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

CH council infringes on landlords' rights

Almost the very last action taken in Cleveland Heights last year by city council was poorly conceived. It was an unwarranted infringement upon legal rights of private property owners. It was a misstep. It may prove a sign of worse yet to come.

In December, council enacted a “Tenant’s Right to Pay to Stay” ordinance. It was designed to benefit tenants with financial problems. It provided that, at any time prior to the filing of an action to evict for nonpayment of rent, a tenant shall have the right to pay the landlord all past due rent along with what it defined as “reasonable” late fees. If the tenant takes such action, or at least tenders money, the ordinance purports to give the tenant an affirmative defense against eviction. It claims to be justified by a public health crisis.

The ordinance was well intentioned. But council ignored the harm it will be doing to landlords.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 1:45 PM, 02.28.2022

The war on winter fun in the Heights

Wintertime is the best season, or at least it could be. With the cold and snow comes ice that is a terror on the roads, but a blessing on our ponds and lakes. One of the Heights' great traditions in the winter could have been ice skating between trees and snowbanks. However, the local government will do everything in its power to prevent you from indulging in the graces of a winter wonderland.

In early January, my friends and I (recent college graduates) attempted to play hockey on Lower Shaker Lake. We measured the ice to be 4 inches deep, so we began to shovel and put on skates. A man started yelling at us from the edge of the ice.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 11:30 AM, 02.28.2022

CH City Council should respect citizens' park initiative

Congratulations to Cleveland Heights residents for a successful exercise in democracy! We were able to gather 4,619 signatures (a Herculean task) in support of a public park on the 1.07 acres at the corner of Meadowbrook Boulevard and Lee Road. A sufficient number of the signatures were valid, so we can take the next step to place the initiative on the ballot.

Every one of those signatures required one person talking to another and explaining what the petition was about—so there were 4,619 conversations, and we shared lots of concerns and suggestions about our community and our local government. Democracy is a long hard slog; democracy always has been and always will be one person talking to another and getting a signature on a paper petition. Our initiative proves that if you care about something, you must act. Everyone who helped mattered, and everyone who acted owns this success.

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 10:11 AM, 02.01.2022

An open letter to 'People for the Park' petition signers

To anyone who signed the “People for the Park” petition—I want to make sure you understand what you signed.

I believe this effort, championed by a small group of Cleveland Heights activists, is not really about trying to create another park on a commercially zoned piece of city-owned property in the middle of a business district located on a major traffic thoroughfare. I believe this is actually about trying to stop economic development and progress in our city. Here are some reasons why I believe this:

  • There is NO funding in city budgets for the creation, nor the maintenance, of a new park within the Cedar Lee district. It is relevant to note that FutureHeights has been seeking outside grants for years to bring a sustainable activity park to the city-owned Cedar-Lee Mini Park in the district. This new park the activists say they want would be a very expensive project—when you signed the petition, were you told how this park would be funded and maintained?
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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 10:04 AM, 02.01.2022

We need 'The 1619 Project'

In the January Heights Observer, Alan Rapoport wrote to tell us he is upset that Heights Libraries uses tax money to sponsor public seminars about The 1619 Project. He is concerned that this fosters “a one-sided, biased and ideological approach” that appears more authoritative than it actually is, and that, in dredging up the racial harms of the past, it “encourages the worst type of racial division.”

Mr. Rapoport has things backwards.     

I, too, am weary of so often having to hear that so much of American society is pervaded by racial antagonisms and tensions. But my weariness comes from the actual existence and continuation of these problems, not from efforts like The 1619 Project that may call attention to them.

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 10:07 AM, 02.01.2022

Point-of-sale inspections are obsolete

After decades of experience, Cleveland Heights City Council should consider whether point-of-sale inspection of real property still makes sense.

In the early 1980s, I co-authored the Cleveland Heights ordinance, along with a past president of the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors who was a fellow council member. It incorporated best real estate practices. Its purpose was to incentivize the improvement of properties. A city inspection was required. If repairs were needed, the parties could negotiate some rebate to the buyer. The buyer then would purchase the property “as-is,” while receiving cash at closing to do repairs. It was a sensible arrangement.

