Opinion

CH council approves Noble development

On May 20, Cleveland Heights City Council approved TWG’s affordable apartment development, Nobility Court (once known as Noble Station).

Since the community first learned about the development, it has been shrouded with controversy and opposition. This May 20 council meeting was no different. A packed room (the usual early opposers and first-time resident attendees) brought opposition statements, emotions, and disappointment on many levels and [for many] reasons. The intentional and orchestrated effort implemented to shut down this project came too late. Each council member's voting decision was made, after countless meetings, presentations, and discussions since 2023.

Intentionally, from the start, the project and process excluded engaging the community.

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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 8:46 AM, 05.29.2024

Consider smaller, upscale grocer for Cedar Fairmount

Growing up in Cleveland Heights, I have fond memories of shopping at Russo's Fairmount store. Like many longtime residents, I feel a sense of sadness seeing it vacant. Seeing it occupied by Dave's Supermarket, which doesn't quite cater to the local market around Cedar Fairmount, was disappointing to me. I don't mean to come off as a snob, but shouldn't we aim for an upscale grocer that fits into a smaller footprint, catering to the residents nearest to Cedar Fairmount?

As someone with experience as a former commercial real estate broker, I believe finding the right fit is crucial for ensuring a store's profitability and sustainability as a tenant in this space. An outlet grocery doesn't seem like the right fit here.

I disagree with the notion that the Heights doesn't need another grocery store.

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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 8:43 AM, 05.29.2024

School district has a building glut

The CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) needs to develop a comprehensive facilities plan to efficiently manage its aging infrastructure. The CH-UH school district owns 14 buildings:

  • Heights High: renovated 2017, 372,334 square feet, 1,519 enrolled students (as of Jan. 13, 2023), 245 square feet per student.
  • Wiley: built 1954, 147,819 square feet, 0 students.
  • Monticello Middle: built 1930, 126,780 square feet, 526 students, 241 square feet/student.
  • Roxboro Middle: built 1931, 111,152 square feet, 576 students, 193 square feet/student.
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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 8:53 AM, 05.29.2024

CH's community grants should be fully transparent

Cleveland Heights is not the only city where community development grants can be abused by developers and landlords for personal gain. This is a national issue. Other cities, however, have attempted to minimize this abuse by providing transparency to residents by instituting the following measures: 

  • Publish detailed information on the grant application process, eligibility criteria, and selection process. This allows residents to understand how grant decisions are made.
  • Create an online portal or database listing all community grant recipients, project descriptions, and award amounts. This provides public access to see how funds are allocated.
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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 10:54 AM, 05.29.2024

Gas lawn equipment is a danger to health and climate

Quiet Clean Heights—a grassroots advocacy campaign that seeks to raise awareness of the health, hearing and environmental impacts of gas leaf blowers in residential communities—applauds Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren’s support for Air Quality Awareness Week (May 6–9), as well as the city’s Lawnmower Exchange Program, in which 90 Dewalt electric mowers will replace residents’ gas mowers.

Gas-powered lawn equipment is a significant source of greenhouse gas. Our biggest source of direct, local emissions are natural gas furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. With warm weather, lawn maintenance equipment emissions take over. Gas leaf blowers, or blowers of any kind, used to be rare. Commercial lawn care services with large, powerful and loud gas-powered equipment have become increasingly common in our neighborhoods over just a few years.

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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 8:49 AM, 05.29.2024

Why Cedar Fairmount grocery space merits $1 million city subsidy

The Cedar-Fairmount community and neighborhood blogs have been abuzz with discussions surrounding the proposed $1 million [city] subsidy to secure a Grocery Outlet in our neighborhood. The information outlined here is intended to address some misconceptions and shed light on the critical need for this subsidy.

Modernization is imperative: The Cedar-Grandview Building is 100 years old. Times have changed, and so have the requirements of businesses, especially grocery stores. The time-honored business model for grocery stores across the U.S. is to make major capital re-investments every 15–20 years in order to be competitive. When the grocery store was Russo’s, we did major renovations in 1951, 1961, 1969, 1985 and 1992. After Giant Eagle acquired the store, they did a modest remodel in 2001, followed by the mostly cosmetic changes made by Dave’s. Thirty years of incremental updates by our tenants to the grocery space—and the current three-level infrastructure, designed a century ago—plain and simply isn’t conducive to modern grocery operations.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 10:26 AM, 04.29.2024

CH should not fund Russos' remodel

In January an opinion in the Heights Observer praised Sal Russo as a landlord and member of the community, and stated he would be bringing a new grocer to Cedar Fairmount. In February, Mr. Russo announced Grocery Outlet Bargain Market as Dave’s replacement at a city council meeting. In March he hosted a meeting for the neighborhood, to introduce Grocery Outlet. He stated then that a city subsidy of $1 million would be required to make necessary repairs to the building, to lease the space to Grocery Outlet. When asked if he could apply for a loan, he did not respond. He asked the meeting attendees to engage in a letter-writing campaign to members of city council to [support funding] the remodeling.

