Municipal Issue 26 - Proposed Charter Amendment (by Petition), City of Cleveland Heights

Ballot Language: Shall various Articles of the Charter of the City of Cleveland Heights be amended to change the form ofgovernment from its current elected Council and appointed Manager form, to an elected Mayor and Councilform, and to provide for the powers, duties, four-year term, qualifications, and removal process for the officeof the Mayor, and to create the position of the City Administrator appointed by the Mayor and subject to Council approval who shall be responsible for assisting the Mayor in overseeing the administrative functions of the City, commencing with the initial election of the Mayor to occur at the regular municipal election occurring in the year 2021; and to eliminate the City Manager position?

YES vote means approval of the proposed amendment

NO vote means rejection of the proposed amendment

League Explantion of Municipal Issue 26: The City’s current Charter provides for a council-manager form of government under which the voters elect members of Council, and the Council appoints a qualified City Manager to serve at the will of Council as the City’s chief executive officer. The Council also elects one of its members as mayor. That official presides over Council but does not have executive or veto powers. If the proposed Charter amendment is passed, the City’s form of governance will change to a mayor-council-administrator form, with the voters electing a Mayor to serve full time as the City’s chief executive officer for a four-year term, and the Mayor appointing, subject to Council approval, a qualified City Administrator to assist the Mayor in the administration of City operations.

The proposed amendment further provides:

  • Mayoral elections will be non-partisan, with the first being at the general election in November 2021, and the first mayoral term commencing January 1, 2022. As of January 1, 2022, the position of City Manager will be eliminated.
  • Qualifications for Mayor include having been a resident and elector in the City for at least 18 months preceding the election and continuing while serving as Mayor. 
  • The Mayor may not be an employee of the City or the Cleveland Heights-University Heights or East Cleveland School Districts or hold any elected public office other than precinct committee member or State central committee person.
  • The Mayor may be removed by recall.
  • The Mayor may attend and participate (but not vote) at Council meetings and may veto Council legislation in whole or, in the case of legislation appropriating money, by line item. 
  • Council may override a Mayoral veto by a vote of at least five of the seven members of Council.
  • The Council will set the Mayor’s salary, to be commensurate with mayors of other comparable cities.
  • The Mayor will serve, without additional compensation, as the director of public safety.
  • The Mayor will appoint and may remove the directors of each City department.  Appointment of the directors of law, finance and planning are subject to Council approval.


Pros and Cons

The following information is provided by Citizens for an Elected Mayor, a committee that supports the Charter Amendment, and Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government, a committee that is opposed to the Charter Amendment. The League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland neither endorses nor rejects the views of either committee. For a neutral summary of common arguments for and against similar ballot issues, see the State of Washington Municipal Research and Service Commission’s article “Common Issues and Pro/Con Arguments in Elections to Change Form of Government” at

Pros—Statement by Citizens for an Elected Mayor:

Our Community. Our Choice.

It’s our community. Leadership should be our choice.

Cleveland Heights needs leadership that is directly accountable to the voters. The current system does not allow our residents to vote for mayor, vice mayor or city manager; those positions are all appointed by city council. Voting is the bedrock of our democracy, and it’s the only assurance we have that our leadership will be accountable to us.

In addition, we see communities all around us thriving with full-time elected mayors while Cleveland Heights keeps falling behind. Our city’s leadership has shown no long-term vision, is not accountable to the voters, and the structure doesn’t give us a direct say in who runs the city. The power rests in the hands of city council, the appointed part-time mayor, and the appointed city manager. Our initiative gives our community it’s voice back. Voting yes on Issue 26 puts the power back where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

We need accountable leadership:

  • Cleveland Heights needs a strong executive who can give our city a real voice among county, regional and state leaders.
  • The challenges we face require a leader who can articulate a direction, establish plans, and decisively move us in that direction; a city manager reporting to city council has not been able to provide this.
  • Our city leader must face the voters every four years and answer for the promises they haven’t kept.

