Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 6-21-2021
JUNE 21, 2021 regular meeting
- Public comments
- City manager’s report
- Police chief’s report
- Council actions
- Council member comments
Present were Council President Jason Stein, Vice President Kahlil Seren, Craig Cobb, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, and Michael N. Ungar. Also, present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council and Finance Director Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting lasted about one hour.
A resident complained about city staff not answering phones and the inconvenience of closed locker rooms at the recreation center, especially for the ice rink.
Gail Larson, co-chair of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland announced four upcoming candidate forums:
- Thursday, August 12, for the Cleveland Heights mayor race for the September 14 Primary Election.
The other three forums are for races in the November 2 General Election:
- Thursday, September 23 for Cleveland Heights mayor and city council
- Thursday, September 30 for the University Heights mayor
- Thursday, October 7 for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board
All forums begin at 7 p.m. and will take place at the Cleveland Heights Community Center except for the September 30 University Heights mayoral forum, which will take place at the University Heights Library.
A resident requested a public discussion of a park at Cedar/Lee/Meadowbrook and asked if council is still receiving free meals at the expense of taxpayers.
A retired Cleveland Heights High School teacher and 40-year resident on Cedarbrook Road is concerned that the Cedarbrook-Tullamore project may destroy a small, properly planned, mature park that buffers the neighborhood from the Cedar-Lee garage and helps the local watershed.
City manager’s report
Ms. Niermann-O’Neil expressed pleasure at the institution of the Juneteenth federal holiday, but because of short notice, the city will celebrate a week late this year, closing city offices on June 25.
The first Racial Justice Task Force meeting will take place virtually June 24, 7 p.m.
All city meetings will return to in-person July 1; video recordings will be made. At the August 2 in-person city council meeting all citizen comments must be presented in person.
The annual Safety Night, combined with a celebration of the city’s 100th anniversary, is planned for Tuesday, August 3.
Jim Lamden, IT director, is retiring after more than 30 years of service, during which he led the city through the ups and downs of technology. A new IT director has been hired and is working with Mr. Lamden. Jennifer Coe, an invaluable employee in the city manager’s office, taking care of council packets and many other things, has resigned and is moving on.
Police chief’s report
Chief Annette Mecklenberg reported:
- A fatal shooting of a 25-year old male, June 8 in Dennison Park. The alleged shooter received a shoulder wound and has been jailed and indicted since his hospital release; Crimestoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for help finding three unknown men being sought in connection. Tips can be anonymous.
- Meet Your Police will resume in person on the first and third Thursdays of each month.
- Police have increased patrols in city parks.
- Police are being trained in the use of “Ring App” evidence.
- Consideration is being given to a gun buy-back in Cleveland Heights.
- Almost 150 bikes were sold at the recent auction, raising nearly $59,000.
The chief answered a few questions posed by Mr. Ungar. Ring training will not be available to residents; it is for police, but information will be published as the program progresses. Twenty license plate readers are on order; the police department is working with utility companies to determine placement on utility poles. Some security cameras are in Cain Park and more will be considered.
Council passed on second reading:
- The issuance and sale of a about $1 million in bonds to pay for street reconstruction, resurfacing, and improvements; rebuilding Monticello Boulevard and Taylor Road; equipment for the Public Works Sewer and Forestry divisions; and mobile radios for the police department.
- The 2022 Tax Budget.
Council passed on first reading:
- Amendments to the appropriations and expenditures in the 2021 budget.
- A resolution opposing parts of the Ohio Senate Omnibus Budget Amendment that would prohibit new construction and ongoing provision of publicly-owned broadband networks, thereby harming the ability of Ohio’s residents and businesses to participate in the 21st century digital economy.
Receiving first reading were three ordinances:
- The first authorizes the initial use of funds received from the American Rescue Plan. Ms. Russell, who prepared the legislation, detailed that some of the $38.8 million would be used to “make whole” furloughed city employees. Also, $2 million would be dedicated to the Noble area, $2 million to the Taylor area, and $1 million to needs in the rest of the city.
- A new chapter of the city code to deal with lead hazards was developed by Mr. Seren.
- A new chapter of the city code titled “Tenants Right To Stay,” prepared by Mr. Ungar, would help prevent the disruption of eviction by allowing a tenant who pays all past due rent and late fees to avoid eviction. This would help preserve housing stock and prevent homelessness. Currently, due to a quirk in Ohio law, eviction proceedings are not automatically terminated when money is tendered. There will be discussions with landlords before enactment. The law will sunset at the end of 2022, when it can be adjusted.
Council approved a consent agenda that authorized an agreement for professional design services related to the sanitary sewer overflow control project and EPA consent decree, not to exceed $110,000; proclaimed July to be National Parks and Recreation Month; and awarded Community Development Block Grant Funds to:
- The Bhutanese Community, for refugee assistance, $10,000
- Family Connections for a community capacity building program, $25,000
- FutureHeights for operating expenses, $105,000
- Gesher for operating expenses, $10,000
- The Heights Emergency Food Center for operating and capital improvement expenses, $28,000
- The Home Repair Resource Center for housing counseling, home repair, and home improvement programs, $189,000
- Lake Erie Ink for the Ink Spot After School Program, $12,000
- Open Doors Academy for academic and enrichment programing for disadvantaged middle school youth and for the Pathways to Independence Program at Cleveland Heights High School, $30,000
- The Severance Tower Local Advisory Council for the Accessible Community Garden Project, $26,400
- The Start Right Community Development Corporation for a food bank, $10,000
Council member comments
All members praised the work of Jim Lamden and Jennifer Coe, extending their individual gratitude and wishing them well.
Mr. Cobb announced the first meeting of the Racial Justice Task Force and said there will be a committee meeting on civil immigration soon.
Ms. Hart spoke about a Juneteenth celebration program.
Ms. Russell announced the reopening of the Senior Center and Cain Park and the availability of COVID vaccinations at Monticello on June 30.
Vice President Seren reflected on enslaved people and the importance of government protections of people’s rights.
Mr. Ungar said the Planning and Development Committee is working on a memorandum of understanding for the Cedar/Lee/Meadowbrook Project with Flaherty and Collins.
LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.