University Heights City Council – meeting highlights
All council members were present.
Appointment of Nancy E. English
Due to illness, Nancy E. English was unable to attend last week’s meeting where council members were sworn in. Council voted to reappoint English as clerk of council and she was sworn in.
Safety director’s position
This meeting was held specifically for the purpose of discussing the tradition of the mayor serving also as safety director. The mayor receives a salary of $33,750 per year, and the safety director receives a salary of $36,750.
Councilman Frank Consolo asked for the discussion to take place in executive session because it was a personnel matter, but Mayor Susan Infeld requested a public discussion in light of Councilman Steven Bullock’s request for greater transparency, and out of respect for the residents who were in attendance. Acting Law Director Dennis A. Nevar stated that according to the city’s ordinances, if the employee in question requests a public discussion then the discussion must be public.
Bullock wondered if the safety director’s duties could be assigned elsewhere, including perhaps to the mayor. He also stated that the mayor should be paid a “fair” salary for the position of mayor instead of having to combine two jobs.
Consolo questioned the ethics of the mayor appointing herself to a paid position, even if it required council approval. Nevar said there were no rulings by the Ohio Ethics Commission on this issue, but he would present the question to the commission and ask for a ruling.
After researching the practices of neighboring cities, Vice Mayor Frankie Goldberg found, that combining the two positions was common. However, she questioned any mayor’s qualifications to be safety director and thought it more logical to appoint her as development director or city planner.
Councilmen Steven Sims, Kevin Patrick Murphy and Phil Ertel expressed concern about the city’s budget, which has not yet been finalized for 2010, and that the decision should be examined as part of the budget discussion.
Mayor Infeld explained that according to the charter, the safety director oversees the police, fire and building departments, and serves as the civilian authority. The safety director hears grievances of residents and seeks resolution to those grievances. Council should determine the compensation based on the value of these positions.
Nevar explained that according to the charter, if a safety director were not appointed, the mayor would then serve as safety director. Also, by an ordinance passed last October the mayor’s pay was set for the next four years and according to Ohio law it cannot be changed during this mayor’s term. Finance Director Anthony Ianiro noted that the salary of the safety director was also set by ordinance and would remain as is until changed by another ordinance.
League of Women’s Voters observer Wendy Deuring asked if the position of safety director was legally required. Nevar responded that it was required because the city’s charter establishes the department of safety and thereby a director. [Outside of the meeting, the LWV observer ascertained that the Ohio Revised Code requires cities to have safety directors: 705.83 “Director of public safety – duties.”]
Steven Bennett, former councilman and mayoral candidate, noted that the value of the mayor’s dual role would become apparent when union contracts have to be negotiated. The safety director/mayor represents the fiscal interests of the city.
LWV observer: Wendy Deuring.JANUARY 19, 2010
Leon Bibb, MLK commemoration
Invited guest, Leon Bibb of Channel 5 spoke of Martin Luther King’s civil rights activities, including a description of an interview he had had with Dr. King. He closed his presentation by reading a poem he’d written.
Sarah Wilder of Meadowbrook Road asked that the city come to the aid of Haiti. She suggested that council organize an intergenerational committee composed of city employees, John Carroll faculty, schools, and families. She said that Councilman Steven Bullock, with his experience as director of the Cleveland Red Cross, had the experience to advise how to proceed.
Councilman Bullock cautioned that the biggest challenge for relief agencies was managing people’s generosity and the flood of donated items; therefore, he felt the best way to help was to send money to known agencies. Council decided Dr. Wilder would chair the committee and Councilman Bullock would work with her.
Mayor Infeld pointed out that people could text money using their cell phones: e.g. Haiti 20222. The phone company would send the donation to its designated organization and charge the donation on the donor’s bill. The mayor said the city could do an e-mail blast requesting donations.
Burt Siebert of Whiton Road objected to council’s plans to appoint the mayor as safety director. He reasoned a city of 1.9 square miles didn’t need one. To save money, he suggested the city get rid of the bombardiers (the small vehicles used to plow the sidewalks), and also reduce the size of council.
