Opinion

Shop local this holiday season, and every day

I was driving from downtown the other day and noticed a billboard for a new company called Presto Fresh. It is a full-service grocery delivery company working with Zagara's Marketplace—for more than 75 years a locally owned and operated neighborhood grocery store. The owner, John Zagara, is a businessman whom I respect and appreciate for what he gives back to the community. John has always tried to stay one step ahead of the ever more difficult game of being successful in business.

What struck me is that this new business of home delivery of groceries is not just for shut-ins, but also for people who don't have the time to shop. We're all busy. Somehow we have lost our time-management skills. Some don't take time to even sit down and have dinner with their family. To me, this started the degradation of the family unit. No more time to talk about school, art, politics or sports because we are too busy.

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Volume 7, Issue 12, Posted 11:14 AM, 11.25.2014

Shop local to invest in our community

Recently, I attended a meeting hosted by the Heights-Hillcrest Regional Chamber of Commerce, facilitated by Peter Benkendorf, Dick Clough and Jack Ricchuito of The Cleveland Collaboratory, regarding the importance of championing local business and buying local. It was with a great deal of enthusiasm that business, private sector and community leaders came together to brainstorm implementing a local/regional campaign. Do you bank locally? Do you eat at a locally owned restaurant? Do you think local before Big Box? The way you spend your dollars affects the economy locally and regionally, which is directly related to job retention and creation, along with building a healthy, vibrant community.

It is calculated that if every person in Cuyahoga County would shift $100 of his or her spending to a locally owned business, it would add $126 million to the local economy. It is interesting to note that the economic impact of $100 spent locally is approximately 80 percent greater than if the $100 is spent at a chain.

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Volume 7, Issue 12, Posted 10:11 AM, 11.18.2014

FutureHeights will encourage discourse, rather than endorse ballot issues

In its more than 10-year history, FutureHeights has never endorsed an issue on any ballot.

This year, the FutureHeights Board of Directors made the decision to consider endorsing the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library’s Operating Levy. The board considered whether FutureHeights, as an organization, would endorse the levy, leaving aside personal support, or lack thereof, for the levy.

The board discussed and debated the levy issue and met with a member of the levy committee. Ultimately, the FutureHeights Board of Directors decided that, while FutureHeights could, theoretically, endorse a ballot issue, the board does not believe that it would be wise to have FutureHeights, as an organization, endorse any ballot issue at this time.

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Volume 7, Issue 12, Posted 11:02 AM, 11.03.2014

Welcome Home: Heights Authors was a blast

On the beautiful Sunday afternoon of Oct. 5, the Friends of the Heights Libraries, FutureHeights and Reaching Heights gave a wonderful event for newcomers to the Heights. Thanks to the host, Nighttown, and generous sponsors Simply Charming, Motorcars, realtor Susan Delaney of Howard Hanna, DVUV, and Keller National. Appletree Books and Mac's Backs, our local independent booksellers, helped FutureHeights organize this event.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 10:21 AM, 10.31.2014

Class differences in the Heights

We seem to embrace racial integration, ethnic integration and religious integration with much more effort than class integration. When families move to the Heights who are apparently middle class or above, we welcome them into our circles and invite them to join community groups, serve on committees, enjoy recreational activities and so on. But I haven’t observed the same type of hospitality and warmth offered to people coming from lower-class areas who might be trying to escape the dysfunction of poverty and provide a better environment for their families. There is no welcome wagon or integration process for them.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 10:20 AM, 10.31.2014

Noble Neighbors are on the move

In January 2014, in response to a random, violent attack on one of our neighbors while she was walking, Noble Neighbors was born. Thanks to Cynthia Griggins, who took the lead, and others, we began meeting in our homes and with local police and city representatives, as a show of support, and because we wanted to do something to reclaim our area as a beautiful, welcoming, inclusive community. We continue to grow in numbers and are partnering with local churches that are providing space for monthly meetings, which have already outgrown our living rooms.

Noble Neighbors is committed to doing our part to make this area an even better place to live, work and raise families. Efforts encompass attracting new homeowners, safety, beautification and community-building events. We realize this can only happen by reaching across our rich cultural boundaries for a common purpose—the revitalization of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 10:18 AM, 10.31.2014

The roles of the County Executive and Council

This year, for only second time in the 200 years of Cuyahoga County, voters will elect a County Executive and half of the members of the County Council.  

Some people know that acting upon the decision of voters, we have changed our form of government to a Charter with a County Council and County Executive, while others might think we still have three County Commissioners.  Even those who are aware of the Charter may ask, “What are the roles of the County Executive and the County Council? What do they do? Why should I care?” 