I believe that, as owner and landlord of the Cedar Grandview building, he is responsible for its maintenance and repairs. I do not think it is fair that taxpayers be asked to fund its remodeling to meet the needs of a prospective tenant.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 10:30 AM, 04.29.2024

Disabled are unwelcome in CH

It is illegal for the city to create barriers to the disabled, according to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The city of Cleveland Heights did, however, bar this disabled person from ready, easy and respectful entry to a city meeting of its Noble Road study module on March 19.

I had notified city staff I required assistance accessing the handicapped entryway for the preceding module held at Oxford Elementary School a month before. They complied.

The March 19 module notice claimed the front door of Monticello Middle School was handicapped accessible. Unfamiliar with the renovated school, I believed that claim.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 10:23 AM, 04.29.2024

CH City Council is being silly again

Cleveland Heights City Council is at it again.

I do not recall any of its members campaigning for election by advertising their foreign policy expertise. But now that they have been elected, they are all committed to expressing official opinions about foreign policy. The most recent example is a watered-down resolution passed unanimously calling for, among other things, a cease-fire in Gaza.

It seems fitting that this resolution was adopted on April Fools’ Day.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 10:21 AM, 04.29.2024

Consider lifecycle of CH-UH schools

The CH-UH school district has an aging building inventory. Excluding the fully renovated high school, the average building age in the district is 77 years. Even well-maintained buildings eventually need to be gutted, rebuilt, or replaced to continue to effectively serve their intended function.

Most buildings, depending on the quality and care of construction, have a lifecycle of 25 to 50 years. Good maintenance can extend the life of a building, some building systems last longer than others, and some systems are easier to maintain and replace. Old heating systems are inefficient and sometimes dangerous. (Anyone still have a coal furnace?) Electrical systems installed 50 years ago are insufficient to support current demands. Changes in code requirements can also lead to costly improvements.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 10:19 AM, 04.29.2024

Where is the retail at Top of the Hill?

Fully one year into the opening of The Ascent at the Top of the Hill, there remains no retail establishment that has moved into the first floors of the complex.

From 2016 through its completion in 2023, community meetings were held, questions answered, and promises made that led the community to believe that this project would be a benefit for all of Cleveland Heights. "Density is Good" became an unspoken mantra, while neighbors were assured that no parking problems would ensue, and we could all take delight in the new shops and restaurants that would arrive. Plus, the extra taxes from those services and employees would provide a civic boost.

One year in: crickets.

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Volume 17, Issue 4, Posted 10:53 AM, 03.28.2024

What's up with Wiley?

What is the CH-UH City School District’s plan for Wiley?

Wiley opened in 1954 and was used as a middle school for 60 years. In 2015, the district closed Wiley as a middle school and spent approximately $13 million for it to function as a “swing space” during the renovation of the high school.

The cost of the renovations at Wiley included the lease of temporary modular classrooms. All deferred maintenance and code issues were also addressed at that time. When the students moved out of Wiley, the building was in good condition. Yet Wiley has remained empty since the opening of the renovated middle schools in 2018.

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Volume 17, Issue 4, Posted 11:19 AM, 03.28.2024

Noble Action Group forms to mobilize residents and businesses

Cleveland Heights’ city leaders introduced the Noble Road Comprehensive Planning Study to Noble Road residents during a meeting at Caledonia Elementary School on Jan. 24. This plan includes the entire Noble Corridor, from the Noble-Nela Business District (East Cleveland) to the Warrensville Center and Mayfield roads intersection. (The study can be viewed at www.clevelandheights.gov/1680/Noble-Road-Corridor-Comprehensive-Planni.)

The study is described in greater detail in the Jan. 26 City News Update, on the city's website. Listed were a range of services, amenities, and essential needs we lack here, along with potential economic development related to commercial and residential structures.

The meeting was well attended by Noble residents. However, several residents expressed anger and frustration at having been in this situation before.

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 3:07 PM, 02.28.2024

Voters should choose candidates not parties

In his opinion in the February issue of the Heights Observer, Edward Olszewski offered observations about partisan politics in Cleveland Heights.

He correctly stated that Republicans in the 1970s were first to make local elections more partisan. They used partisanship to obtain political control of CH City Hall.  Democrats then became dominant with their campaigns in the 1980s. They took over political control and raised partisanship to an even higher level. (I admit I was as guilty of causing that to happen as Mr. Olszewski.) Ballot language might have made elections non-partisan. But members of the Cleveland Heights Democratic Club during and after the 1980s did not even pretend that they were. And their campaigning shows how effective partisan tactics can be.

The November 2021 election for the CH-UH school board is a good example.

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 3:04 PM, 02.28.2024

What’s happening with CH's Climate Action Plan?

Last year, Cleveland Heights hired a Sustainability Coordinator and contracted with consultant Nutter Inc. to develop a Climate Action and Resilience Plan. Other than a few meet-and-greet events last October, the public hasn’t heard much regarding the plan, and there hasn’t been any public messaging on climate actions for individuals and households.

