Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-15-2021
MARCH 15, 2021 regular meeting
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Police chief’s report
- Recreation committee appointment
- Council seat appointment
- Consent agenda
- Council member comments
Present were Council President Jason Stein, Council Vice President Kahlil Seren, Craig Cobb, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, and Michael N. Ungar. This was Mr. Cobb’s first meeting. Also present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council and Finance Director Amy Himmelein, Law Director William Hanna, and Police Chief Annette Mecklenberg. The meeting lasted one hour and 17 minutes.
[responses by City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil and Chief of Police Annette Mecklenberg were made during their reports]
Robin Koslen sent a petition signed by more than 200 residents urging that Cleveland Heights and University Heights share pools and recreation facilities, citing benefits to residents of both cities and efficient utilization of facilities.
A resident expressed dismay about the upcoming introduction of trash and recycling bins, especially whether seniors could handle them. The city manager responded that there will be alternatives and special services for senior and disabled residents.
A younger resident wrote about the need to refurbish the Cain Park skate park.
A letter about the curfew instituted after "flash mob" incidents several years ago expressed concern for the racial overtones of the rules. Chief Mecklenberg's March 29 report will address this matter.
Steve Remick, speaking for Burlington Courts Condominiums on Mayfield Road, requested immediate attention regarding trash and falling trees on adjacent empty property; trees have fallen into the condo parking area and narrowly missed cars.
Two residents wrote about the dangers of curb lane restaurant seating in the Cedar-Fairmount district, citing concern for reckless drivers and vehicle fumes. They suggested temporary side street closure or use of the upper deck of the parking garage for outdoor dining.
A resident wrote about a dangerous and unmaintained short-term rental next to his property, asking that the city building department help by contacting the out-of-state owner to enforce violation repairs. Ms. O'Neil responded that a violation had been issued.
The holder of a parking permit in city lot #10 asked that lights be repaired as the lot is unsafe after dark. Ms. O'Neil said an order has been issued for this repair.
A writer requested an update on the Cleveland State University report on traffic stops data. Chief Mecklenberg will include this in her April 29 report; community meetings will be scheduled in April.
A resident asked that the council discuss the proposal for a park at Meadowbrook and Lee.
City manager’s report
Council granted Ms. O'Neil permission to negotiate with several organizations regarding Phase One of the Neighborhood Redevelopment Program. Council Members Russell and Hart asked that contracts have non-discrimination clauses.
Ms. O’Neil announced that the Forest Hill Inclusive Playground will open soon, adding that Joe McRae, parks and recreation director, has reached out to parent groups to make them aware.
Police chief’s report
Chief of Police Mecklenberg reported on gunshots fired March 12 near Compton and Beachwood Roads. It was a boyfriend/girlfriend disturbance in which the man pointed a gun and a family member fired at him; the family member later surrendered. The boyfriend fled and is being sought. A neighbor sustained a minor injury to himself and his car.
The chief responded to Mr. Ungar's inquiry about the use of doorbell cameras to help police. Ms. Dunbar asked about the police academy being closed. The chief responded that the commander had retired and the department was in the process of certifying instructors so it can reopen.
Council passed, on second reading, an ordinance establishing salary schedules, position classifications, other compensation, and benefits for officers and employees.
There was a first reading of an ordinance amending the Fair Practices section of the city code to include source of income as a prohibited discriminatory rationale for fair housing practices. Mr. Seren noted that, by disallowing discrimination against those receiving rental assistance, this ordinance would help ensure that the most vulnerable residents have a safe, secure place to live and help keep household members in their neighborhoods and schools.
Recreation committee appointment
Peggy Spaeth was confirmed for a seat on the Recreation Advisory Committee.
Council seat appointment
In a surprise move, Ms. Russell announced she had decided to compromise to break the deadlock and would vote to approve the appointment of Craig Cobb to the vacant seat. Before voting, council members commented on the deadlock, concern about giving Mr. Cobb an incumbent advantage in the November election, his positive personal characteristics, and the courage of the compromise made by Ms. Russell and Ms. Hart. The appointment was approved with Mr. Seren voting no because he believes appointment of an individual twice to be a bad move. It was not possible to include Mr. Cobb in this meeting.
Council passed an ordinance to amend the 2021 Cleveland Heights budget and a resolution expressing approval and support of the Hands-Free Ohio provisions in Governor DeWine's state budget proposal. The latter would make driving while handling any electronic wireless device a primary offense for adult drivers and would increase fines for drivers who habitually use devices while driving. In cases where a driver using a device causes serious injury or death, the penalties would mirror those of drunken driving.
Council member comments
President Stein was pleased to welcome Craig Cobb to the council.
Vice President Seren congratulated Mr. Cobb but said he would have preferred taking a second look at the applicant list in response to the deadlock.
Ms. Dunbar said she had just applied for a fence variance, which was an educational experience. She welcomed Mr. Cobb to council.
Ms. Hart congratulated Mr. Cobb.
Ms. Russell spoke about the inclusive playground at Forest Hill Park and the refurbished basketball court at Dennison Park. She reported on a conference call involving city council members from 13 suburbs to discuss COVID vaccinations with Gov. DeWine. She has a code that will give access to vaccinations on a first come, first served basis. She added that the $40 million expected from the federal COVID relief plan would hopefully make furloughed city workers whole.
Mr. Ungar welcomed Mr. Cobb to council without reservations and reflected on the difficulty choosing among four good candidates.
LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.
Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: www.clevelandheights.com/1142/2021-Agendas-and-Minutes
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/ClevelandHeightsOH