Get all the facts before you decide
As the Committee for an Elected Mayor (CEM) steps up its campaign for passage of its charter initiative, I urge everyone to look closely at what [supporters] have written and what they are saying. I have attended CEM public meetings and have read the complete text of the proposed charter amendment on CEM’s website. To put it in the kindest way possible, I have found many inconsistencies.
During public meetings, members of CEM claimed that Cleveland Heights needs a full-time, directly elected mayor to be fully focused on the needs of the city. But CEM’s proposal specifically permits outside employment for the mayor. CEM members also said the mayor should be at city hall full time to be available to respond immediately to resident requests, and also spend 80 percent of his/her time on economic development.
Currently, the city manager hires and evaluates city employees. The city manager, in turn, is accountable to city council. A mayor’s hiring and firing decisions will not be subject to council oversight. That’s way too much power to entrust to one person in Cleveland Heights. It opens the door to city departments being led by the politically connected, rather than professionally qualified administrators. The risk is that a strong mayor may be more beholden to his or her donors than to residents. Political power and campaign contributions may well trump our interests. We will have only one opportunity every four years to replace a mayor. Today we can replace half our council every two years.
Not mentioned by CEM: a strong mayor, unlike city council, is not subject to state public meetings laws. This invites secrecy, which does not foster confidence in our city government.
Top of the Hill (a major component of CH’s master plan development objectives) has [been the subject of] dozens of public meetings with countless hours of resident comment, much of which improved the plan. Ironically, many of the folks who are disappointed about some aspect of Top of the Hill are fooling themselves thinking a strong mayor would be more accountable to their wishes. They don’t realize that strong mayor-favored development projects could be sped to completion with far less input than residents have had on Top of the Hill under our current council-manager structure. Again, this is way too much power to entrust to one person in Cleveland Heights.
Not mentioned in CEM’s online summary is that, if passed, the proposal will add judicial powers to the mayor’s office. Does the CEM want a Mayor’s Court in Cleveland Heights as well as our existing municipal court? Or, is CEM’s hope to replace the municipal court and its elected judge, giving the mayor even more power?
Again, I urge everyone to look at ALL the facts and consider ALL the implications before making a decision. I believe we are more likely to thrive as a community with accountable, professional administration led by a democratically elected council.
Don McBride has lived in Cleveland Heights for close to 40 years, and in the Noble neighborhood for 35 of them. He is a member of the Noble Corridor Planning Project Steering Committee.