Business owners Zagara and Presser speak to CH Charter Review Commission
Bud Hilf, a member of the city of Euclid’s Charter Review Commission, John Zagara, owner of Zagara’s Marketplace on Lee Road, and Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun on Coventry Road, spoke to the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission (CRC) at its March 29 meeting.
Hilf told the CRC that Euclid’s commission voted 6-3 in favor of changing that city’s current form of government, led by a popularly elected mayor, to one led by a city manager. He explained that Euclid’s city council subsequently chose not to place that charter amendment proposal on the ballot.
Regarding Euclid’s charter review process, Hilf noted that there was virtually no public input and, in his opinion, some of the council-appointed commission members seemed to be pursuing their own personal agendas. Hilf said that he voted for retaining Euclid’s current popularly elected-mayor form of government.
Zagara spoke about his role in creating and managing the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District. He described his experience with the Cleveland Heights city government as positive and productive, but said that decision-making by the city has been too slow and lacking in vision and leadership. He pointed to the security cameras and streetscape improvements on Lee Road as examples of positive developments that took too long to happen.
Zagara said that, as a local business owner, he sometimes wants to meet with the city’s chief elected official to address long-term issues facing the business and its business district. In Cleveland Heights, he has the option of meeting with seven part-time city council members or an appointed city manager. He believes that meeting with a single elected mayor who functions as the city’s chief executive would be more effective in addressing a business’s needs.
Presser echoed Zagara in saying that his work with the city as a business owner and as a leader of the Coventry Village Special Improvement District has been positive and proactive. He said, however, that he believes Cleveland Heights would be governed more effectively by the Shaker Heights model of government, with a popularly elected mayor and a chief administrative official.
With respect to the composition of Cleveland Heights City Council, Presser said that he believes the addition of some ward-based members could make council more responsive to local issues.
The next meeting of the Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission will be its first full-fledged community forum, devoted principally to taking public comments. It will take place on Thursday, April 19, 7–9:30 p.m., at the Cleveland Heights Community Center at 1 Monticello Blvd. (at Mayfield Road).
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 40 years of experience, including nine years as Cleveland's city planning director. A resident of Cleveland Heights 40-plus years, Brown serves on the board of Future Heights.