The future of Cleveland Heights?
To the Editor:
There is something wrong in Cleveland Heights and it needs to change. I have some ideas.
When I began my group, Citizens Leadership, five months ago, the biggest complaint was the unresponsiveness of city hall and reduction in services. I thought attending council meetings would enlighten me on city hall machinations. I also wanted to learn about the decision-making process on issues that affect my existence as a resident of Cleveland Heights. My hopes were to share what I learned with my fellow residents and to offer some suggestions should I or my cohorts have any. The idyll was an informed citizenry working arm-and-arm with city hall. Silly girl!
My attempts at understanding all that I could were met with suspicion, defensiveness, or silence. That attitude, sadly, rubbed off on a few within the ranks of those who work tirelessly within the walls of city hall. Gladly, there has been some softening and responsiveness to my queries since my initial foray into enlightenment. Nevertheless, when attempts at understanding how council and the city works are rebuffed, one does have to ask "why?" Only then did I [begin to] pay more attention to city finances and how our tax money is divvied out. I also became more erudite about the law. No surprise that the defensiveness turned to anger.
My view has been that we are part of one large community: the City of Cleveland Heights. However, what I have learned is that we are not.
We are factions; factions that hold a rampant "us-against-them" view. That view pits the power elite against the citizenry, city hall against the residents, key businesses against the smaller ones, neighborhoods against neighborhoods, and groups of school supporters with differing views against each other. All see the outcomes of the decision-making process at city hall and elections as a winner-take-all scenario, which doesn’t bode well for building a strong community.
Again, silly me! I thought winners are winners, then we work together under the new order. Not here in Cleveland Heights. My hopes for change with each new council only found the winners hunkering down behind closed doors. I have hope [for] our newly elected council, but dread the inevitable: a stranglehold on decision making by the power elite and closed doors to everyone else.
I have gleaned some support among the status quo. However, that support is on the "down-low," since it appears the power elite has a stranglehold on the freedom of speech of its membership. Frustratingly, that mild support does not lead to a change for the better.
I am still naive in believing that we can work together and share information and ideas. Everyone needs to recognize that the city cannot address all the ills it faces with only its resources. All of us need to pitch in—but out in the open!
For that to happen, we need to take down the walls, share information and, most importantly, knowledge. My attendance at the city's Nov. 12 capital budget planning meeting reinforced my belief the city needs the assistance of its residents. It is struggling financially and it needs new ideas and new solutions—not the recycling of old ones that have not altered the eventual outcome.
Have an idea or suggestion and live in Cleveland Heights? I invite you to discuss your ideas on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Coventry Village Library meeting room, from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
[Hallum is the director of Citizens Leadership.]