Recapping column's first six months and moving forward
We’ve enjoyed covering a variety of subjects during the first six months of this column. Readers—even a couple who haven’t agreed with us—have been generous and kind, in person and in writing. Many thanks to you all. This month, we’ll recap topics addressed to date in this column, and close with an appeal.
June: How “public” is public education? In our debut column, we highlighted testimony by two Cleveland Heights High School seniors at the third annual Democracy Day public hearing before Cleveland Heights City Council. Emma Schubert and Elijah Snow-Rackley, members of the Heights Coalition for Public Education, presented evidence of the negative impact on CH-UH public schools of high-stakes testing, vouchers and charter schools. The Heights Coalition for Public Education continues its excellent work. Learn more about the coalition’s work, and sign its position statement at http://chuh.net/coalition/.
July: Take back the CH Building Department. Citing more-stringent state licensing requirements for building inspectors, the city of Cleveland Heights outsourced its building department last summer to SAFEbuilt, a corporation founded in Colorado that is now owned by private equity firm Riverside.
Mayor Cheryl Stephens and Council Member Carol Roe expressed interest in negotiating a regional public collaboration as an alternative to privatization. So, we were surprised when the mayor recently told us that other matters, such as the Top of the Hill project, had taken priority, and the building department “did not rise to the top of the pile.” Asked what city function(s) might be privatized next, the mayor replied that she had “no idea.”
Meanwhile, former Cleveland Heights inspectors have found new employment in Orange and Newburgh Heights, two cities that are keeping their building departments in-house. We suggest that Cleveland Heights citizens who want to see public services remain public and accountable to voters make their views known to the mayor and each council member—now.
August: Alphabet soup—uhm, uhm, not good. Though more Americans are getting the drift that TPP, TTIP and TISA are not about trade—but really about the insidious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions allowing corporations to supersede the high courts of sovereign nations—there will be a major push to get TPP through Congress during the lame-duck session. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (202-225-7032) and Senator Sherrod Brown (202-224-2315) seem to be steadfastly against TPP, but an encouraging call wouldn’t hurt. Senator Rob Portman (202-224-3353) supports the surrender of national sovereignty to corporate rule. Please call Portman and let him know what you think of that. As Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
September: Public transit: Broke and broken? On Oct. 9, the Plain Dealer reported on the idea of establishing a multi-county public transit system (http://tinyurl.com/zhov3ux). However, counties and transit systems statewide face continued service cuts when millions of dollars in sales taxes from Medicaid managed-care plans disappear on July 1, 2017.
We checked in again with Trevor Elkins, Newburgh Heights mayor and RTA board member, who said, “The regional system idea is great—but at this point, there are too many moving parts and no plans to fund it. Gov. Kasich has promised a partial solution to the Medicaid tax crunch, but we don’t know any details.” Elkins suggests that Heights residents who support a ¼-percent sales tax increase, to fund improved RTA service, contact County Council Rep. Anthony Hairston (216-698-2022) and County Executive Armond Budish (216-443-7178).
October: “We the Corporations” or “We the People?” Some passionate and articulate Americans met in Scott Wachter’s University Heights home in late October to discuss democracy, self-governance, and an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating that (1) Corporations are not people; and (2) Money is not speech. The group is considering how and when to launch a Move to Amend (MTA) campaign in University Heights. To help, contact Wachter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cleveland Heights voters passed a citizens’ initiative in 2013. Congratulations to South Euclid and Shaker Heights, where MTA ballot issues passed on Nov. 8!
November: Public Water – Yes! By now, all households in Cleveland Heights, plus several hundred in University Heights, have received clear, detailed information in the mail from Cleveland Water about the transition to direct service. If you’ve misplaced the mailing, check out www.clevelandwater.com, and click on Welcome Cleveland Heights Customers, in the lower right corner of the home page. Or, read the related article.
An appeal: We would love to hear your ideas for topics relevant to democracy in Cleveland Heights and University Heights. Please e-mail us, and include a phone number if you’d like to chat.
Carla Rautenberg and Deborah Van Kleef
Carla Rautenberg is an activist and a lifelong Cleveland Heights resident. Deborah Van Kleef is a musician and writer, who grew up in Cleveland Heights and has lived here as an adult for over 30 years. Contact them at email@example.com.