Vote for change on CH City Council
As a longtime Cleveland Heights resident, I have seen—and experienced—the good and the bad of our city’s government.
Lately, I’m afraid, I’m seeing and experiencing the very bad, right in our city’s council meetings.
The heart of our democracy is We the People. And We the People of Cleveland Heights are finding it harder to participate in our city government. Actually, we’re being actively and aggressively turned away.
It all began in January 2022, when newly elected Council President Hart decided to reduce the time allotted to each community member participating in the public comments part of council meetings from five minutes to just three.
Hart also made up a new rule that any member of the public who wanted to speak about something not on that night’s agenda had to wait until the end of the meeting.
Both public-comments portions of council meetings are explained as one-way communications, not discussions or Q&A sessions. Speakers are not to expect more than a polite “thank you” from the chair. This is not a policy change from prior council meetings I have watched, attended, and spoken at.
These new limits would be bad enough if they were applied evenly. But, in my experience over the past year and a half, residents who take the time to prepare their comments, concerns, and even criticisms, and have the courage to speak at council or committee meetings, can expect to be aggressively “corrected." In contrast, speakers with whom the assembled elected officials agree are often granted extra time at the podium, and, certainly, are neither criticized nor corrected.
Maybe you saw the May 1 council meeting, where President Hart reached over to turn off a council member's microphone, yelled at citizens and fellow council members, and threatened to change the number of votes required for making appointments to the Charter Review Commission? Another council member was allowed, by Hart, to reprimand residents who advocated for change.
Do you remember the Oct, 3, 2022, meeting, when Hart tried to “save time” by cutting public comments to just two minutes per person? I was one of those people. I had prepared three minutes of heartfelt, well-researched comments, and I was suddenly supposed to edit them down to just two minutes?
Vote for the change you want to see in Cleveland Heights this Nov. 7. Let’s start by voting for candidates who respect democracy and transparency. Clearly, that excludes Council President Hart.
Cindy Evans is a 30-year resident of Cleveland Heights who raised both of her daughters here. A retired teacher, she is currently working to revive the Caledonia neighborhood by attending council meetings, voicing her concerns, and joining other organizations. She is trying to be the change she wants to see.