CH council must do better and embrace diversity

I watched in utter disappointment the behavior that occurred during the May 1 Cleveland Heights City Council meeting. Unfortunately, this is NOT the first time.

You hear about outrageous antics of council meetings across the country on YouTube and other social media outlets, and this came to mind as I witnessed some of our council members in action.

The lack of respect, the power control (efforts to turn off another member's mic, the uncontrollable gavel banging, the yelling), and the tone that exist among some of the members are unfortunate and embarrassing.

Do better. We are watching you.

As a public figure, I would hope and ask that the council find a way to behave in a respectful and mature manner, agree to disagree, and keep it moving. After all, this is what most adults expect of minors and their children. 

A topic of the meeting, most important to me, is the Charter Review Commission (CRC).

As Council Member Davida Russell read the ordinance and expectations for the selection of the CRC members, she stressed and re-stressed the importance of diversity and representation: “Council shall make a good faith effort to ensure that the commission is broadly reflective of the diversity of this city. Taking into account important considerations, including but not limited to geographic diversity, diversity of race/ethnicity, age, gender, sexual identity, and orientation.”

The law director confirmed that this is the expectation that the council should follow. 

It is expected that council put forth efforts to make sure that all sides of the city have representation. As we all should know, representation matters. It provides a voice for those who would not otherwise have one, and that can’t happen if there is no room at the table for those often disenfranchised, as those of us on the North side of the city have been for decades. It’s about inclusion, not popularity. 

We have a number of African Americans on this council, and this should be a priority.

I hope that it is, but from this meeting, I’m not sure. I gave my vote to each of them who ran, because of the expectation that they would represent the entire city and not just advocate for the status quo.

I applaud those members who fight for us every day and make sure our needs are heard and met. [The fact] that some members didn’t vote because they are frustrated and upset that their [CRC] candidate did not have enough votes is eye-opening.

Council members Russell, Larson, and Cuda voted "no" because the diversity clause in the legislation was not considered, and the agreed-upon process to collaborate and build consensus on all nine applicants didn't seem to be followed.

The motion by Cuda to go back into executive session and finish this work shows a willingness to compromise and problem-solve. 

ALL council members, not just some, need to speak up and make sure that there is a slate of diverse candidates as described in the ordinance. If there is a lack of representation, they need to go back to the drawing board to make sure the Charter Review Commission is diverse.

Tonya Horn

Tonya Horn is a concerned Noble neighborhood citizen and was a member of the Citizens for an Elected Mayor campaign. She is a FutureHeights board member. The opinion expressed here is her own.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 9:03 AM, 06.01.2023