Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 8-15-22
AUGUST 15, 2022 - regular meeting
- Public comments
- Mayor’s report
- Charter amendment
- Other council actions
- Consent agenda.
- Council member comments on charter amendment
- Other council member comments
- Committee of the whole
Present were Mayor Kahlil Seren and Council Members Melody Joy Hart (council president), Craig Cobb (vice president), Tony Cuda, Gail Larson, Anthony Mattox, Jr., Josie Moore, and Davida Russell, as was Law Director William Hanna. The meeting ran for one and one-half hours.
One resident explained that she had intended to speak about the city’s housing problems, but instead addressed council’s unprofessional behavior and urged them to improve
Three residents spoke in favor and five in opposition concerning the proposed charter amendment regarding council’s right of inquiry. Arguments in favor cited similar provisions in other city charters and the importance of council’s advocacy role. They claimed that timely flow of information from the administration to council is not happening. Arguments opposed included: a preference for a review of the entire charter rather than a piecemeal approach, the suggestion that the scope of council’s inquiry should be broader than proposed, the need for communication procedures to be flexible and not set in the charter, the risk of multiple-boss syndrome and stress on a small staff, and the undermining of the strong mayor form of government approved by the voters. Several speakers, both pro and con, criticized council for rude and unprofessional treatment of each other and urged council to develop more collaborative and respectful relationships with the mayor and with each other.
Mayor Seren described recent incidents of graffiti, explained that the city takes such incidents seriously, and urged residents to use the Access Cleveland Heights app or the Service Request page on the city’s website to report incidents. He did a brief demonstration of how to make such reports on the city’s website. Mr. Seren also urged residents to avoid evidence-free speculation on social media.
Council rejected a charter amendment proposal to be submitted to the voters in November 2022. Voting yes were Council Members Cuda, Larson, Moore, and Russell. Voting no were Council Members Cobb, Hart, and Mattox [five votes are required to approve a charter amendment proposal]. The proposal would amend Article III, Section 6 of the charter to formalize procedures for council to request information from, and to require council meeting attendance of, department heads and the police and fire chiefs.
Other council actions
On first reading, council amended the 2022 budget. Increases included: cost of advertising the charter amendment in the May election, Cain Park performer fees, refuse equipment purchases, and fire deposit bonds.
Council made eight appointments to the Racial Justice Task Force.
Council appointed an Assessment Equalization Board to hear objections to assessments for public services plans for the Cedar Fairmount Special Improvement District.
Council authorized a purchase agreement for real property at 13234-13238 Cedar Road for $765,000 and amended the budget to appropriate funds for the purchase.
Council authorized an agreement with Link Computer Corporation for purchase, installation, and maintenance of the Muni-Link software system for utility billing.
Council proclaimed September 2022 as National Preparedness Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and September 9-18, 2022, as Welcoming Week.
Council member comments on charter amendment
Mr. Cuda (pro): Timely access to information is essential for council to legislate. The charter is vague on how council exercises its right of inquiry, and the amendment will clarify the matter. Other cities have a codified right of inquiry.
Ms. Moore (pro): Council needs information to legislate, advocate for residents, and respond to residents’ questions. Lack of information has been an ongoing problem.
Ms. Larson (pro): Council needs access to information to respond to citizens’ requests, avoid duplicating administrative efforts, and legislate responsibly.
Mr. Mattox (con): Previous charter amendments have not been thoroughly reviewed and have created problems. The current proposal leaves critical elements ill-defined. Instead, a charter review commission should be established. The current communication issues are better resolved with a memorandum of understanding, which is under development.
Ms. Russell (pro): City staff need to be protected, but council cannot do its job if prohibited from communicating with staff.
Mr. Cobb (con): The proposal undermines the new strong-mayor form of government. The mayor and council are inexperienced, so growing pains are natural. It is the responsibility of council and the mayor to develop productive working relationships, which is better done outside the charter. A comprehensive charter review is necessary.
Ms. Hart (con): Information is necessary, but another charter amendment is not the best method. The charter needs to be reviewed as a whole. Council and the mayor working together to develop a process for information is a more flexible method.
Other council member comments
Ms. Larson reported that Lead-Safe certification legislation is in-process and that a public hearing will be scheduled to hear from those affected.
Ms. Moore reported that the Municipal Services Committee is considering a tree management plan. They are also discussing a ban on the idling of some internal combustion engines and a requirement for multi-unit residences to provide recycling services.
Mr. Mattox announced that the next public ARPA meeting will be Aug. 24, 6:30 p.m., at Monticello Middle School. Over 500 survey responses have been received so far. Mr. Mattox challenged the claim made during the public comment period that he had not held a Planning and Development Committee meeting. Inaccurate information about the performance of one of Cleveland Heights’s few African American elected officials undermines the ability of future African Americans to be elected.
Ms. Hart explained that the criticisms of council members’ interactions have been heard, and that it is necessary to maintain decorum and treat each other with respect.
Committee of the whole
Mayor Seren announced that the process for hiring a coordinator for the Mayor’s Action Center had started. The coordinator will receive questions and complaints communicated via phone and email and coordinate responses. The position will also be responsible for analyzing these communications. The bulk of the meeting was devoted to review legislation, particularly the budget adjustments, on the agenda for the council meeting.
LWV Observer: Jill Tatem.
Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: https://www.clevelandheights.com/1142/2021-Agendas-and-Minutes
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ClevelandHeightsOH