to implement at its special meeting on Sept. 29.

After that meeting I e-mailed Board President Jodi Sourini with comments and a question about the 10% SERS (State Employees Retirement System) pick up for [Treasurer] Gainer’s and [Superintendent] Kirby’s contracts. She e-mailed back: "Retirement contributions are subject to current contracts and the negotiation process with other unions. Superindentent Kirby and CFO Gainer work under individual contracts and are NOT represented by a union. Their retirement contribution terms have been decided and will remain in effect through the expiration of their contracts."

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:51 PM, 11.01.2020

Why I voted for Issue 69

I voted for Issue 69, the CH-UH school levy. I believe every child attending public school has a RIGHT to have a QUALITY education. An education filled with a variety of experiences allowing them to compete on a national stage in whatever field they choose to follow.

Those opposed to supporting public education indicate that students should “make do” with larger class sizes because staff gets cut; children should “deal with” the lack of advanced classes, career tech, clubs and activities that can spark their love of learning. Frankly, those opposed will always be against supporting public schools, no matter the size or purpose of a levy. This letter is not for them.

Public school is for all. Our public schools are majority students of color. If you believe Black Lives Matter, then I challenge you to make sure Black MINDS Matter by voting for Issue 69! I am an African American wife and mother of two daughters. My husband and I have DEMANDED that our daughters have an enriching experience—and CH-UH has delivered from kindergarten through grade 12.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:26 PM, 10.23.2020

Weighing in on Issue 69

Once again, we have a school levy on the ballot. Not all families who send their children to private schools are well-to-do, but they prioritize education; many receive scholarships supported by fundraising. 

Among those who are pro-levy are critics who state that some families have never tried the public schools, and have no intention of sending their children to them.

Parents refrain from enrolling their children in public schools not only for the lack of religious instruction. Can you guarantee that district pupils will use polite language, i.e., refrain from “cussing”? That they will dress in a dignified manner, covering parts of the body that should be private? That the music to which they listen won’t have any sexually explicit lyrics, or any that encourage disrespect of elders?

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:21 PM, 10.23.2020

Until we can change state funding, we must keep schools strong

Our district is facing substantial budget shortfalls due to our state’s flawed system of school funding, namely EdChoice. Our district is also working with districts across the state to get the state legislature to fix this, but this is a glacially slow process. In the meantime, school levies are how districts across Ohio must make up funding gaps caused by the state's flawed funding model and EdChoice.

Here’s how EdChoice works:

The state mandates student testing to assess public-school performance. However, these tests have repeatedly been shown to tell us way less about how well a school is educating its students and way more about the students’ socioeconomic background. In other words, these tests are designed to target racially and economically diverse districts like ours and declare them “failing.”

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:35 PM, 10.23.2020

Investing in the future

We’ve all heard so much about the upcoming school levy that I think we may be lost in the weeds. I want to get us back to basics.

Operating levies are how school districts are funded in the state of Ohio. They are not a sign of a district overspending or needing “more money” for special projects; they are simply the way that schools keep up with basic inflationary increases over time.  

Issue 69 is not about whether our school district is doing a “good” or “bad” job, or whether leadership makes decisions you agree with or not. It’s about one thing and one thing only: whether you believe that children deserve access to a high-quality education. Period. That’s it, that’s all.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:27 PM, 10.23.2020

Vote 'no' on Issue 69

I urge every Cleveland Heights and University Heights resident to vote a resounding "No" on Issue 69—a sneaky backdoor way to raise our taxes for a lifetime, with no accountability on the part of the school board or the teacher's union.

Taxes in CH-UH are already way too high—they have the highest combined rate in the state of Ohio—not for an upper-class area with wealthy residents, nor for top-rated schools, but for a working-class community with sections of poverty—with some of the lowest home values in the region—and some of the worst schools (ranked 4th from the bottom statewide)!

