Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 5-4-2020

MAY 4, 2020


  • Public comments
  • City manager’s report
  • Actions – assessments and CDBG
  • Consent agenda
  • Council member comments


Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar. Staff present were City Manager Tanisha Briley, Clerk of Council Susanna O’Neil, and Law Director William Hanna. The virtual meeting was viewed on YouTube, and lasted one hour and twenty minutes.

Public comment

City Manager Briley read letters from the community into the public record:

Diana Woodbridge, representing the Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) Cleveland Heights Housing Task Force, wrote expressing concerns about a postponed Housing Department Reorganization Report. Her February 3 letter to council (not read into public comments) stated that the report had been delayed three times since October 2019. She asked what the process would be once the report is completed, and if council would be involved in any decision making? Ms. Woodbridge also questioned why housing is no longer a standing committee despite council prioritizing the issue. She expressed concern that the foreclosure bond legislation is not enforceable as it includes no penalties should a lending institution choose not to pay its bond. She asked when it would be amended, as promised since October 2019.

A resident wrote also expressing concern that the report, originally requested in October, on reorganizing the Housing Department has been postponed three times. The resident also expressed concern about lack of penalties in the Foreclosure Bond legislation. 

Another resident wrote expressing concern that Cleveland Heights has laid off so many people and yet continues to buy dinners for council before their meetings. She urged that council members pay for their own meals.

City manager’s report

City Manager Briley’s report is available to the public on pages 2-9 of the council meeting packet on the city’s website: Government/2020 Agendas and Minutes

Ms. Briley thanked the staff for adapting quickly and delivering services despite reduced capacity during the COVID-19 crisis. Staff will be home at least until May 31 and opening will occur in phases. Face coverings are required at all times, except when staff are working alone. State guidelines will be applied. She discussed cleaning protocols, safety, and supplies. The city has adequate personal protective equipment for first responders. There have been donations, and the city will participate in the Battelle Memorial Institute program to clean masks for reuse. 

She announced that the eighteen applicant interviews for the open city council position are now on the city’s website [accessible from the home page]. She praised Steve Barker and Jim Lambdin for their work on this, and on all city communications.

The police department has another canine officer, Josh Payne and dog, Otto, the first team trained to detect explosives. All police officers have returned from quarantine, and there have been no new cases of COVID among safety staff.

Ms. Briley discussed the future of projects and finances in light of a predicted decline in tax revenues.

Loose leaf collection is over until fall; all leaves must be bagged. The city and the Heights Tree People planted a tree for Arbor Day.

“No touch” pedestrian crossing buttons have been activated on crosswalk buttons to avoid the need for touching the surface before crossing.

City staff will be working with the Future Heights CDC (Community Development Corporation) with their Future Homes Program.

Council member Ungar asked Ms. Briley if she is working on an economic forecast on the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on city revenues. Ms. Briley said she will provide a preliminary report to the Finance Committee at its May 6 meeting.

Actions – assessments and CDBG

Complete language for all legislation can be found on the city’s website: Government/Legislation/2020 Legislation/May 4, 2020

On emergency, council:

Passed assessments for a portion of the expenses of street lighting and of street improvement including grading, draining, curbing, paving, repaving, repairing, cleaning, removing snow, and planting, maintaining, and removing shade trees. This is biennial legislation.

Authorized submissions of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement application for the year beginning January 1, 2020, the five-year plan for the years 2020-2024, and the amended CDBG entitlement application and plan for 2019.

Consent agenda:

Council approved a consent agenda containing legislation including:

  • An amendment to an agreement with Cuyahoga County to extend the term for funding through the HOME Program for the City’s homeowner rehabilitation loan programs through April 30, 2021.

  • Affirmation of the city’s “Citizens Participation Plan for Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) Activities.”

  • An ordinance adopting procedures for transferring city-owned property, received through the City of Cleveland Heights Land Reutilization Program, to FutureHeights, Inc., and declaring the property no longer needed for a public purpose.

  • Proclamations of May 2020 to be Bike Month in the City of Cleveland of Heights and National Preservation Month.

  • Authorization of an agreement with the Home Repair Resource Center for the use of the HOME Funds to administer its down payment assistance loan program and provide compensation.

Regarding the ordinance transferring property, Council Member Russell had wanted to know if she could discuss this even if she had not requested it be removed from the consent agenda. Law Director Hanna advised that she could make comments after the vote had been taken. She was concerned that none of the properties rehabbed by FutureHeights were in the Taylor/Noble neighborhoods. After speaking with Mayor Stein, Ms. Briley, and FutureHeights, Ms. Russell noted that, in the next round of homes, three of the properties will be in the Taylor area and three in the Noble area. She thanked the mayor and Ms. Briley for listening to her concerns.

Council member comments

Council Member Dunbar praised the consent agenda items naming Bike Month and National Preservation Month.

Council Member Russell said that the Community Relations and Recreation committee, when meeting with the Parks and Recreation Director, will discuss CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines keeping facilities closed until May 31, and how to move forward in compliance with the guidelines. Ms. Russell asked about citing the owner of Severance for code violations to make up some much needed revenue. She is still waiting for the maps of Noble that she requested at the last meeting.

Council Member Hart noted that the legislation for assessments would not increase tax bills. She asked for an update on meeting with residents who live on brick streets. Ms. Briley said they would be rescheduling that meeting. Ms. Hart also wanted to know if the Top of the Hill project would move forward even with COVID-19 issues. Ms. Briley assured her it would. In response to Ms. Hart’s comment that there were complaints of too many cars outside an auto repair shop, Ms. Briley replied they would be issued a housing citation. Ms. Hart asked Law Director Hanna to look into changing residential housing code violations from criminal to civil. He agreed to review the issue.

Council Member Ungar thanked FutureHeights for picking up so quickly on the Well Being check-in program they have initiated. He volunteered to make some calls for this effort. He asked about reports that the NOPEC variable rate program was charging people much more than expected, if the residents had not opted out at the beginning of the year. It is supposed to charge two cents per MCF less than the Dominion rate. Assistant City Manager O’Neil will call NOPEC tomorrow about this issue.

Vice Mayor Seren said that the Administrative Services Committee meeting on May 13, 5 p.m., will be live streamed, which anyone can watch. He will be discussing: legislation for non-consensual release of intimate images, voice vote, executive session, and the transition to mayor/council form of government. Ms. Dunbar asked him about filling vacancies on boards and commissions. He said he would take that up at a later meeting and asked Ms. Briley for lists of the vacancies. Ms. Russell asked that all members receive those lists so they could recruit to fill those spots.

The next council meeting will be Monday, May 18, 2020.

LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy.

Read More on Cleveland Heights
Volume 13, Issue 6, Posted 8:09 AM, 05.18.2020