As someone who has been part of the new Charter government these past four years and someone who is currently running for the position of County Executive, I will try to answer these questions.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 12:49 PM, 10.03.2014

Heights libraries are vital to our community

The immense value of our local Heights libraries cannot be taken for granted. The services they provide can sometimes seem routine: lending books, connecting residents to the Web, running programs for children, providing resources for job seekers, and more. But these services are fundamental to all of us. Our libraries are part of the bedrock of our community and must not be overlooked.

Since the library first opened its doors in the Heights in 1921, it has helped to shape the community’s success. The libraries have anchored our walkable neighborhoods, educated our citizenry, and provided top-notch, free services to every resident. And it is not only Heights residents who think we have a wonderful library system. Library Journal has awarded our library 5 Stars—its top grade—for the fifth year in a row! Heights Libraries is ranked seventh in the country for libraries of its size.

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 3:08 PM, 09.29.2014

October is national Fair Trade Month

October is the 11th annual National Fair Trade Month. Fair trade products are "food or crafts that are produced under standards designed to end and prevent the poverty, sweatshop labor conditions, environmental degradation, etc. that are endemic to the free trade 'race to the bottom' that puts profits above people and the planet," according to the Global Exchange human rights organization.

Fair trade products can be found throughout Cleveland Heights, in grocery stores, local boutiques and major chains. As the holiday shopping season begins, this month's special designation offers a chance to reflect a little bit more on purchases.

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 3:08 PM, 09.29.2014

Stop Mass Incarceration movement plans October month of mass resistance

Last April, three older white women here in the Heights sent out a letter to friends and sympathetic acquaintances calling on them to take up the call of author Michelle Alexander, to help build a social movement against the new Jim Crow. We read Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, and were horrified [to learn] that the war on drugs has caused an astounding rise in the incarceration of people of color for minor drug offenses over the last 40 years. Alexander’s exposure of the blatant injustice at every level of the criminal “justice” system had a profound effect on us. We felt compelled to do something.   

We were also deeply troubled by the acquittal of George Zimmerman, and inspired by the “Stop Stop and Frisk” movement in NYC. Our movement, Puncture the Silence-Stop Mass Incarceration, was formed in a living room in Cleveland Heights, where eight older women unanimously endorsed the Stop Mass Incarceration Network’s (SMIN) call for an October “Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror and the Criminalization of Generations,” initiated by Carl Dix and Cornel West.

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 3:03 PM, 09.29.2014

A collaborative approach gives community building the best chance for success

Since its inception, FutureHeights has provided tools for citizens to become more engaged in their community, bring innovative ideas forward to confront our challenges and have a greater voice in civic life. Cleveland Heights is a city of neighborhoods, and it is only with strong, vibrant neighborhoods that our city will be able to sustain itself and remain a desirable place to live and work.

This year, FutureHeights has applied for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding through the City of Cleveland Heights to help support the addition of a staff member who can oversee a community-building program. Through this program, FutureHeights would support existing neighborhood groups and assist new ones in forming. We would train neighborhood residents in neighborhood asset mapping, data analysis and resident engagement, to enable them to create priorities for their own neighborhoods. 

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 10:57 AM, 09.16.2014

Heights Libraries levy campaign kicks into gear

Did you know that there two election days this fall? 

First, on Thursday, Sept. 18, our Heights Libraries will hold a Sesame Street Block party at the Lee Road Library. At the block party, a close election between Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch will be decided by your votes. It will be a great time for kids and families, and we expect some of our local elected leaders to join us and help count the votes!

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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 1:48 PM, 08.28.2014

How to encourage more bicycling in the Heights

I would like to see how Cleveland Heights looks when 4,500 people are riding bikes. We will certainly be healthier, wealthier and maybe happier than being stuck in traffic.

Does this express the sentiments of the 1 percent? In Cleveland Heights, the 1 percent are those the 2010 census counted as bike commuters—that’s 450 people. It doesn’t count kids who bike to school or spandex-clad weekend warriors—just the adult weekday bike commuters.

Cycling experts estimated that 60 percent of adults identity themselves as interested in the idea of bike commuting, but are concerned about riding close to cars. So, how do we get that 60 percent to consider riding a bike for transportation—especially to commute?

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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 1:44 PM, 08.28.2014

It's a wild life here, but animal traps should be used with care

One Friday my neighbor called to ask if I’d put out a chipmunk trap. No, although chipmunks are all over the place. We once had a cat named Frizzy that left dead chipmunks around. I would put them in an old cat-food bag and stick them in the freezer until trash day. No point in leaving them around to smell.

Well, said my neighbor, there’s a skunk caught in a trap near my fence. She had called the city to no avail. Since her husband and grown son were dealing with it, I put it out of my mind until I went to bed that night. My bedroom smelled as though a skunk was under the bed. I would check the foundation Saturday morning.

