Latest News

CH extends council application deadline to April 6

Melissa Yasinow resigned from CH City Council on March 2.

A March 20 CH council update, found in the March 23 CH City Council meeting packet [note: all March 22­–28 city of Cleveland Heights meetings were cancelled], included the notice that the application deadline for the vacant city council seat has been extended by two weeks. The new deadline is April 6, at 5 p.m.

The application can be found online at www.clevelandheights.com/1085/City-Council-Application.

The open council seat was formerly held by Melissa Yasinow, who resigned at the beginning of the March 2 CH City Council meeting, effective immediately. Yasinow provided no explanation for her resignation.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 10:32 AM, 03.25.2020

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Best of the Heights 2020

Tommy Fello, owner of Tommy's restaurant, Winner of Best Heights Vibe.

Over a period of six weeks, Jan. 1 through Feb. 15, Heights residents cast their votes in the annual Best of the Heights awards, in recognition of the businesses that serve Cleveland Heights and University Heights. As in prior years, FutureHeights, a nonprofit community development corporation and publisher of the Heights Observer, created a list of unique award categories, showcasing the wide variety of establishments that call the Heights home, and asked residents to vote by writing in the names of their favorites in each category.

“While we celebrate these 2020 awardees,” said Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, “we also acknowledge how much has changed for all of them—and for all of us—since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. For example, Foodhisattva, a vegan, Asian-fusion cafe, was this year’s winner of Best New Restaurant or Bar. Now, only eight months into a successful first year, it has been forced to temporarily close to eat-in dining.”

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:14 AM, 03.24.2020

UH encourages residents to take 'Time Out Together'

“Time Out Together” is a University Heights initiative that encourages residents, every evening at 6:30 p.m., to come out of their homes, wave to neighbors, visually check in with one another, ride bikes, walk their dogs, chat across yards, share supplies, and generally provide comfort while safely interacting.

The daily event will begin on Friday, March 20, and continue each evening until the coronavirus epidemic is over.

“Let’s take a few minutes each day to step outside and reconnect,” Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan said.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:57 AM, 03.20.2020

Heights businesses adjust hours, services

Loyal customers practiced social distancing as they lined up for takeout at Jack's Deli & Restaurant, in University Heights, on March 17. Later that day, Jack's announced it would be closed until further notice.

Some Heights businesses have temporarily closed, and others have made, and continue to make, adjustments to their business hours or practices in an effort to help stem the spread of COVID-19. On March 15, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order to bars and restaurants, instructing them to close as of 9 p.m. that evening. Earlier, he had issued orders to prohibit large public gatherings. On March 23, many Heights businesses that originally remained open announced they would close in accordance with the governor's "stay-at-home" order, effective March 23, 11:59 p.m., through April 6.

The Heights has a large number of independently run, locally owned businesses that will be impacted by the current crisis. 

In an effort to encourage support of businesses remaining open, the city of Cleveland Heights has announced that it is waiving all parking fees in city-owned lots and garages effectively immediately and until further notice.

In addition to takeout service, some businesses offer online or by-phone ordering, and free local delivery. Purchasing gift certificates for future use is another way that Heights residents can support businesses during this difficult time.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 12:07 PM, 03.17.2020

East Side food bank anticipates increased need

As public health and economic repercussions of the coronavirus continue to impact our community, the Father Michael Wittman Ozanam Center (FMWOC), a local food pantry and clothing bank, is preparing for an increased need for food assistance.

Support for the all-volunteer organization comes from 14 churches in the eastern suburbs, including Cleveland Heights’ Communion of Saints Parish and Church of the Saviour.

The center is located at St. Philomena Church, 13824 Euclid Ave., in East Cleveland. It operates every Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as a registered agency with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank under the sponsorship of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Cleveland Council.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:17 AM, 03.20.2020

Special online meeting of UH City Council to be held March 19 at 6:30 p.m.

University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan has called for a special meeting of UH City Council tonight, March 19, at 6:30 p.m. At the meeting, Brennan will give a report on the city’s response to COVID-19, and answer questions.

Three proposed ordinances will be considered, in order to respond to the pandemic.

The agenda includes:

Ordinance 2020-17 - Providing for paid emergency leave and allow[ing] the mayor or his designee to temporarily expand the use of existing paid sick leave of absence (on emergency).

Ordinance 2020-18 – Granting them emergency spending authority (on emergency).

Ordinance 2020-19 – Adopting temporary voting requirements during the period of emergency (on emergency).

To join the meeting on Zoom:

Zoom.us/j/753578440

Meeting ID: 753 578 440

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 5:09 PM, 03.19.2020

CH-UH City School District updates

Updates from the CH-UH City School District are available at www.chuh.org/COVID-19Information.aspx

Here is the most recent news:

Breakfast and lunch pickup

During the COVID-19 school closure, many children may face food insecurity. The district's food service partner, AVI Food Systems, has created a plan for meal distribution.  

