Opinion

Invest ARPA funds in CH parks

Recently Cleveland Heights residents were asked where ARPA funds should be allocated. The third most chosen response was “Offer Cleveland Heights residents more healthy and safe opportunities for recreation and socializing by investing in outdoor public spaces and amenities.” I fervently agree.

People converged on parks during the pandemic for space away from virus transmission. Once there, many encountered the feelings of peace and steadfastness that nature engenders. Whether we walk alone or with a friend (human or canine), a trail away from urban landscapes reconnects us to the natural world.

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 10:25 AM, 04.02.2023

It's time for Ohio to fully fund public schools

In his budget proposal, Gov. DeWine has asked our legislators to fully fund the second phase of the Fair School Funding Plan (FSFP) for Ohio’s public schools. The General Assembly took a giant step forward for Ohio’s students and schools by enacting the Fair School Funding Plan in the last biennial budget. It is crucial that the next biennial budget include the second of the plan’s three phases. 

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 10:23 AM, 04.02.2023

CH City Charter appointment process works

Councils and boards typically have an odd number of members so that stalemates can be avoided. When there are an even number, stalemates are not uncommon.

This was the case several years ago in Cleveland Heights, where the appointment of a new council member took close to a year to be resolved.

After that, a charter amendment was put in place to require an appointment within 45 days. If the council has a stalemate, after 45 days the mayor appoints a new council member. This is common in most cities.

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Volume 16, Issue 3, Posted 11:06 AM, 02.28.2023

CH City Council should make council appointments

As we welcome our new [city council] colleague, the recent appointment of Janine Boyd has brought some questions to the minds of residents, who would like to know why the mayor, and not city council, made this decision.

The three of us would like to be very clear about this:

  • First and foremost, [we,] Council Members Larson, Russell and Cuda, believe council vacancies should always be filled by city council.
  • When no applicant appeared to have the support of at least four members of council, the three of us were willing to compromise and give up our first pick to consider several other qualified applicants.
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Volume 16, Issue 3, Posted 11:05 AM, 02.28.2023

Politics shouldn't interfere with CHPD

I once asked former Cleveland Heights Police Chief Martin Lentz why his officers did not exercise discretion when issuing parking tickets. He asked if I really thought a large group of armed, uniformed officers should have such discretion. I got his point. The potential for abuse would be enormous. Our police are trained to enforce laws, period.

Chief Lentz further expressed to me his belief in strict traffic law enforcement. He mentioned what he called the “felon community.” He thought people who break big laws frequently break small ones. He said drivers stopped sometimes were leaving the scene of a crime or had outstanding felony warrants. They could be armed. Traffic stops are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. They are not occasions for social work.

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Volume 16, Issue 3, Posted 10:55 AM, 02.28.2023

SAG continues planning and placemaking for Severance Town Center property

In 2020, a small group of Cleveland Heights residents began volunteering together and collaborating to examine ideas that might initiate the revitalization of the long-struggling Severance Town Center property.

The Severance Action Group (SAG) formed, and has invested considerable time, talent, and experience in this effort. In December 2022, we recognized the need to share our work with the Cleveland Heights mayor, city council, and the public.

Looking closely at the property's deteriorated condition, extensive vacancies, and lack of investment, we quickly concluded a complete transformation and bold action are necessary.

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Volume 16, Issue 3, Posted 11:03 AM, 02.28.2023

Moore's supporters deserve similar representation

Years before climate change, environmental justice, and Vision Zero became mainstream concepts, Mary Dunbar, former Cleveland Heights council member, recognized that the environment and the health of the community are inextricably interconnected. She became an advocate for a greener and healthier Cleveland Heights.

After Ms. Dunbar’s untimely resignation from council, Josie Moore stepped in to fill the vacated seat with a passion and clarity that was reassuring and energizing. She brought fresh energy and a platform befitting a city that perceives itself as progressive and welcoming. She offered a vision for a holistic and collaborative approach to decision-making that considered the potential impact of policies and projects on the economy, housing, social equity, and the environment.

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 11:56 AM, 01.31.2023

I'm sad to say goodbye to Josie Moore

Those serving in public office sacrifice a lot. Many qualified people decline to seek election for that reason. Others decide after their election that the sacrifice is too great. One of those others is Josie Moore, who recently resigned from Cleveland Heights City Council.

Moore had ideas about how CH City Hall should operate under a new system. She thought the mayor and council members need to be “willing to reach out, discuss ideas and concerns, and be responsive to each other in a spirit of collaboration and problem-solving.” She called for leadership that sees civil disagreement as “an opportunity to find pathways for improvement.” She considered “open, ongoing, and respectful communication as the key to an effective working relationship that enables the achievement of our city’s goals.”

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 11:55 AM, 01.31.2023

Cleveland Heights is 'dementia friendly'

Six years ago, at the age of 62, I was diagnosed with early onset dementia. On that fateful afternoon, my wife, Emily, and I began a journey into the wilderness of dementia, disability and discernment. We had to accept the reality of my diagnosis: I had to retire early as dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland; Emily had to put our financial and legal affairs in order; and, together, we had to figure out how we were going to live with dementia.