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 11:30 AM, 07.31.2014

The heart of Cleveland Heights is lit again . . . by kids

How do you “feel” the community of Cleveland Heights? How about through music, laughter and delicious food, as residents found June 11 at Taste of The Heights. Here, the whole Cleveland Heights gamut joined the staff and board and kids of the Heights Youth Club (HYC) at a festival of fun that benefitted its youth. Taste of the Heights, HYC’s annual fundraiser, was a brilliant success for all involved.

Twenty Cleveland Heights restaurants were the key to its success as each donated the best of their menus to produce a generous smorgasbord of selections for guests. This at a time when the local restaurants of our community were voted the third best in the whole state!

Dorothy King, new HYC board member, was inspired seeing the result of the staff and board’s hard work to make this worthwhile event happen, and to see Heights residents support it so wholeheartedly.

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 10:51 AM, 07.29.2014

We Are A Colony: Why we give and why we trust

On July 18, The Plain Dealer ran a letter to the editor from a Cleveland Heights resident ("Cedar Lee Merchants are trying to profit off Jim Brennan’s murder") expressing shock “that the Cedar Lee Merchants Association has seen fit to turn the death of bar/restaurant owner Jim Brennan into a financial windfall (which they are calling a fundraiser) for the organization.”

I write today to clarify that every element of community organizing that has taken place in the weeks since Jim’s murder has been conducted with goodwill, love, compassion—and in collaboration with Jim’s grieving family. To underscore the degree to which these efforts are supported by the Brennan family, the “We Are A Colony” Facebook page on July 12 carried this post: “Please don't let a rumor dampen the wonderful work you are doing. It has helped lift the spirits of my sister Kathy Murphy and the rest of our family.”

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 11:23 AM, 07.22.2014

About the Heights Observer

The Heights Observer is a nonprofit community publication written by community members, and focused on the cities of Cleveland Heights and University Heights.

The Observer has no writing staff. The articles the Observer publishes are written by volunteer writers who submit stories about the Heights news, personalities, events and issues that interest them.

The Observer’s only reporters are those in the Heights community who take the time to write about some aspect of the Heights, and share it with others via the Heights Observer. Some Observer writers are regular contributors; others may submit an article once a year, or just once.

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 2:34 PM, 06.30.2014

Lake Erie Ink connects people

Visit Lake Erie Ink’s website right now, and you’ll find a simple mission statement: Lake Erie Ink (LEI) provides creative expression opportunities and academic support to youth in the Greater Cleveland community. And insofar as the Coventry-based nonprofit has served more than 2,200 youths in its on- and off-site programs this past year, that’s true. Essential to what LEI does, but that is absent from its mission statement, is the an inevitable byproduct of what happens when youth feel supported and heard—Lake Erie Ink connects people.

When I came to Northeast Ohio to attend college, I was little more than a tourist here. While I had a sense that I wanted to know both Cleveland Heights and Greater Cleveland better, my understanding was peripheral. Outside the bounds of campus, I had no community. When I graduated in 2012 and was hired as an AmeriCorps member at LEI, I got my first glimpse at the kind of community LEI offered—one facilitated by the conviction that young people not only have something to say, but also want to hear others as much as they want to be heard.

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 2:30 PM, 06.30.2014

Noble Neighbors gather for first community event

On Saturday, June 7, 50 neighbors gathered to pick up litter, sweep and clean up Noble Road sidewalks between Noble Elementary School and Woodview Road at the first “Noble Neighbors’ Pick Up for Pride!” event. There were so many volunteers with brooms, shovels and grabbers that the group cleaned portions of Monticello Boulevard and some side streets, too. Kids, young parents, middle-aged adults and folks well into retirement proudly picked up together.

Noble Neighbors (www.nobleneighbors.com) is a neighborhood organization that started in January 2014 in a living room on Montford Road. Friends and neighbors of a woman who was brutally and randomly attacked a week earlier called for a meeting with police and city representatives. The group has quickly grown to five times its original size, and just added 20 new members at its Pick Up for Pride event.

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 11:33 AM, 06.10.2014

Hope for the beleaguered north

More than 150 people attended a meeting on April 29 regarding problems in the neighborhoods of Cleveland Heights’s north side. The meeting took place at the Martin G. Lentz Police Academy on Noble Road. Mayor Dennis Wilcox opened the meeting by expressing the city’s sincere desire to hear from neighborhood residents. Five of his six city council colleagues also attended, as did several city officials. Tanisha Briley, city manager, took comments from the audience and ran the meeting.

