Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 11-16-2020
NOVEMBER 16, 2020
- Public comments
- City manager‘s report
- Chief of police report
- Clerk of council’s report
- Housing code and foreclosures
- Boards and commissions
- Parks and recreation for 2021
- Justice Reform Task Force
- City finance
- Refuse and recycling
- Landmark commission
- Mayor’s report
Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar. Also present were Acting City Manager Susanna O’Neil, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna.
Seventeen residents submitted public comment by email.
A resident complimented the work of Andre Spencer and City Manager Susanna O’Neil in confirming the property line between his apartment building’s lot and the Cedar Road Fire Station. Andre helped a resident cleanup trash on the property line.
A resident requested the status of the 18 recommendations made in the June 2020 Novak Report for the housing department, including implementation of Citizen Serve, the foreclosure bond legislation, and review of the city’s agreements with CDC partners. The resident also requested a public response to the queries by council and staff present, and regular weekly reporting from the housing and building departments. As housing is an economic driver of the health of our community, the resident agreed with Council Member Ungar that the Master Plan must be revisited and revised to match the housing issues we currently face.
A resident asked if any city ordinances ban cars from parking on the streets on garbage and leaf removal days. This resident also reported hearing gunshots in the Oxford Elementary School neighborhood.
A resident requested that the Racial Justice Task Force comprise at least 50 percent black residents to reflect the makeup of our city.
A resident expressed concern that the Landmark Commission had met only once in 2020, when the charter suggests it should meet four times, thus preventing completion of permit review work. Nine residents asked council to reconsider the amendments to the Landmark Commission as recommended in legislation coming up for a vote at tonight’s council meeting. Among these were Deanna Bremer Fisher and Robert Brown of FutureHeights, who advocated tabling the ordinance to allow further study. Another resident supported the amended language of the ordinance, claiming that it ensures that residents have a say in any Landmark Commission decisions, rather than the abuse of power that occurred in 2019 in the Ambler Heights issue. A final resident said the language of the ordinance should be strengthened, not weakened.
Finally, two residents claimed that a bakery owner made threats to two of their neighbors because they are a gay couple.
City manager‘s report
Ms. O’Neil apologized that the packet for this meeting’s agenda did not include departmental reports. Those reports will be added during the week. She thanked city departments for repairing the storm damage from the recent high winds and for assisting in restoration of power to many. Ms. O’Neil acknowledged the service of Jean Martin Diamond, long-time member of Heights Community Congress, the Citizens Advisory Committee, Commission on Aging, and the Master Plan Task Force, who recently passed away.
Chief of police report
Police Chief Annette Mecklenberg reported no updates on the recent murders and shootings. Warrants have been issued for a suspect in the carjacking that occurred at the Cedar Hill Sunoco. No gun shots were fired last week, but police remain vigilant and responsive. Investigation of reports of a man carrying a gun on Blanche Road is complete and there will be no charges, although police have not been able to contact the gun carrier at his known residence.
The chief is aware of the alleged homophobic harassment described in a resident’s comment. There have been calls to police, reports were taken, and the prosecutor sent a warning letter.
The Department received its State Certification on Engagement and Use of Force and Hiring. They will be working to obtain the Bias Free and Vehicular Pursuit Certifications next. The Safe Community initiative from the White House encourages transparent, safe, and accountable policing. The Department of Justice will be credentialing municipalities through individual state agencies. Chief Mecklenberg will be submitting her report to include the department’s policy adherence to state and local laws and prohibition of chokeholds.
The Nov. 14, 2020, Fill The Cruiser event at Zagara’s netted 2350 pounds of food, which will be donated to the Heights Emergency Food Center.
Clerk of council’s report
Ms. Himmelein reported a notice received from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control advising that an application has been made by Pacific East Mayfield, Inc., dba Pacific East Japanese, 1761-63 Coventry Road. The matter will be referred to the Municipal Services Committee, the city manager and the law director.
Housing code and foreclosures
There was a first reading of an ordinance amending the city’s housing code to strengthen the current Foreclosure Bond Ordinance to make certain any foreclosing lending institution faces penalties should there be non-compliance when they foreclose on a property in Cleveland Heights.
Council members Russell, Seren, Hart, and Ungar engaged in a discussion concerning renter rights when a property owner does not notify the renters of a foreclosure. Law Director Hanna promised to look into this. City Manager O’Neil will meet with the housing department tomorrow and address the issue of possible help to affected tenants. Council Member Hart added that if the foreclosed property owner allows the tenants to stay, the Foreclosure Bond does not apply.
Boards and commissions
Councilman Seren reported that more applications are needed for appointments to city boards and commissions. He will be meeting with the Administrative Services Committee to recommend appointments.
Parks and recreation for 2021
There was a first reading of an ordinance setting the use regulations and rates for admission and other services for the Cleveland Heights Community Center, city parks, and Cumberland Pool for the 2021 winter, spring, and summer seasons. Rates will not increase in 2021.
Also presented on first reading were the Cain Park entertainment programs for 2021. This ordinance will cap ticket prices at $125.
Justice Reform Task Force
Ms. Russell advised council that the application for the Justice Reform Task Force will be posted on the city’s website on Nov. 18, 2020. [A link to the application is on the home page: clevelandheights.com]
There was a first reading, presented on emergency, of appropriations for the current expenses and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for the period of January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021.
Finance Director Amy Himmelein highlighted the projected budget and said that the city is doing well. Income tax collections are only down three percent from 2019. An October infusion of $1.5 million in COVID-relief funds made a big difference.
Refuse and recycling
Council approved an ordinance repealing and replacing Chapter 935 “Solid Waste Collection and Disposal” of the city code, in anticipation of the purchase of new automation equipment for waste collection. The ordinance mainly changes the fee structure for solid waste collection. Fee increases will cover the costs of new equipment and increased cost of services.
Council approved legislation changing provisions of the Landmark Commission in the city code. Prior to approval the legislation was amended to delete a subpart that would have ended the permit referral requirement. Councilman Ungar also moved to waive two readings of this ordinance and the motion passed. Ms. Dunbar voted against all three actions saying she needed more time to evaluate changes, as her email had been inaccessible due to a power outage.
Mr. Seren reassured residents that there will be further discussion on this legislation to make certain citizens’ concerns can be heard on future landmark issues.
Legislation presented at this meeting can be found at: https://www.clevelandheights.com/1215/November-16-2020
Mayor Stein apologized to the residents of Ambler Heights who were negatively affected by the Landmark Commission’s designation of a Historic Neighborhood without having a chance to express their concerns in 2019. He felt the commission overstepped its authority in that instance. The proposed changes to the Landmark Commission will not affect the city’s standing as a Certified Local Government. He supports preservation of our city’s housing, but not at the expense of input by the residents who will be impacted by that designation.
Next city council meeting will be Dec. 7, 2020. A video of this meeting can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1uaEtGmX8I.
LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy.