Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 4-5-2021
APRIL 5, 2021 regular meeting
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Purchases for public works
- 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, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting began at 8:22 p.m. and ended at 10:14 p.m. The meeting was delayed about an hour by an executive session.
107 public comments were received for this meeting.
Several citizens commented on the MetroHealth Behavioral Health unit to be built at Severance Circle. Most were concerned about cutting trees and not using existing Severance parking. Another citizen expressed support for the MetroHealth expansion and also voiced disappointment in some council members for divisive and petty comments.
More than 90 residents talked about fishing in Lower Shaker Lake. Some expressed support for permitting fishing regulated with fishing licenses. Some expressed an interest in stocking the Lake with native species after getting rid of the carp. At least 10 comments opposed opening the lake to fishing. Many advised council that agencies and Shaker Heights have recommended opening the lake to fishing. Shaker Heights allows fishing on their side of the lake, although one letter noted this has never been discussed by Shaker Heights City Council. Comments opposed to fishing cited trampled banks, parking congestion, and trash. Of particular interest in this group of emails were those from the Friends of Lower Lake and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership, who have been working on habitat restoration and preservation for several years. They discussed the Audubon Society designation of the site as an Important Bird Area, dangers to shore nesting and migrating patterns, and injuries to humans and dogs from fishhooks. They added that there are several nearby fishing opportunities and that fishing was never allowed in Shaker lakes until 2020.
When all public comments were completed, President Stein asked that the Community Relations and Recreation Committee take up the issue of opening Lower Shaker Lake to fishing.
Jamie McMillian, of the Akron/Cleveland Association of Realtors, commented that their organization supports affordable housing in Cleveland Heights, but does not want mandated participation in a federal voluntary program. The organization will be happy to help develop incentives to encourage landlords to adopt lease agreements that would not discriminate against potential renters who use housing vouchers for rent.
Diana Woodbridge, Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) Cleveland Heights Housing Task Force, expressed disappointment in council’s lack of response to repeated requests from the task force to prioritize housing issues, especially the blighted, vacant properties in the Noble Road area. Ms. Woodbridge also asked council to discuss the Novak Report’s Recommendations and to address problem properties by considering recommendations from the report and staff. She asked council to set a date in April for discussing housing issues. Later in the meeting, Ms. Hart asked that the GCC Letter be addressed by Public Safety. Mr. Stein agreed and asked Mr.Cobb, chair of the Public Safety committee, to add the GCC concerns to his next committee meeting agenda.
Krista Hawthorne, executive director of Reaching Heights, gave information on the Cleveland Heights-University Heights (CHUH) public schools. CHUH classrooms are opening up to in-person attendance, with details on the district’s website. Ohio has mandated in-person completion of student testing to determine which districts will score low enough to trigger EdChoice vouchers. Superintendent Kirby will deliver her State of the Schools address on April 15. The CHUH Board of Education (BOE) voted not to request a state performance audit of its finances, after researching and speaking to other districts that had an audit. They decided the $60,000 cost was too much for little return.
One citizen requested that Cleveland Heights provide a dog park.
A citizen expressed disappointment that so many dollars from CDBG grants over the past four to five years have been used to benefit the Taylor Road corridor. She could not find any CDBG grants or Economic Development Loans or City Funds allocated to the Noble Road Corridor, even though the Master Plan called for improvements along Noble Road. She asked the city to act on the Master Plan recommendations.
Mr. Ungar mentioned one comment that was directed to the “Jewish” members of council. He emailed the commenter asking her to respect council’s views as he respected her views.
City manager’s report
Ms. O’Neil reported that the Board of Elections has asked the city for use of the Community Center facilities for the August 3, September 14, and November 2 elections.
Two bid were accepted:
- Chagrin Valley Paving, Inc., the contract for Street Resurfacing and ADA Curb Replacement Program for 2021, $578,588.45.
- N.E.S. Corporation of Cleveland, the contract for the 2021 Surface Treating Program, $79,560.83.
Chief of police’s report
Chief Mecklenburg advised council of two town hall meetings scheduled for citizen input on policy changes recommended by the Diversity Institute of Cleveland State University. On April 13, 7 p.m., the town hall will discuss “Recruitment and Vehicle Pursuit.” The April 23, 7 p.m. meeting will discuss “Bias Based Policing and Use of Force.” If citizens want to ask questions, they can go to the city’s website for information. The data analysis from the Diversity Institute has been delayed for presentation to council until April 9. Ms. Russell asked the chief to send any changes in policy and the town hall topic policies on to the Racial Justice Task Force, which the chief agreed to do.