Well-intentioned social engineers later changed the rules. The city now often demands money be withheld in escrow after closing, to be released only upon proof that repairs actually were completed.

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 9:58 AM, 02.01.2022

A debrief of CH council candidates identifies city's top issues

There were 13 candidates running for Cleveland Heights City Council in 2021. Because most went door to door, and attended block parties and other civic events, I thought it might be instructive for us to get together and share our experiences in talking with residents. Maybe we could identify common issues/solutions, and share that information with our new mayor and city council.

Seven of the 13 candidates filled out a questionnaire, and five of us spoke via Zoom to expound on what we learned. What follows is a summary of the written and discussion responses from city council candidates Lee Barbee, Craig Cobb, Tony Cuda, Garry Kanter, Robert Koonce, Josie Moore and James Williams.

The top four issues that emerged in the candidates' responses are: housing, taxes (tied for second), crime/traffic violations (tied for second), lack from responsiveness from council and the city.

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Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 11:06 AM, 01.01.2022

CH council should endorse democracy in filling vacancy

Congratulations to our newly elected Cleveland Heights mayor, Kahlil Seren, and to our newly elected CH City Council members. As our city transitions to a new form of government, with an elected mayor for the first time in its 100-year history, it will be for council and our first mayor to determine how that new form of government serves.  It might be helpful if, as part of this transition, council could operate at full strength.

With his election as mayor, Seren's seat on council will be vacated when he takes office in January. By ordinance it is now the task of council to appoint his replacement. 

When this last happened (2020) the process that unfolded was nothing short of an embarrassment for our city.

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Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 11:17 AM, 01.01.2022

Taxpayers should not fund library's 1619 Project programs

I am concerned about the Cleveland Heights – University Heights Public Library System’s sponsorship of seminars on the history of race relations based on "The 1619 Project.”

Many qualified scholars believe The 1619 Project presents a highly questionable reading of history. They argue that it creates a false narrative out of racial grievance; and as a student of history, I agree with them. For this reason, I object to [Heights Libraries’] public seminar about The 1619 Project [presented] at taxpayer expense.  Such a seminar risks being a one-sided, biased, and ideological approach to an important social issue in a type of setting that makes that approach appear to many as more authoritative than it really is.

A library program on this subject cannot help but classify people based on the color of their skin rather than on the content of their character.

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Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 11:24 AM, 01.01.2022

CH Mayor-elect Seren on election and government transition

Thank you, Cleveland Heights.

I am immensely grateful for the faith that you have placed in me, and acutely aware of the responsibility I’ve been given as the first mayor elected in Cleveland Heights.

It’s been about one month since one of the most consequential elections in our city’s history. Our community answered this historic question of leadership with resounding support for my candidacy. This support provided a clear mandate to govern and to lead our city through the necessary changes that make progress possible.

Our first mayoral election is over; now the work of creating an administration begins.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 4:10 PM, 12.01.2021

UH Mayor Brennan outlines his second-term agenda

In the November election, the voters of University Heights sent a message. They elected new and energetic council representation with diverse skills. And they gave me a decisive win, with more votes than I received four years ago. 

The residents of University Heights were given a clear choice. They chose for me to continue with my agenda of progress, sustainability, and redevelopment. They elected to city council people who support that agenda. With the new council, I look forward to resuming the people’s business and implementing our agenda.

Residents would seem to prefer that the mayor and council get along. But what they really care about is meaningful progress and action. Moving forward. Making University Heights an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 4:08 PM, 12.01.2021

City urges public involvement in Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook process

The redevelopment of Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook has been a long time coming. In the past 15 years Cleveland Heights has adopted new zoning, included the redevelopment in the city’s Master Plan, and sought development partners more than once.

Earlier this year, CH City Council selected and engaged with Flaherty & Collins (the “Applicant”) to redevelop the site with a four-story, mixed-use development containing a mix of residential units, commercial, and green and gathering spaces (the “Project”). Since that time, there has been significant engagement with the community, including many community meetings and the creation of a dedicated project Web page, www.clevelandheights.com/clm.

