Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 5-15-23
MAY 15, 2023 regular meeting
- Public comments
- Mayor’s report
- Clerk of council’s report
- Charter Review Commission
- Other council action
- First reading only
- Council member comments
- Committee of the Whole
Present were Mayor Kahlil Seren, Council President Melody Joy Hart, Council Vice President Craig Cobb, and Council Members Janine Boyd, Tony Cuda, Gail Larson, Anthony Mattox, Jr., and Davida Russell. Also present were Addie Balester, clerk of council, and William Hanna, law director. The meeting ran for one and one half hours.
A resident thanked the city for supporting the LGBTQ+ community, observing Pride month, and organizing a Pride celebration.
A resident complained about the condition of North Park Blvd. from Coventry to the city border and requested removal of debris and fallen tree limbs.
A resident said that the method used to implement No Mow May created confusion and unnecessary dissension. She also complained about the lack of enforcement of recently reduced speed limits.
Three residents, accompanied by a group of neighbors, described problems on Allston Rd., including deteriorating rental properties, loose dogs attacking residents, and noisy and threatening kids. They asked the city for an action plan to address needed housing inspections, short-term rentals, and loitering.
Mayor Seren reported that sealed bids were received for Warrensville Center Road resurfacing. The bid of $585,348 from Ronyak Paving was found to be the lowest and most responsible. Mr. Seren explained that the No Mow May executive order was not a directive to residents, thanked everyone for the engaged conversations, described it as an experiment, and said that more conversations are needed about how we use public land. The mayor thanked the officers who responded to and are investigating the murder of a young Black man and announced that two suspects have been arrested. He announced that the coordinator of the Mayor’s Action Center started work today and asked for patience as procedures are developed.
Clerk of council’s report
Ms. Balester notified council that Abundance Food & Beverage LLC, 1975 Lee Rd., applied for transfer of a D5 liquor permit from RSC 670 LLC, Columbus Ohio.
Charter Review Commission
Council considered nine resolutions appointing members of the Charter Review Commission on first reading and emergency (to be effective immediately). Before the votes were held, Mr. Cobb moved to limit discussion to the merits, background, and qualifications of the applicants, as the process had already been thoroughly discussed. The motion passed with Mr. Cuda, Ms. Larson, and Ms. Russell voting no.
Of the Mayor’s three nominations, Drew Herzig was unanimously confirmed, but Jon Benedict and Stephanie Morris did not receive the required five yes votes with Mr. Cuda, Ms. Larson, and Ms. Russell voting no.
Of the six council nominations, council unanimously appointed Harriet Applegate, Linda Striefsky, Roland Anglin, and Graig Kluge. Guy Thellian was appointed with Ms. Russell voting no. Marty Gelfand failed to receive the required five votes, as Mr. Cuda, Ms. Larson, and Ms. Russell voted no. Mr. Cuda said he voted no because Gelfand was considering running for office and that council had previously decided to exclude elected officials from the commission. Ms. Hart responded that the commission’s work would likely be concluded before the election in which Mr. Gelfand would run.
Ms. Russell moved to add two additional nominees: Wes Schaub and Gary Bullard. After discussion with Law Director Hanna, the motion was revised to direct the law department to prepare resolutions for Schaub’s and Bullard’s appointments. Mr. Cobb explained that he would not vote for any additional applicants until after discussing them in executive session. Mr. Hanna explained that, because five of council’s six nominees had been appointed, council could only make one additional appointment. Russell then moved to direct the law department to prepare a resolution appointing Schaub. The motion failed with Ms. Boyd, Mr. Cobb, Ms. Hart, and Mr. Mattox voting no. Ms. Russell explained that Schaub was the only applicant from the Caledonia area, Bullard was the only African American applicant from the Taylor area, and both are well qualified.
Other council action
On first reading and on emergency, council accepted two grants from the Ohio Department of Public Safety:
1) A grant of $658,197 from the Office of Criminal Justice Services Community Violence Intervention First Responder Program to be used for retaining police and for purchasing technology and equipment to reduce violent crime related to drug trafficking.
2) A grant of $27,516.13 from the Ohio Traffic Safety Office High Visibility Enforcement Grant Program to be used for paying police overtime for traffic enforcement.
