Cleveland Heights City Council regular meeting highlights 2-1-2021
FEBRUARY 1, 2021
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Chief of police report
- NOPEC grants
- February proclamations
- 2021 Appropriations
- Racial Justice Task Force
- Council member comments
Present were Council President Jason Stein, Vice President Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Davida Russell, and Michael N. Ungar. Melody Joy Hart was excused. Also present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting was 45 minutes long.
A resident volunteered to be appointed to the vacant city council position and read his resume. If council did not appoint him, he suggested council determine a vision for the appointee and seek more applicants.
A resident reported shots fired on January 26 in the Quilliams/Runnymede area. As there have been so many nuisance reports at a certain house, she asked for more patrols.
A resident asked if council knew that Duck Creek Energy, a gas and oil drilling exploration company located in Brecksville, had purchased two parcels from the Hebrew Academy. She is concerned about possible fracking that could harm the nearby Nine-Mile Creek Watershed and noted that local municipalities are constrained from objecting to land sales of this kind. She felt there should be a discussion to inform the public.
A resident asked if the public would have an opportunity to comment on Cedar/Lee/Meadowbrook development proposals.
A resident stated that no one should have cut-offs of water and other essential services during the pandemic crisis and asked if donations to help families in need were possible.
A resident asked council to choose one of the four finalist candidates to fill the vacant council seat.
A resident advised Council Member Ungar to provide more advance notice of future Public Safety Committee meetings. People who were working were unable to dial in during the recent meeting to interact. Her concerns include lack of privacy due to cameras in residential neighborhoods; nuisance abatement reporting of domestic disputes that could be used by landlords to justify evictions; and council’s definition of “suspicious activity,” as many black people are reported by white people when they are simply gathering in a space. This resident also asked who would patrol the area around the police academy, if it were closing.
A resident called the recent Democracy Day on Jan. 28 a success and thanked the city staff and organizer Carla Rautenberg. He said setting up the event took a week and a half due to the archaic video system the city uses and advised the city to consider an upgrade.
Krista Hawthorne, executive director of Reaching Heights, described the hybrid system the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district will be using to get students back into the classroom. Teachers are expected to receive their first vaccines the week of Feb. 8, and students will be in the classroom part time as of Feb. 16. For more information, anyone can call Reaching Heights at 216-932-5110, or go to the district's website at www.CHUH.org.
City manager’s report
Council granted Ms. O’Neil permission to bid the purchase of five 75-cubic yard aluminum refuse ejector trailers. Ms. Dunbar explained that the purchase was to upgrade the city’s refuse and recycling equipment.
Responding to one of the public comments, Ms. O’Neil said the police academy will still be used for training and continue to have a presence in the community. She also clarified that nuisance abatement is for housing issues, not domestic disputes. If residents see something that concerns them, they should call the anonymous tip line.
Chief of police report
Chief Annette Mecklenburg reported two recent incidents:
- January 31, shots were reported fired on Keystone Drive. Officers discovered a party in progress at the location and told the attendees to disperse. As police have been called to this address frequently, a warning letter will be sent to the owners.
- Also on January 31, shots were heard in the Mayfield/Compton area. Three males were running away from the scene. Apparently, a previous incident with one shot (No one injured.) had started a confrontation. Officers confiscated a stolen rifle hidden in a back yard. One of the three runners was charged with possession of stolen property and evidence tampering.
The city is seeking information about accessing video from Ring video doorbells owned by residents to investigate criminal activity.
Ms. Russell inquired about the Runnymede incident. Chief Mecklenburg said she could not find any past citizen complaints about the suspected location and surmised that the shots may have originated nearby in South Euclid or Cleveland. Officers will be added to Noble and surrounding streets in response to the citizen’s concerns.
On emergency, council authorized the city to accept Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) 2021 Energized Community Grant Funds. Responding to a query by Mr. Seren about the emergency vote, Ms. Himmelein said that the city has until June to accept the grant, but will receive the grant as soon as it is approved.
Council proclaimed February 2021 as American Heart Month and National African American History Month.
Council amended parts of the appropriations and expenditures ordinance for 2021. Ms. Himmelein, who is also finance director, plans to keep the budget up to date and will inform council regularly of any changes.
Racial Justice Task Force
Council amended the resolution establishing the Racial Justice Task Force to modify and clarify its structure, composition, appointment process, and powers.
Council member comments
Ms. Dunbar announced there are no more vaccines at the CVS/Pharmacy. She was able to get one at a Walgreen’s located near Cleveland Heights. She also announced that the Transportation Advisory Committee is drafting a better statement of its purpose and is looking for a diverse pool of applicants to serve.
Mr. Ungar announced that at the Feb. 8 committee of the whole meeting the topic will be the Cedar/Lee/Meadowbrook Development. Two developers have been selected to make presentations. Mr. Ungar said if any resident wants to have input on this discussion, they should check the Economic Development page of the city’s website to find out how to submit questions prior to the meeting.
Mr. Ungar wanted the public to know that he, council, and city staff take the recent shootings seriously. He wants input on using the Ring doorbells as information sources for the police. He is also researching a concept called “Pay to Stay,” which allows a potentially evicted tenant to bring the past due rent and late fees to compensate the landlord at the eviction hearing. He wants the law department to research what other cities are doing to protect tenants during the pandemic crisis.
Mr. Seren announced he is studying “Pay to Stay” legislation and is glad the law department has been directed to research the concept. Additionally, Mr. Seren asked that the law department review the concept of Source of Income Discrimination [i.e., landlord refusal to accept payments such as housing vouchers] with the goal of including it in any Pay to Stay legislation as housing stability is so important to our residents.
Mr. Seren has “office hours” via Zoom every Sunday from four to five p.m. Residents should email him to request the link. One of the topics he wants to pursue with residents is the Hebrew Academy’s sale of mineral rights to Duck Creek Energy; he wants more information about gas-well drilling. He believes existing wells were drilled when the land was a golf course and wants to be sure they were properly capped if inactive. He would also like to discuss Oakwood Drive "No Trespassing" signs. A resident emailed him because they want to know how those signs can be legally posted on a public road.
Ms. Russell announced that her Community Relations Committee will be meeting Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. She also requested advice from the staff about how others can help pay utility services for those in need.
Upcoming meetings include: a committee of the whole on Feb. 8, 2021 and a regular council meeting on Feb. 16 following the committee of the whole.
LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy.
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel.