LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights

FEBRUARY 5, 2024 - regular meeting

  • Public comment
  • Mayor’s report
  • City administrator’s report
  • Clerk of council’s report
  • Council actions
  • Council member comments
  • Public session not authorized
  • Israel-Palestine resolution
  • Committee of the whole

Present were Mayor Kahlil Seren, Council President Tony Cuda, Vice President Davida Russell, and council members Craig Cobb, Gail Larson, Anthony Mattox Jr. and Jim Petras. Janine Boyd was not present. Also present were Addie Balester, clerk of council; William Hanna, law director; and Danny Williams, city administrator. The meeting ran 1.75 hours. 

Public comment

Linda Striefsky, Charter Review Commission (CRC) chair, thanked the mayor and council for supporting the CRC’s work and announced a public meeting to solicit residents’ views on Feb. 12, 6 p.m., at the Community Center.

Blanche Valancy, representing the League of Women Voters, Cleveland Heights-University Heights chapter, invited the public to attend a Presidents’ Day program including a video and discussion of A Citizen’s Guide to Preserving Democracy. The program, co-sponsored by the Cleveland Heights-University Heights libraries, will be held at the Lee Road Library Feb. 19, 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Eight residents urged council to pass a resolution supporting a Gaza ceasefire and seven other residents urged council not to do so.

Mayor’s report

Council approved Mayor Seren’s request to bid the sanitary sewer overflow control project for Bradford at Lee, Fairmount at Arlington, and East Monmouth. He urged council members to attend the upcoming annual meeting of the Northeast Ohio City Council Association. He congratulated Myesha Watkins, Cleveland Heights resident and executive director of Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, who will be speaking at the White House at an event honoring the work of the University of Chicago’s Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy (CVILA). Watkins was a member of CVILA’s inaugural class. 

Mayor Seren read an October e-mail he had sent to then-Council President Hart offering his support for the proposed resolution in support of Israel after the Hamas attack and cautioning against language that supports any actions a nation might do in response to such an attack. He expressed his willingness, depending on the specifics, to join council in a new resolution clarifying council’s stance.

City administrator’s report

Danny Williams explained that the city garage Lot 27, at Lennox and Surrey, has been closed, because inspection revealed a danger posed by crumbling cement. The city is working with nearby businesses to provide alternative parking and developing cost estimates for repairing or demolishing the structure.

Williams announced that Brandon Upchurch, Mayor’s Action Center (MAC) Coordinator, is leaving the position to move to Cincinnati. Upchurch reported on the steps taken to initiate the MAC, its current status, and possible next steps.

Clerk of council’s report

Balester announced that Vero Bistro Inc., 12421 Cedar Road, has applied to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for a new type-C permit.

Council actions

On first reading as emergency measures, council:

  • Appointed Gail Larson to the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership Board of Trustees and Joseph Strauss as an alternate member of the Architectural Board of Review.
  • Recognized Feb. 1 as National Freedom Day.

On third reading. council repealed city code Chapter 148, “Youth Advisory Commission” and adopted a replacement chapter titled “Parks and Recreation Youth Advisory Board.” 

Presented on first reading with no vote were:

  • Authorization to submit an amended Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement application and plan for the year beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The amendment would move funds from emergency assistance and subrecipient support categories to senior assistance and outdoor public spaces categories. 
  • Authorization to submit the CDBG entitlement application for the year beginning Jan. 1, 2024.

Presented on third reading as an emergency measure, but with no vote, was a resolution to authorize a development agreement with WXZ CPV LLC, for redevelopment of the Taylor-Tudor buildings on South Taylor Road.

Council member comments

Petras announced that the Housing and Building Committee would meet Feb. 13.

Larson announced that the Municipal Services and Environmental Sustainability Committee would meet Feb, 13. She urged residents to apply to the two new advisory committees, Climate and Environmental Sustainability and Transportation and Mobility.

Public session not authorized

Under new business, council denied, on a 3-3 vote, with Mattox, Larson, and Cobb voting no, Council President Cuda’s request for council authorization of a public listening session at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district’s DeLisle Options Center the following evening. This meeting, the second in a series of planned listening sessions, required council authorization to be covered by the city’s insurance, a board of education requirement for those using school district buildings. Mattox,  Larson, and Cobb raised objections that they had not been notified of either of the first two meetings, that public meetings held by council leadership should be open to all, and that reports of residents’ comments at such meetings should be provided to council. Cuda apologized for the lack of prior notification and agreed to provide reports. Russell explained that, since the meetings had been widely publicized, she had assumed all council members knew about them. 

Israel-Palestine resolution

Under new business, Mattox expressed disappointment in council’s unwillingness to discuss an Israel-Palestine resolution during the Committee of the Whole meeting and urged reconsideration. Russell explained that her position as president of the Northeast District of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees prohibits her from taking a public position in advance of action by the national union.

Committee of the whole

The committee held an executive session to discuss the sale or lease of city-owned real property.

Council members discussed draft versions of council rules of conduct and the legislative process. Mattox, Larson, and Cobb will submit revisions to the latter. Cobb urged that such documents be posted publicly, not just to council members. 

Russell provided an update on upcoming dog park legislation.

During discussion of a crafting a new Israel-Palestine resolution, Larson noted divergent views she’s heard from residents, questioned the effectiveness of a council resolution in achieving peace or supporting residents, and described her responsibility to focus on Cleveland Heights. Mattox urged consideration of several proposed resolutions, contrasting the urgency with which council acted in Oct. to the reluctance to speak now. Cuda said views he has heard from residents were equally divided between support for and opposition to a resolution. He characterized the resolutions he has seen as being divisive and there appeared to be no interest on council in passing another resolution. Petras, Russell, and Cobb offered no opinions.

LWV Observer: Jill Tatem.

Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: www.clevelandheights.gov/1625/City-Council-Agendas-and-Minutes.

Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/ClevelandHeightsOH.

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 11:46 AM, 02.29.2024