CH Council members see no need to change form of government
Four members of Cleveland Heights City Council, who spoke at Jan. 18 and Feb. 1 meetings of the city’s Charter Review Commission (CRC), all share the opinion that the city’s current council-manager form of government is working well, and there is no need to change the city charter to allow for a popularly elected mayor.
At each of the two meetings, CRC members interviewed two of the four council members—Mary Dunbar, Carol Roe, Mike Ungar and Melissa Yasinow—for 45 minutes. The Feb. 1 meeting was, in effect, a continuation of the Jan. 18 meeting. Council members Roe and Ungar were interviewed at the first meeting, and Dunbar and Yasinow were interviewed at the second. Prior to the meetings, each of those council members responded in writing to a questionnaire distributed by the commission. As of the Feb. 1 meeting, council members Cheryl Stephens, Kahlil Seren and Jason Stein had not returned the questionnaire.
CRC members asked the CH council members if they believe that a popularly elected mayor would be able to lead Cleveland Heights more boldly, more decisively, or with greater vision than the current system of a seven-member council and its appointed city manager.
The council members each responded by saying that the current council-manager government will start performing more effectively under council’s new leadership, and that this leadership will enable the city manager to operate as a stronger leader and an advocate for the city.
With respect to the composition of CH City Council, the four council members also agreed that the current structure, in which all seven members are elected at large (citywide), is preferable to a system in which some council members are elected by ward or district. They expressed concern that ward-based council members would operate too parochially, as opposed to acting in consideration of the citywide good.
Looking ahead to future meetings, commission members agreed that it would be helpful to hear from governmental representatives from nearby cities, including Shaker Heights, Lakewood, Euclid and Mentor. Each of those cities, with the exception of Mentor, is led by a popularly elected mayor. Mentor has a council-manager form of government, similar to that of Cleveland Heights.
Seven local citizens attended the Feb. 1 CRC meeting as observers. Three of them, who spoke during the public comment period, urged the commission to consider the merits of changing the form of government to one that includes a popularly elected mayor, whom they believe could move the city ahead more decisively.
The next meeting of the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission will take place on Thursday, Feb. 15, 7–9 p.m., at Cleveland Heights City Hall. All meetings are open to the public. Citizen comments can also be e-mailed to the commission through its facilitator, Larry Keller, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Brown is a city planner with more than 40 years of experience, including nine years as Cleveland's city planning director. A resident of Cleveland Heights for 40-plus years, Brown serves on the board of FutureHeights.