Opinion

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

Fire pits should be prohibited in warm months

This past May, the Cleveland Heights administration featured Air Quality Awareness Week. The online “City News Update” stated that "Cleveland Heights is working hard to find ways to lower our contributions to poor air quality and make this a lung-friendly city.” 

Recently, when smoke from Canadian wildfires was a health threat, “City News” advised us to “[t]ake steps to protect your health. Unhealthy air quality increases health risks for everyone, but is more worrisome for Sensitive Groups, those at risk for pulmonary episodes such as asthma.” And the Cleveland Heights Fire Department asked us to "[p]lease observe the current moratorium on open fires, such as fire pits, that generate smoke."

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:47 PM, 07.31.2023

Remembering the Lee-Meadowbrook mural

The Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook construction began recently—a development that will revitalize this key commercial district. While I am excited to watch it take form, I couldn’t help but also feel sad to see the mural wall come down.

In 2017, Krissy Dietrich Gallagher was tired of seeing the empty green wall in the vacant lot. Her idea: bring fifth-graders from the two nearby elementary schools to paint a mural. She originally thought to depict a garden, but her friend and project partner, Bill Schubert, suggested something more manageable for kids: houses.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 4:55 PM, 06.29.2023

No Mow May—no way

When I first heard about "No Mow May," I was excited. I got the impression no-mow could encourage pollinators pollinating. Then I read a statement by a Cleveland Heights resident. After walking her two dogs on lawns that were knee high, she found three ticks on her companion animals.

Let's be clear: The incidence of tick-borne infection, such as Lyme disease, is greatly on the rise. One might say, so what, it can be treated with antibiotics. I worked as an RN and PA. Lyme can be difficult to diagnose. Without early diagnosis and treatment, the person can live with longstanding pain and suffering.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 4:49 PM, 06.29.2023

Yard care can be more climate-friendly

I was thrilled to see the popularity of the recent exchange of gas lawn mowers for electric versions in Cleveland Heights. Even small changes in the way we care for our lawns and gardens can make a difference in our contributions to climate change.

One very simple thing we can do to decrease our carbon footprints is to replace part of our lawns with other plants that will take up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and need less carbon releasing care than grass.

A second approach, for the lawn we want to keep, is to switch from gas-powered tools to those run by electric batteries. According to the EPA, Americans burn nearly three billion gallons of gasoline running lawn and garden equipment.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 4:47 PM, 06.29.2023

CH is becoming a city of dandelions

Cleveland Heights soon may cease to be a City of Trees and instead become a City of Dandelions. That would be unfortunate.

Mayor Seren unilaterally declared a “No Mow May” earlier this year. This allowed dandelions to grow unhindered for an extra month in the early part of the growing season. He issued an “executive order” to suspend the traditional city code enforcement of tall grass violations. He restricted mowing on such city properties as parks, empty lots, and boulevards. And he encouraged homeowners to follow this example. The result was an increase in visible blight throughout the city.

The mayor calls his program a “resounding success.” He received a lot of personal publicity.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 4:45 PM, 06.29.2023

Heights Community Congress will be missed

After 50 years, Heights Community Congress (HCC) ended its existence on Feb. 28. We should consider what could have happened to Cleveland Heights without it.

HCC now receives justly deserved compliments for its consistent commitment to fair housing. But it did other good work during the 1970s and 1980s.

It helped Cleveland Heights survive as an open and integrated community. There was legitimate concern then that Cleveland Heights could not handle integration well and that “white flight” would result. HCC sought to make new residents welcome while also making existing residents comfortable in, and committed to, Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 9:15 AM, 06.01.2023

CH council must do better and embrace diversity

I watched in utter disappointment the behavior that occurred during the May 1 Cleveland Heights City Council meeting. Unfortunately, this is NOT the first time.

You hear about outrageous antics of council meetings across the country on YouTube and other social media outlets, and this came to mind as I witnessed some of our council members in action.

The lack of respect, the power control (efforts to turn off another member's mic, the uncontrollable gavel banging, the yelling), and the tone that exist among some of the members are unfortunate and embarrassing.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 9:03 AM, 06.01.2023

New air-quality monitors raise pollution awareness

The first week of May was recognized as Air Quality Awareness Week in Cleveland Heights. Each weekday [the city's website] featured a short video with Mayor Seren, along with facts about different air quality topics. (All of the news releases are available at www.clevelandheights.gov/304/City-News-Update-Archive.)

