Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 6-15-2020
JUNE 15, 2020
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Police report
- 5G wireless and other legislation
- 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 lasted a little over one hour.
Eight residents emailed, most of them opposing the 5G Small Cell Installations Legislation. They were concerned about the possible harmful effects on health and possible invasions of privacy. One suggested the city study this issue before approving any 5G installations.
Another writer urged council support for resolutions in the Ohio General Assembly declaring racism a public health crisis and addressing the racial inequality of medical care in the current pandemic.
Two praised the peaceful nature of the June 3 and June 14 demonstrations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the letters listed the five demands that Safer Heights is requesting the Cleveland Heights police department implement: demilitarization of the police, removal of police from schools, transparency of police-citizen encounters via quarterly reporting, police body cams turned on when engaging with citizens, and civilian-led review of the CH Police Academy curriculum.
Another writer bemoaned the “degraded quality of life” in the Noble/Mayfield neighborhood, especially the noise of motorcycles.
City manager’s report
City Manager Briley’s complete report may be found in the meeting packet on the city website on the city council agenda and minutes page.
Council approved two motions requested by Ms. Briley: one for a 12-month contract with Dynegy Energy Services for power supply, and a second for a-12 month contract with Volunteer Energy for natural gas supply. According to Ms. Briley, the rates on these two contracts, plus the energy efficiencies the city has implemented, will save the city approximately $90,000.
Ms. Briley gave a COVID-19 update. She said Cleveland Heights is still a hot spot. Data will drive when and how city hall opens to the public. She will be laying out the financial effects of the virus on the city’s finances at a June 29 meeting of the Finance Committee. The city will be receiving $1.76 million from Ohio’s share of the CARES Act funds that Congress approved for COVID-related expenses. Outdoor dining criteria are under review.
Ms. Briley is still working with the Novak Consulting Group on their recommendations for improving the efficiencies of the Housing Department. She expects to make a presentation to council after the report is completed the end of June.
The June 3 and 14 demonstrations were peaceful and powerful. Ms. Briley and Chief Mecklenburg will be meeting with citizens in the near future on the topic of racism in our community.
She praised the success of FutureHeights on renovation of nuisance properties.
Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg read a statement asserting her goal to provide best policing practices to the community. To that purpose, she is engaging with organizers of the June 14 demonstration, Safer Heights, youth, and other concerned citizens to make her department one that supports the entire community. Cleveland Heights police are not perfect, but are dedicated and committed to doing better. However, they “do not work alone.” She is proud to serve as their chief, and there is more work to do. She is working with the Ohio Collaborative Law Enforcement Agency to continue to be certified as a department that meets the uniform minimum state standards in developing policies, hiring and recruitment, community engagement, and body camera usage. She also wants her department to be certified by the collaborative as a city police department with bias-free policing and written policies in place for handling employee misconduct. The agency will be here the week of June 22 to review department policies and possibly approve the third tier of certification.
She is sponsoring a virtual forum June 25 with the community and one July 11 with CH Youth.
5G wireless and other legislation
The ordinance regarding the use of public ways for 5G Wireless facilities had a second reading. It will have a third reading, as council, after extensive discussion in the committee of the whole meeting, decided to give time for more comments on this legislation.
In an annual request, council approved acceptance of grants from the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council 2020.
An ordinance to allow members to recuse themselves from voting due to a conflict of interest had a second reading. As an amendment was added at the last moment, the vote was postponed until council members have a chance to review the wording.
An ordinance allowing the city to issue bonds for public works expenses, including street improvements, sewer work, forestry, and police radios had a first reading.
Council unanimously approved a resolution requesting the city’s share of the County Coronavirus Relief Distribution Fund to cover expenses incurred by the city.
In a consent agenda, council approved resolutions for agreements with agencies that applied for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The complete list may be found on the city website on the city council agenda and minutes page under legislation for June 15.
Council member comments
Council Member Ungar thanked members of the Citizens Advisory Committee for their hard work reviewing grants applications. He said the Planning and Development committee meeting on June 8 went well. The Community Development Corporation presented photos of home rehabilitations done by FutureHeights. He said their results were amazing and the appraisals before and after confirmed the great work. Guidelines for outdoor dining in the city are being reviewed for future presentation to council. He expressed condolences for the Scaravilli family for the loss of their children.
Council Member Seren reported that legislation preventing citizens from being fired by employers for nonconsensual videos being sent to that employer is still under review. It will possibly be in a different section of the city code. As September is the deadline for ballot initiatives, the Administrative Services Committee will begin to consider charter amendments based on the work of the Charter Review Commission. On June 23, the committee will meet to discuss the transition to an elected mayor, which will involve council and members of the Citizens for an Elected Mayor. He went to the June 14 peaceful demonstration and asked organizers and participants what should and could be done to change policing in Cleveland Heights. He assured them that change can take time, but the city will continue to move forward on policing without racism.
Council Member Russell reported that playgrounds in the city were opened on June 10, but reminds us that social distancing is still recommended. Cleveland Heights Census responses are up six percent while University Heights is up four percent. Coventry is the area needing the most increase in completion. She spoke at “Mother’s Cry” on the West Side on June 14. This event supported those mothers who have lost children through police violence. Councilmember Hart also attended, and both said this was a powerful gathering. Ms. Russell thanked Chief Mecklenburg for holding the July 11 forum to get input from youth regarding non-biased policing. She thanked Deputy City Manager O’Neill for her help preparing a presentation for the Cleveland Heights High School Class of 1936 on short notice.
Council Member Hart is working on resolutions with Ms. Russell and Mr. Ungar to declare that racism is a public health crisis in Cleveland Heights. They are investigating what other cities are doing in this regard. Ms. Hart will introduce three pieces of legislation in the future that target housing issues: an amendment to strengthen the foreclosure bond, legislation to strengthen the vacant house registry, and legislation to establish a registry for absentee owners. She is holding a Finance Committee meeting on June 29.
LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy.