Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-18-2019
MARCH 18, 2019
- Charter Review Commission final report
- Public comments
- Street surface treatment
- Liquor permit applications
- Police cruiser purchase
- Compensation and benefits
- Board appointments
- St. Baldrick fundraiser
- Mayor’s report
Council members present were Mayor Carol Roe, Vice Mayor Melissa Yasinow, Mary Dunbar, Kahlil Seren and Jason Stein. Michael N. Ungar participated by telephone, but did not vote. The seventh seat is unoccupied. The meeting lasted from 7:36 to 10:14 p.m.
Charter Review Commission final report
John (Jack) Newman, chair of the Charter Review Commission, spent one hour and 45 minutes of the meeting summarizing the final report, which recommends changes to make the charter “good, modern, and understandable.” [The summary and final report can be found on the Charter Review Commission web page on the city’s website]
Mayor Roe praised the work of the commission, formed in 2017, recognized all 15 citizens who worked so hard, and presented certificates and gifts to all members present. She emphasized that the report, given to the council in February, is a proposal, and council must now decide what to adopt, what to send to the ballot, and any other actions. She also commended the facilitator, Professor Emeritus Larry Keller, who praised the commission as the best he has ever worked with. The report was followed by questions from council members.
Mr. Newman stated the commission examined the 98-year-old charter from the ground up with no preconceptions. He suggested considering this the “first amended charter.” Highlights of the commission’s recommendations include:
Maintain the current council/city manager form of government and strengthen the role of city manager, retitling the position Chief Executive Officer. He stated the city manager “is not a mechanic, but a leader.” He noted this was not a unanimous opinion but that it gained a significant majority of the commission.
Council structure was recommended to remain seven members elected at large. This was not a unanimous decision, but was reached after looking very carefully at other options for structuring council.
Nearly unanimously, the commission recommended removing the titles of Mayor and Vice Mayor and leaving President and Vice President of Council, titles that were already there. This would have the advantage of not inhibiting the robust leadership of the city manager/chief executive. There was some discussion during council about any perceived disadvantages this change would cause in relation to state government or bodies of mayors from around the state.
The report recommended modifying the current system for filling council vacancies by appointment to require that council fill them within 90 days of vacancy.
An entirely new ethics provision is detailed.
The report required the convening of a charter review commission every twenty years. A commission could be considered every five years.
Because of the interdependence and interrelationship of the various provisions of the amended charter, the commission suggested that its recommendations (assuming acceptance by council) be put before the voters as a single ballot issue, rather than a series of separate provisions.
Council discussed how the revised charter would be put to voters, including whether proposed charter changes should be placed on the ballot individually or as a single unit, and the possibility that a citizen initiative measure may also be on the ballot. Perhaps some issues will be postponed until the 2020 spring primary.
City council application process: James Williams, who applied for the seat, expressed gratitude for the city council vacancy application process.
Citizens for an Elected Mayor: Tony Cuda and Michael Bennett, representing Citizens for an Elected Mayor, both praised the Charter Review Commission’s admirable job and the way the process was accomplished “in the light of day,” fairly and with well-thought-out details. Mr. Cuda said the group members feel that suburbs with a full-time elected mayor are doing better. Although they agree with most of the commission’s report, he says members of his group “reached a different conclusion:” that an elected mayor would be more accountable and effective, and that giving more power to an appointed city manager would give the government more power than the voters. They want the voters to make this decision. Mr. Bennett agreed, concluding that an elected mayor would better address some of the city’s problems and challenges.
Health code concerns: Maurice Rhodes spoke about a health code issue concerning lack of hair net usage by food handlers at local stores. He had brought the issue to council several weeks ago, stating it had not been addressed, store managers had ignored him, and city staff had been rude. City Manager Briley stated she had contacted the Cuyahoga County Board of Health with his concern and that city staff advocate on behalf of residents. She explained that the city no longer has a separate health department; the county performs these functions.
Street surface treatment
Council voted to authorize the city manager to accept the only bid received for surface treating of streets. The $252,351.53 contract will go to Specialized Construction of Cuyahoga Heights.
Liquor permit applications
Applications have been made to the Ohio Department of Liquor Control by Fairmount Martini and Wine Bar, 2448 Fairmount Boulevard and patio, and Paraty Properties, 2189-2191 Lee Road and patio.
Police cruiser purchase
Council unanimously authorized purchase of three 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe cruisers and related equipment for the police department from Ganley Chevrolet of Aurora for a total cost not to exceed $98,000.
Compensation and benefits
An ordinance establishing salary schedules, position classifications, other compensation, and benefits for officers and employees received a second reading. Details may be found here. When the vote was taken, Mr. Seren voted “no,” claiming he did not have enough information. This presented a problem because collective bargaining had been concluded, and the city needed to honor its contractual obligation to begin the new schedules on April 1. In order to pass the legislation before April 1, the ordinance had to be voted on emergency, which requires five votes for passage. The vote was then reopened, Mr. Seren voted “yes,” and the measure passed 5 to 0. Ms. Yasinow expressed her distress with this series of events, especially given the long meeting and late hour.
Council approved a second compensation agreement with the Laborers’ Local 860/Laborers’ International Union of North America. Covering the time through March 31, 2022, this agreement covers specified classifications within the departments of public works and recreation.
Ten members were appointed to the new Refuse and Recycling Task Force. Two members were appointed to the Community Reinvestment Area Housing Council.
St. Baldrick fundraiser
Member Yasinow commended all participants in the St. Baldrick’s fundraising event held at the community center for the benefit of childhood cancer research.
Mayor Roe made brief comments about Women’s History Month, the joint meeting with the school board, National honor Society inductions, a performance at Oxford Elementary School, and the tragedy in New Zealand.
LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.
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