The case for an elected mayor
Cleveland Heights needs leadership that is directly accountable to the voters. That means an elected mayor. We don’t have that now. City council appoints a part-time mayor with no executive authority. The vast majority of voters we have spoken with do not think the current system is working and believe a full-time elected mayor will be more responsive to the needs of our community.
That is why Issue 26 is on the ballot. Not because a 10-member committee calling itself Citizens for an Elected Mayor thinks so. It is because 4,000 voters signed a petition saying they want to be able to vote for mayor. They talked about their dissatisfaction with Severance, taxes, garbage collection, their water and sewer bills, the Top of the Hill process, Noble Road, Taylor Road, Coventry Village, Mayfield Road, and a general lack of vision and leadership. There certainly were accolades for police and fire. But the vast majority felt that an elected mayor would give them and our city a better future. Bottom line: Cleveland Heights citizens want to vote for mayor! They don't want council choosing for them.
The people opposing our right to vote for mayor concede that voting for city council is sacrosanct. But you cannot say you trust citizens to vote for city council, but they can’t be trusted to vote for mayor. They applaud voters for somehow managing to elect apolitical, virtuous council members, but fear those same voters would probably elect a corrupt mayor if given the chance. Our supporters have found this insulting, hypocritical and elitist. As former Charter Review Commission member Jessica Cohen said in a recent Facebook post, “I am so disgusted by (the opposition’s campaign). I can't believe they have resorted to fearmongering and negative campaigning already.”
Another thing voters have told us they don’t like—our opponents accepting outside Political Action Committee money from a Washington, D.C., trade association. The International City Managers Association (ICMA) has pledged up to $25,000 in matching funds to help defeat the elected mayor campaign. But hundreds of our volunteers have responded with hundreds of small donations. Our supporters are proud to be on the side of a grassroots campaign that promotes democracy and voter participation.
Many things the opposition is saying are simply not true. One that stands out among many is Jack Newman’s assertion in last month’s Heights Observer that an elected mayor would “focus power in one individual.” The truth is, power would be shared between two elected, co-equal branches of government, with checks and balances that are currently nonexistent.
This is not a power grab. Giving all the power to the one and only branch of government is a power grab. And the voters are telling us this form of government is not working.
Our elected mayor amendment is actually very similar to the current form of government in Shaker Heights. The mayor would need city council to approve legislation and appointments, including that of the city administrator. The city administrator would have the same credentials as our current city manager and would have to be confirmed by council. In other words, daily operations would be run by a professional administrator who reports directly to the mayor. It’s called a hybrid form of government because it is the best of both worlds: a professional administrator and a directly elected mayor accountable to the voters. The citizens of Cleveland Heights will finally know where the buck stops!
Regardless of what happens on Nov. 5, it is the voters who will have the final say. Just as it should be.
Tony Cuda is a longtime CH resident and campaign manager for Citizens for an Elected Mayor.