Strong-mayor advocates omit details

In letters for a proposed ballot issue for a directly elected mayor, Citizens For an Elected Mayor (strong-mayor advocates) leave out important details about changes to our current form of government in Cleveland Heights.

In our current form we pay each of our democratically elected, part-time council persons a whopping $9,270 per year. Our council president earns an additional $2,570 per year to be a public face of council and to herd council members toward consensus, just like the speaker of the house for the Ohio House and the U.S. House of Representatives.

For the privilege of being council president, democratically elected by members of council, the city charter allows that person to be called the mayor. The mayor has a single vote on council, just like the other council members. We already democratically elect our ceremonial mayor.

The strong-mayor advocates, in details of the ballot measure, now propose that we add a full-time, directly elected mayor, and pay the mayor like other mayors (Beachwood’s Merle Gordon topped out at $175,000 plus perks, before being unseated). Yet this “full-time” mayor would be permitted to hold another job—mysteriously excepting Cleveland Heights-University Heights and East Cleveland schools, but not other nearby districts such as South Euclid or Shaker Heights.

The proposed ballot [issue] would also declare the strong mayor head of police and fire, as director of public safety; head of all other departments; allow the mayor to “appoint, promote, transfer, reduce or remove all officers and employees;” and [give] the mayor “judicial powers granted by the general laws of Ohio.” One can hear the deals already being cut with such a grant of powers and salary.

I like Cleveland Heights, which abounds with a diversity of opinions and a form of good government that works with that diversity. Perhaps that is the objection of the strong-mayor advocates: rather than working to form a consensus from the diversity of opinions that our current form of government requires, they want to have to influence only one person to roll over any opposition. What is missing from their argument is the programs or initiatives needed to change Cleveland Heights in their minds, which would require such a dramatic concentration of power in one person. The strong-mayor advocates also fail to mention other cities with strong mayors that have suffered from problems of corruption, self-dealing, and failure to serve their respective citizens.

Your vote will matter. It is not unreasonable to expect that, along with a highly paid position heading all city functions and hiring/firing whomever the mayor wants, nepotism, wasted public dollars, and corruption will be waiting in the wings.

The Charter Review Commission of 15 citizens went through a 16-month process, studied this proposed change, and concluded that our form of government by a city council and a part-time ceremonial mayor should continue.

You may be inclined to approve the measure, run for mayor, get paid big bucks, hire your friends and family on the public dime, and crush any opposition. However, you had better build that election fund because a lot of others will want in on the opportunity.

Please vote no to this change in Cleveland Heights government. Send a message: We like our city built on consensus through an elected council, not by concentrating power in a single person.

Robert Jefferis

Robert Jefferis is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights who cares about Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 12, Issue 8, Posted 11:23 AM, 08.01.2019