It was announced on day five that Cleveland Heights has installed five air-quality monitors that display data in real time. Their locations can be viewed at https://map.purpleair.com/1/mAQI/a10/p604800/cC0#12.85/41.49909/-81.56037.

These sensors detect fine particulate matter, called PM 2.5, suspended in the air.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 8:59 AM, 06.01.2023

Living with dementia in Cleveland Heights

My mother was in the late-middle stages of dementia when COVID hit, and I needed to move her into our family home in Cleveland Heights.

A 60-year resident of the city, she had been living alone with the help of many caregivers, neighbors and friends. When her condition made her retirement from her beloved career necessary, she and her huge yellow Labrador became a fixture in their Coventry Road neighborhood.

I am sure that I have many neighbors to thank for her freedom to roam and linger without harm. I know none of this would have been possible without the help of local librarians, shopkeepers, fellow church members and, at times, even the Cleveland Heights police. I am deeply grateful she lived in this familiar, close-knit community.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 1:34 PM, 05.01.2023

CH Dems work to overcome new barriers to voting

Despite analysts across the political spectrum finding that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, Ohio dramatically overhauled its elections law in January 2023. While the legislation is wide-ranging, I will focus on new voter ID requirements, considered by many to be the strictest in the country, and the impact they may have on students.

Before passage of the new requirements, students could use a bill from their college or university as a form of identification. This convenient practice was acceptable for over a decade, but now a student, or any other voter, may use only an Ohio driver's license, Ohio ID card, U.S. passport, or military-issued ID. While requiring a voter to use one of these forms of identification might sound reasonable to some, it's important to consider the impact that this requirement could have on voters.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 1:44 PM, 05.01.2023

'Equity and inclusion' is divisive propaganda

Cleveland Heights City Hall flies a Progress Pride Flag to show it is becoming friendlier and more inclusive to LGBTQ+ community members. The CH-UH library adopts a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan and offers seminars about The 1619 Project. These and other measures are meant to show that “equity and inclusion” is a social goal.

This goal may help members of selected groups feel more welcome. But it causes those who are not members of such groups to feel less welcome. It divides our community into factions. It fosters intolerance. It results in bigotry disguised as anti-bigotry.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 1:20 PM, 05.01.2023

Millikin neighbors thank school district

The playground at the corner of Maple and Wood roads is no longer the sad, dreary space it was as recently as 2019, when our group of civically minded volunteers began to turn it around.

The Millikin Neighborhood Group would like to thank the CH-UH City School District for its unwavering support. Since the group's inception, the district has been an invaluable partner to us. By allowing us to use the playground space at the former Millikin school, the district enabled us to continue our community-building efforts.

It has been gracious in advising us on what we may and may not do with the space.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 1:42 PM, 05.01.2023

Support the drive for a new Coventry park

It was early in my tenure as an elementary-schooler at the old Coventry Elementary School when a community of parents and civic leaders conceived, fundraised for, designed, and helped physically build one of our city’s recreational gems. It was an heroic effort, and the Coventry PEACE Park playground has been enjoyed by three decades of children—from me in the early 1990s to my four kids right now. It is an incredible edifice to the profits of community cooperation and engagement.   

The park is in need of renewal, however. Wooden playsets are typically slated to last 20 years; perhaps a bit more with quality maintenance.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 1:18 PM, 05.01.2023

CH needs low-impact lawn-care services

Cleveland Heights has a large percentage of senior-aged residents who choose to remain in the homes and neighborhoods they’ve made their own. All homes on our lovely, tree-lined streets require lawn and yard maintenance. As some residents become less able to, or less interested in, tending to yardwork themselves, they may turn to a lawn-care or landscaping service.

Most professional lawn-care equipment is designed for lots of an acre or more. Lawn-care businesses operate equipment sized for larger clients, including churches, schools, businesses and bigger residential properties. They service smaller residential clients with the same equipment.

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 1:15 PM, 05.01.2023

New Coventry PEACE Park will benefit whole community

I can't believe it has been 30 years! It seems like yesterday that a small group of Coventry Elementary School parents had a crazy idea to build a big playground around the famous Coventry school sledding hill.

Somewhere after the first wave of volunteers, my wife, Debbie, and I got involved. This was a herculean task to raise a lot of money before social media existed. It was a grassroots approach, with donations gladly accepted, from $1 to $10,000. The power of the people got this amazing playground built.

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 10:28 AM, 04.02.2023