Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 12-20-21

DECEMBER 20, 2021 – Regular meeting


  • Public comments
  • City manager’s comments
  • Council actions
  • Council members’ comments


Present were Council President Jason Stein, Council Vice President Kahlil Seren, Craig Cobb, Josie Moore, Davida Russell, and Michael N. Ungar. Melody Joy Hart was home due to COVID and, while unable to vote, participated in the discussion by phone. Also present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council and Finance Director Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. Council met for about one and a quarter hour.

Public comments

A Noble Neighbor complained about trash at an apartment building and trees encroaching on streetlights and blocking illumination.

A Caledonia resident thanked the city for removing a “mountain of garbage” in front of a building. He asked for more police attention to the problem of motorists using the left turn lane on North Taylor Road as a “high speed lane.” He claimed there have been many near-miss incidents.

A Fenley Road resident complained about neglect of the lot and trees at a rental home next door.

A Greyton Road resident complained that cars and trucks parked overnight on the street were not being ticketed.

These four residents were referred to the city manager.

Council Member-Elect Tony Cuda praised and thanked outgoing members.

Lee Barbee announced that he has applied for the council seat to be vacated by Mr. Seren when he becomes mayor and discussed his qualifications. He said one of his primary issues is lower property values in the Cleveland Heights section in the East Cleveland school district.

The owner of a business at South Taylor and Cedar Roads thanked the Cleveland Heights Police Department for quick action. She was in her car and approached by a woman who feared a man, who was attacking her. She let in the victim and drove away while calling the police, who responded in four minutes and soon arrested the suspect. The resident said it is very dark in the area where this occurred and pleaded for better lighting and cameras. Mr. Ungar and Ms. Russell discussed solutions.

Fran Mentch of the People for the Park stated that 25 percent of the signatures on the initiative petition for the park at Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook were not accepted as valid by the county board of elections. She urged voters to sign one and gave a phone number to find out how to do so in the next few days before the deadline.

The daughter of a homeowner who had previously come to council to request help with a long-needed curb repair in front of his house at Quilliams and Northampton Roads thanked the city for quick action on a manhole repair and the promise of the curb construction in the spring.

A resident praised city council as “the best,” congratulated the incoming mayor and council, and spoke about challenges to democracy such as divisiveness and nationalism.

City manager’s comments

City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil said that it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the last city manager of Cleveland Heights. She thanked city employees and pledged their support and her own for the incoming mayor and council. Council and all in attendance gave her a lengthy standing ovation.

Council actions

Council approved, on second reading:

  • A lease /purchase agreement with U.S. Bancorp Government Leasing and Finance for an aerial ladder fire truck. The 10-and-one-half year lease is for $1.2 million at a 2.5 percent annual rate.
  • A development agreement with Amato Homes I, LLC, for construction of single-family, owner-occupied infill homes on Desota Avenue.
  • An ordinance adopting a new city code chapter: “Tenant’s Right to Pay to Stay,” which protects residents against eviction and homelessness. Championed by Mr. Ungar and Mr. Seren, this was passed at Mr. Ungar’s last meeting as a member of council.
  • An ordinance to reschedule the annual Democracy Day hearing from January to June. Better weather should encourage more participation.
  • An agreement with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company to continue the protected liability self-insurance program for the city.

Council approved, on first reading:

  • Amendments to the 2021 appropriations and expenditures to adjust the budget.
  • Authorization for the mayor to submit the 2022 Community Development Block Grant entitlement application.
  • An ordinance accepting and ratifying the Janssen Settlement Agreement pursuant to the OneOhio memorandum of understanding consistent with the terms of the July 2021, National Opioid Settlement Agreement. This will create an effective means to distribute opioid settlement funds in Cleveland Heights.
  • Authorization of a memorandum of understanding with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to provide Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination services and Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping training for service department personnel. These services will be provided to Cleveland Heights at no cost and paid for by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District from storm sewer revenues.
  • Establishing the January 3 council meeting as an organizational meeting and the January 10 meeting as the first regular meeting.

Presented on first reading was an ordinance for issuing $3.1 million in economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of refunding the Series 2015 bonds issued for the construction of a multi-level parking deck.

Council members’ comments

On behalf of the council, city staff, and citizens, Vice President Seren expressed appreciation for out-going council members Ungar and Stein. He discussed their individual accomplishments and gave each a plaque at the beginning of the meeting.

All members spoke in tribute to President Stein and Mr. Ungar at their last meeting. They all spoke of their admiration of Susanna Niermann O’Neil who will no longer be city manager in January.

Mr. Cobb thanked members Stein and Ungar, noting that they were always helpful, experienced, and knowledgeable; he will miss their perspective. He thanked Ms. Niermann O’Neil who is always on the job and must please everyone.

Ms. Hart thanked Mr. Stein for his presidential leadership and advice and Mr. Ungar for his advice. She congratulated Mr. Seren, adding she looks forward to working with him in 2022.

Ms. Moore reflected on how measured, calm, and clearheaded Mr. Stein is. She said Mr. Ungar is passionate, informed, and makes sure he is heard. To the city manager she praised her diligence, attention to detail, care, compassion, and humanity. She concluded that she is excited for the leadership of Mr. Seren as mayor.

Ms. Russell paid tribute to Mr. Stein for his mentorship and his work as president. She called Mr. Ungar a joy and said they had bonded. She congratulated mayor-elect Seren and pledged him her complete support. She wished residents happy holidays, especially after such a rough year. She mentioned COVID safety and her desire to stop the divisions in society and disparity in the city.

Mr. Seren observed that this is his last meeting as a council member and thanked everyone.

Mr. Ungar expressed gratitude for everyone’s kind words, adding how strange and difficult it is that this is his last meeting. He thanked all the citizens and the staff, ending with high praise for Ms. Niermann O’Neil who has devoted 45 years to the city. He gave Mr. Stein respect for the way he has led council. He stated he will be available for special projects and support, adding that he looks forward to watching the incoming council. He thanked Tom Jewell for journalistic excellence and integrity, purpose, equilibrium, stability, and class in his coverage of Cleveland Heights in the Sun Press, emphasizing the importance of coverage that is precise, measured, and informative, with no spin or varnish.

In his final president’s report, Mr. Stein said it was the honor of a lifetime to serve Cleveland Heights. He recognized Ms. O’Neil, Mr. Seren, and all other council members, concluding that the council is in good hands. His closing gratitude was for his children and his wife, Shimona.

LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy. 

Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at:

Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel:

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 11:51 AM, 01.11.2022