In my discussions with various individuals over the past few months, there was uncertainty about the review and approval process, including the roles of various city boards.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 4:07 PM, 12.01.2021

Build the complex at Cedar Lee Meadowbrook

About the most ridiculous proposal during all my years of living in Cleveland Heights is for the building of yet another park on Lee Road, smack in the middle of what should be a vibrant district of shopping, restaurants, theater, and a public library! What a waste of prime property in a commercial zone! 

This has been my neighborhood for 36 years, and many pushing for the park don’t even live or work in the district. Besides the development complex’s long-term, great benefit for so many (prospective business owners, shoppers, residents), this is a personal issue for me, as I have grown extremely enthusiastic in the past 20 years about three mixed-use developments planned for the triangle, only to be devastated each time a plan dwindled down, then fizzled out altogether. How many times I’ve walked by that triangular wasteland and been disgusted—even uneasy when it’s dark. The flow of the entire district is spoiled.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 4:04 PM, 12.01.2021

Seeing the forest for the trees

Cleveland Heights has so many empty places where there ought to be large shade trees—as in our parks. Ever try sitting on a bench in the summer sun watching your child on playground equipment while baking uncomfortably because of a lack of shade? Not fun. This especially is strange in a city that has a tree in its logo.

Many large, old trees were lost in recent storms. Others, suffering from disease or pest infestation, have been taken down. New, large old trees do not just magically appear overnight. In olden days, our city cared about that. It planted trees that eventually would become big. Not dinky flowering trees, as on Fairmount Boulevard. And not sickly small trees, as on many of our tree lawns. Results often were quite visually striking. For instance, the view of large-growth trees as one drives down the Cedar Road hill toward University Circle is wonderful, especially as leaves turn color.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 4:06 PM, 12.01.2021

Councilwoman Russell Announces Bid for Council President

Cleveland Heights Residents! Thank you for putting your trust in me and re-electing me to Cleveland Heights City Council. I am truly humbled and honored to have earned your vote and your trust. I vow to work every day for the betterment of ALL of our residents, and to maintain the trust you all have placed in me.

On Nov. 15, I announced my interest in becoming president of CH City Council in 2022. I thank Council Member Melody Joy Hart, who asked me “to think about being council president" when she was running for mayor.

In my short time on council, many things have been accomplished for our city. To start, I made the 2020 Census a top priority, ensuring our city’s numbers were accurate so that we receive the government funding we deserve. Next, legislation was created, in conjunction with Council members Hart and Ungar, denoting systemic racism as a public health crisis, and a community Racial Justice Task Force was created to address this issue.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 2:07 PM, 11.23.2021

Reshaping Horseshoe Lake into a meadow is fantasy

A June 15 presentation by Frank Greenland of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), “Shaker Lakes: Review and recommendations” (available online at https://bit.ly/3FYmaMb), contains a proposal for re-shaping the bed of Horseshoe Lake (slide 27). The slide suggests replacing the lakebed with two streams meandering between tree-lined banks in a meadow. It’s a very appealing picture. I’ve heard others describe this scene as, “the natural beauty that was here before the Shakers arrived.”

Doubtless, engineers and landscape architects can design such a place, and bulldozers can construct it. But physics will not abide it for long.

I’m no geologist. What I’m saying here isn’t authoritative. But if the questions I raise have any validity, they could remove from the debate the idea that Horseshoe Lake’s bed could ever be a park-like sanctuary.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 11:14 AM, 10.29.2021

Reaching Heights declares anti-racism is its top priority

I run Reaching Heights, a small nonprofit that connects the community to the public schools in Cleveland Heights and University Heights, through information, programs and events. Ideally, all that we do also enriches students, supports school staff, and encourages people to value the students in our schools, and appreciate public education.

Like many organizations, Reaching Heights responded with an anti-racism statement to the horror of George Floyd’s murder by police. We knew that a statement was not enough, and chose to spend much of 2020 and 2021 working internally on anti-racism within our organization.

