Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 7-15-2013

JULY 15, 2013

Council Member Jason S. Stein was absent.


A public tax budget hearing, lasting about ten minutes, took place before the regular meeting. Cheryl Stephens, finance committee chair, stated that the proposed 2014 budget contains just over $42 million in revenue and just under $42 million in expenses.

Two residents spoke. Diane Hallum claimed that citizens had not been able to review and participate before council acted on the budget. Stephens responded that there is no formal process for public involvement. However, citizens can attend Monday evening work sessions of council and obtain details from city staff. Susanna Niermann O’Neil, acting city manager, and Thomas Raguz, director of finance, clarified that all council meetings are posted on the city’s website and in the Sun Press and that the budget is handled by the finance committee when it reports to the committee of the whole.

Another resident [whose name was inaudible to the observer], wanted to know when he might expect a response to his written objection to the recent assessment for street lighting and paving. Raguz said he could expect a letter in early August.


Citizen communications 

Move to Amend: Resident Sally Hanley, speaking on behalf of Move to Amend, reported that sixty petitioners had accumulated enough valid signatures to place Move to Amend on the November ballot so that the will of the people of Cleveland Heights can be sent to Congress. Hanley was unsure, when asked, if the group had approached the Ohio Congressional delegation. Council Member Bonnie Caplan urged the group to contact representatives and senators as well, and expressed her admiration for the numbers of signatures collected. Resident Carla Rautenberg, also with Move to Amend, said the organization has reached out to Congress and that precise wording of the petition has been introduced in Congress. However, grassroots organizing is taking place because Congress has not responded. Rautenberg gave council and staff bookmarks with the constitutional amendment wording. Council Member Mary Dunbar thanked the representatives of Move to Amend for coming to speak to council at her suggestion.

City council candidate: Melissa Yasinow of Cedar Road introduced herself as a candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council in November.

Tax abatements and vacant homes: Resident Diane Hallum, representing a group of citizens that began meeting on July 8 out of concern over tax abatements and vacant homes, said the group feels that increasing tax assessments due to improvements punishes people who work on their property and wondered if private citizens could be rewarded with tax abatements. She also expressed the group’s frustration over the number of vacant homes in the neighborhood and the perception that nothing is being done to address this.

Public works bids

The city awarded a bid to Keron Asphalt and Paving Company to pave the city hall parking lot. Council granted the city manager authority to advertise for bids for the Lacona Road water line project.

Move to Amend

The clerk of council certified receipt of the Move to Amend initiative petition containing 3,093 signatures and instructing the city to call on the U.S. Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to declare that only human beings, not corporations, are persons and that money is not speech. A public hearing on this matter will be held annually in January until the amendment is passed and ratified.

Recreation rates

Use regulations, admission rates, and services for the Cleveland Heights Community Center and parks for the 2013–14 fall/winter season was presented on first reading. There are few changes from the previous year.

Bond notes

Council passed necessary legislation for issuing bonds to provide funds for the following purposes:

  • Acquiring computer hardware and related equipment - $15,000
  • Acquiring motorized equipment and related appurtenances - $690,000
  • Improving the city’s water system by constructing and installing water lines and related equipment and improvements - $185,000
  • Reconstructing, resurfacing and improving city streets; rebuilding Monticello Boulevard and Taylor Road; acquiring motorized equipment; and acquiring computer hardware - $1,488,000

The new bond notes would replace and extend the maturity dates of current outstanding notes for the purposes given.

2014 Tax Budget

Council adopted the 2014 Tax Budget. Council Member Dennis Wilcox said this is the first step for the 2014 budget, which will be revisited at the end of 2013. He stated that this is one of council’s biggest challenges, especially without an increase in the city income tax and with revenue cuts from federal and state taxes. He commented that the state government should send thank-you notes to the cities for these cuts that enabled a balanced state budget. Cleveland Heights’s revenue was cut $2.5 million.

Cedar Lee SID

Council declared the necessity of implementing a five-year public-services plan for the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District (SID) to fund beautification, marketing and security. Property owners in the SID assess themselves to cover these plans.

CDBG funds and street surfacing

The city was conservative in estimating the expected Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, resulting in a $90,000 surplus, which will be allocated to the Low- and Moderate-Income Street Resurfacing program. 

Equipment and vehicle purchases

Council authorized two purchases for the streets division to be made through the Ohio Department of Administrative Services Cooperative Purchasing Program. These are a dump body snow and ice control equipment package from Concord Road Equipment Manufacturing Inc. for $68,410, and a 2014 International Cab and Chassis from Rush Truck Centers for $81,621.

Nuisance properties

Council declared two properties to be nuisances. Razing and cleanup will cost $15,500 for each house:

  • 3404 Altamont Ave., owned by Yosef and Benjamin Zigdon, has been cited for numerous violations over the past six years.
  • 3411 Altamont Ave., owned by George and Minnie Williams, has been cited for numerous violations over the past two and a half years.

Youth Advisory Commission Fund

Council established a restricted fund, entitled the Youth Advisory Commission Fund, and authorized the department of community services to accept monetary donations to this fund. The fund will support the Youth Advisory Commission, which was established to advise council on youth activities, programming and other issues affecting youth.

New city manager

Council appointed Tanisha R. Briley as city manager effective Aug. 1, and authorized an employment agreement with her.

Council members praised and thanked Susanna Niermann O’Neil for doing a fantastic job as acting city manager and for the level of staff morale under her leadership. Law Director John Gibbon, speaking on behalf of city staff, expressed how grateful they were for O’Neil’s leadership for the past sixteen months.

Noting that hiring the city manager is council’s most important job, Council Member Dennis Wilcox stated that Briley is articulate, thoughtful and knowledgeable. Mayor Edward Kelley thanked the Novak Group for their help in the search process and noted that Briley knows the area, having been educated locally at Collinwood High School, The Ohio State University and Cleveland State University.

LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse, and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an -email to 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.

Read More on Cleveland Heights
Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 11:14 AM, 08.14.2013