Each weekday, beginning Tuesday, March 17, breakfast and lunch can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The setup will be “grab and go” in school entrances to prevent patrons from congregating in buildings. This food is available for all children, regardless of whether or not they attend Heights public schools.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 1:33 PM, 03.17.2020

Cities of Cleveland Heights and University Heights provide COVID-19 support, updates

Given the rapidly updating news about COVID-19's impact on local communities, the cities of Cleveland Heights and University Heights are using their websites as portals for vital information.

For the foreseeable future, both cities have canceled in-person council and committee meetings, and have closed their city halls for general business. The Cleveland Heights Community Center, including the Senior Center, is also closed until further notice.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 1:04 PM, 03.17.2020

Heights Libraries closes all branches during COVID-19 outbreak

Heights Libraries wants the community to know that the health and safety of customers and staff is its top priority. It therefore decided to close all of its buildings as of Friday, March 13, at 5:30 p.m. 

"This was not an easy decision, and not one that library leadership made lightly," said Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin. "We decided to close our buildings at the recommendation of the Ohio Department of Health. Research indicates that early social distancing can help slow the spread of the disease."

To help customers understand the closing and its repercussions, it put the following FAQ list on its website and Facebook page, and also sent it to customers in an eblast:

Are all four Heights Libraries buildings closed? Yes. The Coventry Village, Lee Road, Noble Neighborhood, and University Heights branches are closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:04 AM, 03.17.2020

Ohio closes polling places; moves Election Day to June 2

Signs at St. Paul's Episcopal Church notified would-be voters of the postponed election.

After a judge denied a late-in-the-day lawsuit on March 16, intended to postpone Ohio's March 17 Election Day to June 2, Ohio's director of health, Dr. Amy Acton, issued an order closing polling places, thus suspending voting. The new election date is June 2.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (BOE) has posted a link to Dr. Acton's order, which provided a timeline of federal and state news on the spread of COVID-19. In it, she cited the CDC's March 15 statement warning against mass gatherings of 50 people or more, in ordering that polling locations in Ohio close on March 17.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 9:39 AM, 03.17.2020

Three CH polling locations have moved; closed libraries are open for voting

UPDATE: According to the website of Ohio's secretary of state, Frank LaRosa (www.ohiosos.gov), legal steps are underway to move the state's primary election date from Tuesday, March 17, to Tuesday, June 2. The change of date requires either a legal order, or an act of the state legislature. As of 4:40 p.m. on Monday, March 16, there were no election date updates posted to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (BOE) site (https://boe.cuyahogacounty.us), but a search of "What's on your ballot" at the voting information website Vote411 (www.vote411.org) for a Cleveland Heights precinct shows an election date of June 2.

[Editor's Note: It seems a change in voting date is likely, and is in process. For updates, please visit any of the websites posted within this article. Once the facts of a change are announced, along with alternatives to in-person voting, the Heights Observer will seek to put together an update for CH and UH voters.]

The New York Times is reporting, as of 3:37 p.m. on Monday, March 16, that Ohio. Gov. DeWine will try to postpone the state's Tuesday, March 17 election.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 1:58 PM, 03.16.2020

We've got a no-hitter going, so far

I got a 1960 Rocky Colavito baseball card, with Rocky in an Indians uniform, halfway through the baseball season that year, long after he'd been traded away. 

I remember April 17, 1960. Part of it, anyway. I was standing in the tiny front yard of my house on Belmar Road when someone told me that the Cleveland Indians had traded Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers.

It’s not quite accurate to say the Cleveland Indians traded him; the Indians’ general manager, Frank Lane, traded him. He traded everyone. He was obsessed with trading players. And even managers, once. And he was despised by everyone, all the time.

Rocky Colavito was by far the most popular player in Cleveland, and one of the best. There was no real reason to trade him, and everyone knew that.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 2:23 PM, 03.16.2020

Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 3-2-2020

MARCH 2, 2020

 

  • Public comments
  • Council actions
  • Council Member Yasinow resigns
  • School levy proposal on the March ballot
  • Arlington House
  • City manager’s report

 

Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, Michael Ungar and Melissa Yasinow. Also present were City Manager Tanisha Briley, Clerk of Council Susanna O’Neil, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting was 36 minutes long.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 10:49 AM, 03.23.2020

TOH critics not to blame for delay

After sitting through the final CH City Council meeting on the topic of Top of the Hill (TOH), on Feb. 18, I found it unfortunate that critics of the project were being blamed for how long it has taken for TOH to happen.