We added anti-racism training to each of our monthly board meetings, and offered the Racial Equity Institute’s Groundwater training to our staff and board. We collaborated with five other local nonprofits to hold the anti-racism event “Heights Conversations: Let’s Talk About Race.”

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 11:18 AM, 10.29.2021

There's trouble at Top of the Hill

In late 2019 and early 2020 I wrote several opinions, published in the Heights Observer, [in which I] promoted the Top of Hill (TOH) project, and debunked [objections to it]. In February 2020, I attended a meeting at CH City Hall and watched as many people spoke out against the project, and a few spoke for it.

Now, Cleveland Heights citizens are treated to a YouTube video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF4gueOlnAA&feature=share ) showing a waterfall within the TOH parking garage, and poor drainage, after a recent heavy rain.

After I saw this on Facebook, I visited the TOH parking garage and asked a construction worker about what was shown [in the video]. “It wasn’t a leak,” he said. “It was a waterfall.” Asked if this was normal, he said, “This is not normal.”

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 11:20 AM, 10.29.2021

Meadowbrook-Lee project should be reassessed

When People for the Park asks Cleveland Heights voters to sign our petition—to put on the ballot in May that the city build a park on the 1.07 acres of city-owned property on Lee Road between Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard—we hear lots of reasons why people support it.

After hearing Don King speak at the Cleveland Heights City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 4, we all have another reason to support the park. King lives at Buckingham Condominiums, right next to the Top of the Hill (TOH) project. At the meeting, he talked about two problems with the developer and the TOH buildings. One was the developer’s unwillingness to move the private dog park [away] from the entrance of the Buckingham. The other was the water leaking in the new TOH garage, and the lack of response to the leaking. (You can view his comments in the video of the council meeting, at https://youtu.be/U2_Jkasv8NQ?t=9264. He speaks at the 2:34:23 time mark.)

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:58 AM, 10.29.2021

Horseshoe Lake saved my soul

We in the Heights are grieving the possible loss of Horseshoe Lake. What can be measured, folded, and placed neatly in a box are environmental, stormwater management, and financial concerns. Quantifying what has served for years as a pillar of human spiritual sustenance is not so easy.

Since moving back to Shaker Heights, from Pittsburgh, 20-some years ago, Horseshoe Lake has served as my spiritual source—a place of indescribable respite, tranquility, and beauty. When I decided to address my alcoholism, Horseshoe Lake saved me. Teetering on the edge of spiritual death, I returned to Horseshoe Lake daily, filling up my cup—figuratively speaking—each visit, so that I could face one more day. Later, sober and with young daughters, I would walk to Horseshoe Lake, finding peace as a confused and harried working mom. Courage to go another day. This place helped me do that. Over and over, for two decades.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 11:00 AM, 10.29.2021

Sometimes a park isn't just a park

On Nov. 2, Cleveland Heights voters will elect a mayor for the first time in a century. Issue 26, which gave residents the ability to decide whether they wanted to elect a mayor, was the first step in replacing an appointed city manager, accountable only to seven city council members, with a leader who is directly accountable to voters. 

An elected-mayor form of government, on its own, will not guarantee the outcomes we desire. We must continue to erode the power that small networks of privileged stakeholders wield over the rest of us, which they use to impose narrow visions of growth and well-being onto the physical landscape that we inhabit.

A growing association of residents is circulating a petition calling for the creation of a park at the corner of Lee and Meadowbrook, instead of new commercial space and apartments for “professionals . . . looking for a luxury living experience” (as described in the city’s RFQ/RFP for the site).

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:55 AM, 10.29.2021

One road, three cities

A few years ago, my commute from the Cedar Fairmount neighborhood did a "180," from downtown to Mayfield Heights—a straight shot up Cedar Road.

I soon noticed a stark difference in conditions once you cross Green Road and enter Beachwood. I realize that Beachwood enjoys newer infrastructure and a tax base boosted by a robust business community; that said, much of the difference in conditions can be attributed to the example the city sets maintaining its own properties, and the standard it holds its residents to.