As a neighborhood homeowner since 1999, and someone who has witnessed with alarm what seems to be the north side’s accelerating decline in recent years, I found myself agreeing with most—not all—of the commentary. The topics of my neighbors’ complaints—crime, vacant homes, a perceived lack of interest on the part of city government, empty storefronts, problems with certain businesses, greatly diminished property values, misbehaving youths, and on and on—are all concerns I have lost sleep over.

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 11:40 AM, 05.30.2014

DiFranco decision should not discourage citizens from making a public records request

Earlier this year, The City of Cleveland Heights was charged with trying to conceal or withhold from reporters incident reports of violent crimes. The reports were eventually made public, but only after a lawyer was hired to force the city to comply with the Public Records Act.

Average citizens, not just reporters, are entitled to request public records. A citizens’ lawsuit was filed against the City of Cleveland Heights about the failure to conduct a public hearing on the controversial Taylor Road rehabilitation project. The outcome of the case was that the city paid thousands of dollars to settle the public records claims—including a request for reimbursement of attorney fees that were incurred.

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 2:25 PM, 05.05.2014

Legal Aid hosts free legal advice clinics

As a Cleveland Heights City Councilperson and attorney, I believe in the Legal Aid Society’s mission to secure justice for our community’s low-income residents by providing free and high-quality legal services. If you have a noncriminal legal problem, but don’t think you can afford an attorney, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland can help. This spring, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will host two free legal advice clinics near Cleveland Heights and University Heights: on Saturday, May 10 at the Woodland Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, and on Saturday, June 7 at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center in East Cleveland.

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 2:10 PM, 05.05.2014

Weather-related school closing decisions are never easy

This winter has tested the mettle of even the most winter-immune Northeast Ohioans. The frigid temperatures and frequent snow storms meant that CH-UH City School District administrators were faced even more often with that thorny decision: how bad must the weather be before school is called off? 

As much as parents and administrators would prefer hard-and-fast rules about when school closes due to weather conditions, such a rigid system isn’t being, and can’t really be, used. Every situation is different and has to be judged independently. Closing school is never an easy decision because every minute of instruction time counts.

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Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 9:04 AM, 03.17.2014

An open letter from Mosdos to the CH-UH BOE

[This was submitted to the Observer for publication as an open letter to the CH-UH Board of Education.]

Mosdos has been negotiating with you privately to buy the old Millikin School property. Recent public comments made by your board president have been one-sided. They inferred that Mosdos had been nonresponsive and uncommunicative in negotiations, without mentioning that most delays were due to religious holidays that forbid the conduct of any business whatsoever by members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

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Volume 7, Issue 3, Posted 8:52 AM, 02.28.2014

What I'd like to see from CH City Council and the school district in the next four years

The 2013 election was unusually important for both the City of Cleveland Heights and the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

Six of the seven council members who had been serving Cleveland Heights in 2009 retired after long and distinguished service: Mayor Kelly, Nancy Dietrich, Bonnie Caplan, Mark Tumeo, Ken Montlack and the late Phyllis Evans. All did great things for the city.

The passage of the increase in school millage will improve the educational experience offered in the CH-UH school district. The juxtaposition of a new council and new hope for the schools presents great opportunities for Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 7, Issue 2, Posted 4:30 PM, 01.30.2014

Grant Deming's Forest Hill residents group targets foreclosure accountability

Cleveland Heights is projected to end 2013 with under 300 foreclosure filings this year, which is a substantial reduction from the past six year average of almost 500 per year, according to a recent report by the Thriving Communities Institute. That is the good news. The not-so-good news is that 300 foreclosures this year is still twice what our community averaged in 1995.

Foreclosure usually leads to vacancy, and far too often, vacancy leads to blight, which devalues our homes and threatens the safety and stability of our neighborhoods. A group of concerned residents from Grant Deming’s Forest Hill neighborhood, along with supporters from nearby neighborhoods, have stepped forward and embraced a strategy being used in other communities battling this problem, called a foreclosure bond.

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 11:23 AM, 10.22.2013

Renovated facilities are a game changer

In the discussion about Issue 81, the CH-UH City School District's capital project, the debate can be broken down to three components: The Need, The Plan and The Cost. 

The first leg is the need. Between the state's report on our facilities, the IKG report, Regency's work, the Lay Facilities Committee's work, and staff opinions, anyone who denies the need would deny gravity, that the world is round and Barack Obama is an American citizen. I have toured every building, read every report and reviewed hundreds of photos taken by the Ohio School's Facilities Commission. The need is real.  