Was it critics who selected a prominent local developer with a history of quality projects, and then could not come to an agreement with the developer? No, that was the city of Cleveland Heights. Was it critics who orchestrated a Potemkin Village of "public engagement,” and then ignored that input? No, it was the city. Was it critics who crafted a poor design and submitted incomplete drawings to the Architectural Board of Review (ABR), drawing out the process? No, it was the developer. Was it critics who failed to conduct any sort of market survey, showing how this project will be a catalyst for the entire city, and post all relevant material on the city’s website? No, it was the city. Was it critics who failed to develop this site over the last 25 years and—by the way—are now on their third (or is it fourth?) developer at Lee and Meadowbrook? No, it was the city.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 9:10 AM, 03.11.2020

UH memo on COVID-19 cancels block parties amid precautions

On March 10, the city of University Heights sent out an memo on the coronavirus. In it, the city announced the cancellation of all block parties—including one which had been scheduled for later in the day—and advocated the practice of "social distancing."

The UH directive comes a day after, and in response to, news that three Cuyahoga County residents tested positive for the virus.

According to Mike Cook, communications and civic engagement coordinator for University Heights, Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan has been on conference calls with the county, and has been reviewing policies from both the county and the state, in managing the city's response.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 12:16 PM, 03.10.2020

LWV Heights chapter endorses school levy Issue 26

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Greater Cleveland endorses passage of Issue 26, a proposed tax levy for current expenses of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. 

Policies recently enacted by the Ohio state government have created a sudden financial crisis for our local public schools. Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program—which is based on school ratings using questionable testing practices and dated testing information—was expanded to affect more schools, and to provide vouchers to private-school students who had never attended public schools.

The state’s practice of paying for EdChoice vouchers through deductions from affected districts’ state aid, the unexpected inclusion of Heights High on the EdChoice school list, and the expansion of EdChoice eligibility to private school students with no prior connection to the public schools precluded the district’s ability to plan for the near-term financial impact of this program.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:32 AM, 03.09.2020

County council candidate Baker's résumé is skinny

To the Editor:

Cheryl Stephens is well known to us. Her economic development leadership for over 20 years, her progressive politics, and her Master of Public Administration [degree] make her a well-qualified candidate for Cuyahoga County Council. To see her credentials, go to the Cuyahoga County website and look her up.

Her opponent, on the other hand, has had 18 jobs in the past 13 years. He is significantly less qualified than Stephens. During a challenge of his residency, I received copy of his application and résumé from the South Euclid Lyndhurst (SEL) School District. 

He says he is an educator. Yet as of May 2019, when he applied at the SEL district, he had no permanent teaching certificate listed on his résumé.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:31 AM, 03.09.2020

Yasinow resigns from CH City Council

Melissa Yasinow in a photo from her 2017 CH City Council campaign.

At the March 2 meeting of Cleveland Heights City Council, Melissa Yasinow resigned as council member, effective immediately.

Yasinow provided no explanation for her resignation.

Reading from a prepared statement in which she addressed residents of Cleveland Heights, Yasinow said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to have served you these past six years. Being a member of this council has been one of the highlights of my professional life. I am grateful to have worked with my colleagues, past and present, and with this city’s qualified, competent and professional staff. I'm also enormously proud to have been part of the team that made Top of the Hill a reality. This is a goal that has eluded our city for over 50 years, and now we are set to break ground."

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 1:48 PM, 03.03.2020

An unexpectedly timely look at filling CH council vacancies

This column is about how Cleveland Heights needs to revise its process for filling unexpected vacancies on CH City Council. Shortly after finishing it, we learned that such a vacancy may arise soon.  

We received a tip that Council Member Melissa Yasinow is planning to move out of the community. As of Feb. 25, her Washington Boulevard house was showcased on real-estate website Zillow with a notation that it was scheduled to go on the market Feb. 27. Meanwhile, the Chagrin Falls address that she and her husband supposedly contracted to buy on Dec. 10, with a March 3 closing date, is no longer listed by Zillow as being on the market.   

When we contacted her directly, Yasinow said she was upset about being confronted with the information, but she would not directly confirm nor deny it.

As long as she actually resides in Cleveland Heights, Yasinow can legally retain her council seat.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 2:02 PM, 02.26.2020

Census hiring event is Feb. 29

On Saturday, Feb. 29, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Cleveland Heights City Council Member Davida Russell will host a census-worker hiring event for Cleveland Heights residents. It will take place at Central Bible Baptist Church, 2285 Noble Road.

Census takers will be paid up to $22.50 per hour, and Russell said she is hoping an additional 200 Cleveland Heights residents will be hired.

To RSVP to the hiring session, e-mail councilwomanrussell@gmail.com. For more information, call 216-333-3137.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 11:24 AM, 02.27.2020

Start right here

Pete Seeger, in the early 2000s, still spreading the word.

When my daughter was in the eighth grade at Roxboro Middle School, about 18 years ago, she came home one day and said to me, “You have to come in and talk to my social studies class.”

I said, “Really? You want me to come and talk to your class?”

She said, “No. But Mr. Swaggard said we have to bring in a relic from the Sixties.”

I said, “Uh . . . Do you know what ‘relic’ means?”

She said, “Uh . . . yeah.”

I said, “[sigh] Okay. As long as you know . . .” 

