Cleveland Heights City Council special meeting highlights 6-28-2021

JUNE 28, 2021


  • City manager’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. 

An executive session, lasting 85 minutes, was held to consider property purchase or sale and to confer with an attorney on pending court action. The regular meeting was 53 minutes.

City manager’s report

Staff is working on what is eligible for American Rescue Plan funding. A survey on the city website gives residents an opportunity to look at and rate the possibilities

Block parties are once again being planned throughout the city.

Cain Park will open with the Arts Festival weekend, July 9-11. No entry fee will be charged this year. It will feature 90 artists; the smaller number allows more social distancing.

City council will recess in July this year. Staff will be at work.

Upgrades for the police department facilities are going to bid.

Staff is looking for places to store items currently stored at the old dairy on Noble Road.

Ms. Niermann O’Neil reviewed the legislation to be voted on at this meeting.

Council actions

Council approved:

  • Amendments to the 2021 budget to fund purchase of police vehicles, improvements to police facilities, and repair of the Coventry garage.
  • An extension of suspension of admissions taxes on theatre tickets through 2021. This was a COVID measure. The city usually receives about $50,000 per year from admissions taxes.
  • The purchase of eleven 2021 Ford Utility Police Interceptors at a cost of $32,090. These are badly needed and, with four purchased earlier in the year, will replace about 30 percent of the fleet. There was some discussion of looking at hybrid engines in the future to pursue city emission reduction goals.
  • An agreement to provide a commercial tax exemption to Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Funeral Home at 1985 South Taylor Road for an addition and upgrades. Even with the abatement, tax revenue to the schools and city will increase. The funeral home is a long time anchor at Taylor and Superior. 
  • A non-binding memorandum of understanding with Flaherty and Collins concerning the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook Development. Members of council discussed their concerns about prevailing wages and collection of all taxes from contractors and sub-contractors, pedestrian and bike-friendly development, and public discussions prior to a deal being struck.
  • Authorization of a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Start Right Community Development Corporation for the redevelopment of single family homes on vacant residential lots owned or controlled by the city. Mr. Seren voted no because Start Right will need money ($250,000) from the city, is inexperienced in building homes, and its executive director, Pastor Jimmie Hicks, Jr., once sued the city to block the domestic partnership registry. Ms. Russell countered that no other developers have presented themselves to work in the Caledonia and Desota areas. She reiterated her desire for a non-discrimination clause in the agreement, as well as her support for the LGBTQ community.

A resolution adopting and supporting the ideals, principles, and concepts of Vision Zero was given a first reading. The Vision Zero movement has an overarching goal of reducing annual traffic deaths to zero and is compatible with many other city programs and principles.

Council member comments

All members expressed good wishes for the July 4 holiday and the summer. Some spoke about the Juneteenth holiday and expressed hope for society moving toward real equality.

Ms. Russell and Ms. Hart expressed special appreciation to City Manager O’Neil for improvements beginning in the police department and the old dairy.

Mr. Seren mentioned work beginning on legislation he and Ms. Russell are cosponsoring concerning prevailing wage agreements, a labor peace requirement, and the city’s parent and childbirth leave policy, which has not been updated since 1977.

The next regular meeting will be in person on August 2, 2021.

LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.

Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website here.  Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel

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