Climate change is a massive, global train wreck, happening in slow motion, that we can’t stop. But we can stop fueling it and lessen its power, allowing time to prepare and adapt; to minimize damage and suffering. Amid urgent reports, we hear nothing regarding our city’s climate action plan, and no calls to action.

In Cleveland Heights, many of us have resources to stay comfortable in the event of power blackouts or water and gas supply disruptions—for a few days.

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 3:01 PM, 02.28.2024

CH council leadership sets forth new agenda

Davida Russell and I are delighted to have been elected (on Jan. 2) as the new leadership team for Cleveland Heights City Council.

As council president, I wanted to make sure we hit the ground running. At the time I wrote this, on Jan. 14, Council Vice President Russell and I had already met with the mayor, most council members, our council clerk, the law director and several residents.

The first thing we wanted to do was get a plan together and begin executing it. Here is what we were able to accomplish in the first two weeks:

  • For the first time since the city’s new form of government was established, we were able to get the packets (legislative agenda) out on the Wednesday, instead of Friday, before our Monday council meetings thanks to the cooperation of our council clerk, the law director and the administration. This will allow council members more time to get questions answered ahead of the Monday meetings.
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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 4:57 PM, 01.30.2024

CH council members and mayor must 'play nicer'

I appreciate what it can be like for a city council president in Cleveland Heights to manage activities of seven council members. After all, I had four years’ experience performing a very similar job. Once I described it as being like herding cats. Given recent history, new CH City Council President Tony Cuda may find out what I meant.

City council members are equals. As their elected leader, the council president can set the tone and the agenda. But his effectiveness will depend on how much cooperation he gets. Hopefully, each member will put their ego aside and act constructively as part of a team.

The most important job of any city council member is to understand what the city is doing, to appreciate what else needs to be done, and to help articulate action plans in the form of resolutions and ordinances.

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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 4:56 PM, 01.30.2024

Housing inspection and code compliance should be top priorities

I hope whoever runs for mayor of Cleveland Heights recognizes that the city's future depends squarely on the condition of its homes and apartments. With most properties over or nearly 100 years old, combating deterioration is the top priority by far. 

The more that properties deteriorate, the less likely owners (particularly absentee) will be willing and able to make proper repairs, let alone upgrades—and the less likely responsible residents who seek high-quality housing will be willing to live in Cleveland Heights. This, in-turn, pushes remaining constructive residents elsewhere, which weakens property values and tax bases and forces ultra-high tax rates, which is more reason to go elsewhere.

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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 4:45 PM, 01.30.2024

Non-partisan politics in CH

In the December Heights Observer, Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg lamented the loss of non-partisan races in Cleveland Heights politics.

Some of our founding fathers argued against political parties as destructive of true democracy, often devolving into pettiness and narrow partisanship.

When my wife and I moved to Cleveland Heights in the 1970s, we were pleased to learn that voting for city offices at the time was non-partisan. As we moved into our new home on Euclid Heights Boulevard and prepared to vote in our first election for city council, we found ourselves receiving mail intended for the previous owner of the house. Among the letters to be forwarded were flyers from the Republican Party recommending lists of candidates who included Marjorie Wright and her Republican cadre.

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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 4:44 PM, 01.30.2024

Russo family plans to bring grocery store to Cedar Fairmount

Here’s an e-mail I sent to the Cleveland Heights mayor and city council members:

I met the Russo family in September 1980, when I moved my consulting practice from my home to the Cedar Grandview Building, above Merit Drug (now gone) and Russo’s Stop n Shop. A handshake with Sal was my lease. 

In 1993, Sal was on the honorary board of the Coventry PEACE Playground, along with Tommy Fello. We held a fundraiser at the store, with Russo’s local specialty vendors donating the catering. The following spring, Sal and Tommy contributed to Coventry’s Cookin’. The remaining copies are now available at the Big Fun pop-up. Steve Presser will donate the proceeds to the Coventry PEACE Park renovation.

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Volume 17, Issue 1, Posted 11:50 AM, 12.28.2023

Bring back civics education

Now that the election for the CH-UH school board is over, I offer a modest proposal: The board should restore civics to the high school curriculum as a required course.

When I attended the Heights schools, there was such a required course. It was taught poorly. Most students tried hard to stay awake; few paid much attention. But perhaps that is because the board did not take its requirement seriously enough.

Children now are growing up with no understanding of how local governments operate. They could not tell a Board of Zoning Appeals from a Planning Commission. Later, as adults, they fail to appreciate how to gain access to elected or appointed officials. They become frustrated because they believe nobody at city halls listens. They lack a real ability to understand and influence important public decisions that affect them.

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Volume 17, Issue 1, Posted 11:48 AM, 12.28.2023

Support local this holiday season—and all year long

While striving to shop local/eat local is a mindset worth maintaining year 'round, supporting small businesses throughout the month of December is a must.