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:09 AM, 02.28.2020

University Square poised for rebuild

A bird's eye rendering of phase one of the University square redevelopment. [courtesy Kowit & Company]

University Square’s long-awaited and much-needed makeover could begin as soon as this summer.

“We are on the verge of doing what once seemed impossible,” University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan said. “The partnership led by Kowit & Company Real Estate Group is the right local developer for the redevelopment at University Square. They share our vision of something bigger, something better, something beautiful, something worthy of this city, worthy of this community, worthy of University Heights.”

In January, UH City Council approved new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to allow the redevelopment of University Square. The redevelopment plan was made possible through cooperation with the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, the Cuyahoga County government, the county prosecutor’s office, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, and bond holders of the original 2001 University Square development.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:34 AM, 02.25.2020

Seeking participants and hosts for dinners about race

On Saturday, April 25, and Sunday, April 26, a special discussion will be taking place around dinner tables in Cleveland Heights and University Heights.

As part of the advance planning for “Heights Dinners: Conversations About Race,” organizers are currently seeking participants—hosts, facilitators and guests—for the dinners, which will be held in private homes and other locations in the two cities.

At each dinner, a host, a trained facilitator, and up to eight guests will gather for a shared meal and guided conversation.

Several community groups are coordinating the dinners: Heights Community Congress (HCC), FutureHeights, Reaching Heights, Heights Libraries, Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, and Home Repair Resource Center. 

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:15 AM, 02.28.2020

Cedar Lee district welcomes CIFF East

The 44th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) will return to its Heights roots in April 2020.

With generous support from PNC Bank, CIFF East will take place at the Cedar Lee Theatre the second weekend of the festival, starting on the evening of Friday, April 3, followed by two full days of programming on Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5. There will be 18 screenings at the Cedar Lee throughout the weekend, comprising features, documentaries, shorts and family films.

Cedar Lee Theatre owner Jonathan Forman founded CIFF, the annual festival of films from around the world, in 1977. That year, the festival screened eight films over eight weeks at the Cedar Lee Theatre.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:28 AM, 02.28.2020

One Fairmount business to close; another to move

To the Editor:

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen to you!

After nearly 40 years as a children’s specialty retailer—25 of them in Cleveland Heights—the time has come to say goodbye. Pinwheel Kids, at 3469 Fairmount Blvd., will close at the end of March so I can kick off my retirement.

I feel lucky to have called Cleveland Heights my second home for over two decades. Being on “main street” in this vibrant neighborhood has been so gratifying. The loyalty and enthusiasm of the Cleveland Heights community for its small businesses is exceptional.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:42 AM, 02.28.2020

FutureHeights supports Integrity Realty's Euclid Heights Blvd. project

To the Editor:

The following letter was sent to members of the CH Board of Zoning Appeals on Feb. 19:

Dear Members of the CH Board of Zoning Appeals,

FutureHeights has reviewed the proposed Integrity Realty Group project at 2235 Overlook Road and 2345-61 Euclid Heights Blvd., and offers its support of the developer’s request for variances to Code Sections 1123.08, 1161.11, and 1123.07.

We are pleased that Integrity plans to retain the historic buildings and stone wall on the site. We are also pleased with the developer’s efforts to address and incorporate neighboring property owners’ concerns into the plans.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:45 AM, 02.28.2020

WRC sings Mozart's 'Great' Mass

The Western Reserve Chorale (WRC), a chorus of more than 100 voices from across Northeast Ohio, will share the incomparable mastery of Mozart in concert on March 22. 

It is a vexing truth that Mozart’s two towering choral works were both left unfinished. While the Requiem was not completed due to the composer’s untimely death, less is known as to why the Mass in C minor was not completed.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:37 AM, 03.02.2020

Choral Arts presents world premiere Mass

So, just who is George Bristow? Choral Arts Cleveland and its director, Brian Bailey, invite you to find out as it brings to life the Mass in C by 19th-century American composer George Bristow in a world premiere of the composition. Supported in part by the citizens of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the evening begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13, with a talk on Bristow and American classical music, followed by the choral performance. The venue is Fairmount Presbyterian Church, 2757 Fairmount Blvd., in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:49 AM, 03.02.2020

Pulitzer finalist gets Cleveland premiere at Dobama

Dobama Theatre will present the Cleveland premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-finalist “Dance Nation,” March 6–29.

In the play by Clare Barron, an army of preteen competitive dancers from Liverpool, Ohio, are plotting to take over the world. If their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at the Boogie Down Grand Prix in Tampa Bay.

Partly inspired by the reality-TV show “Dance Moms,” the play is about ambition, growing up, and how to be oneself in the heat of it all. It explores the exhilaration and terror of being a kid through the story of a group of 13-year-old dance troupe members, as portrayed by adult actors.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:38 AM, 03.02.2020

Burning River Baroque series debuts at Blank Canvas CLE

Cleveland Heights resident Malina Rauschenfels, soprano, is co-artistic director of Burning River Baroque. Photo courtesy of Tom Hughey.