It's time to say "No More” in a clear way that school board can understand, so its members stop abusing their authority to put levy after levy on the ballot, with no consideration for the economy—the pandemic—or the stress and strain that ordinary families are under—all for failing schools that are often done remotely anyways.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:18 PM, 10.23.2020

We must not allow anti-tax agitators to harm our public schools

As people start voting, it is important for everyone to have a clear picture of our school district’s finances. It is easy to get lost in the weeds when anti-tax agitators try to stir up confusion.

There will always be people who want to cut public services, whether it’s schools, libraries, or the post office. They will advocate for funding cuts, then blame the resulting financial crisis on wasteful spending and call for further cuts. That looks a lot like what is going on with our public schools. 

First of all, our school district’s spending is not “out of control.” The Ohio Department of Education calculates each district’s effective cost per pupil, allowing for apples-to-apples comparisons between districts.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:32 PM, 10.23.2020

As a 'rich district' CH-UH schools get less state support

What is a “rich district”?

Multiple posts on Nextdoor have said that the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District is a “rich district.” We are not a rich district because of the beautiful houses along North Park, Fairmount, or Euclid Heights boulevards. The state of Ohio classifies us a rich district because of the taxes we have voted in to support our schools.

We are already 46% above the state average for taxes supporting our schools. As such, the state of Ohio says it does not need to contribute as much state fund[ing], since we have taken the burden on ourselves.

The question you need to start asking yourselves is how long can you continue supporting a school district that doesn’t manage its finances properly.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:13 PM, 10.23.2020

On behalf of our community, focus on state school funding

Whose numbers should you believe about our public schools’ financial status? Should you believe the information presented by the school district and school board, whose work is controlled by legal mandates, and is audited yearly; which has some expertise in this particular field and is committed to the noble goal of continually improving its practices and outcomes for all of the children it serves? Or should you believe in [information from] a recently created [anti-levy] group that has chosen to engage negatively with an organization in which [its members] previously had little or no interest or investment?

I’ve been actively engaged in our public-school community since my child entered kindergarten 10 years ago, developing wonderful friendships, engaging in countless uplifting and community-building experiences, and witnessing ever so much good in our children, families and staff.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:33 PM, 10.23.2020

The $7,074,113 EdChoice deduction was real money lost

Both Eric Silverman and James McMahon, in their Heights Observer opinions, correctly state the EdChoice voucher deduction cost to the CH-UH school district was $7,074,113 for the last school year [2019–20]. As an elected member of the school board I can tell you this amount in the prior year was $4,187,249 [2018–19] and the amount for this school year will be $9,017,250 [2020–21] (based on current data).

What is not correct: McMahon further states the district receives additional EdChoice funding from the state to offset these costs.  

I want to clarify: the district’s state “Foundation Funding” (the amount the state deducts the EdChoice voucher amounts from) was: $21,307,455 [2018–19], $19,891,985 [2019–20] and $19,891,985 [2021–22]. 

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:12 PM, 10.23.2020

District treasurer is grossly overcompensated

For 25 years, Scott Gainer has been treasurer of the CH-UH City School District. Since 2000, he has successfully championed six [operating] levies, for a total of more than $40 million, plus the $135-million school facilities bond. Mr. Gainer, who doesn't live in Cleveland Heights or University Heights, has himself greatly benefited from our high taxes. In addition, Mr. Gainer has never submitted a balanced five-year forecast, even though the CH-UH schools receive $22,700 per student in funding (57% higher than the state average).

Below is a summary of his contract and compensation. He clearly has a vested interest in the passing of Issue 69. 

  • His current contract expires on July 31, 2022, but Gainer and the district can mutually agree to terminate or amend it sooner.
  • Ironically, the contract states that the school board “desires to have a written Employment Contract in order to enhance fiscal responsibility and continuity with the schools.”
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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:10 PM, 10.23.2020

The students behind the numbers

While I understand paying taxes is a sacrifice, I kindly ask my neighbors to consider the greater sacrifice [that will have to be] made if Issue 69, the CH-UH school levy, does not pass.

