Heights Community Congress will be missed
After 50 years, Heights Community Congress (HCC) ended its existence on Feb. 28. We should consider what could have happened to Cleveland Heights without it.
HCC now receives justly deserved compliments for its consistent commitment to fair housing. But it did other good work during the 1970s and 1980s.
It helped Cleveland Heights survive as an open and integrated community. There was legitimate concern then that Cleveland Heights could not handle integration well and that “white flight” would result. HCC sought to make new residents welcome while also making existing residents comfortable in, and committed to, Cleveland Heights.
HCC strongly supported neighborhood organizations. Thanks to this support, organizations such as Coventry Neighbors and Oxford Neighbors became effective and credible. People of different backgrounds learned to work together and live in the same city. HCC gave them confidence in the future of Cleveland Heights.
HCC sponsored planning groups of citizens from all parts of Cleveland Heights. Their members exchanged ideas about planning and development. But more than that, these groups helped create a social fabric. They brought people together so they could network.
The Heights Heritage Home & Garden Tour was more than a mere fundraiser for the HCC. It was a major social event and an opportunity for many to learn about the fantastic history of Cleveland Heights housing. It was a public relations success that made Cleveland Heights seem special and desirable.
Cleveland Heights City Hall hired away many talented members of the HCC staff. It also co-opted HCC by developing parallel and identical programs. Some in the city administration thought they had made the HCC irrelevant. But CH City Council continued its financial support of HCC with annual community development block grant awards. The very existence of HCC was seen as important by successive city councils.
Times have changed. Groups like FutureHeights have taken over some roles formerly played by HCC. And City Hall continues to operate programs that HCC once offered. So maybe it is time for the HCC to declare a victory and pass away gracefully. It played an important role. It should be remembered fondly.
Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as council president/mayor (1982–87).