Small businesses not only provide residents with needed goods and services, they provide community space and help define a neighborhood's character.

While the convenience of online retailers might beckon, Heights residents can help build camaraderie and strengthen their neighborhoods by investing their dollars into the lifeblood of the Heights—and any—community: mom-and-pop shops, other local retailers, and restaurants.

While the surest way to support local is through spending money in Heights business districts, there are other ways to get the entire neighborhood involved.

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Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 4:38 PM, 11.29.2023

Cumberland pool should be open all summer, every summer

Susie Kaeser described Cumberland pool in her October 2022 Heights Observer column:

“It is where we get to hang out together and encounter friends and strangers who share our interests. This is a public space, and the public uses it! I love the sounds of splashing water, youthful horsing around, and quiet conversations. It’s the best place to cool off, exercise, watch the clouds and feel like I’m part of our community.”

Cumberland embodies much of what we love about our community, and learning that it might be taken from us, even temporarily, caused a great deal of angst. 

At the Sept. 18 Cleveland Heights Council Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Seren surprised many by introducing an organization tasked with investigating the feasibility of creating both new outdoor and indoor swimming pools in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 4:36 PM, 11.29.2023

CH needs more pedestrian-friendly initiatives

As a father of two young children, I was excited to attend the Heights Halloween Festival on Oct. 21. The day before, event organizers advertised in an official e-mail newsletter that "a portion of Lee Road will be closed." Upon arriving, however, I was disappointed to find only a few hundred square feet of Meadowbrook Boulevard converted for pedestrian use. Lee Road remained open, leaving hundreds of kids and caretakers to jostle along sidewalks while cars zoomed by a few feet away. This is not only disappointing but also dangerous.

Cleveland Heights should prioritize the safety of its residents and visitors, particularly during community events like the Halloween festival and the recent Music Hop (which was plagued by similar safety concerns). If ever there was a time to experiment and try new things that benefit the community, this was it.

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Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 4:39 PM, 11.29.2023

Larson expresses gratitude to CH voters

It is Friday, Nov. 10. The election results on Tuesday humbled me and filled me with gratitude. I am grateful for everyone who supported my campaign, including those who: circulated BOE candidate petitions, held Meet and Greets in their homes, put out yard signs, dropped literature throughout the city, called and texted and e-mailed their support during the campaign and after the results were in.

I could not have completed this journey without the support of the Cleveland Heights voters. Special thanks to Josie Moore; Karen Grochau; my daughter, Becca; Davida Russell, Tony Cuda; Sandy Moran; my wonderful friends Marty Artzberger, Kay Dunlap and Jean Sylak and Linda Striefsky. Jim Petras and Justin Karr were my heroes—they finished up the literature drops and stood with me at the Candy Crawls at Lee and Coventry.

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Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 5:03 PM, 11.12.2023

Hart thanks Cleveland Heights residents

Thank you to our residents for your belief in me over the past four years. I am proud that I ran a good, positive campaign, and thankful for the substantial support from our residents. Now it is time for a new chapter in my life. 

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to help my beloved city. I have worked hard and am proud of my accomplishments on council, which include putting in place a successful diversion program for homeowners with housing violations to get help to repair their homes and stay out of court. I want to see that program continue. I proposed and passed legislation to help hold banks and landlords accountable, provided training for new council members with staff and with the Ohio Municipal League, allocated ARPA funds to help our businesses and residents, and put in place a robust budget process for council.

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Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 5:03 PM, 11.12.2023

The train wreck at Noble Station

The recent Noble Station train wreck is the result of failure on several levels. The proposed affordable housing development didn’t travel far, and its slow derailment was painful to watch.

The sequence of events started when an out-of-state developer, TWG Development, approached the Cleveland Heights administration with an offer to purchase city-owned land at the corner of Noble and Woodview roads to build a new 52-unit affordable-apartment building.

Cleveland Heights City Council, in December 2022, unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing the mayor to execute a purchase agreement with TWG.

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 11:28 AM, 10.30.2023

CH should fund repairs on public property

I live in Cleveland Heights and received an advertisement for a water-line protection program for covered repairs, i.e., insurance. A diagram in the ad illustrates coverage from the edge of the homeowner’s property to the home, not from the water main to the home, which leaves me in a quandary.

In Cleveland Heights, the mayor maintains a “policy” that repairs are the homeowner’s responsibility to the curb, or, practically, from the mains to a home, for both water and sewer. This means that the lines on public property, between the edge of the homeowner’s property and main, are the homeowner’s responsibility. Thus, according to the diagram in the ad, they are not covered by its water-line protection program.

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 11:08 AM, 10.30.2023

Mayor Seren should leave the Catholic Diocese alone

Mayor Seren proposes a Cleveland Heights government attack upon a religious institution. He wants government to do battle with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. This battle would be intended to advance gay rights.