Burning River Baroque continues its eighth season with a series of thought-provoking performances, beginning Wednesday, March 18.

Witches: Revered & Reviled has been crafted to connect baroque music to present day issues of othering, bullying and stigmatization.

According to the musical program's description, the wish for an ordered society “frequently led to the persecution of individuals who were accused of straying outside the established conventional boundaries of ‘acceptable’ behavior.” The program focuses particularly on the criminalization of women who were labeled as not fitting into social norms.

Ironically, while women “ascribed with supernatural abilities” were severely outcasted and punished, they also were viewed as a resource to help those who suffered from mental and spiritual maladies. Thus, the program looks closely at reverence, as well as repulsion, through the stories of Circe, the Witch of Endor, and the Furies in a broad range of national styles and traditions of the 17th century. 

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:29 AM, 03.02.2020

Heights Arts announces March exhibitions and concert

Red Campion

Heights Arts, the multi-disciplinary arts organization in Cleveland Heights, will celebrate the creativity of its musical and visual artist members throughout the month of March.

On Friday, March 6, Heights Arts will host the opening of its second Members Show, in which about 40 Heights Arts artist members will exhibit their work.

Most Heights Arts exhibitions are curated by guest curators or its Exhibition Community Team, which comprises community volunteers with connections and expertise in the visual arts community. This team has been responsible for 20 years of the highest quality exhibitions featuring the region’s emerging and well-established artists.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:32 AM, 03.02.2020

Soprano Angela Zawada in recital at First Baptist

Angela Zawada

Angela Zawada, the Chancel Choir soprano soloist of the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, will present a recital of classical works at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, in the Gothic sanctuary of the church at 3630 Fairmount Blvd. 

The program will feature works by Handel, Mozart, Schumann, Fauré and Samuel Barber, spanning several musical periods and languages. Visions of night and dreams trace a path through the program from “O Sleep” from Handel’s oratorio Semele, to Fauré's "Apres un rêve" ("After A Dream") to Barber's “Sure on this Shining Night.” The program also features fiery pieces, such as Fauré's “Fleur jetee," with its virtuosic piano score, performed by Adam Whiting, a Cleveland School of the Arts faculty member.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:44 AM, 03.02.2020

Free talk series aims to bring nature home

This white oak (c. 1700–2019) at Lower Lake park came down in the fall 2019 microburst. Oaks and other beneficial trees will be the subject of a March 7 talk.

Early spring is the perfect time to think about what to plant in our yards. These days, we know that the choices we make impact nature as never before. We have a declining tree canopy, declining insect and bird populations, and a global climate emergency.

An upcoming series of free talks, Bringing Nature Home, is intended to help attendees take positive actions at the ground level. The speakers, presented by Friends of Lower Lake and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership (DBWP), will journey from the tree canopy, to the shrub layer, to the ground layer for a holistic look at what makes up healthy habitat in public and private green spaces. The series' tagline, “It’s About Time,” reflects the urgency of restoring urban habitat to good health, as well as how the sequence of plant life supports insects and birds throughout the growing season. Personal choices can make a difference, and this series of talks is intended to provide a guide.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 8:56 AM, 02.28.2020

Heights Tree People prepare for spring

Have trees, will plant, just ask! From left: Tadas Barkus, a friend, and Heights Tree People Margy Weinberg, Bill Hanavan, Kathy Smachlo, Laura Marks, Sue Wolpert and Elsa Johnson.

Thirty-some years ago, Bill Hanavan planted a tree in his yard on Yorkshire Road, and fell in love. He couldn’t stop looking at trees, buying trees, and planting trees. In Kalamazoo, Mich., where Bill and Pat Hanavan raised their two daughters, their yard became a veritable forest. Retirement and grandchildren brought the Hanavans back to Cleveland Heights, where Bill still looks at, buys, and plants trees—free of charge—for anyone who wants one.

A notice in Nextdoor, the social networking service for neighborhoods, elicited some interest, and Hanavan planted more than 20 trees for friends and neighbors. But in this time of climate consciousness and controversy, Hanavan was looking to meet up with other tree enthusiasts.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:01 AM, 02.28.2020

Smarter state policy would bring equality in education and taxation

Here comes another school levy. Here come the same letters and arguments we’ve heard over the past 20 or 30 years. And here comes the aftermath of the vote, with a small majority of voters relieved, and a large minority discouraged but determined to try again. This same drama has played out over and over for decades, with the local actors stuck playing roles defined by a tired old script. What would it take to change this predictable and unsatisfying plot?