One of the decisions we made was to return to Cleveland Heights. We gave up our newly built dream home in Detroit Shoreway for a 100-year-old house on Scarborough Road. Why? We wanted to be close to family and friends in a neighborhood where I had long-term, embedded memory. We wanted a quiet, safe, walkable community with parks and trees.

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 12:00 PM, 01.31.2023

Clear snow for postal carriers

The Cleveland Heights U.S. Post Office is seriously understaffed, affecting not just our deliveries, but the health and safety of the postal carriers.

They are literally burdened with long hours in rain, snow, ice and mud trying to cover unfilled carrier positions. They are working in fatiguing and stressful conditions with increased potential for injury. In the worst situations, they are subject to robberies and shootings.

Cleveland Heights residents can help ensure postal carriers’ routes are as safe and unobstructed as possible. Remember, they are working long hours, into the evenings when natural lighting is dim. Many carriers may be filling in on an unfamiliar street.

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 11:54 AM, 01.31.2023

CH speed-limit reductions add negligible travel time

I’m writing in response to Alan Rapaport’s opinion, in the January issue of the Heights Observer, regarding lowering speed limits.

Mr. Rapaport claims that lowering the speed limits on five roads will cause it to “take longer to get to shops, banks, restaurants, parks, libraries, churches, and schools,” and “will encourage drivers to seek faster shortcuts on side streets.”

After reading this, I decided to use Google Maps and some arithmetic to find out how much longer it will take.

From one border to the other, the lengths of Taylor Road, Lee Road, and Euclid Heights Boulevard are all about 2.7 miles. If one could drive all the way across the city without encountering stop lights or traffic problems, the trip would take 6.5 minutes at 25 mph, and 4.6 minutes at 35 mph.

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 11:53 AM, 01.31.2023

Help rebuild Coventry playground

I first met Coventry playground on a fine July morning in 2000. 

Fate, in the form of a loan-repayment contract for my medical-school borrowings, had brought me to Cleveland from Seattle. My wife and I bought a home on Berkshire Road, not far from Coventry school. We flew to Cleveland with a few suitcases, our two young boys, and two cats. Mix-ups delayed the moving truck, which included the truly important stuff like tricycles, Legos and toys. What to do with these rambunctious boys stuck in an empty home?

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 10:48 AM, 01.31.2023

Problem-solving court takes on housing violations

A property owner stands before me to be sentenced for failing to paint the garage of a rental property in Cleveland Heights. The owner has acknowledged they have not yet brought the property into compliance, but believes that if they have another 60 days, the work can be done. I sentence the owner, but rather than impose hefty fines or even jail time, I suspend most of those traditional penalties and instead impose community control, often called probation. If the owner fails to bring the property into compliance, or violates any other condition of community control, I can reevaluate and revise the original sentence.

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 7:01 PM, 01.10.2023

Reinvest in CH Community Center

A plan to permanently give up on the south rink at the Cleveland Heights Community Center recently brought residents to speak out at a city council meeting. I was among them.

Not every child wants to play hockey or figure skate, and the Cleveland Heights Speedskating program offers a fun, wholesome and exciting alternative. Our current members represent nine cities and seven schools. One of our skaters is now a member of the elite U.S. World Cup team.

Pre-pandemic, we had up six hours a week of practice ice. With the south rink closed, that’s down to 2.5 hours.

Apollo Ohno skated here twice in his journey to winning eight Olympic medals. In late November, we hosted 80 skaters from around the country for a national-qualifier skating meet. The meet used to be held over two days, and could accommodate far more skaters, but is now limited to a single day by the shortage of available ice time.

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:38 AM, 01.02.2023

Severance Action Group works to develop plan

Many of us living in Cleveland Heights have been concerned for years about the steady deterioration of the Severance Town Center, formerly known as the Severance Mall.

We have watched the occupancy rate fall to well below 50%, and feared that we might lose Dave’s, Home Depot, Marshall’s and OfficeMax, the few remaining major occupants. We have seen horrific potholes develop that might cause a pedestrian fall, or damage a vehicle. And we could not see that anything was being done to address these issues. All of this in the very heart of our city and right next to City Hall.

A little over two years ago, under the auspices of the FutureHeights Planning & Development Committee, a small group of people, who felt that transforming Severance was an existential issue for Cleveland Heights over the long term, began to think about how Severance could be transformed.

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:21 AM, 01.02.2023

Lowering speed limits was a bad decision

Ordinance No. 160-2022, introduced by Cleveland Heights Mayor Seren, was passed by CH City Council on Nov. 21. It lowers the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph on parts of five city streets, affecting portions of Euclid Heights Boulevard, Lee Road, Noble Road, and North and South Taylor roads.

These streets have had 35 mph speed limits for many decades. The new ordinance cites no history of incidents, nor does it cite proof of design problems.

It simply adopts the “ideal, principles, and concepts” of a utopian program developed in Sweden in the 1990s called “Vision Zero.” That program has as its goal “zero traffic deaths and serious injuries.”

