Issue 26 seen as a recall vote
Though it hasn’t been presented as such, the November ballot Issue 26, regarding the future of city government in Cleveland Heights, is a recall vote on the performance of City Manager Tanisha Briley. If the proposed switch to a mayor-council form of government is approved by voters, the deposed city manager would be expected to continue in her role until the mayor arrives in January 2022. Of course, Briley could not be required to stay on as a lame-duck city manager.
If citizens are unhappy with Briley’s performance as city manager, they should address that, rather than propose a structural change in the city’s form of government—a change that will be time-consuming, expensive, and completely unproven in terms of how well it would work. Voters should keep in mind that our neighbor to the north, East Cleveland, made the change we are now considering in the mid-1980s, and it did not prove to be a panacea.
Cleveland Heights faces many challenges, but there are few communities that don’t. As a Noble-area resident and homeowner, I lived in the midst of the devastating effects the foreclosure crisis and recession had on Cleveland Heights and most other cities in Cuyahoga County. It was a difficult time for the city, especially its northern neighborhoods, and I was not always pleased with the city’s handling of the situation, but we are moving in the right direction.
Briley has done an excellent job of stabilizing the city’s finances in the wake of the recession and the state’s draconian cuts in aid to local governments, and she has revived projects—Top of the Hill and Lee-Meadowbrook, to name two—that had been languishing. While she may not have the figurehead-style presence of some other area city managers—Dave Ruller in Kent or Eric Wobser in Sandusky, for example—she is undeniably competent and hardworking. Most important, when she makes occasional missteps, she is quick to correct them and change course.
The city’s assets, as well as its problems, should be considered in deciding whether we need a structural change that will require a transition period of more than two years. Most of what Cleveland Heights offers we take for granted: its commercial districts, parks, schools and libraries, theaters, nonprofits, stores, restaurants, and a diverse and interesting array of long- and short-term residents. I would also argue that Cleveland Heights’ design standards surpass those of its neighbors and that planning done throughout the city’s history has positioned it to face many of its current challenges.
Voters should educate themselves on the council-manager and mayor-council forms of government. The council-manager form is the most common in the U.S. Research shows it is more efficient and less likely to face corruption. I see no reason for Cleveland Heights to change from the form of government that has served it well for nearly 99 years. Vote no on Issue 26.
Vince Reddy is a former FutureHeights board member and a 23-year resident of Cleveland Heights. He recently served on the city's Charter Review Commission and was the city's zoning administrator from 1996 to 2005.