Let’s set aside for the moment the effect of school vouchers siphoning off local school funding, or whether we think teachers and administrators are overpaid. Even without those factors, there is a kind of triple whammy with taxes and schools in a place like Cleveland Heights:

One, for any given amount the CH-UH district spends per student, that given amount will be a higher percentage of property value (thus a higher tax rate) compared to the Solons and Beachwoods of the world, because the average home in the CH-UH area costs less and thus is a shallower well for revenue generation.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:57 AM, 02.28.2020

TOH is a cautionary tale for future CH development

The city of Cleveland Heights passed an ordinance in December 2018 approving the purchase of a property on Euclid Heights Boulevard, to be added to the Top of the Hill (TOH) site. The city authorized Liberty Development—a partner of Flaherty & Collins (F&C), the main TOH developer—to buy the property from the owners, then turn it over to F&C, who would then sell it to the city for no more than the property’s purchase price, plus closing and due diligence fees.

The maximum amount the city authorized Liberty to pay for the property—known as the “Green House”—was $395,000. The actual total came to about $311,000 (the purchase price, plus closing and due diligence fees), yet the city paid $369,000.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:30 AM, 02.28.2020

Vote 'no' to keep the Heights affordable

To the Editor:

My family has been in the Heights for four generations. Both my husband and I are alumni. I have volunteered as a tutor in the elementary schools, and was campaign treasurer for two former school board members. That said, I am writing to ask people to vote “no” on the operating levy 

Understanding our community is primarily residential, we still have had an unprecedented number of levies and increases in spending in recent years—despite large decreases in school enrollment. Roughly 40 percent of our school-aged children opt out of the public schools, yet our spending is amongst the highest in Ohio.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:21 AM, 02.28.2020

In support of our public schools

To the Editor:

I am a homeowner, mother and teacher living and working in Cleveland Heights.

Living here was a no-brainer for me; [it’s] an inclusive, walkable, artistic community with historic homes, independent businesses and access to all of Cleveland’s cultural assets. When I was lucky enough to land a student-teaching placement at Noble Elementary School in my 20s, I knew this was where I wanted to put down roots.

Over the next decade I taught at both private and public schools before landing my dream job, teaching studio art at Heights High.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:14 AM, 02.28.2020

School board reaches deep into family budget

To the Editor:

Which pocket will the money come from? For a family of two adults and two children, with a house valued at $150,000 and income of $75,000, the school board’s tax increase of $414 will take a big chunk out of their disposable income.

I went to Taxformcalculator.com and to the liberal Economic Policy Institute for some estimates of a family budget in Cleveland Heights:

  • Take-home pay after a 10-percent 401(k) contribution and all taxes: $58,560.
  • Property tax: $6,114
  • Housing: $9,239
  • Food: $9,077
  • Transportation: $13,047
  • Health care: $10,476
  • Necessities: $7,389
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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:52 AM, 02.28.2020

We support CH-UH schools and the levy

We wanted to share our thoughts on the CH-UH school district, having lived in the Heights for over 25 years. I [Jeff] grew up in Shaker Heights and Susan traces her Heights’ roots back to the class of ’36 when her grandfather, Eric Knudson, graduated from Heights High. 

You may question how we compare to other schools, public and private, in the area. We challenge you to look at the universities our graduating students attend, examine the number of National Merit Scholars, and study the amount of educational scholarships that are awarded. Our schools do a wonderful job preparing our children to become productive members of society.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:37 AM, 02.28.2020

City councils should consider impact of school levy

To the Editor:

If passed, the proposed school levy increase would give the Heights the highest property tax rate in Ohio. That is quite a severe burden when one considers the large number of low- and middle-income taxpayers here. Has any organization or elected leader in the Heights studied the impact on the community? How will this affect population, tax delinquencies, vacancies, home ownership, the quality of housing, and local businesses? The long-term trend of all of these is negative. 

Where are our city councils? Has any city found success in being #1 for property tax rates?

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:27 AM, 02.28.2020

School spending, not vouchers, is the problem

To the Editor:

On March 17, please vote “No” on Issue 26. The problem is school spending, not school vouchers, and here's why: Cleveland Heights already owns the title of highest-tax-burden city in the state of Ohio. We currently give more money to the schools than almost any other school district in Ohio—and we are not wealthy!

This monstrous school levy adds another $415 to the property tax bill of a $150,000 house. This is not sustainable.

And let me say something about Cleveland Heights and why this is so morally wrong: We are an aging city located next to Cleveland and East Cleveland. Our houses are all 100 years old and new families are not moving into our community.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:16 AM, 02.28.2020

Heights Libraries’ spring series embraces the arts

This spring, Heights Libraries invites people of all ages to engage with the arts through its new program series, "Create and Connect: Heights Has HeART." Inspired by art and artists in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights community, the library will host a wide range of programs where participants can come together to experience visual art, drama, film, literature, music and dance.

“Our community is very arts-oriented. We have our own art galleries, arts organizations and theater companies, and we're located close to some of the greatest cultural institutions in the country, like Cain Park, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Art and MOCA,” said Maggie Kinney, special projects manager.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:43 AM, 02.28.2020

What’s going on at your library?

