CH residents should support our council-manager governance structure
The Heights Observer has published news articles and opinion pieces regarding Citizens for an Elected Mayor, a local group that advocates abandoning Cleveland Heights’ existing council-manager structure in favor of a “strong mayor-council” form of government. This position is inconsistent with the recommendation of the Charter Review Commission (CRC), which voted 10-2-1 (1 abstention) against adding a strong mayor, and 11-2 to retain our council-manager structure.
The CRC was tasked by Cleveland Heights City Council to answer the question: “What is in the best interest of the residents of Cleveland Heights?”
The CRC undertook an extensive 16-month study of our charter and best governance practices for Cleveland Heights, as we look toward our future. The result was a modern, well-organized charter that residents will find easy to understand regarding how the government of Cleveland Heights best operates.
Our proposed “First Amended Charter” and supporting documents can be found on the city’s website, at www.clevelandheights.com/875/Charter-Review-Commission.
Members of the CRC are preparing a series of articles that will explain our strong support for maintaining and strengthening our council-manager structure, and demonstrate the risks inherent in changing to a less-accountable and possibly less-transparent government.
Below are some facts comparing strong mayor vs. council-manager structure, in Ohio and around our nation:
- Nearly all lists measuring business friendliness and quality of life are dominated by cities with a council-manager structure that employ an appointed, professional local government manager to serve as the community’s chief executive, rather than a popularly elected, politically focused mayor.
- Nearly two-thirds of Moody’s Aaa-bond-rated communities operate under the council-manager form.
- Council-manager cities—according to the IBM report, “Smarter, Faster, Cheaper”—are nearly 10 percent more efficient than those with strong mayor forms of government. They accomplish more and waste less with the same resources.
- The majority of All-America City Award recipients for the past five years have been council-manager governments.
- Most cities that change their form of government move away from strong mayor to a council-manager structure.
Abandoning Cleveland Heights’ current council-manager structure in favor of a strong mayor-council form of government, and centralizing all executive authority (including power of veto and political appointment) in a mayor rather than a professional administrator employed by and responsible to the entire council, will not strengthen the city’s ability to capitalize on opportunities for revitalization and development.
Instead, strengthening the policy leadership role of the city council and enhancing the power of the professional manager, as provided in our First Amended Charter, will move the city forward efficiently, without the problems we see throughout much of Cuyahoga County with partisan-focused, unaccountable governance.
Cleveland Heights needs both the leadership of an elected governing body and the proven-effective, day-to-day oversight of a professional and talented city manager. Retaining the council-manager form of government rather than switching to the mayor-council form is the best strategy for ensuring success in Cleveland Heights.
Mike Gaynier and Jack Newman
Jack Newman, a retired attorney, was chair of the CRC. Mike Gaynier, a leadership consultant, was a CRC member.