I realize that not every [Heights] property owner has the means to keep their property in tip-top shape, but I'm talking about the basics here.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 11:16 AM, 10.29.2021

Remember 'Just Say NO To Political Deals'?

Hard to believe, but things have gotten even nastier in just the two years since that negative ballot issue campaign, brought to us from the city council funded anti-elected mayor campaign and their $25,000 donor corporate lobbyist partners.

I was the one who discover the $25,000 lobbyist money via a public records request. Which actually became $30,000.

And with my help, they lost by nearly 2:1.

Let's all send that same message in 2021, and not support any candidates who rely on hate and misinformation.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:20 AM, 10.26.2021

Give the outsiders a chance

One of our neighbors thought it was strange to see the bipartisan collection of signs in our front yard. I think it shows that democracy is alive, and we need to put aside party affiliations to support the best candidates. 

I am favoring the outsiders on Nov. 2.  I am supporting candidates who will bring new ideas and energy to Cleveland Heights. I’ll leave it to others to praise current incumbents, but I think we need some significant changes or we will certainly get more of the same, and probably much less.

Starting with mayoral candidate Barbara Danforth, her sign was the first in our yard. Her campaign people noticed that I had agreed with her online (Nextdoor), and offered us a sign. For the next sign, I actually worked with Tony Cuda on the popular transition to an elected mayor, so I was happy to support him.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:19 AM, 10.26.2021

A public school performance review means program cuts

On its surface, a performance review to locate public-school inefficiencies seems benign.

However, the purpose of a performance review is to justify programming cuts by identifying anything beyond the minimum state requirements.

In the CH-UH school district, this would mean cutting or eliminating arts, athletics, AP courses, preschool, and the Career and Technical Education program.

Is CH-UH to be known as a destination for mediocrity in education? Because, with such cuts, public-school families will only need to take a quick look at Shaker Heights or Lakewood to realize that, if they live in those communities, they will get excellent, comprehensive educations. 

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:00 AM, 10.26.2021

A letter from a CH voter that we declined to publish

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Cleveland Heights resident Bonnie Dolezal after the October print issue had been printed and distributed. The Heights Observer declined to publish it online. Reaction to this decision has threatened to distract from the important issues the community faces at the end of this busy, local election season. Therefore, we have decided to publish the original letter along with the feedback we provided to Dolezal via e-mail. Further—for those who might say, yes, but the writer revised the letter, and the Heights Observer still didn’t publish it—we’re also including the revised letter, and the e-mail we sent to the writer in response.

School Board 'Hit Piece' Mailer, by Bonnie Dolezal:

There is a Political Action Committee (PAC) who is opposing the Drake-Lynn-Rennert School Board slate. This PAC has gone to new levels of incivility. They have now published a nasty sinister mailer trying to portray these candidates as radicals who want to undermine the public schools. It isn’t even clear if this information about them is true.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 4:11 PM, 10.18.2021

A letter from a BOE candidate that we declined to publish

The following letter to the editor was submitted by CH-UH school board candidate Maureen Lynn after the October print issue had been printed and distributed. The Heights Observer declined to publish it online. Over the next few days, reaction to this decision began to distract from the important issues the community faces at the end of this busy, local election season. Therefore, while the reason for our initial decision hasn't changed, we are publishing the original letter and ensuing correspondence that explains our thinking behind the decision.  

Clarification on Masks & the Library, by Maureen Lynn:

With all of the slander, malice and un-truths out there, I wanted to clarify my position. I am NOT anti-science, NOT anti-masks and NOT anti-vaccinations. The peaceful protest at the library was to stand in solidarity with a friend who is disabled and has a legitimate Medical Exemption. Simply put, she is disabled and cannot wear a mask. She home-schools her children and the Library is a necessary part of their education. Receiving books ‘curb-side’ is not a sufficient educational experience for these children.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 4:11 PM, 10.18.2021

Seren endorses Mattox Jr. for CH City Council

I enthusiastically endorse Anthony Mattox Jr. for Cleveland Heights City Council. Anthony brings people together, he uplifts, and he educates. He has earned my trust and admiration as an engaged civic leader and advocate working for the health and safety of our community.

