LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights

APRIL 1, 2024 regular meeting

  • Public comment
  • Mayor’s report
  • Council actions
  • Council member comments
  • Council president’s report
  • Committee of the Whole

Present were Mayor Kahlil Seren and council members Tony Cuda (council president), Craig Cobb, Gail Larson, Anthony Mattox, Jr., and Jim Petras. Also present were Clerk of Council Addie Balester, Law Director William Hanna, and City Administrator Danny Williams. Davida Russell (vice president) was excused. The meeting ran for one hour and 20 minutes. 

Public comment

Four speakers gave emotional commentary on the Israel-Gaza ceasefire legislation.

A Severance Circle apartment building resident complained about amplified outdoor activities at the nearby church being too loud and disrupting the peace of his Easter observance.

A Cedar-Fairmount district resident opined that a grocery store is not needed in the Russo building, residents can go to the Fairfax Market at Carnegie-East 105, and the Grocery Outlet is neither a grocery store nor a good fit for the neighborhood.

A resident stated that apologies and retractions are needed for ideas expressed publicly at a Committee of the Whole meeting a few weeks ago that she perceived as antisemitic.

A resident supported proposed living wage legislation for Cleveland Heights city employees and sang a gospel song. 

A commenter who speaks frequently about the Israel-Gaza War addressed negative statements made by past and present Israeli officials concerning Palestinians.

Mike Gaynier, planning commission vice chair, spoke about a fatal pedestrian accident along Warrensville Center Road and Bexley Blvd. near the Hebrew Academy campus and the need for a public sidewalk along that stretch despite challenges presented by area topography. The planning commission requests that this be included in the city’s upcoming safety action plan study.

Several residents discussed the proposed extension of Blanche Avenue along with utilities from where the street currently ends to the South Euclid border. Two residents of Bainbridge Road, which parallels the proposed extension, own lots behind their homes. They expressed their distress, and that of their neighbors, at the lack of information from the city about extension plans. The mayor said the street was originally laid out to extend as far east as Bainbridge does. With the extension single family homes would be developed on the vacant land. A federal allocation would help enormously. The mayor said the plan was announced in the March 22 city e-news, which can be found on the city’s website (clevelandheights.gov) under Residents/City News Update:  https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Cleveland-Heights-City-News-Friday--March-22--2024.html?soid=1115396448413&aid=ALaP6YyuqHM

Mayor’s report

Council granted the mayor permission to bid several street and tree projects, road resurfacing and waterline projects, and the Surrey-Lennox Parking Garage repair. He reported on meeting with cooperating cities regarding the rollout of a new mental health response team around the first of June. The mayor has been selected to participate in a city design institute, a project of the National Endowment of the Arts and the US Conference of Mayors. He will bring the Warrensville-Noble Triangle as his design project.

Council actions

Council recognized April as Earth Month.

On first reading, council authorized an agreement with Wade Trim, Inc., for professional engineering services for four Sanitary Sewer Overflow projects.

On first reading, council approved the ceasefire resolution written by Ms. Larson. She spoke about the passion of citizens on both sides of the issue. Mr. Mattox and Ms. Russell praised her work. Mr. Cuda thanked her and said he was sorry it took so long and was so difficult, but he was glad council made this resolution.

On second reading, council appointed Harmony Cross, Mara Schoch, Sam Bivens, and Saralene Oakley Toombs to the Citizens Advisory Committee; John Talley to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board;Elchanan Stern to the Board of Zoning Appeals; Charlie Mosbrook, Howard Maier, Cole Ware, and Aaron Hughes-Ware to the Transportation and Mobility Committee; and Catalina Wagers, John Barber, Tami Masuoka, and William Hanavan to the Climate and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

On second reading, council authorized salt purchase for 2024-2025 through the ODOT Cooperative Purchasing Program. Ms. Larson asked that the administration consider relocating the salt barn from its current location in the Mayfield-Noble tringle.

Several resolutions presented on first reading only, with no vote, include:

  • A resolution supporting US Senate Bill 3681 “The Preparing and Training All Educators Act.” This would provide grants to school systems to recruit, train, and retain teachers’ assistants. 
  • Authorization of a loan agreement with Strategic Structure Investments, LLC, for $100,000 with a five-year repayment under the Storefront Loan Fund Program for storefront renovations in the Taylor-Tudor redevelopment.

Council member comments

Mr. Mattox urged residents to apply for positions on city boards and commissions.

Ms. Russell announced that Cleveland Heights-University Heights school employees were adopting Oxford Elementary School to send 250 backpacks of supplies home with needy students on April 30. She thanked residents who had offered support to her during her mother’s recent health crisis.

Council president’s report 

Mr. Cuda thanked all members for helping to get the legislative process organized. 

He announced that the TWG-Noble Station project will be before the Architectural Review Board April 4 and the Planning Commission April 10; it will be presented as legislation April 15. 

He stated there is no legislation prepared for the Russo request. 

The planning commission has approved the places of worship legislation: https://www.clevelandheights.gov/DocumentCenter/View/17717/Ordinance-No-031-2024?bidId=

Seventeen applicants for the vacant council seat are posted on the city website (clevelandheights.gov) under Government/City Council/ City Council Applicants: https://www.clevelandheights.gov/1144/City-Council-Applicants The League of Women Voters will conduct video interviews, to be posted when completed. Council will discuss them on April 15 and make a decision by May 7.

Committee of the whole

In addition to reviewing legislation on this evening’s agenda and discussing revisions to the Gaza-Israel Ceasefire resolution and a new ordinance Mr. Petras is writing, council heard from Destiny Burns of the Cedar-Lee SID (Special Improvement District) concerning parking and walking problems caused by the development construction. In general, business is down 30 percent. She said the merchants love the development and appreciate the signs for wayfinding, but more signs are needed on the Cedar Road side. The lighting in the garage is unreliable, and the elevator is still broken. She concluded that any way the city can be more proactive in keeping merchants informed and listening to their problems over the next year or so of construction would be appreciated and useful as a template for other development areas in the city.

Two pieces of legislation added to the agenda for passage were reviewed: The ceasefire resolution with added wording including support and condolences to all effected and the name of the Heights High alumna who was killed (Baraa Abu Elaish); and a storefront loan resolution to assist with Taylor-Tudor renovations.

Council has made progress on how both council-initiated and administration-initiated legislation move through the process of becoming law. They are also revising council rules.

There are 17 applicants for the vacant council seat. The League of Women Voters will conduct video interviews over Zoom; Council will view the interviews and discuss them in an executive session April 15.

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 17, Issue 5, Posted 11:50 AM, 04.30.2024