Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 6-1-20
JUNE 1, 2020
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Executive session limits
- Council voting legislation
- Fair practices
- Wireless infrastructure on public ways
- Consent agenda
- Police chief’s presentation
- Council member comments
Council members present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar. Also present were City Manager Tanisha Briley, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting began at 8:37 p.m. and ended at 10:05 p.m.
Twenty-one residents sent 24 e-mails regarding Ordinance 54-2020 on the use of public space for wireless structures. Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein read the e-mailers names and summarized the concerns expressed about small cell wireless facilities: potential health risks, decrease in property values, privacy, and security breaches. They also expressed concerns about the need for public comment, dialog, and government transparency. Some writers did not want 5G wireless to be rolled out.
City manager’s report
City Manager Briley’s complete report may be found in the meeting packet online. She noted that all city facilities are still closed to the public. There will be a staggered restart of functions with employees returning to working on site safely and with alternative plans for service delivery. Opening to the public will depend on the Cuyahoga County infection rate of COVID-19.
Executive session limits
Council approved an ordinance limiting executive sessions to four per year. Mr. Seren commented that limiting executive sessions beyond what is provided by Ohio law would support transparency. Ms. Dunbar and Mr. Ungar voted no. Council discussed the ordinance at length in the committee of the whole, so Ms. Dunbar did not repeat her rationale, but noted she did not want to take this right away from future councils. Mr. Ungar opined that the ordinance had nothing to do with transparency.
Council voting legislation
Council amended the city code to streamline voting procedures by allowing a voice vote in place of roll call. Another ordinance allowing members to recuse themselves from voting due to conflict of interest received a first reading.
Council heard a second reading, but did not vote, on an ordinance amending the Fair Practices Chapter 749 of the city code to include nonconsensual dissemination of a person’s private sexual images as a prohibited, discriminatory rationale for the purposes of fair employment, education, and housing practices. Further analysis of possibly placing this measure in a different section of the code was deemed to be necessary.
Wireless infrastructure on public ways
Ordinance 54, which would amend Chapter 943 of the city code, “Use of Public Ways for Small Cell Wireless Facilities and Wireless Support Structures,” was removed from the consent agenda and presented on first reading with no vote, because it requires additional research.
Ms. Dunbar noted that cities cannot stop or ban small cell installations because they are permitted by U.S. and Ohio law. Ms. Briley noted that Cleveland Heights has one of the strongest municipal regulatory frameworks that exist.
Law Director Hanna gave a lengthy context for this legislation, which involves regulation of small cell facilities for fifth generation (5G) technology. Current technology is 4G, but greater capacity is needed as internet uses expand. Antennas are on public rights-of-way across the country, but Ohio law had constrained municipal regulation. Because the state law “tramples” home rule and violates the single subject rule, Cleveland Heights had joined a lawsuit against the state that was successful. Subsequently, in August 2018, an improved state law gave cities protections and rights regarding placement and aesthetics. Ordinance 54 would strengthen the ability of the city to regulate these installations. There is a need to update the city’s small cell application form to clarify fees, facility types, and consolidated application issues. The state does not permit cities to place moratoria against cell facilities.
Council unanimously adopted a consent agenda, which includes amending the Wage and Salary Ordinance to provide clarity and fill in gaps on previous provisions, proclaiming June 5, 2020 to be national Gun Violence Awareness Day in Cleveland Heights, proclaiming June 2020 to be LGBTQ Pride Month, and ratifying city membership and participation in the Eastside Departments Group Enforcement (EDGE) Agency. EDGE fosters efficient and cohesive law enforcement and investigative operations among the participating cities (Beachwood, Euclid, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and University Heights), and reduces conflicts between them.
Police chief’s presentation
Chief of Police Annette Mecklenberg gave an overview of her department’s policies, practices, and training, especially considering recent events and protests taking place all over the nation.
Cleveland Heights’ use-of-force policy is comprehensive. Every incident is reviewed up the chain of command for early warning of problems. Body-worn cameras have been required for five years and are reviewed and tested annually. She presented the police department’s bias-free policy, code of ethics, mission statement, and training in crisis intervention and de-escalation. Officers receive training in diversity and in working with special needs populations.
Chief Mecklenberg responded to concerns about an incident February 27 at Marc’s on Coventry in which officers stopped and struggled with an individual who might have been a suspect in a recent shots-fired incident. As a result, additional training has been recommended for the two officers involved, although it has been delayed by the pandemic. One officer was reprimanded for not having a body camera. The chief concluded that improper force is not tolerated.
Last Sunday there were threats on social media concerning a protest on Coventry and vandalism at Severance. All commercial area merchants were notified and some closed out of caution. Officers were called in to pay extra attention throughout the city; no businesses were compelled to shut, no curfew was declared, and there were no problems. The dozen protesters on Coventry were peaceful.
Mayor Stein relayed a question from a citizen about whether Cleveland Heights officers are required to intervene if a colleague is witnessed using excessive force. The chief will respond soon by e-mail to the citizen and council members. Ms. Briley praised the chief’s responsiveness and promised a virtual meet-your-police event soon.
Council member comments
Mayor Stein noted that 2020 has been a tough year in the United States, with the past week the toughest of all. He expressed pride in the police department but stated that review is necessary. We can always do better.
Vice Mayor Seren announced a June 11 meeting of the Administrative Services Committee to discuss the Charter Review Commission’s recommendations and the possibility of placing some on the November ballot; the deadline for issues is September 1. Form of government transition will also be on the committee’s agenda.
Mr. Seren read a statement expressing his sadness for property destruction during protests in downtown Cleveland, but especially for protesters hurt by police or other protesters. He commented on the rage for the murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and too many others to name, and the devaluation of black lives. He urged citizens to turn righteous fury into productive action, and to use it in all levels of elections. He also urged citizens to take this energy beyond November, to pay attention, to report misconduct, and to join in governing ourselves and make needed changes.
Ms. Dunbar heads the Municipal Services committee, which is responsible for forestry, public property, streets, refuse and recycling, streets, sewers, and water. A committee meeting July 13 will begin to consider refuse and recycling recommendations. She mentioned a few Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District programs.
Ms. Russell thanked all residents for their comments and suggestions. She reminded viewers that June 5 is Gun Violence Awareness Day.
She said she has endured racism and sexism in her life, but added that it is a blessing, a fight, and a challenge to be where she is today. She urged people to understand what racism looks like and applauded those who try to help. She pled for connection and protection of one another. “Complete the Census,” she urged, “register to vote, and vote in every election.”
She has issued a “2020 Census Challenge” to University Heights, a competition to see which city can achieve the highest percentage Census count. The winner city will earn a tree with a plaque. Currently, University Heights has 69 percent and Cleveland Heights has 62 percent.
Mr. Ungar announced that a meeting of the Planning and Development Committee will be held June 8, in place of the Committee of the Whole.
Next meeting will be Monday, June 15.
LWV Observers: Blanche Valancy and Gail Larson.