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.15.2013

What sustainable refurbished buildings mean for education in CH-UH

There have been several letters and opinion pieces in the Heights Observer recently that press the issue of what the $134.8 million facilities bond issue [would] do for education in the CH-UH District. [http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2013/09/16/public-education-matters, http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2013/09/24/how-to-pass-the-chuh-facilities-bond-issue, http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2013/08/23/sustainable-buildings-will-help-teach-our-students] This is a central question for school leaders. We hope they can offer some significant information before the Nov. 5 vote. 

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 10:32 AM, 10.08.2013

School bond issue: Are you for or against?

For the past several weeks, the Heights Observer has asked CH-UH residents to weigh in on the school bond issue by participating in the Observer’s online “Daily Question.” It asks residents how they would vote if the election were held today. Of the approximately 60 responses received to date, Heights Observer editors selected 10 “no” and 10 “yes” vote comments that represent the most common reasons people gave for their votes.

Some responses are too long to reprint here in their entirety. We have, therefore, taken some out of context, but believe we have distilled the main point of the responder. To participate by adding your opinion to the conversation, and to read all the comments in their entirety, go to www.heightsobserver.org/daily-question.

 

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 2:26 PM, 09.24.2013

Schools are working well for many children

As parents, we each have our own reasons for choosing a school. Some of these reasons are rooted in family tradition, a desire for a religious education, or access to specialized programming. Others, however, are rooted in misconceptions.

I am writing to members of our community who tell families with young children to avoid the CH-UH schools, to those who suggest we shouldn't support our schools until "they do their job," and to those who imply that enrolling a child in our public system is a mistake.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 3:18 PM, 10.01.2013

The need is real and the time to act is now

Over the last three years, working on the District Facilities Project, I have spent a considerable amount of time on this subject. Not only have I read all of the pertinent reports, I have toured all of our buildings, frequently starting in the boiler room and working [my] way up to the roofs, including the clock tower at Heights High. As such, with all of discussion and debate over the District’s Bond Issue, the following are items to take into consideration.

Historical Context

It has been 40 years since our last renovation program. If we move past the poor architectural designs, dated colors and poor placement of additions, and look at what was done in the 1970s, we find much of the work was cosmetic, failing to address serious systemic issues.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 12:01 PM, 09.03.2013

Chronicles of a crosswalk traditionalist

I remember when, because I’m not old enough yet to say, “When I was a kid . . . ,” you had to look both ways before you crossed the street. My mother made sure every time I left the house that I would remember this very important rule. Later, when I learned to drive, I was told to make sure I not only looked left and then right, but also left again, just to make sure. When I had children, I made sure to pass on this time-honored advice so that they too would be safe out there in the world.

I remember that when you wanted to cross the street, you would wait at the curb or the corner and let traffic pass, and when it was clear, and only when it was clear, you would take that step off the curb and into the crosswalk; and, you always crossed at the crosswalk ‘cause that was the place to do your crossing.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 1:04 PM, 08.30.2013

Walking to prevent suicide

“It is solved by walking.”  So an ancient saying tells us.

We cannot solve everything by walking, but sometimes we can make progress in responding to life’s challenges by walking. This year, along with thousands of other people affected by suicide loss, I will be walking to raise funds to combat what has become a national epidemic.

Cleveland's Out of the Darkness Walk takes place on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Wade Oval in University Circle.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 12:59 PM, 08.30.2013

Sustainable buildings will help teach our students

A living wage is harder and harder to come by for many young people. In personal conversations, numerous people conclude that present and future employment is most available in the technical trades and engineering. Consumers and voters need technical knowledge to make the best decisions possible in life. To give all our children hope and pride in their futures, we need to enable them with significant Career Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, along with the arts, language, social sciences and history. Hope is a key motivator for students.

At present, limited CTE exists at Heights High and not at all for the lower grades. STEM is weak throughout K–12 in the district. The district is trying some things to change that, but it remains too little. Sustainable refurbished buildings provide an opportunity to create the space and infrastructure, which costs so much that it has handicapped the district from providing better CTE and STEM to-date. We can get a lot more than bricks and mortar from the bond issue being voted on this November. We can make an education leap that many voters want.

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 11:03 AM, 08.23.2013

Refurbished CH-UH school buildings will save energy and money

The current buildings in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District consume between 150–218 thousand BTUs per square foot each year. The 1970s buildings use around 150 thousand BTUs per square foot per year, while the 1950s buildings use 200 thousand-plus BTUs per square foot per year [See the report published by the Lay Facilities Committee's Sustainability Working Group (LFC/SWG), pages 17–20].

The Board of Education-accepted facilities plan includes a performance goal of mid-30s thousand BTUs per square foot per year. This is consistent with construction practices specified by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) documents for current K–12 buildings. [See the Advanced Energy Design Guide for K–12 School Buildings: Achieving 50 Percent Energy Savings Toward a Net Zero Energy Building, published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Special Project 134, 2011. (LFC/SWG has copies.)]

