Requiem for city council and a form of government

Cleveland Heights City Council has ceased to function in a productive manner. Come Jan. 1, 2022, its duties will be drastically minimized by the change to a mayor-council form of government.

"City council" is both the rules under which it operates, and the people whose duty it is to carry out those rules. It's hard to define the exact date, but some of the people on the current council stopped carrying out the rules in good faith at least six years ago.

The hypocrisy and mendacity of these council members, including Ungar, Dunbar and Stein, is undeniable.

It continues to this day, as evidenced by the travesty that was the "Temporary Standing Rules" ordinance passed as a so-called "emergency" [the first week of May] and the so-called "first reading" of the council vacancy appointment charter change amendment (to put it on the November ballot), at the same council meeting.

Ungar and Dunbar had no problem with their own campaign conduct in 2019, when they worked actively to thwart the will of the voters regarding the elected mayor charter amendment via a secret campaign PAC. They saw nothing wrong with then-council member Yasinow soliciting the firefighters’ union's endorsement against that charter change; or Yasinow going door-to-door to defeat the amendment while prominently wearing her city-logoed name tag.

They saw nothing wrong with failing to disclose to their council colleagues or the public their substantial donations and relationships to the PAC—even as they were discussing the ballot language of the elected mayor amendment, and the language of their own counter-amendment.

Dunbar actually read a statement from their campaign PAC at a council meeting, as she defended their relationship with former council member Jimmy Hicks.

Somehow, this year, some unidentified campaign transgressions require “temporary” legislation, expiring Dec. 31. I've read the ordinance. It's petty, second-grade-level stuff. And it includes no consequences for violations; hence it is unenforceable.

The "first reading" of the council vacancy amendment was equally pointless. They can't vote to put the charter change amendment on the ballot until the first week of July, as per Ohio Revised Code. And the ballot language that was read was so bad it will be re-written before it's voted on. 

The council is made up of just seven people, and a couple of them are, quite simply, out to lunch. So, a guy like Ungar—a “very” accomplished professional litigator—can have an outsized negative influence.

He was a force behind the “secret retreat” council held regarding Mayor Cheryl Stephens a few years back. He was a force behind that rigged Charter Review Commission (CRC).

We just learned that unless his preferred candidate would be appointed, no one would be appointed to replace Yasinow. And he said he would only vote for the council vacancy amendment change if it was the language recommended by [the] CRC—not because it's good legislation, but because it came [from] his cherished CRC.

This city council is already a lame duck. Thankfully, it's starting to look like Ungar and Stein won't run for reelection in November. It would be nice if they declared their intentions publicly. 

Albert Einstein is said to have said something about insanity and expecting different results for no reason. Well, until January anyway, nothing's going to change. 

Garry Kanter

Garry Kanter resides in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 10:18 AM, 05.27.2021