The Diocese has adopted new policies in its Cleveland Heights schools. They will bar LGBTQ expression, use of preferred pronouns, pride flags, and same-sex couples at school dances. Parents voluntarily place their children in these schools. They obviously prefer such policies; otherwise, they would place their children elsewhere. But Seren believes children need “protection” from these Diocese policies and from their own parents. So, he proposes to make the policies illegal.

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 11:04 AM, 10.30.2023

All kids deserve safe schools

As a lifelong Catholic and an alumna of Catholic schools, I am heartbroken by the policy announced this month by the Cleveland Diocese [regarding sexuality and gender identity].

Kids deserve safe schools. Whether [kids] are just figuring out their own identity or have a family member who is trans or queer, these policies do nothing more than exclude and hurt them. Just hearing the news has re-injured so many former Catholics who already felt excluded, and it will be the last straw for others.

We have some wonderful Catholic schools in the Heights where loving, pastoral teachers educate students of all faiths and backgrounds. They’ve been put in a terrible position and it's important that all of us who grew up Catholic and care about the LGBTQ community speak up.

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 11:01 AM, 10.30.2023

CH needs Larson and Petras on council

If you read my opinion in the September edition of the Heights Observer, you know three things:

  • Things are not going well on city council.
  • Re-electing Gail Larson and electing Jim Petras will help make our city council more productive
  • All six candidates for city council are members of the Cleveland Heights Democratic Club; all six participated in the club’s endorsement process; only Larson and Petras were endorsed by the CH Democrats—by the voters who know them best.

What I did not talk about were the critical issues Cleveland Heights will face in the next two years:

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 2:09 PM, 10.19.2023

Re-elect Larson to CH council

The evidence is clear that CH Council Member Gail Larson is an advocate for all residents of Cleveland Heights.

In addition to her hard work on council since February 2022, Gail has been a tireless leader responding to citizen needs. She answers phone calls and e-mails, and will even take a walk or meet with a resident over a cup of coffee to engage in hard conversations. In short, she is available to be a listener to the many voices of citizens and to follow up with action.

Three examples of follow-up action on her part include getting a stop sign installed at Montevista Road and Ardoon Street as part of safety legislation for Noble Elementary School, convincing RTA to install a [bus] shelter at Noble Road and Monticello Boulevard, and working on sidewalk legislation.

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 2:04 PM, 10.19.2023

'Dew Diligence' podcast interviews CH City Council candidates

I've been hearing many Cleveland Heights residents say they are having a tough time deciding which City Council candidates to vote for this November. On the ballot are incumbents Janine Boyd, Melody Hart, and Gail Larson. They are joined by challengers Jim Petras, Jon Benedict, and Jeanne Gordon. Six people running for three seats. How this vote shakes out will have a dramatic effect on the mood and dynamics of CH City Council for at least the next two years.

So, I figure, why not fire up the old podcast machine? I started “Dew Diligence” two years ago to give voters another way to meet the mayoral candidates as we shifted to an elected mayor from of government in Cleveland Heights.

We've had some understandable and expected growing pains since then. This seems like the perfect time for a look back and a look ahead. The podcast series will give voters an opportunity to get to know the candidates in a more conversational setting.

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Volume 16, Issue 11, Posted 2:12 PM, 10.09.2023

Join a community of volunteers

When we choose to volunteer, we expose our inner voice to the world: I believe in this cause; I support this candidate; I believe my neighborhood needs this service. Doing so naturally connects you with others who feel the same way. And just like that—you’ve built a community.

You meet new people or see others in a new light. You uncover local history and meet civic and business leaders. Your understanding of the Heights as a living, growing entity becomes clearer. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll soon be thinking, “What next?”

Through FutureHeights’ Crowd Sourced Conversations, you’ve told us that you feel invested in this community. I would like to challenge you to develop a deeper sense of belonging in the Heights through volunteerism.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:35 AM, 09.29.2023

Cleveland Heights City Council needs change

I am adding my voice to [those of] other Cleveland Heights residents who have expressed frustration with a city council that is failing procedurally and substantively.

The council president’s lack of leadership has resulted in council operating without formal rules or procedures, voting on legislation without sufficient information, refusing to address major issues facing the community, and exhibiting uncivility.

CH City Council doesn’t have formal processes for meeting, or researching, drafting, and discussing legislation. Former council member Josie Moore took the initiative to write and circulate a draft of policies and procedures for council to discuss and work from. The draft is thoughtful, logical, and sensible.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:32 AM, 09.29.2023

Cleveland Heights council president urges unity

This council has been a very productive council. In 2022, we passed about 183 legislations and we are on track this year for about the same amount. This council has moved the city forward quickly in many ways and has a good legislative and budgetary record.