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 10:53 AM, 08.13.2013

CH ordinance banned pesticides on public property

The year 1995 was memorable for the City of Cleveland Heights. A first-of-its-kind ordinance was passed, which prohibited the use of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides on public grounds, including parks, schools, libraries and day care centers. Here's the story.

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 3:44 PM, 07.31.2013

District looks to tackle new athletic field

Cleveland Heights High School athletic teams have had great and growing success in recent years, with undefeated seasons, LEL championships, and state playoffs becoming the norm in several sports. More importantly, in a district as economically and racially diverse as ours, scholastic sports are a common denominator that brings everyone together. Heights High athletics play a critical role in our efforts to educate well-rounded students with character, and we need the right facilities to continue that education and source of community pride. That’s why the district is moving ahead with plans to secure funding for a new field, among other renovations to Hosford Field at Crawford Stadium. 

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 10:57 AM, 03.06.2013

CH Move to Amend needs signatures to put initiative on November ballot

Cleveland Heights Move to Amend is organizing an event that will ramp up the group’s petition drive to put a citizens’ initiative on the Cleveland Heights ballot in November.  The measure calls on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

We invite all area citizens to join us on Saturday, April 20, 1–4 p.m., at Ensemble Theatre (located at 2843 Washington Blvd.) to pick up petitions and walk lists, receive a brief tutorial on signature-gathering, and disburse across the city in pairs, going door-to-door to collect signatures of registered voters. The afternoon will conclude with refreshments, sharing experiences, and a tally of the signatures collected that day.

Anyone registered to vote in Ohio may circulate a petition, so we encourage our friends from neighboring suburbs to join this entirely nonpartisan effort.

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 12:30 PM, 03.28.2013

Teachers on the picket line?

Since March 3, the Strongsville teachers’ strike has been the subject of gossip statewide. Even the San Francisco Chronicle reported on this local story that happens to symbolize the most divisive issue facing public education today. The right of teachers to unionize affects every school district during this era of budgetary cutbacks and mass layoffs, and it is particularly important to Cleveland Heights and University Heights as the local teacher’s union prepares to negotiate a new contract this spring.

 

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 11:02 AM, 03.11.2013

Cleveland Heights road repairs

It may seem doubtful in the midst of “pothole season,” but Cleveland Heights streets are improving. In 2009, the city completed repairs on just 11 of its more than 270 streets. In 2010, work was done on all or part of some 18 streets; on 31 streets in 2011; on 53 streets in 2012; with 33 more streets slated for work in 2013. By the end of 2015, the city expects to have dealt with virtually every street.

Alex Mannarino, public works director, gets credit for having instituted a systematic plan for road maintenance three years ago. Street repairs are prioritized based on road evaluations, complaints received about potholes, core samples and  available funds, which have remained stable at about $2 million over this time frame. Each road receives a score and is rated very good, good, fair, poor, or very poor.

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 12:23 PM, 03.28.2013

UH firefighters union urges residents to ask questions about proposed merger of departments

On Feb. 1, the University Heights Firefighters Local 974 president was handed a packet by Mayor Infeld with no additional information given about it. It was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Mayor Infeld of University Heights and Mayor Leiken of Shaker Heights, outlining their plan and timeline to eliminate the University Heights Fire Department. The MOU states that a council of governments (COG) will be formed and controlled solely by Infeld and Leiken, taking power from the city council, the representatives of the people. [A Feb. 1 press release posted on both the Shaker Heights and University Heights city websites outines the "next step" in the preparation of an agreement to create a joint fire department.] 

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 12:00 PM, 02.07.2013

This is not a merger, and not regionalization

On Thursday, Feb. 7, University Heights (UH) resident Anita Kazarian interviewed John Novosielski, president of Local 974 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Kazarian’s questions and Novosielski’s responses follow.

Q: One hundred percent of University Heights (UH) firefighters are trained as paramedics or emergency medical services. Is this true of Shaker Heights firefighters?
A: No. University Heights is 1.9 square miles and covered by two advanced life support ambulances, with everyone in the department trained to provide a high level of service. Shaker Heights is 6.3 square miles and covered by three ambulances, with only 53 percent of the department [trained] as paramedics. Currently, UH residents have a quick response time—under four minutes. Shaker’s response time is under five minutes. Most calls are heart attacks or strokes where brain damage can occur in four to six minutes. One minute can make a life or death difference.