I know it’s easy to make things political, or black and white, but this is not about politics. This is about supporting children—children who aren’t able to vote—and it is those children I beg you to consider when you walk into that voting booth. The ones who love going to choir practice after school as it's the only safe haven from their traumatic home life. The ones who play three sports with dreams of being good enough to go to college for free, as they cannot afford to otherwise.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:31 PM, 10.23.2020

No one school is right for all

One of the things that makes our city great is its diversity. The differing opinions that come with diverse neighborhoods often shine through in our politics. One big issue is whether one should support Issue 69, to implement a new tax levy for CH-UH public schools. As a parent who truly believes that children are our future, I want what’s best for our kids. My concern is that much of the jargon in support of Issue 69 is misinformative, and does not have the best interests of children in mind. 

I am a product of public schooling; I have no issue with public schools. Children who attend them deserve the best education they can receive. However, I’ve learned that not every school is best for every child. Some children are auditory learners, some are hands-on; some need a slow-paced classroom; some do well in Montessori settings; others learn best online. The list of differences can go on and on.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:15 PM, 10.19.2020

EdChoice math leaves district short on funding

In a recent conversation with a Cleveland Heights friend, he told me that, in his attempts to set the record straight on the website Nextdoor, in regard to the impact that EdChoice vouchers are having on the CH-UH City School District budget, he was being accused of being “anti-Jewish.” I found this odd, owing to what I know of him and what he told me he had been saying. 

Nonetheless, I figured that, as a former CH-UH school board member (2014–2017) as well as someone who is Jewish, I would take a look at the numbers myself and see why his concerns about the impact of EdChoice might be misconstrued.

I went to the Ohio Department of Education’s website for the numbers for FY2020 dated 8/31/2020. This report shows the CH-UH school district losing, to EdChoice vouchers, $7,074,113 in aid it would normally receive from the state. There are 1,404 students attending 33 different private schools. It would appear that all but two [schools] have a religious affiliation, and those two have only 19 of the 1,404 students [attending].

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:55 PM, 10.12.2020

School district has a data gap

The allegation was, frankly, a little heartbreaking: “They do not cheer for the successes of our students and our teachers, and they do not, in any way, identify themselves as being part of Tiger Nation . . .”

At the Aug. 4 CH-UH school board meeting, a spokesperson from the Tiger Nation for Strong Schools PAC noted that another levy ask would be forthcoming in November. The board maintains that the influence and availability of the EdChoice voucher for CH and UH residents is the main culprit of school-funding and enrollment loss.

I listened to that sentence in the spokesperson’s prepared remarks, initially, with grim resignation and sorrow. It is an obstacle not unfamiliar to me as an urban educator—students from high-poverty, highly transient, majority minority districts are often underestimated, underserved and unsupported, not only academically, but vocationally, socially and emotionally. 

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:54 PM, 10.12.2020

LWV endorses passage of CH-UH school levy Issue 69

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland (LWVGC) endorses passage of Issue 69, a proposed 4.8 mill continuing tax levy for current expenses of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

According to the district’s most recent five-year forecast, the district is in financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated significant and unexpected reductions in state funding, along with newly projected reductions in district property tax collections and interest income. In addition, the district is severely impacted by the state’s EdChoice voucher program, which increased deductions from the district’s state funding despite no decrease in district enrollment.

In the 2020 primary election, voters narrowly defeated a 7.9 mill levy.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:46 PM, 10.05.2020

Thank you, from the bottom of Tommy's heart

This has taken longer to write than I intended, mostly because it is hard to put into words the feelings of gratitude I have experienced over the last several months.

Beginning on March 16, and through May 3, Tommy's shut its doors for the longest period ever since our 1972 opening. While we were closed, loyal customers purchased huge amounts of gift cards, without knowing when we would re-open and they could redeem them. This gesture was the first of countless, incredible displays of love and kindness. You showed up to support us when there were so many unknowns. This gesture was such a light in a really dark and scary time.