Coventry Village Library
1925 Coventry Road, 216-321-3400

Thursday, March 19, 7 p.m.

An Evening with Lisa Koops. Join Koops in a discussion of her book Parenting Musically, which portrays the musicking of eight diverse local families and how they use music in their everyday lives.  A book signing will follow the talk.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:44 AM, 02.28.2020

Kirby to deliver State of our Schools address March 4

CH-UH City Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby.

Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby will deliver the 2020 State of our Schools Address on March 4, at Cleveland Heights High School.

At the event, which will run from 6 to 8 p.m., each CH-UH public school and several clubs will display their accomplishments and strengths in a walk-through showcase. In addition, sections of the high school building will be open for self-guided tours.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 4:36 PM, 02.27.2020

Brennan declares UH 'back on the map'

University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan delivered his State of the City speech Feb. 11.

University Heights Mayor Michael Brennan reported on Feb. 11, in his second State of the City address, that University Heights is "back on the map."

Brennan began his speech by relaying a discussion he had with resident Ari Jaffe, prior to the 2017 election, in which Jaffe asked Brennan if he was considering merging University Heights with a neighboring city. Paraphrasing the conversation, Brennan said Jaffe felt at the time that University Heights was “adrift, without direction, without purpose, without identity.”

In just two years, Brennan said, there’s now an energy in the city.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:00 AM, 02.28.2020

Roxboro Middle School presents 'Annie Jr.'

Cast members Henry Dyck, Emily Barr, and Jordan Evans in rehearsal.

Musical theater returns to the newly renovated Roxboro Middle School on March 5 and 6, when “Annie Jr.” will have a two-night run, featuring performances by 28 middle school students. An additional 17 students comprise the production’s stage crew.

Andrew Susick, Roxboro Middle School’s new vocal music teacher, is the show’s director. In his 15th year as a music educator, Susick also leads all of Roxboro Middle School’s choirs.

Asked why the community should come out and see this play, Susick responded, “The story of 'Annie' shares an important message about the true nature of family. Annie's cheerful outlook on life and plucky spirit demonstrate how a family is made up of those who you surround yourself with and care for, regardless of where you are born or where you live. Our Roxboro Middle School students, teachers, parents and community have all come together as a family to put on a show that you won't want to miss!"

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 4:35 PM, 02.27.2020

Berry sworn in as UH City Council member

Judge J.J. Costello swore in Saundra Berry as a new member of UH City Council on Feb. 12.

Saundra Berry was sworn in as the newest member of University Heights City Council at a special meeting on Feb. 12, filling the seat vacated by former council member Mark Wiseman, who resigned on Jan. 13.

Since 2007, Berry has served as Clerk of Courts at the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court. She previously worked at the Ohio Department of Education as director of Cleveland scholarship and tutoring.

Berry brings auditing experience to council, as she served as an auditor for the Cleveland Municipal School District 1983–99. A former math teacher, Berry is a certified public accountant.

Berry earned a master’s in business administration from Atlanta University, and earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Central State University.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 11:27 AM, 02.18.2020

School district comparisons should consider many factors

To the Editor:

Attorney Geoff Johnson's letter [in the January issue of the Heights Observer] about excessive educational costs in Cleveland Heights is neither informative nor convincing. He needs to do his homework. He compared the total [district] budget of [CH-UH] to other cities, [and] fails to consider the many other factors he needs to consider in order to understand why costs are different from one city to another.

To name a few . . . how about per pupil cost? How about population characteristics? How about teacher pay?

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:03 AM, 02.28.2020

What happens if the school levy fails on March 17?

[If the tax levy fails on March 17,] for all of us who do support public education, the CH-UH school board will still have $100 million-plus high school building debt, and a budget in excess of $110 million to educate the roughly 5,000 students who come to school. (We have 20-percent chronic absenteeism.)

After adjustments in state formula funding (including EdChoice scholarships), the school board will still spend $20,000 per pupil, compared to $15,000 at “similar districts,” and to the $12,000 statewide average. District salaries for teachers, administrators and staff will still be at the top of the range in almost all categories, and fringe benefits will still add 49 percent on top of salaries.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:30 AM, 02.28.2020

Parent wishes she'd used Heights school sooner

When my son was ready for kindergarten, I looked at the school report card and, like many, decided that I would never send my son to Heights schools. After a long search, I enrolled him in a charter school where we had one problem after another. I felt like his teacher had written him off after just two months in class. She only listed problems without ever giving solutions. I felt like I was failing my son—the worst feeling in the world. 

After another year of poor (or nonexistent!) communication and the school constantly switching my son’s classroom, I was fed up! They made me feel like he was unable to learn, and I just didn’t believe that. 

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:08 AM, 02.28.2020

School levy threatens Tiger Nation

Voting for Issue 26, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights 7.9 mill school levy, will put our Tiger Nation on the list of endangered species.

