New resident advocates for leadership, not management
As a relatively new Cleveland Heights resident, I write in support of an elected mayor. My fiancee and I moved to Cleveland Heights in January 2018 after living downtown. Over the past two years, we have fallen in love with this city and its people. It certainly helps that restaurants, coffee shops, a gym, and a movie theater are all within walking distance of our house, but what resonates with us the most are the people and our community—neighbors lending a hand to clear a fallen tree; running up and down streets seeing block party after block party; and seeing standing-room-only city council meetings. At an initial meeting regarding an elected mayor, I met people from all over the city with different opinions about its successes, management, and future.
I can’t speak to the past, but I can speak to the future. While we certainly love our new city, we fear it is not keeping pace with neighboring communities, and is not positioned to keep up with the needs of our current and future citizens. I see friends and other young professionals dismissing the East Side, instead turning to the likes of Tremont and Lakewood. Even if they considered the East Side, how does Cleveland Heights distinguish itself from neighboring communities, like Shaker and University Heights, when many of us visit their community centers and dog parks? There are plenty of great restaurants, bars, and shops on Lee Road and at Cedar Fairmount, but neither area reaches the same level of “togetherness” that you see at the Van Aken District. There’s no reason we can’t have this.
I believe an elected mayor will give Cleveland Heights a better shot at reaching its full potential. This is no slight to those working under our current council-manager form of government. I believe they are doing the best they can under the current charter: the city manager reports equally to seven people who work as part-time council members. Can you imagine taking direction from and reporting to seven different part-time bosses? Under our current system, the best we can ever do is maintain the status quo. It explains why projects and issues, such as Top of the Hill and Severance Circle, have stalled or been unaddressed for protracted periods of time.
To move forward—to address the needs of current residents and attract future residents—we need leadership, not management. An elected, full-time mayor is best positioned to do this. We will get the opportunity to discuss our progress and future through non-partisan, mayoral elections every four years. Our mayor will be responsible for ensuring that we move at the pace and [in the] direction we have chosen, and will be answerable to the public on a day-to-day basis. Our elected officials will be subject to an additional form of accountability: our mayor will hold council accountable, just as council will hold our mayor accountable. This balance of power—this healthy competition—will allow our government to be more agile, responsive and forward-looking—qualities necessary for the future of our city.
Patrick Akers is a resident of Cleveland Heights.