Charter Review Commission surveys city council and staff
Following its second meeting, held on Jan. 4, the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission sent a list of four questions to city council members, the city manager, city department directors and chairpersons of its boards and commissions.
The 15-member citizen commission prepared the questions as a way to learn about needed changes to the city charter from the perspective of the city’s elected officials and top administrators.
The questions were:
- What parts of the Charter should be considered by the Commission, without necessarily implying that you believe a change should or should not be made?
- For each part identified in Question 1, explain briefly, (a) why the item should be considered and if you think a change may be warranted, then (b) what the change should be and why.
- Identify any change or changes you have observed in the facts and circumstances of the city (other than personnel changes in the City Council or City Administration) in the five (5) years since the on-cycle determination by Council in 2012 that no charter review was warranted. Note the changes that warrant this off-cycle review, and how any such changes relate to what you noted in Questions 1 and 2 above.
- What parts of the current structure of the City government are: (a) serving the City well; (b) not serving the City well?
After reviewing responses, the commission will continue to seek input from citizens as well as from representatives of other local suburban governments.
Commission members agreed that the most critical elements of the charter for their review are those that identify the way the mayor and council members are elected and the role of the city manager or other chief administrator.
Currently, Cleveland Heights is one of only two municipalities in Cuyahoga County that does not elect its mayor by a vote of the public. With respect to the city council in Cleveland Heights, all of its members are elected citywide (“at-large”), whereas many other suburbs elect some of their council members by district or ward.
Commission members disagreed on the appropriate timing of its work and the frequency of its meetings. After Mike Ungar, CH City Council member, explained that council has given the commission discretion on these matters, some members said that the commission should take whatever time it needs to give all matters thorough consideration.
Commission member Carla Rautenberg stated that the commission has a responsibility to the citizens of Cleveland Heights to complete its work in time for city council to place recommended charter amendments on the November 2018 ballot. This would allow citizens to elect a mayor and/or council members by district in November 2019, if the charter is amended to permit this.
If city charter amendments are not prepared in time for the November 2018 ballot, the first elections under that charter would not be possible until November 2021.
At the end of the Jan. 4 meeting, five citizens gave comments to the commission. All thanked the members for their thorough consideration of the issues. Most urged the members to act promptly and to give serious consideration to giving citizens the right to elect the city’s mayor.
The next meeting of the Charter Review Commission is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m., at Cleveland Heights City Hall.
All meetings are open to the public and each will include time for public comment.
The commission’s meetings and agendas will be posted on the city’s website, www.clevelandheights. All meetings will be recorded and broadcast on the city’s cable channel, Channel 20, and on the city’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/user/clevelandheightsoh.
Robert Brown is a city planner with 40 years of experience, including nine years as Cleveland's city planning director. A resident of Cleveland Heights for more than 40 years, Brown joined the board of FutureHeights in 2017.