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 11:56 AM, 02.28.2013

Play it safe with artificial turf

Would our community leaders and parents knowingly and willingly increase children's exposure to harmful toxins? Of course not—with the key words being "knowingly" and "willingly." We all want to do well by our children. That is why the Cleveland Heights City Council was the first in the country to ban the use of pesticides on public property, school grounds and playing fields. The wisdom of that measure is supported by health experts, who suggest limiting one’s exposure to pesticides and other toxins.

Two years ago, artificial turf was laid down on Denison Field. Research on such fields has resulted in warnings and recommendations from public health and pediatric environmental health experts. There are concerns that the many toxic chemicals used in artificial turf's crumb rubber infill may make their way into children's bodies, the surrounding environment, soil and groundwater.

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 11:16 AM, 01.31.2013

Locals organize to end corporate use of individual rights

Cleveland Heights citizens are joining others across the country in a non-partisan attempt to overturn the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. Equating money with speech, the judicial majority ruled that limits on corporate and union campaign contributions were a denial of First Amendment rights, opening the floodgates regarding election spending.

Move To Amend (MTA) is a national movement seeking to challenge and abolish corporate constitutional rights and regulate political contributions and influence from corporations and wealthy individuals in elections and government.

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 11:26 AM, 01.31.2013

When it snows, residents must work together to keep sidewalks clear

Both Cleveland Heights and University Heights have ordinances that require property owners to keep the sidewalks clear, yet they are often not enforced. We take pride in our walkable communities, but are they so walkable when it snows?

Many sidewalks remain covered in snow and ice, and pedestrians, including children on their way to school, resort to walking in the street.

Cleveland Heights’s ordinance says, “For safety's sake, residents and merchants should keep their walks free of snow, ice, and debris.” University Heights’s code requires owners to keep sidewalks “in repair and free from snow, ice or any nuisance.” Owners are required “to remove from such sidewalks, curbs or gutters all snow and ice accumulated thereon within a reasonable time, which will ordinarily not exceed 12 hours after any storm during which the snow and ice has accumulated.”

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 9:15 AM, 01.24.2013

Our new city manager: this job description takes us in the wrong direction

Cleveland Heights has hired a consulting group to conduct the search for a new city manager; Ed Kelley has been quoted as saying that search could cost between $60,000-$125,000.

I hope everyone who is interested in this expensive process and important decision will go online and read the job description being used to guide the search. It is available at the Novak Consulting Group website. The firm is located in Cincinnati.

Three things stand out: a bachelor’s degree is a required qualification; the hiring range is $130,000–$150,000; and the person must live in Cleveland Heights. 

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Volume 6, Issue 1, Posted 10:39 AM, 12.07.2012

Education in the age of the iPad: How can we adapt?

Heights residents agree that the thefts that forced the district to overhaul its digital technology policy were contemptible, and represent a moral failure on the part of those who allegedly robbed middle schoolers of the iPads they were given to improve their computer proficiency.

Our community will not tolerate wrongdoing, and in many respects it has been cheering to see how quickly local government, law enforcement and citizens have reacted to protect schoolchildren and ensure no more thefts take place.

However, it has become clear that—given the cost of the devices, and the high value many place on access to the kind of technology used by Heights students—the conditions that led to the thefts are not likely to change in the near future.

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 7:12 PM, 11.29.2012

Youth volunteer group, Project Build, ready for exciting second year

For years, I had wanted to volunteer. For both myself and for those around me, I wanted to do something meaningful, and have a positive effect on the community. But each and every time I called an organization to see if I could help, I was told the same thing. “You can’t volunteer, you’re under 18. Unless you have adult supervision, you’re too young.” I got frustrated and discouraged, feeling that I was too young to make a difference.

Years passed. Finally, as a high school senior one year ago, I came up with a simple but powerful idea: recruit a few teachers to act as adult supervisors and create a youth volunteer group. I got some of my friends excited, enlisted the help of Cleveland Heights High School teacher Chris Sutton, and went to work. Project Build was born.

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 3:40 PM, 11.29.2012

Join the Tiger Nation team

I've never participated in team sports, but am thrilled to have joined Tiger Nation, the team of students and families who comprise the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to new families joining us on what I hope will prove a satisfying journey in the CH-UH school district.

My son is a second grader at Fairfax Elementary School. Though my family is just three years into our journey, we have already benefited from our educational and social experiences. We've also happily shared our own modest resources to support and enrich the educational experience of the students. On this journey, you, like us, will have the opportunity to make great friends and support the success of not only your own child, but other children and, thereby, the broader community.

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Volume 5, Issue 9, Posted 9:52 AM, 09.02.2012

Demolition of Denison Pool also destroys covenant with our children

I just checked weather.com and the official temperature is 96 degrees. A few days ago, 2012 was declared the warmest year on record for Ohio. In a time when many other communities are building new pools, Cleveland Heights destroyed one of its two public pools.