On May 4 we opened for curbside service only. We had limited staff because many were understandably concerned about returning to work during a global pandemic. Staff that did come back worked in areas with which they were unfamiliar, but they adapted and learned without hesitation. Some of them have been working with me for over 20 years, doing the same jobs, and had to learn new positions. They did this with so much eagerness and patience.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:42 AM, 10.01.2020

Taylor neighbors ask city to take action in response to recent shootings

This was read to Cleveland Heights City Council at its Sept. 21 meeting. It was written in response to the shooting that occured on Sept. 20 on South Taylor Road at Blanche Avenue, near Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, and other recent shootings in the city.

Dear Cleveland Heights City Council,

We do not have the answers. 

We just know something must be done.

We just know that this assault on our neighborhood cannot go unanswered. 

We know murder and violence are unacceptable.

We are grief-stricken and in shock.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:59 AM, 10.01.2020

District prioritizes athletics over other programs

The school district is prioritizing student athletics over other, safer extracurriculars and, more importantly, over providing special-education services to students with disabilities. This isn’t about being anti-athletics, I am not; they serve an important role in the development and mental health of children, but they have their proper place, which is not at the front of the reopening line. 

When asked about this, Superintendent Kirby and the school board members have expressed they are following the guidelines, which is false. The CDC guidelines published in May indicate that playing sports against other local teams is a level 4 risk (5 being the highest). The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is recommending discontinuing athletics during virtual learning. Adding spectators, even just families, increases that unnecessary risk of furthering community spread.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:14 AM, 10.01.2020

Attack on teacher benefits neither fact-based nor fair

In a September Heights Observer opinion piece (“18 residents call on CH-UH school district to fix health care spending”) rife with inaccuracies, flawed reasoning and unfair assumptions, Tony Cuda and 17 co-signers urged the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union (CHTU) to agree to a cut in members’ health benefits, so that the CH-UH City School District can reduce its operating budget. While Cuda does not mention Issue 69 [the proposed school operating levy], he strongly implies that if greedy teachers and their families would sacrifice for the greater good, there would be no need for the 4.8 mill levy on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Cuda et al. believe that, because teachers in neighboring districts (specifically Shaker Heights and Beachwood) pay a larger percentage of their health insurance premiums, along with higher deductibles, it is “fiscally responsible” and “fair” to impose comparable costs on CH-UH teachers.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 5:48 PM, 09.30.2020

Levy opponents outline concerns in letter to BOE

On Sept. 2, a slightly longer version of the following letter was sent to the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), Superintendent Kirby and Treasurer Gainer. As of Sept. 14, I had yet to get a single response. These “leaders” are ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities. We need to hold them accountable and demand more transparency. Vote “no” on Issue 69.

Dear School Board Members,

On July 28, TigerNation4LowerTaxes (TN4LT) reached out to let you know that a petition had been signed by over 800 residents asking you to request a performance audit by the state auditor as soon as possible and prior to voting to place a levy on the November 2020 ballot. Today, over 1,600 residents have signed the petition and joined the call for a performance audit.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:11 AM, 10.01.2020

It's time to move on Millikin

On Sept. 3, the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) voted to reject further discussion of proposals [for Millikin], brought to them by unanimous vote of Cleveland Heights City Council, [that were] in response to years of citizens seeking progress at the Millikin site and the desire to increase [tax] revenue. [Many] residents are appalled. How is refusing to explore [new] revenue possibilities a good idea, while [the BOE has proposed] levying residents for more revenue? The audit the BOE refused to undertake might have shown great possibilities could come from developing the Millikin property. Council [members], like many districtwide, believe it holds much promise.

With a declining population, the district will need to close more buildings. Millikin should be a warning to every neighborhood in the district: Coming soon to your neighborhood!

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 5:52 PM, 09.30.2020