Charter Review Commission plans April 19 community meeting
The 15-member Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission (CRC) plans to pose the following three questions to participants at its upcoming community meeting:
- What type of government do you prefer for Cleveland Heights and why?
- What other elements should be added or changed to improve local government?
- What are the three most important qualities you want to see in local government?
The meeting is scheduled for April 19, 7–9:30 p.m., at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, 1 Monticello Blvd. (at Mayfield Road).
The purpose of the meeting, as stated by the commission, is to provide information about the current Cleveland Heights charter, review common models of local government, and provide an opportunity for collaborative reflection on the current form of local government in Cleveland Heights and whether changing it would improve the quality of life in the city.
At its March 15 meeting, the CRC laid out a schedule for the remainder of its work, culminating in early November with the presentation of its recommendations to CH City Council. The schedule is posted online at www.clevelandheights.com/documentcenter/view/2731.
After receiving the commission’s recommendations, city council may choose to place all, part, or none of them on the ballot for a public vote to amend the city charter.
If the public votes to amend the charter to include, for example, a popularly elected mayor, or some ward-based council members, the earliest that an election could be held for those positions, under state law, would be November 2021.
Currently, Cleveland Heights and Bedford are the only two of Cuyahoga County’s 57 municipalities that are governed by a council-manager form of government, without a popularly elected mayor.
At the March 15 meeting, CRC members expressed the tentative conclusions that each has reached based on the group’s first six meetings, and related documents and research.
The 14 commission members in attendance were split on the question of whether Cleveland Heights should amend its charter to include a popularly elected mayor. While most members said that they remain open-minded at this time, seven expressed support for retaining the current council-manager form of government, three spoke in support of changing to a government with a popularly elected mayor, and four expressed no preference at this time.
Jack Newman, commission chairperson, said that he has not seen evidence that a change in the form of government would ameliorate the challenges facing the city of Cleveland Heights. He also said that there are substantial risks and major unknowns in uprooting an existing system and replacing it with one that has not yet been tested in a particular community.
Jessica Cohen, commission member, expressed support for considering a change to a local government led by a popularly elected mayor, possibly complemented by a chief administrative officer, as is the case in Shaker Heights. She said that she believes that the city manager-led government does a good job of delivering basic services but lacks real vision and leadership for the city’s future and lacks accountability for citizens seeking to work with the government.
On the issue of adding ward-based city council members, the majority of commission members said that they need more information before coming to even a tentative conclusion.
In contrast to the views expressed by members of the CRC and CH City Council, the majority of citizens who have made comments to the commission, in writing or in person, have expressed support for changing the form of governance in Cleveland Heights.
The March 15 CRC meeting, and full discussion, can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI4vaMQbiI0&feature=youtu.be
The next meeting of the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission will take place on Thursday, March 29, 7 p.m., at Cleveland Heights City Hall.
Citizens can e-mail comments to the commission through its facilitator, Larry Keller, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information can be found on the CRC’s recently updated Web page, www.clevelandheights.com/875/charter-review-commission.
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.