Denison Pool was demolished a few weeks ago. Denison Pool was destroyed and a new soccer field was built—not over the pool—but next to where the pool used to be. The new soccer field could have been built elsewhere in our town. It could have been built at Denison without destroying the pool.

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Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 5:07 PM, 08.01.2012

A quiet revolution has started, and It’s here in Cleveland Heights

After the 2010 Citizens United case wherein the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising, people across the country decided that enough was enough. Just two short years before, the big banks had pulled the country, and the rest of the world, into a mire of recession resulting from their bad judgment and greed. Years before that, important banking oversight regulations had been demolished at the behest of big banks and their lobbyists. As the argument went, business knows best how to run itself and must be freed from the shackles of government.

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Volume 5, Issue 7, Posted 3:15 PM, 07.09.2012

Could “Coventry Cash” revive Coventry Street Fair?

Organizers of the Coventry Street Arts Fair should consider an idea that could help any future fairs be both safe for individuals and successful for local businesses.

What about a "federal-cash-for-Coventry-Cash" entry fee exchange? Charge $5 to enter the fair. In exchange, each entrant would receive $5 worth of Coventry Cash—coupons redeemable for food or merchandise that day at any participating business or vendor.

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Volume 5, Issue 7, Posted 10:50 PM, 06.11.2012

Plan C is the wrong plan, for the wrong price and at possibly the wrong time

Five minutes. That was the amount of time members of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education were willing to allow for public comment before they make a decision on a $200 million capital project that will be the single largest civic project in our community’s history. At the June 5 board meeting, I asked if they would entertain public comment at their work session on June 19, or schedule another community meeting on the final plan. The reply was “No.” June 5 was the last opportunity for public comment, except for July 3, the night board members will cast their votes. 

I’ve waited more than 20 years for the community to give our children the buildings they deserve. However, I feel that I have no other choice: I cannot support the current facilities plan. If it is on the ballot this November, I will, for the first time in 27 years, vote “no” on a schools’ issue.

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Volume 5, Issue 7, Posted 10:44 PM, 06.10.2012

Board of Ed should consider a Plan D

“I don’t get a second chance to do this,” said Kal Zucker, CH-UH school board member, at the April 23 work session, where master facilities Plan C was presented to the board of education (BOE). The BOE acknowledged that residents are voicing opinions on what they are willing to support. I believe the BOE grasps the gravity of the situation and understands the need for broad-based community support before a final plan is placed on the ballot.

I commend the BOE for questioning the position that only two options exist: Do nothing and continue to let the district bleed; or implement Plan C, a bold, large-scale plan that many in the community perceive as divisive and expensive.

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Volume 5, Issue 5, Posted 9:30 AM, 05.02.2012

An open letter to the CH-UH City School District on bullying

Being a kid in today's society makes my own childhood look primitive. Grade school children can be seen bandying about cell phones before and after school. Video games and video game systems were once the status symbol of a family that was well off. Instead of the world being right outside your door, it's now available in any part of your house as long as the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough. If there is one constant that hasn't changed from my childhood to that of my children, it's bullying.

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Volume 5, Issue 5, Posted 3:08 PM, 04.17.2012

Taking back the streets

This past January, following Edward Kelley’s reappointment as mayor of Cleveland Heights, he made the statement that the city will “take back the streets.”  On Monday, March 21, at the FutureHeights annual meeting, he reiterated that statement when presenting a council proclamation to Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the organization.

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Volume 5, Issue 4, Posted 9:24 AM, 04.04.2012

When it comes to being sustainable, it's all about priorities

Given that Cleveland Heights is a built-out suburb with few opportunities for cutting-edge planned developments, I question the relative emphasis given to such developments in the proposed changes to the city's zoning codes.

While doing something sustainable with the Oakwood property makes sense, and while one day turning Severance into another Crocker Park could too, the changes ignore the fact that the city comprises mostly older homes that could be made markedly more sustainable with the right investments.

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Volume 5, Issue 4, Posted 9:33 AM, 04.04.2012

How to build community

What does it mean to build community? How can one participate in developing a close-knit community and neighborhood? If you’re reading the Heights Observer, you have taken the first critical step of becoming informed about local goings-on. Now, where do you go from here?

Turn off your television. This doesn't mean that the TV should never be on, but rather that it be kept off by default. This will increase the amount of quality programming that is watched, and decrease exposure to pointless shows and commercials. In his book, "The 4-Hour Work Week," author Tim Ferriss suggests going on a “low information diet,” and urges readers to “ignore or redirect what is irrelevant, unimportant or cannot be acted upon.”

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Volume 5, Issue 4, Posted 12:20 PM, 03.13.2012