Slowing traffic is Mayor Seren’s chosen way to achieve that goal.

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:27 AM, 01.02.2023

A lead-safety ordinance is good, actually

I am writing in response to Alan Rapoport's opinion [in the December Heights Observer] regarding the lead-safety ordinance that was recently enacted in Cleveland Heights. In it, Rapoport stated, "Children are not busily eating paint chips." As someone who works with children on the autism spectrum, I am sorry to report that this is not always the case.

Many of my clients are diagnosed with pica, a disorder in which people eat objects such as clay, dirt, paper, and yes, even paint. Even neurotypical toddlers are known to put pretty much anything in their mouths, not hesitating to determine whether it is lead-based paint.

And children are not the only ones who might end up ingesting lead paint, as I'm sure pet owners are well aware.

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:24 AM, 01.02.2023

Moore resigns from CH City Council

At the Dec. 16 Cleveland Heights City Council meeting, I submitted my resignation from council.

I’ve done a lot of reflection on how this year developed—how our new council started, and where we are now. I recall beginning the year excited to collaborate with my new colleagues to make our community stronger, to work on the issues that are my driving force, and to learn all that I can in the process.

And while I did learn a lot this year, I did not learn what I had hoped to learn.

Among other lessons, I learned—or, rather, I finally came to accept—that I do not have the thick skin I thought I had. I care too much, I lead from my heart, and this is not an easy way to be in this world. If I could snap my fingers and be different, be tougher, in a heartbeat I would. But I need to accept this as a part of who I am.

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 11:10 AM, 12.17.2022

Zagara's Marketplace was a CH citizen

With Dave’s Market now open on Lee Road, it occurred to me that a Cleveland Heights tradition like Zagara’s Marketplace should not just fade into the past without notice.

Zagara’s was a sort of citizen of the city, and should be recognized as such.

My son started working at Zagara’s when he was still in high school and the store was located at Lee and Yorkshire roads. I have learned that [his employment] was by no means unique.

In fact, John Zagara prioritized hiring Heights High students because he thought that it was important for them to gain work experience. My son’s work at Zagara’s prepared him for a 30-plus-year career in the grocery business.

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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 1:49 PM, 11.30.2022

Lead-safe law overlooks inspector shortage

A well-intentioned “lead safe” law recently was enacted by Cleveland Heights City Council. Mayor Seren calls it a “housing-based solution” to protect children in rental units. It is not a solution that makes sense.

Lead in paint has been banned since 1978. Many houses and rental units contain old lead paint. It usually is safely overpainted and encapsulated. Children are not busily eating paint chips. Problems occur when dust is created by negligent paint removal, or unreasonable wear and tear. Such dust then can be tracked into households. It can harm small children crawling on rugs who put their hands in their mouths. Otherwise, old lead paint is not hazardous.

Nobody claims all lead paint must be removed from all surfaces. There should [be] public education given to all residents about potential hazards and remedies. Instead, city council has chosen to single out and demonize landlords.

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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 1:46 PM, 11.30.2022

Severance Action Group envisions a plan for redevelopment

Many of us living in Cleveland Heights have been concerned for years about the steady deterioration of the Severance Town Center, formerly known as the Severance Mall. We have watched the occupancy rate fall to well below 50%, and feared that we might lose Dave’s, Home Depot, Marshall’s and OfficeMax—the few remaining major occupants. We have seen potholes develop that are wide enough and deep enough to not only cause a pedestrian fall, but even trap and damage a vehicle. And we could not see that anything was being done to address these issues. All of this in the very heart of our city and right next to CH City Hall.

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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 10:59 AM, 11.22.2022

Jury duty is both a right and a privilege

I suspect that most people’s first response when getting a jury summons in the mail is, how am I going to get out of this? If that is you, read on . . .

You were selected randomly from the voter rolls or a list of licensed drivers. Your employer cannot penalize you for being called to jury duty, and cannot require or request that you use vacation or sick leave for time spent while being called to jury duty.

You do not need to worry about not knowing anything about the law. It is the judge’s job to provide you with the law. Your role is to decide the disputed facts.

Nearly every resident at least 18 years of age can serve on a jury.

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Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 10:12 AM, 11.01.2022

A pro-Horseshoe Lake summary of the issues

Between formal public statements and social media, the debate over Horseshoe Lake has become a tangle of ideas and responses. The following is an attempt to organize them.

There is no apology here for being partisan [pro-lake]; those who want to remove the lake speak pretty well for themselves.

The neglected spillway of Horseshoe Lake was found in 2018 to have seriously deteriorated. The state ordered Shaker Heights to drain the lake in 2019. Shaker Heights turned to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The sewer district [replied with] a hard "no," but offered to remove Horseshoe Lake forever. Everything after that is subject to dispute. The debate rages in the following areas:

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Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 10:14 AM, 11.01.2022

CH mayor's micromanaging impedes progress

While I do not present myself as an expert in city management, I do find it my civic duty to keep well informed on local issues.