The council/manager system has failed to meet many of the challenges facing the city. Just a few examples:

  • Severance Town Center has stagnated for years. Despite the recent movement on yet another study, we remain without a vision or a practical plan for this huge property.
  • Under the previous city manager, at least two major problems were hidden from city council and did not come to light for years. The first was a $5 million deficit in the water fund; residents will finish paying higher water bills for that at the end of 2021. We will pay much longer for the manager having stonewalled the EPA regarding our 100-year-old sewer system seriously failing to comply with the U.S. Clean Water Act. To date, neither the city manager nor council has any idea what the full extent of that bill will be.
  • In the absence of leadership, the community has failed to rally around a vision for the Top of the Hill concept, and the project lacks energy and enthusiasm.
  • With a shrinking population and a static commercial base, there has been no effective effort to diversify the tax base.
  • Residents continually report at council meetings that calls to city hall go unanswered: no records of calls are kept, the buck is passed, voicemails are not returned, etc. This is administration 101, yet the situation persists.

Looking ahead

  • The proposed charter amendment requires the mayor to hire a professional city administrator, with the approval of city council, to attend to the daily needs of running the city. This will allow the elected mayor to focus attention on the big issues facing the city.
  • A mayor/council form of government, with an elected mayor, provides checks and balances. These do not exist when the legislature hires the executive.
  • Of course, the voters provide the ultimate check on an elected mayor.

Vote YES for the Charter Amendment. Vote YES to bring an elected mayor and an appointed city administrator to our city. Vote YES for accountable leadership in Cleveland Heights. Vote YES on Issue 26.

Cons – Statement by Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government:

Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government urges residents to vote NO on Issue 26 and say no to political deals.

Our current council-manager government system:

  • Keeps accountability
  • Keeps stability; and
  • Keeps a professional, non-partisan City Manager.

This attempt to change Cleveland Heights’ government structure will send our City backward. We cannot let that happen.

The council-manager form of government is the most common form of municipal government in the United States and has served our City well for nearly a century.

A 15-member Charter Review Commission, worked for sixteen months studying our charter, and overwhelmingly agreed with the importance of retaining our council-manager form of government and keeping our City moving forward.

Keep accountability

Our system is accountable to our vibrant, diverse community. It permits our seven, directly elected members of City Council to have equal voices. A strong mayor system would give one person an overwhelming amount of power. In addition, in a strong mayor system, residents will have to wait up to four years for an election to hold a strong mayor accountable or do a cumbersome recall. Under our current system, our professional and highly qualified city manager, Tanisha Briley, has regular evaluations and can be fired without delay if she is not meeting the needs of residents.

We need to say no to decreasing accountability and vote no on Issue 26.

Keep Stability

Cleveland Heights is stable and has many positive examples to highlight--from our energetic arts centers and parks and our engaging business districts to development projects that will keep our City moving forward. We are making significant progress toward realizing our community’s vision, which was developed by hundreds of residents and business owners and is outlined in our City’s Master Plan. With two years of unknowns during a change in government, we could lose key staff immediately, halt this progress, and erode the stability we currently have in place.

We need to say no to destabilization and vote no on Issue 26.

Keep a professional, non-partisan City Manager

With over 600 employees and an annual budget of over $80 million, we need to keep our qualified, non-partisan and professional management. Our city manager has the skills and training to identify the most effective, efficient, and equitable way to deliver services such as police, fire, trash pick-up, and snow removal to our residents. The only requirements for the strong mayor/safety director are that he/she be a resident of the city for eighteen months, and not be a felon. We cannot take that chance.

The council-manager form of government keeps politics out of the executive office. We cannot risk injecting politics into our City and services by putting one partisan politician in charge who can be easily influenced by contributors and election supporters. A strong mayor may have enough money, connections, and charm to get elected, but not have the skills or experience to run a city of our size, diversity and complexity.

We need to say no to political deals and vote no on Issue 26.

League of Women Voters

The 2019 Voters Guide to Candidates and Issues is published as a public service by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, CH-UH and FutureHeights. The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to encourage the informed participation by citizens in government. FutureHeights is a nonprofit community development organization. Election Day is Nov. 5, 2019. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

Read More on Voters Guide
Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 12:21 PM, 10.07.2019