Clerk of council’s report
The Ohio Department of Liquor has notified the city that an application has been made by 1854 Coventry Courtyard, LLC for liquor permits.
Council approved an ordinance for appropriations and expenditures for fiscal year ending December 31, 2021, which Ms. Hart had requested to be removed from the consent agenda. She asked Ms. Himmelein why fees increased for housing and was told that as the housing department can now use credit cards to pay fees, the bank fees will increase. Ms. Himmelein advised Ms. Hart that the IRS penalty is the same as it was first quarter but was less than expected.
Council approved resolutions:
- Requesting cooperation with Cuyahoga County on the Coventry Road resurfacing project from Fairhill Road to Euclid Heights Blvd.
- Authorizing participation in the ODOT road salt purchase for 2021-2022 season.
- Authorizing a second agreement for planning and/or construction of the 2021 Refuse and Recycling Automation and Transfer Station.
- Requesting cooperation with Cuyahoga County on resurfacing Superior Road from Euclid Avenue toLee Road.
- Authorizing an agreement with Ganley Ford, Inc. for the purchase of four 2021 Ford Utility Police Interceptors and related equipment for the police department.
Mr. Unger introduced, on first reading, an ordinance to establish a limit of 15 percent of the purchase price on the commission that third parties can charge restaurants for delivering or pick-up orders.
Mr. Seren introduced, on second reading, an ordinance that amends various sections of the “Fair Practices” chapter of the city code to include source of income as a prohibited rationale for fair housing practices. Mr. Stein asked that it be moved to a third reading.
Ms. Russell pulled from the agenda a resolution that would support President Biden’s Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
Council approved an agreement with Snider Recreation Inc. to design and install a new, all-inclusive playground at Forest Hill Park.
Under a consent agenda, council proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month, National Poetry Month, and World Autism Awareness Month, with April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day; April 5-9 as National Community Development Week; and April 4-10 as National Library Week.
Purchases for public works
Also in the consent agenda were several purchases for the public works department: a Peterson Lightning Loader to be mounted on a Freightliner M-2 Chassis (from Best Equipment Company); two 2022 Ford Super Duty with Load Master Six Cubic Yard Rear Loader and two 2022 Ford Super Duty F-350 Pickup Trucks (from from72 Hour LLC dba National Auto Fleet Group).
Council member comments
Ms. Dunbar praised the public works department for answering all her questions about the purchases that were authorized tonight.
Mr. Ungar expressed his support for the MetroHealth expansion and the work staff did to make it happen. He noted that increased revenues will come to the city from payroll income taxes during construction and when the unit is complete and providing service. He said the project was not rushed and had council voted no, it would have been a major hit to future revenues and business for the city. MetroHealth has since reduced the tree cutting by 37 percent and has received advice from the Sierra Club and other environmental experts. Mr. Ungar announced that Rhonda Davis Lovejoy will chair the Racial Justice Task Force and Mario Zimmler will be vice-chair. He welcomed Mr. Cobb as a great addition to council.
Mr. Seren said that there were several legislative items on tonight’s agenda that were also proposed by other council members. He suggested there be more communication between members regarding initiatives they are pursuing. He welcomed Mr. Cobb to council and to his assignment as vice-chair for the Administrative Services Committee. Mr. Seren is working on legislation to amend city codes to certify a rental property as lead-free when the rental comes up for a new certificate of occupancy. Mr. Seren commented that currently the city’s codes are reactive regarding lead certification. He noted a public comment requesting a dog park should be taken under consideration. He will be addressing the housing department’s staffing issues that were recommended in the Novak report. He and council members Cobb and Dunbar will be discussing staffing and performance management in the housing department during future Administrative Services Committee meetings.
Ms. Russell reported that the inclusive park at Forest Hill should be completed by the end of May. She is delighted to see that the salt dome owned by the city has been cleaned up, thanks to City Manager O’Neil. It has been an eyesore in the Noble area for a long time. Ms. Russell thanked Ms. O’Neil, Ms. Trupo, and Mr. McRae for the blasts they issued to get people signed up for the 250 COVID vaccine access codes that Ms. Russell had obtained.
LWV Observer: Gail Larson.
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