Viewing the Committee of the Whole meetings of Cleveland Heights City Council on YouTube is an excellent method to educate oneself as regards the interactions between our current elected officials.

The meeting of Oct. 3 displayed the discord that obviously exists within council, as well as between council and the administration. At the heart of this conflict is council's direct access to information from administration department heads.

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Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 10:01 AM, 11.01.2022

CH resident issues plea for access to information

In 2019, I voted for an elected-mayor form of city government, and the following year I voted for Kahlil Seren. I want him to succeed because, if he does a good job, we all win. I supported his candidacy because of positions he took regarding accountability to voters, community involvement, and an effective working relationship with city council. 

I don’t know where that candidate went when he became mayor, but I want that first guy back. Although he’s been on the job for a short time, it is important to many of us that his current approaches to leadership be re-evaluated and improved.

Candidate Seren was an avid supporter of resident involvement, but Mayor Seren seems less so.

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Volume 15, Issue 10, Posted 11:16 AM, 10.01.2022

CH council members have the right to inquire

A major problem with the operation of government in Cleveland Heights needs immediate correction.

The CH City Charter grants council members a right of inquiry. They cannot order city employees to take actions, but they can approach any city employee privately to ask questions.

This right of inquiry is necessary and beneficial. It allows council members to make informed decisions. It allows them to monitor the performance of city departments. It helps them decide how to allocate financial resources. It prevents them from being totally dependent on what the mayor chooses to tell them.

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Volume 15, Issue 10, Posted 11:15 AM, 10.01.2022

Correcting the record on Doan Brook

I am writing in response to Bert Stratton's opinion, "Hey, where's my lake?" (Heights Observer, September 2022.) He made a number of points which were either misleading or simply factually inaccurate, and which bear correcting.

The author takes issue with restoring Horseshoe Lake to, as he puts it, a "primordial" natural environment. Obviously, nobody is advocating goatskin lean-tos as a return to the natural environment, as Stratton suggested. When we talk about restoring a natural environment, it is specifically about mitigating those problems that artificially created reservoirs can cause, and being careful and intentional when we make significant alterations to existing ecosystems. It is expressly not a slippery slope on the way to eschewing modern life and returning to our agrarian pre-historic roots.

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Volume 15, Issue 10, Posted 11:12 AM, 10.01.2022

Nostalgia doesn't save lives

I'm writing in response to Bert Stratton's opinion [published in the September 2022 Heights Observer], and the "Save Horseshoe Lake" movement, who argue [for] keep[ing] Horseshoe Lake a lake, providing no practical reasons other than pure nostalgia.

There's a reason the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is concerned about flooding. If Stratton has been following the goings-on around our country and the world, he'd notice that severe flooding due to climate change and the effect of increasing impervious surfaces is happening more and more.

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Volume 15, Issue 10, Posted 11:07 AM, 10.01.2022

Vote for more Heights representation

As city leader for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, one of my tasks is to look at voting patterns in Cleveland Heights. For example, in November 2018, more than 21,000 people voted in the Senate race won by Sherrod Brown. That vote was overwhelmingly Democratic—21,438 for Brown and 266 for his opponent. There were 35,474 registered voters, so our turnout was 61 percent. This makes Cleveland Heights a political powerhouse whose votes are necessary to elect state Democratic leadership.

In Cleveland Heights we already have two sitting Supreme Court Justices elected in a statewide election, and now we have our own Cheryl Stephens on the Democratic ticket for Lieutenant Governor.

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Volume 15, Issue 10, Posted 11:10 AM, 10.01.2022

Hey, where's my lake?

Last month the circus came to town. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District had a “public-engagement” open house at Shaker Lakes, complete with seven tents.

“Join the design team as we envision how we can bring the natural environment back to the Brook,” read the sewer district’s publicity. 

So now we’re supposed to call Horseshoe Lake a Brook (capital B, at that) to get back to the primordial “natural environment.” Should we all live in goatskin lean-tos and get rid of our paved roads, too? Cain Park should be a brook, too.

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Volume 15, Issue 9, Posted 11:20 AM, 08.31.2022

Sewer district seeks input on Horseshoe Lake project

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, in partnership with LAND studio, is seeking resident input for its Doan Brook Restoration Near Horseshoe Lake project.

This project will remove Horseshoe Lake Dam, a failing earthen dam constructed more than 170 years ago, restore Doan Brook to its natural state, and the free-flowing stream corridors will be planted with trees and native vegetation. This will help manage stormwater throughout the watershed, reducing flooding along area roads and downstream.

Along with the sewer district's work, the design team has an opportunity to work with the cities of Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights to develop a park plan with other key stakeholders.

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Volume 15, Issue 9, Posted 11:23 AM, 08.31.2022

Ordinance No. 75 means 'all are welcome'

In last month's Heights Observer, I read Alan Rapoport’s opinion ["There's a culture war in Cleveland Heights'] criticizing recently passed Ordinance No. 75-2022. In it, he takes issue with the ordinance for banning conversion therapy, a practice that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. He argues that the law is “one sided,” noting that it bans efforts to change same-gender attraction but does not prohibit school counselors from “advising minors to adopt a homosexual lifestyle.”