Local area news
Mayor Infeld suggested that citizens go to the Web site, www.events.ohio.com to discover what is happening in the area. One such event provides free H1N1 vaccine on Sunday, Jan. 31 at the Cleveland Heights Recreation Center (Monticello Boulevard at Mayfield).
Honoring Dr. Sarah Wilder
Council presented a special resolution honoring Dr. Sarah Wilder, retired Cuyahoga Community College professor, for her recent recognition as Outstanding Senior Volunteer by Medical Mutual of Ohio. Former Mayor Beryl Rothschild and Community Coordinator Walter Stinson nominated Dr. Wilder for this honor.
Appointment of safety director
Vice Mayor Frankie Goldberg nominated Mayor Infeld to be the city’s safety director. The vote was six in favor with Councilman Frank Consolo casting a “no” vote. Vice Mayor Goldberg swore in Mayor Infeld as safety director.
David Akers and Ebie Holst of Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office (NEO/SO) presented the Exception Report. The report focused on three areas – sources of easily accessible savings, sustainability and options for dramatic change. They recommended out-sourcing certain functions such as payroll to allow employees more time to do value-added work, and increasing collaboration with neighboring communities to reduce costs. The jail and trash pickup were mentioned as opportunities for collaboration.
Hard copies of the report were distributed to citizens and council members. Council’s initial reaction was generally positive. Due to the length of the presentation, council decided to delay questions for a future meeting with the presenters. Information regarding the meeting will be on the city’s website, in the Sun Press, and other venues.
LWV Observers: Carol Gibson and Wendy Deuring.FEBRUARY 1, 2010
Oakwood Country Club
University Heights resident Amy Roth invited residents to attend a meeting to explore the future of the Oakwood Country Club’s property, which is up for sale. The host, Severance Neighborhood Organization, would like to find a way for a governmental entity to take over the property and preserve it as a public park. The meeting will take place at the Cleveland Heights Community Center on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. More information is available at www.HeightsSNO.org or by calling Fran Mentch at 216.381.5356.
Natalie Wester, Ohio Teacher of the Year
Council unanimously passed a resolution honoring Natalie Wester for being selected Ohio Teacher of the Year for 2010. Wester teaches third grade at Gearity Elementary School. The resolution stated that Wester helped students find “excellence within themselves.” She will be an ambassador for education as she travels the state speaking and meeting with educators and students.
Belvoir Boulevard Nine Mile Creek
Council unanimously authorized collaboration with the City of South Euclid on the Belvoir Boulevard Nine Mile Creek Green Street Project. Service Director Chris Vild explained that all waters in University Heights flow into other jurisdictions. One such jurisdiction is South Euclid, which is developing storm water management systems. They are asking University Heights’ help in writing a grant to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Surface Water Improvement Fund (SWIF) for $300,000. Councilman Phillip Ertel stated that when two cities cooperate on a grant, it’s more likely to be awarded.
Service Director Vild said there would be two bio-detention centers on Belvoir in South Euclid. One will be at Cedar Road and one at Mayfield Road. Additionally, University Heights would house one at the Belvoir and Silsby intersection. Vild described them as depressed areas covered with native plantings.
Updating city maps
Community Coordinator Walter Stinson reminded council that the city had to update the city maps in preparation for the national census. He reported that U.S. Census representatives would be at Wiley Middle School on Sunday, Feb. 14, to explain the census process to residents.
Mayor Infeld said council would hold a public meeting to discuss the exception/efficiency report on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. She apologized that the meeting would conflict with Superintendent Heuer’s State of the Schools address. Councilwoman Susan Pardee reminded people that they could see the superintendent’s address on cable channel 22. [Later notification indicated that the Exception Report meeting was canceled and would be scheduled later]
Goals for the building department
Vice Mayor Frankie Goldberg reported that she will hold a meeting on Feb. 29 to outline goals for the building department.
LWV observer: Carol Gibson.
This is an expanded version of the report published in the printed Heights Observer.
These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Charlene Morse, Marilyn McLaughlin and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase.
These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters Cuyahoga Area. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.