It takes a trained professional to run University Heights? Wrong

The Charter Review Commission has had several weeks to digest the questions presented to them, such as what they think are the specific issues the city faces, and how the charter would correct them. Still, the answers are elusive.

What I do hear from some members of the commission are responses that prey on a fear -- that we need to create a charter that provides flexibility to deal with changes in the many variables that affect our lives. Which is great if you accept  vague and unspecific answers. However what’s to say the current form of government doesn’t have that capacity? 

Please, members of the commission, make an argument.

Let there be no mistake, my mind was open to hearing both sides of the argument on the structure-of-government issue. However, as time passes and information comes out of the hearings, I am skeptical that simple questions -- such as why a new form of government will be better than the current -- remain unanswerd. 

At the end of the May 5 public meeting, comments were made by a commission member that he did not know what lies ahead, and that is why he felt comfortable with the commission's proposed city administrator form of government. What? How can a substantial change be recommended without having some understanding as to what the issues driving the change are or will be? 

Others have indicated that the current economic crisis is one example of why the city needs to install a “trained professional” to manage day-to-day operations. In theory, I would be moved to agree. However, in practice, does that really alleviate the crisis?

I look westward to Cleveland Heights and hear a resounding no. Cleveland Heights has a city manager, a “trained professional,” and has fallen prey to upside-down budgets and debt levels that University Heights has avoided.

The solution does not lie in changing the city’s charter to a new form of government. The solution lies in the hands of the residents and those whom they elect to deal with the problems the city faces.

University Heights has had a federal (Mayor-Council) form of government since its inception and continues to have a constituency capable of undertaking the business of the people. Over half of the residents of this city have a bachelor of science or higher education, and those who don’t certainly have the life experiences that would make them equally qualified to represent the residents of University Heights.   

I know the answers to new challenges will not come from an individual such as a city administrator, but rather the voices of residents through their elected council members and mayor. There have been plenty of changes over the last 30 years to our world, economy, and social climate. UH’s form of government has weathered them all. Change is inevitable and should be embraced. Our members of council have the opportunity through ordinance to bring on professionals to deal with changing circumstances.

A charter amendment which establishes a city administrator will be permanent until the next charter review (7 to 15 years from November 2009, if the new language passes) and really does not provide the flexibility to adapt to change. I believe a potential for lack of accountability exists if we allow changes to the charter that would effectively provide “political cover” to members of council, as was mentioned at the hearing on May 5. Residents’ problems and concerns would be deflected to a contracted administrator, rather than the mayor or council.

Bottom line, it’s not about the system of government; it’s about the people in government. I urge all residents to attend the last of the Charter Review public hearings on June 2, 7 p.m., at the Donahue Auditorium in the Dolan Science Center at John Carroll University. Take the opportunity to speak now or forever hold your peace…. at least until Nov. 3.

Rick Adante lives in University Heights on Fenwick Road and plans to run for city council in the November 2009 election. 

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Volume 2, Issue 5, Posted 3:12 PM, 05.26.2009