It’s worth noting that the ordinance is largely agnostic on a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity—it protects LGBTQ kids just as it protects straight and cisgender kids. Even if Mr. Rapoport were correct, though, and the ordinance only protected LGBTQ children, he invents a fake problem to distract from a real one.

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Volume 15, Issue 9, Posted 11:17 AM, 08.31.2022

CH mayor attempts power grab

Mayor Seren recently tried to sneak past Cleveland Heights City Council an “emergency request” to remove police and fire chiefs from the list of classified employees. That removal would deny them protections of civil service status. It would be a naked power grab that city council properly balked at approving too quickly. Hopefully, reasons for the present system will be considered carefully by city council before any changes to it are made.

Civil service resulted from a reform movement in the 1880s, which sought to reduce or eliminate the system of spoils, patronage, and corruption that characterized many governments. It instituted hiring based on merit. This improved the performance of government services.

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Volume 15, Issue 9, Posted 11:12 AM, 08.31.2022

Council members call for CH City Charter review

On Aug. 15, Cleveland Heights City Council voted 4-3 in favor of amending our city charter to clarify council’s right to inquiry. However, we needed 5 votes for a charter amendment to appear on the ballot. Council members Davida Russell, Gail Larson, Josie Moore and myself voted yes; Council members Melody Joy Hart, Craig Cobb and Anthony Mattox Jr. voted no. 

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Volume 15, Issue 9, Posted 10:15 AM, 08.23.2022

There's a culture war in Cleveland Heights

A culture war has been declared in Cleveland Heights by the mayor and city council, as evidenced in an [ordinance] passed as an “emergency” measure.

Ordinance No. 75-2022 prohibits any treatment by a mental health professional the purpose of which is “an attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation.” It is called a protection of minors. Its main target is so-called “conversion therapy.” [The ordinance states] engaging in such therapy with a minor [is] “an Unlawful Discriminatory Practice.” It could result in a substantial penalty.

Protecting minors is a worthy goal. But this ordinance clearly is aimed at those considered as political enemies. It pertains to “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”

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Volume 15, Issue 8, Posted 10:30 AM, 07.29.2022

Did Mayor Seren excuse rioting?

Mayor Kahlil Seren’s opinion in the June issue of the Heights Observer ("Pride is insistence in the face of intense resistance") issues an overwrought clarion call for fight, protest and action against an enemy coalition of bigots, theocrats and others who might kill you if you are gay or lesbian.

He describes the United States as if it were Iran, or some other dozen Islamic territories, where speaking about LGBT rights does bring a death sentence.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court has tossed the abortion issue back to the people and their representatives, he then includes the Supreme Court in the enemy category and seems to excuse or expect “rage and riot” against our most vulnerable democratic institution, which would put him somewhere on par rhetorically with the Jan. 6 rioters. He also mentions the earlier “brave humans who put themselves on the line in riots, parades . . . and legal battles.”

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Volume 15, Issue 8, Posted 10:28 AM, 07.29.2022

Bremer Fisher's accomplishments merit an article

I read with great surprise, concern and disappointment that Deanna Bremer Fisher resigned, effective immediately, from FutureHeights. 

My husband and I moved to Cleveland Heights almost 16 years ago, so our experience living here has been very much impacted by the work of FutureHeights. We have supported it financially for many years. 

During the more than 14 years that Bremer Fisher worked for FutureHeights, she accomplished many things, including:

  • Publishing the Heights Observer community newspaper, which has become a trusted source of information and has received several Excellence in Journalism Awards from the Press Club of Cleveland.
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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 5:19 AM, 06.30.2022

There's a cost-effective plan to save Horseshoe Lake

If there [were] a plan to save Horseshoe Lake that addressed stormwater issues, controlled flooding, cost less, and also saved the lake, why wouldn’t our public officials request that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) implement that plan?

The NEORSD’s plan for destroying Horseshoe Lake and turning it into wetlands is no longer the only option on the table. Now is the time to consider the alternate plan, and pause before we irrevocably damage a part of Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights that we will regret for generations. 

Friends of Horseshoe Lake (FOHSL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving Horseshoe Lake, retained a team of engineering and dam experts from TRC Companies, as well as land use experts, to explore alternatives and develop a financially viable plan to preserve the lake and manage floodwater.

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 5:15 AM, 06.30.2022

Pride is insistence in the face of intense resistance

Pride is not a month. Pride is the insistence that the LGBTQ+ community deserves real respect and substantive access to the rights that we all expect to enjoy.

The United States of America is still a place where the simple act of outwardly expressing who you are inside can be, and has been, a death sentence—where choosing not to hide who you love can lead to a violent response. It is for that reason that Pride is, and has to be, every day of our lives.

I was raised by two moms, out lesbians, who have been unashamed of who they are for as long as I’ve known them. They taught me that our silence will not protect us (thank you Audre Lorde).

