LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights

JUNE 22, 2023 special meeting

  • Mayor’s report
  • Charter Review Commission (CRC)
  • Cain Park stramp
  • Out of county property owners
  • Council member comments—CRC, stramp

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 close to two hours.

Mayor’s report

Mayor Seren reported the acceptance of the best bid for the citywide catch basin repair project.

Charter Review Commission (CRC)

Council appointed Stephanie Morris, Jonathan Ciesla, and Graham Ball to the Charter Review Commission with Ms. Russell voting no. She explained that her vote was not an objection to any of the individuals but concerned geographic representation and diversity; thirty-five percent of the city’s population lives north of Mayfield, yet none of the commission nominees do.

Council extended the deadline for the CRC to submit a report and recommendations to council to Jan. 31, 2024. This can be extended again, if needed.

Cain Park stramp

Council authorized use of $1.5 million of ARPA funds for the Cain Park Village Stramp Project, with Ms. Russell and Mr. Cuda voting no. See discussion below.

Out of county property owners

In order to make the housing code more straightforward and clarify the registration structure, council amended several sections of the city code regarding registration of dwelling structures and business structures by out-of-county owners.

Council member comments—CRC, stramp

This special meeting included lengthy comment from council members and the mayor regarding the CRC and the Cain Park stramp.

Charter Review Commission

Mayor Seren said diversity should be embraced, celebrated, and pursued. For future situations the city needs better recruitment to develop a better pool of candidates. He noted, however, that four members of council live north of Mayfield and council ultimately decides what would be put on the ballot.

Ms. Larson expressed support for Ms. Russell’s concern but voted yes, as it is past time for the CRC to convene. She reminded the CRC to keep diversity considerations in the foreground.

Mr. Cuda stressed the importance of charters, as they provide the framework, laws, rules, and structures of government. He said the need to seat the CRC outweighs his concerns about process. He thanked the applicants for their patience.

President Hart commended council members for their effort and noted their willingness to compromise. She thanked the applicants. Council members discussed the need for the CRC to have a facilitator but decided to leave that decision up to the CRC after they are organized with a president and vice president.

Cain Park Village Stramp

Council held a robust discussion regarding the proposed stramp, primarily focused on whether this was the best use for ARPA funds.

WXZ Development Incorporated presented the stramp as part of the Cain Park Village development proposal in February of this year. It would be located on the north side of the Cain Park sledding hill. Mayor Seren noted that close to $100 million in private investment is committed to the Cain Park Village development, which can also attract multiples of $1.5 million in state money through “transformational mixed-use funds.” He said that spending this ARPA money does not prevent spending capital dollars on city needs and that general fund money is more flexible than ARPA dollars. No other ARPA funds have been considered for parks, although parks and recreation was third on the list of needs articulated in citizen surveys.

Ms. Russell said she is uncomfortable with this use for ARPA funds, which she prefers sending to organizations and businesses or using them for major city equipment needs or help with housing issues. She added that confusion has delayed ARPA fund allocation.

Ms. Boyd noted that this use of ARPA could attract state funding and noted the July deadline for making applications to Ohio.

Mr. Cobb stated council has been slow in allocating ARPA funds and must commit to as many meetings as necessary in August to make these decisions. He said the delay in delivering funds to businesses and homeowners does not look good. He added that money had been allocated to sewer projects, which was the public’s first priority in surveys.

Mr. Mattox noted that parks and public spaces, as focal points for the community, were a high priority for the public. He said it was important that council have an agenda for action and lead through listening, vision, and legislation.

Mr. Cuda explained his no vote regarding the stramp, saying it was not the most important need in the city.

At the end of the meeting a block of time was used to plan meetings on Aug. 2 and 22, 10 a.m.—noon, to air council’s and mayor’s ideas and incorporate information gathered from not-for-profit organizations. Ms. Balester will make a spreadsheet to summarize the data.

The next council meeting will be August 7.

LWV observer: Blanche Valancy

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

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 10:01 AM, 08.15.2023