In years past, it was unthinkable for anyone in my family to vote against a school levy. My husband spent his career as a Cleveland Heights elementary school principal. I was the Beachwood Schools communications coordinator for two decades. My sister taught at Shaker High. Our four children are Heights High graduates, and one became a school psychologist. We believed, and still do, in public education.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:34 AM, 02.28.2020

No time for despair

I’m a hopeful person. I believe deeply in democracy, and I am devoted to the contribution our public institutions, especially our public schools, make to society and human advancement. But lately I’ve felt a lot more despair than hope.

When it comes to lawmaking, Ohio legislators seem to prefer sneaking their pet ideas into closed-door budget negotiations. When it comes to education, the legislature has imposed policy after policy focused more on destroying our public schools than elevating them. The policies advance a narrative of failure, not success, and justify disinvestment and flight rather than support and participation 

This bleak landscape makes me weary. 

On Feb. 10, State Rep. John Patterson, a four-term Democrat from Ashtabula, spoke at a public forum at Heights High about bi-partisan legislation that he and his best friend, Lima Republican State Rep. Bob Cupp, have worked on for more than two years, to “get right” Ohio’s system for funding public schools.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:39 AM, 02.28.2020

The value of teachers' work

The complexity of teaching in public schools today is difficult to explain to retired colleagues or friends who are not in public systems. Much has changed in the last 30 years. 

Today’s teachers have so much to learn beyond curriculum and teaching techniques. When I began my career, I was given a textbook and a course of study as my guides. Now there are teaching materials and supports, pacing guides, programs for attendance, grading, and parent contact logs, among many other teaching and classroom management tools. 

There are board policies; state and federal laws regarding students with disabilities; a student code of conduct, with its own implementation guidelines; and a 189-page employee code of conduct that we are responsible for understanding.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:34 AM, 02.28.2020

Issue 26 is symptom of larger problem

Voting against Issue 26 doesn’t mean that we don’t support our schools, nor that we don’t love our community. Voting against Issue 26 at this time will help ensure a bright future for the Heights. The CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) prefers to ask for more money before making a substantial effort to cut expenses. Furthermore, the state of Ohio has yet to determine the future of the voucher program for 2020, and to request a tax increase at this time is entirely premature.  

The BOE threatens that vouchers are robbing the public system to pay for the various school alternatives. The reality is that the impact of vouchers is minimal compared to poor budgeting and overspending by the BOE. [In its] own publications, the BOE cites it has cut $750,000 from its annual budget.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 9:56 AM, 02.28.2020

CH Senior Center News

In 2017, the Cleveland Heights Senior Activity Center (SAC) introduced Communities Assisting Residential Elders (CARE)—a membership program for adults, 60 and older, intended to assist with tasks in and around their homes.

This innovative concept was formed through the collaborative efforts of the Community Partnership on Aging, and senior service agencies for the cities of Cleveland Heights, Maple Heights and Solon. As with any start up, there was much work to be done—recruiting volunteers, registering members, and creating program recognition in the communities served.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 4:33 PM, 02.27.2020

Noble Road church presents "Senior Scams" forum

Scams target people by phone, computer, mail and knocks on the door. Becoming informed is the best way to combat scams.

Noble Road Presbyterian Church has invited Danielle Musil, consumer affairs specialist from the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs, to present a community forum on “Senior Scams.”

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 3:32 PM, 02.27.2020

Gardeners invited to participate in Noble market

NGM buyers and sellers in 2019. [photo by Karen Knittle]

As backyard and community garden growers order seeds and otherwise plan their gardens this winter, Noble Gardeners’ Market (NGM) urges them to consider growing extra to sell at its market this summer.

NGM will assemble on Saturday mornings, 10 a.m. to noon, Aug. 1 through Sept. 19. The market site is a mini-park at the corner of Noble and Roanoke roads in Cleveland Heights, one block north of Monticello Boulevard. Sellers are welcome to participate on any or all of the market days, free of charge.

NGM welcomes folks who sell fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers that they grow in backyards and community gardens. Sellers do not need to be Cleveland Heights residents, but they may not be market farmers. (NGM encourages people to support local farmers at the numerous farmers' markets in the area, and in grocery stores that source locally.) They also need not commit to coming every Saturday.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 3:27 PM, 02.27.2020

Spring show opens at St. Paul's White Gallery

Softness of Color, by Sam Roth.

The White Gallery in St. Paul’s Church will open its Spring Show with an artists’ reception on Friday, Feb. 28, 5–7 p.m. The show runs through May 31, and features the work of five Cleveland-area artists. 

In her photographs, Andrea Dawson focuses on subjects from nature, and imbues her images with a sense of serenity.

Two painters, while both utilizing brushes and paints, will display very different types of finished work in the exhibition. Sam Roth will show his soft, abstract, acrylic paintings on canvas, while Emmalyn Tringali, employing oil on canvas, will bring to St. Paul’s her new series of vivid landscapes. 

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:36 AM, 02.25.2020