Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 1-19-21
JANUARY 19, 2021
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Police chief’s report
- 2021 budget
- 3750 Bainbridge Road
- Council member comments
Present were Council Vice President Kahlil Seren and members Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, and Michael Ungar. Council President Jason Stein was excused. Also present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The virtual meeting lasted from 8 to 8:52 p.m.
A resident noted that the property addressed in tonight’s legislation had a waiver of 10 years of delinquent taxes totaling $61,000, half of which would have gone to the school district. He wanted to know how this property could accumulate such a large debt and asked if there is any plan for preventing such delinquencies in the future.
A resident asked for information on trash bins.
A resident asked for an update on the property at 3793 Montevista, which has been vacant since Sept. 9, 2020 and was cited for multiple violations. Having noticed realtors showing the property to potential renters, the resident wanted to know if the violations have been corrected and the property safe for occupancy.
Maryann Barnes, Chair of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, on behalf of the chapter’s Leadership Team, commented on the unfilled council vacancy. The League requested a statement from council on their intent, requested an open discussion of candidates, and recommended exploration of charter amendments to preclude future indecision on council vacancies. Two more residents addressed the council vacancy. One asked council to appoint Craig Cobb. The other suggested appointing a democrat to reflect Cleveland Heights voters. This same resident asked about the lag of four months before dropping charges against Devon Davis.
City manager’s report
Three bids were received for the Delamere Drive basement flooding relief. Fabrizi Trucking and Paving Inc. submitted the lowest and best responsive bid of $895,134.50. This was referred to the Municipal Services Committee.
Council gave Ms. Niermann O’Neil permission to bid two projects: 1) Street Resurfacing and ADA Curb Ramp Replacement, and 2) Surface Treating.
Police chief’s report
Chief Annette Mecklenberg detailed progress on recent incidents; details are on pages 4-5 of the council meeting packet: City-Council-Packet-January-14-2021 (clevelandheights.com)
Since the packet report, one more incident occurred January 17, 2021. Shots were fired at 2177 Oakdale. The victim was in his car but did not report the incident until he got to University Heights. At this point, the victim is not cooperating.
The second half of the Cleveland Heights Police Department will complete The Diversity Institute training February 3 and 10. Dr. Ronnie Dunn of The Diversity Institute at Cleveland State University, has received requests from Chief Mecklenberg to review the city’s policies on bias-free policing, recruitment and training, use of force, and vehicle pursuits. Once Dr. Dunn’s recommendations have been received, two town halls will be held to discuss the policies with the public. The traffic safety study is ongoing. The Civilian Review Board will present the study at a later date.
The state has certified Cleveland Heights’ compliance with former President Trump’s Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. The police department is adhering to safe policing for applicable laws, and chokeholds are prohibited except “when deadly force is allowed by law.” This certification was required before the police department could receive Department of Justice grant money in 2021.
Council Member Ungar asked the chief about her view on stand your ground laws, which Ohio just passed, versus deescalating police actions. She will research the issue and get back to Mr. Ungar.
Council Member Russell noted a call she received from a resident who was arraigned in court without his outer garments. Chief said they have tried multiple times to contact the gentleman but he is not responding.
Council Member Seren asked why, as noted in public comment, there was a lag in dropping charges against Mr. Davis. Chief Mecklenburg reported that the case had slipped through the cracks. Upon reviewing the case, she decided to drop the charges. Additionally, she sent the two officers involved to training on misuse of excessive force. Mr. Seren also asked about the differences between a chokehold and a strangle hold, which the chief explained clearly.
Council gave the finance director permission to amend the budget for 2021.
3750 Bainbridge Road
Council approved the transfer of property at 3750 Bainbridge Road from the city’s land reutilization program to the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Mr. Seren was recused from the vote because his work at the county could be a conflict of interest.
Council member comments
Ms. Hart announced the mayor transition forum that she was sponsoring on January 20, 2021. FutureHeights will sponsor a second forum on Feb. 3, 7-8:30 p.m. (http://www.futureheights.org/electing-our-first-mayor/#.YAxtGeB7lBw). She is researching availability of the COVID vaccine for Cleveland Heights residents and referred to the County Board of Health site for detailed information: https://www.ccbh.net/covid-19-phase-1b-provider-list/.
Mr. Ungar commented that all council members are receiving emails concerning recent gun violence in Cleveland Heights. To respond to citizens’ concerns, the January 25 committee of the whole meeting will start with an hour of discussion on this issue. Staff will present data on frequency of incidents and of racial makeup of the shootings. They will also present an action plan. The public can submit questions via email to the city manager or Mr. Stein, prior to the meeting. Ms. Dunbar said increased gun crime is a national phenomenon, and Cleveland Heights has a good record of apprehension.
Mr. Seren suggested that, to address the difficulty in filling the council vacancy, council consider looking at candidates other than the four finalists, choosing a different way of voting, or reopening the application process to new applicants. The issue will be discussed next week. He announced council’s choices for the Racial Justice Task Force: Mario Zimmler, Barbara Danforth, Rhonda Davis Lovejoy, Ashley Denyem, Mia Moore, and Calvin Singleton. From this group of six, council will select the Task Force chair and vice-chair. The procedure for selecting the remainder of the Task Force members may require an amendment to the original resolution.
Davida Russell reported that Parks and Recreation will be meeting next week on the Forest Hills Park Grant. Joe McRae is looking into offering locations within the city for vaccination stations. Starting January 20, residents can apply, online through the city they live in, for rental assistance from the Federal Government’s stimulus program.
LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy.
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel.