10 Septembers: looking back on a decade of the Heights Observer
September means the start of the school year, but in the Heights it’s also the start of theater seasons, and many arts and cultural programs, as families return from vacation and settle back in to community life.
It’s also when the political season starts in earnest, especially every two years when candidates for city council and school board—and local issues—appear on the ballot. In September 2008, University Heights was in the midst of a debate on whether or not it needed a Charter Review Commission. Several UH City Council members were interested in investigating changing the charter to a city manager system, or at least a city administrator system, and had decided that a charter review process would be the way to accomplish this. Then-UH Mayor Beryl Rothschild vetoed a charter review process. Several UH citizens used the Observer to express their concerns about the process.
Observer intern Kaitlin Bushinski’s article “UH charter reform will top election news, so what’s at the heart of the issue” headlined the September 2009 issue. UH residents were about to elect their first new mayor in 32 years, and on the ballot was an initiative to change the charter to hire a city administrator at a cost of $100,000 per year. Rothschild stated her opposition in the article, saying that such a system would replace the city’s top manager—the directly elected mayor—with an administrator who is appointed by council and, therefore, a step removed from the electorate. Councilman Kevin Patrick Murphy argued in favor, citing better distribution of power, efficiency and the benefit of having a trained professional managing the day-to-day workings of the city. The charter change was soundly defeated in the November election.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland Heights, the effects of the recession were becoming evident as another article discussed “battling the foreclosure burden” and Heights Community Congress (HCC) suspended its annual home and garden tour “due to increased costs and lower-than-expected revenues.”
HCC was able to resume its popular tour in September 2010, but the effects of the recession continued to be felt in Cleveland Heights when The Music Settlement’s plans to purchase the vacant Coventry School building fell through.
In September 2011, Cleveland Heights was showing its optimism and community pride as it announced “another new historic district” and passed a revision to its zoning code, enabling the adaptive reuse of institutional buildings in neighborhoods. FutureHeights and the League of Women Voters announced a partnership to co-host a candidates’ forum, and CH City Council members “listed qualities they seek in new candidates.”
September 2012 showed more signs of recovery. “New sign marks Cedar Fairmount as a unique destination” was the top story, detailing the capstone of a multi-year effort to raise funds to create a sense of place through branded signage. CH City Council also announced a three-way agreement with the school district and Jewish day school Mosdos Ohr Hatorah to lease the Millikin School property, a deal which eventually fell through.
In September 2013, HCC’s home and garden tour again headlined the issue. News of change was in the air as then-Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley announced that he would not seek reelection after 20 years of service, and the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District announced its streetscape plans. Heights Music Hop, the FutureHeights-sponsored free music festival, made its debut in 2013. The event took place on Friday, Oct. 18, in six venues in the Cedar Lee Business District.
September 2014 carried news that Motorcars would repurpose the former Pontiac dealership building on Mayfield Road, making it the home of Motorcars Mobility, a van-conversion business and, eventually, a drive-through donut shop.
In September 2015, the community cheered as the school district demolished the 1960s-era science wing that had long hidden Heights High's original building façade—a clear sign that facilities renovations were underway. Longtime CH Council Member Dennis Wilcox announced that he would not seek reelection, while only three UH candidates had filed petitions to fill the four available seats on the November ballot.
By September 2016, Heights Music Hop had grown into a two-day, two-district festival. HCC celebrated “a century of Heights homes” with its annual tour, and Tavern Company’s Chris Armington purchased his mentor’s Brennan’s Colony and moved his business there.
September 2017 brought the 40th anniversary of HCC’s tour, and a Heights Music Hop that had expanded again to three days and three districts. To celebrate the reopening of the high school after its two-year renovation, the school district and alumni foundation transformed the traditional football homecoming game to a communitywide celebration.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer. To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Heights Observer, we are taking a look back at stories that appeared in these pages from 2008 through 2017.