Also on first reading and on emergency, council:
- Amended the 2023 budget, increasing it by $1,711,289. All but $64,000 have offsetting grant revenue.
- Amended an agreement with the Home Repair Resource Center to increase funding for the Down Payment Assistance loan program from $44,000 to $88,000. The action was taken in response to increased demand for loans.
- Acknowledged receipt of a five-year plan for public services and improvements from the Cedar-Lee Special Improvement District and returned the plan without comments or recommendations for changes.
On second reading and on emergency, council authorized an agreement with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. for professional construction inspection and administration services related to the Lee Road resurfacing project, at a cost of no more than $75,800.
A resolution that would authorize funding for a mayor’s action call center and the establishment of a central data collection system with required quarterly reports to council failed with Ms. Boyd, Mr. Cobb, Ms. Hart, and Mr. Mattox voting no. Three members explained their no votes. Mr. Cobb said council had already approved the funding and that the resolution imposes an inappropriate administrative burden. Ms. Hart also noted that council had already voted both to approve both funding and the position and said it was premature to impose reporting requirements before processes are in place. Mr. Mattox said it would be better for council to focus on its own community engagement efforts. The other three council members explained their support for the resolution. Ms. Larson said data was important to determine effectiveness. Mr. Cuda said council has stated on the record the importance of responsiveness to residents. Mr. Russell said the resolution would have ensured city responses to residents.
Offered on first reading only were:
- A resolution authorizing agreements with Technology Install Partners to update the city’s surveillance systems at a maximum cost of $1,091,859.86 and with Cuyahoga County to receive ARPA funds up to $500,000 to contribute to the security update.
- A resolution amending city code chapters 522, 1347, 1345, all related to lead hazards.
Using a consent agenda, council declared June 2023 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month; June 2, 2023 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day; and May 2023 as Mental Health Awareness Month in Cleveland Heights.
Council member comments
Mr. Cobb expressed his willingness to continue discussion of Charter Review Commission applicants in executive session.
Mr. Cuda reported that the Housing and Building Committee is discussing short-term rentals and possible use of ARPA funds for vacant and abandoned properties. He thanked the Allston Road residents for their public comments and expressed the need for an executive session to discuss Charter Review Commission applicants. Holding up a Styrofoam cup, he proposed that the city consider No Mo Styrofoam, in addition to No Mow May.
Ms. Hart thanked the Allston Road residents for coming to the meeting, offered wishes for a successful We Are Noble celebration, thanked the Charter Review Commission applicants, and said that a special meeting would be scheduled to complete the appointments. She announced several property tax clinics on May 17, 18, and 20 with a representative of the county treasurer to get answers about property tax issues; more are being planned.
Ms. Larson reported that the Municipal Services and Environmental Sustainability Committee had received an update from the Cleveland Heights Green Team on the Caledonia Ravine clean-up project. The committee continues to explore funding for a sidewalk repair program. Under discussion are a sidewalk snow removal program, lighting in business districts, No Mow May, traffic signals, and utility supplier options. She announced several upcoming events: Tiger Nation Fun Run on May 20, Noble Library groundbreaking on May 15, the annual We Are Noble celebration of the Noble neighborhood on May 19-21, and EcoFest on May 27.
Mr. Mattox reported that Council’s Planning and Development Committee is working on a process for allocating ARPA funds to businesses and non-profits.
Ms. Russell announced that the Community Center hours have been expanded. Strategy sessions for purchasing a home will be held June 8 from 6-8 p.m. at Coventry Peace Park and on June 10 from 11:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m. at Disciples Church. A landlord-tenant rights session will be held June 10 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Disciples Church.
Committee of the Whole (held prior to the regular meeting)
Finance Director Andrew Unetic presented a first quarter financial report.
Mayor Seren explained the reasons for his three nominees to the Charter Review Commission.
Council members discussed the process and timing for allocating ARPA funds to non-profits and businesses. Council’s Planning Committee is developing an application process. Applicants’ information will likely include a description of the program, amount requested, expected outcomes, and other funding sources. Hearings for non-profits to present proposals will take place June 6-7. A meeting will be scheduled for council members to present and discuss their funding priorities. Mr. Cobb is developing a template for legislation for allocations.
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