Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 12-7-2020
DECEMBER 7, 2020
- Public comments
- Chief of police's report
- City manager’s report
- Clerk of council’s report
- Insurance program
- Council leadership designations change
- COVID testing event
- Support for school funding bill
- Vacant council seat
- Doan Brook
- CARES Relief Funds
- Foreclosure penalties
- Racial Justice Task Force
- Consent agenda
Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, and Michael Ungar. Mr. Seren arrived late, but was excused. Also present were Acting City Manager Susanna O’Neil, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna.
A thirteen minute executive session was held during the committee of the whole meeting to consider the terms of a sale or lease of city-owned property. The public meeting began at 8 p.m. and lasted until 9:30 p.m.
The owner of Boujie Bakery expressed concern about a letter read at the Nov. 16 city council meeting during public comment that accused the bakery of threatening a neighbor of the bakery. The owner claimed the letter was inflammatory and written by a third person, not the neighbor. The bakery owner has worked with the neighbor to post signage to keep bakery customers from parking in the neighbor’s driveway. The bakery owner asked council to take a different approach the next time a letter that appears to have originated on social media as a smear campaign is submitted as a request for public comment.
Two residents expressed opposition to the recent changes to the Landmark Commission.
One resident submitted three comments. The first criticized her realtor for allowing the transfer of her recently purchased home to be recorded without a Point of Sale (POS) certificate. She is concerned she will not be able to transfer her property in the future without the POS certificate required by the city code. She also asked if the city’s code allowed for prosecution of a realtor if the realtor did not provide a POS certificate. Her second comment asked how long Allan Butler had been housing director. Her third comment asked when council meetings would return to in-person, and if chat or phone-in could be used instead of email to improve clarity of comments for those watching the council meetings.
A resident heard gunshots Nov. 29. Police and EMS were called, but the activity was not confirmed.
One resident reported that the city had not responded to her Freedom of Information Act requests for information on the businesses lining Noble Road. She requested POS certificates, escrow documentation, and building permits from 2016-2020. At this point she assumes the documents do not exist. She said the lack of response indicates that the city is not doing its job.
Five residents asked the city to drop charges against Devon Drake and hold the officers accountable for excessive force used against Mr. Drake.
One resident asked the city to adjust the pedestrian crossing timing back to pre-COVID functioning because the wait for cars is too long when there are no pedestrians. [The crossing was not identified]
Another resident asked the city to send plows out all day when a snow storm hits and complained that Cleveland Heights streets were in awful condition following last week’s storm.
A resident asked the city to plow sidewalks on main streets so pedestrians do not need to walk in the street, which is too dangerous.
One resident appreciated the special pickup of leaves he needed when a car was parked in front of his tree lawn the day the leaf crew came through. He suggested the city put out warnings the day before leaf removal so people do not park in the streets that day.
A resident thanked city staff and Council Member Hart for their successful work on amending the Foreclosure Bond language to make penalties enforceable for those lending institutions who do not pay the bond on their Cleveland Heights foreclosed property.
Finally, a resident commented that it is unacceptable for council to claim they cannot agree on the appointment of the seventh council member. She asked council to find creative solutions, such as rank choice voting in a public meeting, because the lack of action is causing residents to lose confidence in council.
Chief of police report
Chief Annette Mecklenburg advised council that she had directed her department to drop the charges against Devon Drake. The officers involved received 40 hours of additional training on appropriate stops and approaches. Chief Mecklenburg updated council on six recent shots-fired incidents. Details of these updates can be found in the Packet for this meeting on the city’s website: clevelandheights.com Government/2020 Agendas and Minutes. City-Council-Packet-December-4-2020 (clevelandheights.com). The chief said they are “beefing up” police presence in the areas that have experienced recent shootings and added cameras at Crest, Wood, and Maple Roads and the area north of Monticello near Noble. The police department has borrowed a license plate scanner.
Chief Mecklenburg urged residents to lock their cars and especially to lock securely any guns kept in cars. Two guns stolen from Cleveland Heights cars have been used in murders in other cities.
City manager’s report
City Manager O’Neil reported that she received 76 applications for the Racial Justice Task Force and will send copies to council members. She thanked the service department snow removal crews for their hard work. The public works director’s detailed report is included in the packet for this meeting. City-Council-Packet-December-4-2020 (clevelandheights.com). Council has a team meeting with MetroHealth to plan its expansion at Severance Circle. The Planning Board and Architectural Review Board will be included in the meeting to facilitate the project. Ms. O’Neil reported that a PowerPoint presentation of the recent city survey is included in this week’s packet. The entire 90-page report will be posted on the city’s website (clevelandheights.com) in the near future. She also thanked city staff, especially police and firemen, for their work with COVID safety this year.
Council Member Russell asked Ms. O’Neil to please follow up with Diane Halum to make certain she gets the records she requested. Mrs. O’Neil said she would follow-up on the Halum request with Ms. Russell on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Clerk of council’s report
Ms. Himmelein read a notice from the Ohio Department of Liquor advising that a license transfer application has been made for Mayfield Coventry Inc., Express Beverage at 2879 Mayfield Road. It has been referred to Municipal Service Committee, the city manager and the law director.