A few accomplishments include:

  • Unprecedented budget hearings over five days resulting in a more diligent process, resulting in a more thorough understanding by council.
  • We passed major legislation such as the Pay-to-Stay extension; Cedar Lee Meadowbrook Development and the starting of construction; the lead-free homes initiative; making city fringe benefits fairer for LGBTQIA+ employees; banning conversion therapy; enacting and seating a Charter Review Commission.
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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:31 AM, 09.29.2023

Cleveland Heights needs servant leaders like Hart

When I first met with Melody Hart in 2021, to learn more about her run for mayor of Cleveland Heights, she struck me as less a politician and more of a servant leader.

I knew she was involved in many social justice issues, including canvassing in the Noble neighborhood with volunteers from Greater Cleveland Congregations in a successful effort to call banks to account for at-risk properties they owned on otherwise well-kept streets. I was also aware of her work with her husband, Gary Benjamin, in rescuing a Haitian refugee from detention at a local ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) refugee center and hosting him in their home until he was able to secure employment and housing. 

Melody’s calm and unassuming presence might make one wonder what she is doing in the sometimes rough-and-tumble world of city government. Yet, Melody has proven her mettle as Cleveland Heights City Council president.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:29 AM, 09.29.2023

Cleveland Heights residents deserve good governance

From the moment I got involved with Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM) in 2019, I have been thinking about what makes a good city council, a productive municipal government, an efficient city hall.

I know there are educated professionals who spend their professional time contemplating and learning about these things; people who seek Master of Public Administration degrees, study municipal government, and generally do actual professional work in this area.

I am a Cleveland Heights resident with none of those specific professional degrees or concentrated studies—but I’m a resident who thinks our city government can strive to meet best practices for good governance.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:30 AM, 09.29.2023

Candidates should endorse SAG's vision for Severance

Namdar Realty purchased Severance Town Center in 2016, and, like many other struggling and distressed malls that Namdar owns, Severance’s occupancy and condition has continually declined—except, notably, for the independently owned Dave's Market and the Home Depot. Otherwise, the face of Severance is one of many empty storefronts and buildings (most notably the former Walmart and Regal Cinema buildings) and a sea of pothole-filled parking lots.

This deteriorating property in the center of Cleveland Heights has begun to adversely impact surrounding areas and to attract vandals, most recently those who trashed the interior of the former Walmart store.

True to its business model, Namdar profits from the rent paid by the remaining businesses, spending as little as possible on maintenance, and nothing on creative redevelopment planning that would attract additional businesses and residents to the community.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:23 AM, 09.29.2023

Use your local arts resources

In the past month or two, Crain’s Cleveland Business published no fewer than four articles and opinions about the importance of arts to the future of Greater Cleveland: "Investments in artists pay dividends for regional economy," by Jeremy Johnson; "Businesses that value innovation should support creativity of local arts scene," by Fred Bidwell; "To thrive, Greater Cleveland needs to integrate art into all aspects of life," by Jennifer Coleman; and "Region buoyed by abundance of talent, creativity," by Grant Segall.

Many lifelong residents take for granted our vibrant arts and music scene, or, worse, don’t take advantage of it at all. Cleveland has arts institutions such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Orchestra that have few peers on the planet, yet it is a medium-sized and livable city in which gaining access to these institutions is enviably easy, and where the moderate cost of living lets a broader population enjoy the “finer things” (as well as the delightful gritty things).

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:21 AM, 09.29.2023

Start Right is a CH success story

Cleveland Heights has problems. It has vacant storefronts. There is chaos at city council meetings. Taxes are high. But, sometimes, there are solutions. Top of the Hill is happening. Lee/Meadowbrook is underway. Taylor Commons has received approvals. Hoorays are in order.

Not as apparent are small and significant success stories. Some involve the renovation of distressed housing stock. Kudos to FutureHeights, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and the Home Repair Resource Center for their efforts. Additional successes are projects to build new housing undertaken by Start Right Community Development Corporation (CDC), a nonprofit organization.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:19 AM, 09.29.2023

Resident initiative takes on CH's vacant home problem

Do you ever imagine what it must be like to live next to a vacant, dilapidated, and rat-infested home for years and, in some cases, a decade or more?

Walk in that neighbor’s shoes for a minute. For years, they've called the city for help. They’ve attended council meetings and complained, only to be thanked for their concern. They’ve received endless campaign literature addressing the “housing problem." They even voted for Mayor Seren, hoping for the change that was promised.

But that abandoned house still sits there. To make matters worse, the neighbor gets a city violation notice telling them to fix their uneven sidewalk.

Since 2008, the city of Cleveland Heights has addressed the housing problem with no actionable plan in place. It’s endless studies and listening campaigns. Meanwhile more than 500 vacant houses continue to fester in our city, property values drop, and tax dollars are lost to the tune of $2 million (500 homes x $4,000 in average property taxes) per year.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:01 AM, 09.29.2023

Coventry Village calls on residents to support urgent revitalization

As the sun sets over the iconic streets of Coventry Village, the once lively thoroughfare now reveals the shadows of vacant storefronts. The heart and soul of Cleveland Heights, Coventry Village is at a pivotal crossroads, with an alarming one in three of its commercial properties now empty.