In fact, if you are shamed or scared into silence, it won’t just hurt you. It will harm everyone who may otherwise have relied on your bravery and used your Pride as an example to follow.

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Volume 15, Issue 6, Posted 2:49 PM, 05.27.2022

Ballot Issue 9 provides a lesson about petitions

There is a lesson to be learned from the fiasco of the Issue 9 vote, which created much gratuitous expense and effort to defeat a dubious referendum. Fortunately, voters steered clear of the reputational harm a "yes" vote would have caused. Next time, as you are walking to your car and approached by an earnest petitioner with a clipboard, do not sign it—at least, not without asking some questions.

Let’s not make a habit of government by referendum. Petitions and referendums have saddled Cleveland Heights with such time-wasting and misguided resolutions as a day devoted to anti-business speeches (deceptively named "Democracy Day"), and the [designation of the city as a] “Nuclear-Free” zone.

Our republic has moved beyond the ancient Greek-style of democracy by referendum. We elect representatives—a mayor and city council—and they hire professional staff and outside experts, as needed, to study issues.

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Volume 15, Issue 6, Posted 2:51 PM, 05.27.2022

CH should not invest in broadband Internet

You may remember Betamax. It was fine for recording and playing videos. But then along came VHS, and Betamax went the way of the dinosaurs. Then the DVD effectively replaced VHS. Now streaming video is making the DVD obsolete.

All this brings to mind a recent presentation before the Municipal Services Committee of Cleveland Heights City Council by the Citizens for Heights Municipal Broadband. As it states on its website [https://heightsbroadband.com], this group wishes the city to pay for “a new utility, a publicly owned Internet Service Provider (ISP) connecting fiber Internet to 100% of Cleveland Heights residents, businesses, and municipal services.” It wants the city to make a major financial commitment to an old technology at taxpayer expense.

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Volume 15, Issue 6, Posted 2:46 PM, 05.27.2022

GCC CH Housing Team ends its formal work

The Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) Cleveland Heights Housing Team grew from a listening event held in January 2016, in which 100 GCC members identified blighted properties as a major issue. Subsequently, a core group formed and decided to focus the team’s efforts on seriously blighted investor- or bank-owned properties in the Noble neighborhood. Now, six years later, the team is ready to conclude its work.

The team began by confronting U.S. Bank regarding the condition and number of its foreclosed properties in Noble, which resulted in the bank donating $125,000 to two neighborhood projects. We took city officials on a trolley tour of blighted properties, which resulted in Cleveland Heights City Council voting housing its number-one priority.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 11:10 AM, 04.29.2022

Cleveland Heights needs a climate action plan

In the April Heights Observer, Alan Rapoport expressed the opinion that the city needs to focus on quality city services and not waste time and resources on issues that are, in his view, unrelated to these services.

He pointed out that one of the first actions of the new city council was passage of an ordinance to adopt a climate action plan. He stated, “That plan will sound good to some who want to save the planet, but it will not improve life on the local level. Such planning will consume time that could be spent on other projects.”

Unfortunately, such an ordinance was never passed by the council. Further, his dismissive comment betrays an elementary understanding of climate issues, what is at stake, and who the stakeholders are. These issues demand more thoughtful attention.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 11:08 AM, 04.29.2022

How to save Severance Center

Severance Center is a mess. The owner of the mall portion of that mess is a company called Namdar. Namdar bought this property at a distress sale. It may think the old mall is profitable enough in its current condition. It does not seem inclined to invest nearly enough to make needed improvements.

The city commissioned a plan for improvements. To date, it has had no success getting Namdar to cooperate with this plan. And so, Severance Center remains a mess.

In 1963, Severance Town Center was one of the first shopping malls built anywhere in the entire country.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 11:00 AM, 04.29.2022

Heights High alum asks district to 'stop counting us out'

On Dec. 10, 2021, I was back at Cleveland Heights High School, my alma mater. I was hosting, running, and speaking at a protest, which I and several other students and alumni coordinated in response to an Instagram post by a girl who’d recently been a victim of sexual assault.

Exactly four months since then, two days before my 20th birthday, here I am writing this. Since that first protest, we’ve continued keeping in touch through a handful of group chats, and the most avid and available of us attending weekly zoom meetings to discuss strategy and develop demands.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 10:58 AM, 04.29.2022

Issue 9, the Constitution, precedent, and all that legal mumbo jumbo

OPINION

In the Height’s Observer’s April issue, Fran Mentch, in her [opinion, “FAQs: In support of public park Issue 9”], stated that Ohio Supreme Court held that the Retroactivity Clause of Article II, Section 28 of the Ohio Constitution does not extend to political subdivisions. The case she referenced is Toledo City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. State Bd. of Educ. of Ohio, 146 Ohio St. 3d 356 (Ohio 2016) (“Toledo Case”). And while that was the holding of the court, it does not apply to Issue 9 and the ordinance to “create a public activity park on the 1.07 acres of city owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard.”

