Keep Cleveland Heights cooperative

If you ask folks what they like about Cleveland Heights, they almost always mention “the people.” We are a diverse, open, welcoming community.

At the core of that positive attitude is our form of government. About 100 years ago, the city chose to adopt a progressive, new form of government that was designed to prevent corruption and foster cooperation. It’s no coincidence its goodwill has spread throughout our community, like the trees that line our streets. That’s Cleveland Heights.

Our current council-manager form of government requires at least four members of our seven-person city council to agree with an idea before it moves forward to a professional city manager they control. The proposed “strong mayor” would set the city’s agenda on his or her own, and have sole power over the city administrator who implements it. Centralized power is not progressive. That’s not Cleveland Heights.

Former council member (1982–93) Lenny Horowitz said it best: “Sometimes people might look at city council and say, how come it’s seven-to-nothing? So often, it’s not because everybody thinks the same way. It’s because everybody had their input, and we worked to make things work.” That’s Cleveland Heights.

The strong-mayor system is based on conflict, not compromise. It’s winner-take-all. It’s more prone to extremes. It’s a single, full-time, highly paid professional politician with a lot of power. That’s not Cleveland Heights.

We all get frustrated at the pace of government. That’s understandable. We want quick decisions (as long as they go the way we want). The Top of the Hill project has had almost 40 public meetings. Yet I still read about, and talk to people, who say they haven’t been heard. Let’s talk some more. That’s Cleveland Heights.

Our current form of government has a bit of a PR problem. We Americans like the hero-goat. One person in charge to praise or blame, even though we know that’s not really true. The CEO is not solely responsible for the success or failure of her company, and the president doesn’t run the economy by himself. The strong mayor gives you that simplistic, but emotionally satisfying, fake solution to a complex problem. That’s not Cleveland Heights.

Going to a mayor now is a step backward. Cleveland Heights was ahead of the curve. The form of government we chose long ago is now the most popular in the United States, and continues to grow. That's Cleveland Heights.

We wouldn’t let anyone run a highway through here or tear down historic buildings for a strip mall because we knew it was destruction disguised as “progress.” Now we must stand together to stop Issue 26 before it rips the heart out of our culture of collaboration and compromise. Vote no on 26. Protect Cleveland Heights.

Fred D'Ambrosi

Fred D'Ambrosi has been an award-winning journalist for 40 years, mostly as a TV news director in Cleveland, D.C., San Diego and Milwaukee. He's enjoyed living in Cleveland Heights since 2015. He's volunteer communications director for Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 6:31 PM, 10.30.2019