We, the Coventry Village Special Improvement District (CVSID), alongside the passionate members of the Coventry Vacancies Working Group, are striving for revitalization.

I took on the role of executive director of CVSID with a deep appreciation for the district's unique charm and cultural significance. Today, I pen this call to action with a sense of urgency, appealing to the collective conscience of our community.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 11:35 AM, 09.03.2023

CH might now have a good city administrator

Mayor Seren is making his second attempt to fill the position of Cleveland Heights city administrator. And he offered an excellent candidate—he nominated Danny Williams.

Mayor Seren allowed this position to remain vacant for much too long. Daily tasks of local government require supervision by a talented professional.

The mayor previously hired Joe Sinnott as city administrator. But because Mayor Seren used him poorly, his talents were wasted. Sinnott resigned in April. Since then, the new form of government has not operated as designed.

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 11:56 AM, 09.02.2023

No Mow May raises awareness

We will not really know whether we were able to increase the diversity and abundance of pollinators necessary for our plants to flourish this season by not mowing in May. This would make a good research thesis for some graduate student. But one of the main goals of the No Mow May movement is to get people thinking and talking about the maintenance of their yards from an environmental perspective. In that respect, Mayor Seren’s declaring Cleveland Heights a No Mow May community was a huge success.

Because of this movement, people around the country and here in the Heights have been made more aware of pollinator declines that will eventually lead to ecosystem collapse. Biodiversity loss is on the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2022 as one of the top three threats facing humans today.

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 11:55 AM, 09.02.2023

Hart gets things done for CH

When considering candidates for Cleveland Heights City Council, we should look at what they have accomplished. Melody Joy Hart’s record over the past four years includes some impressive legislative successes for our city.

Among other things, Council President Hart collaborated with the Cleveland Heights court, prosecutor’s office, and Home Repair Resource Center to create a diversion program for homeowners with housing violations that keeps them out of court and helps them repair their homes.

She proposed legislation and collaborated with her fellow council members to approve permanent extension of pay-to-stay legislation for tenants so that their homes remain stable, amending foreclosure bonds, out-of-county registry and vacant building registry, giving [legislation] more teeth and adding a civil option for prosecution of fines; . . .

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 11:34 AM, 09.02.2023

CH is a tale of two cities

A tale of two cities will continue to be my tagline for and reference to Cleveland Heights until city council and the mayor take action on more equitable efforts, including development and resources for the north side of the city. After all, this was the mayor’s top priority—equitable investment in the neighborhoods. I’m still waiting.  

In the noise around the Noble Station project, supporters want to use the term "affordable housing" to distinguish it from "low-income housing"—as if "affordable" is better or different. It's pretty much the same thing, when some rents will be as low as $400.

At the Aug. 7 CH City Council meeting, residents of Noble neighborhood showed up to oppose the plan. Noble Road has more than its share of low-income, affordable apartments in a span of several blocks; one more is NOT needed.

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 11:33 AM, 09.02.2023

The case for change on CH City Council

Things on CH City Council are not going well. The past 20 months have been marked by a constant struggle to get information from the administration, council’s failure to compromise on a replacement for Josie Moore, and council leadership’s inability to establish any rules or priorities after three retreats. The result has been a largely unproductive, unfocused, slow-moving, and sometimes adversarial city council.

There have, however, been moments where things have been calm and the business of the city moves forward as it should. The vast majority (98%-plus) of perfunctory legislation put forward by the administration moves ahead without incident.

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 11:28 AM, 09.02.2023

Hart is the council president CH needs

The heart of a true public servant is hyper-focused on what is best for the people they serve. Melody Joy Hart is hyper-focused on the city of Cleveland Heights.

Hart has truly leaned into her position as city council president and has turned what is normally a part-time job into a full-time effort to successfully and gracefully lead our city through this time of change.

Being city council president is not an easy task! Under a lot of pressure, and sometime provocation, Hart leads her colleagues on council forward to the betterment of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 11:26 AM, 09.02.2023

Vote yes for the constitutional amendment on Aug. 8

A constitution is the framework on which all other laws are based, and it forms the basis for our laws. Changes to it ought to be made with due diligence, weighing the issue carefully and with solemnity. Is it hard to change the constitution? Yes, and it should be.

A constitutional clause is not an individual, specific law on one issue. It addresses what laws can be included in our system. As Issue 1 states, the purpose of the amendment is to elevate the standards by which future amendments will be made. "Short-term passions and passing political trends would be less likely to impact the most sacred legal document in the state of Ohio." (www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2023/06/05/making-amendments-harder-protects-ohios-constitution-opinion/70202280007/) We need not amend the constitution in order to introduce a bill.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 3:01 PM, 08.01.2023

Vote 'no' on State Issue 1

On Aug. 8 voters will decide Ohio Issue 1 in a special election. A "yes" vote supports increasing the vote [required] to pass a constitutional amendment to a supermajority, 60%. A "no" vote retains the current, simple majority requirement.