On emergency, council authorized an agreement with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company for continuation of its protected liability self-insurance program for the city.
Council approved the following appointments to boards and commissions:
- Reappointment of 10 current members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC): David Benson, Bradley Eckert, Jonathan Goldman, Allison McCallum, T. Nadas, Amy Smith, Andre Witt, Steve Titchenal, Jessica Schantz, Gretchen Mettler, Chris Henry, Cory Farmer, and Laura Black.
- Greg Clugey as alternate to Board of Zoning Appeals.
- Eugene Crawford to the Architectural Board of Review.
- Celeste Collins to the Fair Practices Board.
- Laura Marks to the Transportation Advisory Board.
- Debb Brown to the Recreation Advisory Board.
Council appointed nine new members to the CAC on separate votes as requested by Council Member Ungar. Council unanimously approved Lee Barby, Susan Efroymson, Catalina Wagers, Mark Lefkowitz, Patty Substelme, Josephine Moore, Alison Height, and Eloisius Snodgrass. Mr. Ungar raised an objection to the ninth candidate, Diane Halum, stating that she has a history of writing to council to defame city staff. Mr. Ungar felt she would be a difficult person for the CAC to work with. Council Members Hart and Russell expressed support for Ms. Halum as a resident who cares about our city. Council approved Ms. Halum’s appointment with Mr. Ungar voting no.
Council leadership designations change
Councilman Seren announced that, as of January 1, 2020, Mayor Stein will be called Council President Stein and Mr. Seren will be called Council Vice President Seren, to conform with the recently passed charter amendments to elect a mayor.
COVID testing event
Council Member Russell announced that the Cleveland Clinic will be holding a COVID testing event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Clinic in East Cleveland. Two hundred people will be tested, but they must register first.
Support for school funding bill
Ms. Russell introduced, and council approved, a resolution expressing support for Ohio House Bill 305 and Ohio Senate Bill 376, the Fair School Funding Plan.
Council approved an ordinance to amend subparagraphs of the city code relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2020.
Vacant council seat
Council Member Hart advised council and the public that she is supporting Tony Cuda, Anthony Maddox, and Robert Koonce in that order for the vacant council seat. She said she could not support Craig Cobb because he was appointed once already and lost in a general election. Prior to her statement, Mr. Ungar objected saying it was not appropriate for her to state her selections publicly. Law Director Hanna ruled that she could do so as she is expressing her opinion.
Council Member Dunbar expressed support for the legislation in the consent agenda that approves purchases of a Street Sweeper and a Dump Truck by the city. She advised council that she attends meetings of the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership and praised its ongoing environmental improvement work.
CARES Relief Funds
Council approved legislation regarding the city’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Relief Funds by amending previous legislation to include the Cleveland Network Housing Partners as receivers of $300,000 in CARES funds. Mr. Ungar advised council that hundreds of thousands of dollars will be released to help residents pay rent.
Council approved amendments to the city code that strengthen the penalties that lenders who are engaged in foreclosures in Cleveland Heights must pay if they do not pay the Foreclosure Bond. Mr. Seren thanked Ms. Hart for her work on the Foreclosure Bond legislation to make it more enforceable, so that lenders will respect the city’s intention to maintain its housing inventory.
Racial Justice Task Force
Mr. Ungar advised Ms. Russell that Legal Aid will be making a presentation in 2021 regarding residents’ rights when they are threatened with eviction. He also confirmed that 76 applications for the Racial Justice Task Force had been received. He agreed to meet with Mrs. Russell to discuss how the applications are to be processed.
Council unanimously adopted a consent agenda which includes:
- Setting use regulations and rates for admission and other services for the Cleveland Heights recreation programs for the 2021 winter, spring, and summer season, and approving the presentation of entertainment programs in Cain Park for the year 2021
- Allowing appropriations for expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for the period of Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021
- Extending the duration of the Temporary Expansion Area program for the expansion of outdoor dining facilities and use of public and private property or right-of-way in response to the COVID-19 emergency
- Extending the moratorium on the collection of admission taxes.
- Authorizing an agreement with The Safety Company, LLC dba MTech Company, for the acquisition of a Global M3 Street Sweeper and an agreement with 72 Hour LLC dba National Auto Fleet Group, for purchase of a Ford F350 Dump Truck/Plow Package. Both purchases are for the public works department
- Suspending enforcement of a section of the traffic code for the period ending December 31, 2021 to permit on-street overnight permit parking on specified portions of Kensington, Hillcrest, Belmar, Glenmont, Eddington, and East Overlook Roads;
- Encouraging effective plans to address climate change, a pressing problem already affecting Cleveland.
Details of legislation from this council meeting can be found on the Cleveland Heights city website here.
The next meeting will be on January 4, 2021 at 7 PM.
LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel.