Though we often point out, in a spirit of constructive criticism, how local government and institutions fall short of democratic ideals, we deeply love our city. Long, solitary walks during the pandemic have led us to reflect on many of the wonderful aspects of life here. Below are just a few of the reasons we are grateful to be living in Cleveland Heights.

Our neighbors

  • Creative, friendly, interesting, kind, generous, quirky, accomplished, thoughtful, engaged, active.
  • Diverse in household income, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and political opinion to an extent that is rare in the region, the state, and the nation.
  • Dedicated to democracy: 64 percent voted “yes” for an elected mayor last November; and 76 percent approved a 2013 ballot initiative supporting a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and money as speech.

Our neighborhoods

  • Leafy, green oases from Stoneleigh Road at the north end of town, to North Park Boulevard at the south, and from Cedar Hill at the western boundary to Dennison Park on the east side.
  • Lush gardens; pollinator pathways established in the Noble and Shaker Farm districts, and proliferating elsewhere.
  • Lovely pocket parks: one at Roanoke and Noble roads features neighborhood events throughout the year, while another, “Spirit Corner” at Hampshire and Cadwell roads, is a haven for quiet contemplation.
  • Housing for a diverse population with something for almost everyone, from lovingly tended pre- and post-war bungalows to stately mansions, and from compact apartments to spacious century-old colonials.

Our local leaders

  • Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin and her board, for working with their Coventry PEACE campus tenants to forge a rental agreement giving the arts and community organizations breathing space for at least another year.
  • CH Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg, for responding quickly and without the least sign of defensiveness to the concerns of Black Lives Matter, and working with residents to truly make this a “Safer Heights.”
  • Susanna Niermann O’Neill, for assuming the position of CH Acting City Manager for the second time in her long career of service to this city, and for being its institutional memory.

Our local businesses and organizations

  • Zagara’s Marketplace and Dave’s, for providing groceries—the most essential service of all—throughout the pandemic and the shutdown.
  • Our famous and longtime independent merchants: Tommy’s, Mac’s Backs, Appletree Books, Mister Brisket, Nighttown, and many others too numerous to list.
  • Cain Park, Ensemble and Dobama theatres, Heights Arts, Lake Erie Ink, Artful, and more, creating a true home to the arts.

Our editors

  • Each other, for working through our occasional deeply held differences of opinion, making it a pleasure to write and edit this column every month.
  • The Heights Observer editorial staff for providing our community with a platform for the varying opinions and healthy debate essential to democracy, and for editing us, publishing us, and even nominating us for a statewide award.
  • The Cleveland Press Club, for honoring our work with a 2020 Ohio Excellence in Journalism Award.


Please join us: vote Yes on Issue 6!

Last year, the charter change to an elected mayor won every precinct in Cleveland Heights. This November’s ballot includes Issue 6, another amendment to our city charter, regarding candidate filings for non-partisan mayoral primary elections. A September primary will be held if three or more candidates are certified to run for the office of mayor.

Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg

Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg are longtime residents of Cleveland Heights. Contact them at

Read More on Heights of Democracy
Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 5:36 PM, 09.30.2020