In a bi-partisan manner, former Ohio governors Bob Taft, John Kasich, Dick Celeste and Ted Strickland, and former Ohio attorneys general, including Betty Montgomery, Jim Petro, Nancy Rogers, Lee Fisher and Richard Cordray, all strongly urge a “no” vote.

"If [this issue] had been in effect, many important amendments that are part of our political heritage would have failed, including . . . home rule, civil service reform, the Clean Ohio Fund [and] the Third Frontier Project,” said former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 11:25 AM, 06.30.2023

Vote yes on Issue 1

The U.S. Constitution has only been amended 27 times over its lifetime. The Ohio Constitution has been amended 172 times! Ohio is among nine states with the weakest standards for passing constitutional amendments.

This dizzying amount of change costs the state money, presents numerous legal challenges, and weakens the bedrock of the entire Ohio Constitution. Law should be contained in the Ohio Revised Code and not the Constitution. 

Constitutions should not be amended easily.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 3:01 PM, 08.01.2023

CH needs housing for the elderly

The Ascent? Check.

Taylor Tudors? Check.

Marquee at Cedar Lee? Check.

Eventually, Wellington Mews & Park Synogogue? Check. 

Is Cleveland Heights doing everything it can to remain relevant for the next 6-8 decades? Check.

EXCEPT... Housing for the elderly? No Check.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 3:00 PM, 08.01.2023

Horseshoe Lake supporters file lawsuit

Friends of Horseshoe Lake (FOHSL) has taken the next step in a legal effort, filing a lawsuit against the cities of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights to prevent the destruction of Horseshoe Lake by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD).

This lawsuit follows demand letters issued by FOHSL to both cities, citing violations of their lease agreements with the city of Cleveland.

According to attorney Anthony Coyne, a land use expert with the law firm Mansour Gavin that is representing FOHL, the lease agreements require Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights to preserve the existing conditions, which include the dam and lake; perform necessary maintenance, such as dredging and cleaning; and undertake any required improvements to ensure the park's upkeep.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:30 PM, 07.31.2023

CH mayor weaponizes law department

The mayor of Cleveland Heights has weaponized the law department. I have been asked to pay for sewer repairs on public property or “appropriate enforcement action may be taken.” The sanitary is blocked and has backed up from city property onto my property. 

I confronted the mayor at the grocery store; he informed me that “[they] decided that the city would only take responsibility at the curb.”

I don’t believe the recent changes to our city charter allow the mayor to rule by fiat, nor is this the more responsive government we were promised. There is no local ordinance or state law that makes private citizens responsible for repairs on public property.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:38 PM, 07.31.2023

CH needs a real city administrator

There is a puzzle game called “Where's Waldo?” In it, a lot of faces appear closely together in a picture. The player is challenged to find that one face belonging to a character called Waldo. That face is hidden and hard to find. This past year, Mayor Seren set up his own such puzzle at Cleveland Heights City Hall. What was hard to find there was the face of the city administrator. The mayor kept it hidden.

The CH City Charter requires Mayor Seren to hire a city administrator. As of this writing, this position remains vacant. It has been vacant much too long.

Daily tasks of local government are to be supervised by a talented professional. The mayor then could be free to tackle big strategic issues.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:34 PM, 07.31.2023

Weak council leadership gives mayor too much power

In 2019, I, along with nine other Cleveland Heights residents, formed Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM). I was tired of stagnant leadership, and I often referenced Cleveland Heights as a tale of two cities: the vibrant, growing, and developed south side, and the red-lined, ignored, and voiceless north side.

I have no regret that [the elected mayor ballot issue] passed. I truly believed that we would finally have co-equal branches of government that would serve our city better than the city manager form of government.

Our council members are failing to get work done. Their disjointed efforts are often left at a standstill or stalemate of sorts, preventing priorities from getting completed in any timely manner.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:45 PM, 07.31.2023

Cleveland Heights needs leadership

I recently visited Lakewood for a great meal and stroll along the lake. What struck me were the notable differences between our cities. While Lakewood certainly has challenges to work through, what I didn’t see was a vast wasted property like Severance, nor did I see crumbling infrastructure in its parks.

Unlike Cain Park’s dilapidated gutters, broken retainer walls, frightening bathrooms, and accumulated trash, Lakewood's parks looked great.

I also didn’t see empty storefronts in its key business districts, compared with Coventry’s 19 vacancies.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:40 PM, 07.31.2023

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.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:31 PM, 07.31.2023

Larson thanks CH residents for input, ideas

I recently released a survey asking for input from Cleveland Heights residents about your experiences living in our city, what you see as our strengths and challenges, and what you want for our shared future. I am grateful to have received so many responses—thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute your thoughts and ideas.

I am proud that people from all across Cleveland Heights put their trust in me to share their feedback in this survey. As many people agreed, one of our city’s greatest strengths is our diversity. I want to be sure I know what residents in every neighborhood want and need from our city government as we move forward.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:42 PM, 07.31.2023