Simply put, the Retroactivity Clause in the Ohio Constitution prevents an “impairment of contract.” An impairment of contract occurs when contravening legislation is enacted to prevent the parties from meeting the obligations of a contract. The leading case on this issue in Ohio is Middletown v. Ferguson, 25 Ohio St. 3d 71 (Ohio 1986) (“Middletown”), which has not been overturned by the Toledo Case.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 3:04 PM, 04.27.2022

Yes on Issue 9 will protect your wealth and Cedar Lee's future

OPINION

On May 3 [Cleveland Heights residents] can vote for a public park to be built on the 1.07 acres of city-owned land at Meadowbrook-Lee. Plans for the public park include restrooms, a water fountain, free Wi-Fi, a small stage, trees, plants, and small play area for children. The developer’s “park” is one-third acre and will have none of these amenities, other than trees and plants. The developer refused to put the restrooms and play area in the “park” when asked to do so by the planning commission. (You can watch [meeting video] online.)

Will the PUBLIC park be built when Issue 9 passes? Yes. The city will be obligated by the initiative to do so. Lots of people want this park, and we will work with the city to raise the funds (private and public) to build the park; the city will maintain it. Based on the city’s maintenance costs for other parks, [Issue 9 supporters estimate that] maintaining this one will cost between $20,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on activities held there.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 3:03 PM, 04.27.2022

Vote 'yes' on Issue 10 for a more productive CH City Council

As part of the transition to an elected mayor–council form of government, CH City Council is asking for your support for an important amendment to our city charter. A YES vote on May 3 will allow the clerk of council to work directly for the legislative branch of government, rather than the executive branch.

Currently, the clerk of council, who is also the finance director, works for and serves at the pleasure of the mayor. The finance director, in turn, hires an assistant clerk of council. This outdated provision not only greatly burdens our finance director, but also provides city council members with no staff to support them with their legislative duties. With this charter amendment, that position will be shifted to work directly for, and to serve, city council.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 11:56 AM, 04.02.2022

Russell reports on Noble/Taylor ARPA meetings

Residents of the Noble/Taylor communities came out in force to attend meetings in my “You Talk, I Listen” series, to address concerns in their respective neighborhoods and narrow down their “wishlists” for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds earmarked for them, in a continuation of two fall meetings.

The first meeting focused on the use of ARPA Funds earmarked for the area. Representatives from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's office, the Center for Community Solutions, and Policy Matters Ohio participated. The second focused on gaining the perspective of Noble/Taylor residents, and learning what they want to see accomplished. Residents discovered that each neighborhood has different visions, but also commonalities around serious issues affecting both.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:25 PM, 04.01.2022

Public should control development

Residents know best what they need—what their lives are missing, what stands between them and their goals, what they would change (if they could) to improve their quality of life.

That’s why Cleveland Heights Council Member Davida Russell is asking Noble and Taylor residents directly how to spend those neighborhoods’ designated American Rescue Plan Act funds during her “You Talk, I Listen” sessions. It’s why Cleveland has done the same through online polls.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 11:45 AM, 04.02.2022

Student safety is district's first priority

Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children in CH-UH schools. Sexual harassment in schools has been a topic of much concern and conversation recently, both here in the Heights and across the nation. As a mother and as president of our CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), I take this matter extremely seriously. I know that our community members, staff, and board members do, too. 

I want to share a few of the steps we are taking in order to create the safest school environment possible for our students:

  • Education is a key to preventing sexual misconduct. The district is currently investigating a comprehensive, age-appropriate sex-education curriculum. 
  • We are exploring changes to our dress code to make it forward-thinking and appropriate for 2022, utilizing best-practice examples from school districts that have successfully instituted such changes.
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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:28 PM, 04.01.2022

FAQs: In support of public park Issue 9

May 3 will be the only time that CH residents have been able to vote directly on a local land-use issue—it’s an opportunity to decide what kind of community we want to live in, and the future we want to create. Here are some FAQs about the [proposed] public park, Issue 9:

Will the park bring money to the city? Yes! Based on research by city planners and economists, the right-size public space, in the right place, brings feet to the street. And money follows feet. This park is the right size in the right context. Lee Road business owners told us they do their best business during the music festival. The CH Master Plan recommends more activities to attract people who will dine, shop, and attend performances. Imagine how a concert in the public park every Friday night would help Lee Road businesses!

How much will it cost? The park will be designed by a community process; the more complicated the design, the more costly.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:18 PM, 04.01.2022

Build CLM PAC forms to oppose Issue 9

On March 6, 50 residents gathered at The Wine Spot, kicking off Friends of Build CLM's official PAC campaign. The PAC is working to ensure that the approved residential, commercial, and public-access green-space development at Cedar, Lee and Meadowbrook is not halted by a ballot initiative to mandate a park on part of the site.

“Issue 9 is an ill-conceived initiative to block development in the guise of a 1.07 acre ’public activity park,’” said Jeanne Gordon, one of the PAC’s organizers. “The park proposal is an unfunded mandate that proponents say the city can pay for. The city has no funds to build or maintain it. The developer is planning to create a park there as part of more than 2 acres of green space—plus apartments and storefronts that will attract new residents and visitors, bring in new income and sales tax revenue, and renew vibrancy to the district.”

