Where is the evidence that a strong-mayor system would be better for CH?
In the nearly two years since a group promoting a strong mayor emerged, its members have poured out thousands of words. But they still have not demonstrated (as opposed to merely claimed) that the daily lives of Cleveland Heights residents would have been, or will be in the future, safer, more prosperous, or otherwise better if only the city were run by a political executive and appointed underlings. This failure is not surprising. There is no meaningful foundation for any such conclusion. The evidence points strongly in the other direction.
Consider several developments in our city in recent years under our city council and professional executive, all reflecting a sharp upswing:
- A comprehensive, multi-year master plan that addresses, with specificity, housing, economic development, infrastructure, sustainability, and much more. Execution on the master plan is well underway, with quarterly updates to council.
- A 37-percent increase in single-family home sale prices since 2014, (in the top third of cities in the county) and continuing as one of the top cities in the county for the first half of 2019.
- Advanced-stage development at Top of the Hill, following multiple phases of planning and public input.
- Developer selected for a much-expanded, mixed-use project at Cedar/Lee/Meadowbrook.
- Designation of the city as a Community Reinvestment Area with accompanying tax abatement, on a basis that can accommodate the particular needs of the Noble neighborhood.
- A formal, outside-funded planning study of the Noble Road Corridor, and early county funding for repaving of Noble Road.
- Development of the College Club property into residential units.
- Ongoing process to acquire the Taylor-Tudor buildings for redevelopment, to revitalize the area from Cedar to Superior.
- Designation as a Certified Local Government, facilitating investor applications for historic tax credits on redevelopment projects.
- A completed feasibility study targeting redevelopment of the Severance property (75-percent outside-funded), followed by a request for proposals on redevelopment.
- A self-funding foreclosure bond program that requires financial institutions to post a substantial bond to pay for potential code violations.
- Partnership with FutureHeights in a Community Development Corporation to deal with blighted homes.
- A GSI mapping technology project through the National Resource Network and New York University to help the Police and Housing departments respond to nuisance properties.
- A stabilized bond rating, reflecting much-improved financial circumstances that have allowed increased budget allocations, and a five-year capital plan.
- A Complete/Green Streets program developed and proceeding on many fronts, ranked number one in the nation, to optimize roadways for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, disabled people and people of all ages, as well as motorists.
Running a city is hard labor, calling for vision (as in the master plan), diligent planning, and faithful execution day-to-day and over extended periods. Speculative assertions about a prospective nirvana following a jettisoning of the current professional government in favor of a powerful political mayor should carry no weight—particularly when considered against the hard evidence of substantial progress our city government has been making for the well-being of our citizens and the big risks and major unknowns a new government structure would bring.
No city is without its needs and issues. After all, that’s why we have government in the first place. Our council/manager system continues to serve us well in systematically tackling what lies before us. The effort to discard that system is unwise, destabilizing, and a thorough disservice to the citizens of Cleveland Heights. It should be rejected.
Jack Newman, a retired lawyer, is the former chair of the Charter Review Commission, and is co-chair of Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government.