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 11:37 AM, 04.02.2022

New council, same problems

In the debate over the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook (CLM) development—a contest between a coterie of malcontent gadflies and civic cheerleaders who buy whatever borscht is served by City Hall—two simple yet vital math equations are unanswered, no matter how many times I ask 40 Severance Circle. In fact, I asked just the other day and, as of the time of my writing this, March 16, no one has answered the two simple questions—not our mayor, who has been in office the entire time this latest development has been negotiated, nor our council president, whose e-mail address has several abbreviations that intimate a more than basic understanding of math.

My first question has been: How long will it take for the city to recoup the cost of the land that it is leasing (and then maybe selling) to the developer for less than $500?

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:13 PM, 04.01.2022

CH council should prioritize city services

The most important question in Cleveland Heights is, will city council give proper priority to delivering quality city services that protect health, safety and welfare?

[In his January 2022 Heights Observer opinion, in which he summed up the “top issues” candidates who ran for CH City Council in 2021 heard about from residents,] Council Member Tony Cuda noted that high taxes are a common complaint, but many residents said they would not mind paying them if city services were better. What he and his colleagues should ask is, to what “city services” were residents referring?  And how can these services be performed better?

Candidates during the recent election campaign were more concerned about “equity and inclusion.” I do not doubt their sincerity, but I question their priorities.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:27 PM, 04.01.2022

Don't wait for legislation to make sustainability changes

Sustainability is a broad concept, understood and interpreted at different scales. Cleveland Heights residents want the city to develop a sustainability plan—a huge and expensive task for an understaffed city. Just hammering out what aspects of sustainability to tackle will take research, analysis and agreement. Success will depend on passage of legislation, followed by implementation and enforcement. It could take years to realize positive impacts. How can we hasten mitigation of emissions-caused climate change?

Cleveland Heights doesn’t have much industry requiring air-quality control. We don’t have major highways, interstates, rail, or air traffic as emissions sources. We mostly have small, non-manufacturing businesses and residential properties—with a lot trees, leaves and lawns, and thousands of privately owned gas-powered vehicles and equipment.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:24 PM, 04.01.2022

CH judge provides municipal court annual report highlights

At the end of March of each year, Ohio’s municipal courts must submit to their city and county governments a report of their operations, including a statement of receipts and expenditures. The full 2021 Annual Report for the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court, along with reports from years past, can be found on the court’s website at www.clevelandheightscourt.com.

Transparency in the judiciary promotes confidence in the system, upholds the fair administration of justice, and leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness. It is worthwhile to highlight [here] some of the work performed by the court, and the improvements and community collaborations it has undertaken.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:21 PM, 04.01.2022

Cedar Lee business owner urges 'no' vote on park

On behalf of myself and other small businesses owners of the Cedar Lee Business District, I urge Cleveland Heights residents to come out to the polls on May 3 and VOTE NO on the ballot initiative (Issue 9) to create an unfunded public activity park at the corner of Lee, Meadowbrook and Tullamore. This is a critical moment in our city’s history, and we need your support.

Here are the relevant facts everyone should know:

  • The Cleveland Heights Master Plan, developed with significant community input, designated the Lee-Meadowbrook vacant lot’s best use as mixed development, not parkland.
  • The city has already made significant investments in the Lee-Meadowbrook vacant lot and in the adjacent parking garage in anticipation of, and preparation for, this development project.
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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:16 PM, 04.01.2022

School district leaders are failing to protect students

CH-UH teachers and building-level staff provide our community’s children with a nurturing, comprehensive education. While the pandemic forced our school district to re-think public education, the pandemic cannot be an excuse for long-standing problems.

Since August 2020, a group of 500-plus CH-UH school district parents and staff have collaborated to share information, and communicate issues to our elected and paid district leaders.

In 170-plus pages of routine reports, we have documented an array of community concerns and begged for solutions. We convened forums, spoke at school board meetings, and regularly communicated with leadership to activate change. Most of these issues remain unaddressed, leaving students unprotected in myriad ways.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 12:23 PM, 03.14.2022

Telling the truth to our children

I write in response to Alan Rapoport’s opinion piece about The 1619 Project in the January 2022 Heights Observer. He asserts that “many qualified scholars” have questioned the veracity of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s work. I have searched many online sources to locate the “many” but have found only a few. Even those few, for the most part, do not question the entire project, just certain interpretations made by Hannah-Jones. The major dispute seems to be over the notion that we fought the Revolutionary War to maintain slavery. My understanding is that she reworked that section before her book was published. (However, I would note that a paragraph opposing slavery was omitted from the Declaration of Independence, an indication of the institution’s strong hold on the colonies.)

It is fascinating that Mr. Rapoport fears a “one-sided, biased, and ideological approach” in The 1619 Project. I took American History in high school and in college. The details presented by Hannah-Jones and many other scholars about the history of enslaved peoples and their descendants rarely, if ever, appeared in my textbooks or in lectures.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 1:53 PM, 02.28.2022