Anthony already serves our city in an advisory capacity as a Cleveland Heights Planning Commissioner. His six years of continuous service reviewing and approving projects, assisting with development and planning, and partnering with residents and businesses to improve their properties makes him incredibly knowledgeable and an ideal choice for tackling economic development moving forward. 

Anthony’s background in municipal finance, risk assessment, loss mitigation, and process improvement will lend additional fiscal accountability and support to council, our city’s ultimate budgetary authority.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 4:21 PM, 10.08.2021

Seren endorses Moore in race to fill Dunbar’s vacant council seat

Josephine “Josie” Moore has my unequivocal support for Cleveland Heights City Council. I can’t think of a better choice to fill the vacancy left by my colleague Mary Dunbar. Mary championed environmental and health initiatives, working with me to find common ground on issues like sustainability and safe, multimodal transportation. Josie’s platform is forward-thinking, and sustainability focused because she knows that today’s decisions, large and small, impact future generations.

She believes that it is incumbent upon us as elected officials to thoughtfully gather information and ask questions before taking decisive action in the best interest of the people. Her service to our city on the Citizens Advisory Committee shows a dedication to positive and productive civic involvement that is not found in the other candidates.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 4:19 PM, 10.08.2021

Dew failed to disclose his school-district connections in his October opinion

The Heights Observer’s October issue featured an opinion by Adam Dew (“A MAGA school board coup is afoot in the Heights”), disclosing [that he is a promotional] partner of the publication, but without the complete picture.

In that fevered nightmare vision, Dew made deeply personal attacks on each candidate of the Lynn-Drake-Rennert school board slate. What wasn’t disclosed was that, since 2018, he sits on the school district’s Lay Finance Committee (LFC), with school board president James Posch and district CFO Scott Gainer. This means he is no mere citizen, since the LFC does not publish its meeting minutes and has not issued a report since 2019. This creates a conflict of interest, since Dew has been a commercial vendor for the district, making over $13,000 in 2019–20 alone from business between it and his video company.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 3:59 PM, 10.08.2021

Council-watchers endorse Seren for mayor

Having attended most Cleveland Heights City Council and Committee of the Whole meetings since 2015, we have seen Kahlil Seren in action several times a month for close to seven years. In disposition and demeanor, he is well-suited to public office.

We have witnessed Kahlil taking brutal and often undeserved criticism from certain council colleagues without reacting defensively. It’s a rare quality, and one that would well serve many elected officials and others in authority. When asked how he does it, he replied quietly, “Well, I meditate a lot.” And, he said at a meet and greet this summer, “I have learned to pick my battles.”

As a biracial man raised by a lesbian couple and married to a biracial woman, Kahlil understands and values the precious racial, gender, economic and social diversity of Cleveland Heights. He knows it is rare, even within Cuyahoga County.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 5:08 PM, 10.07.2021

Electing 'new core' team of CH council members is important

A new type of city council is required by the passage of Issue 26. Council will become a legislative body working with a directly elected executive mayor serving a four-year term. It no longer will act as a board of trustees that supervises a city manager it can fire at any time.

I served on city council in Cleveland Heights for eight years. I know the importance of council members who focus on truly important stuff, keep their egos on a leash, and know how to play well with others. I see the potential election of a new core group that could govern well.

Craig Cobb has admirable skills, both professional and personal. He is an experienced attorney and a cool head. He cares deeply about maintaining quality city services. He has been appointed twice to fill vacancies and serve on city council. He is respected by those who understand what the job will require, and he richly deserves election in his own right.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 12:00 PM, 10.06.2021

Stonewall Dems endorse Seren; say Danforth is misrepresenting her stance on LGBTQIA+ rights

During [Cleveland Heights mayoral candidate] Barbara Danforth’s interview, seeking the endorsement of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats (CSD), she stated that she needed to confirm whether advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights would be popular with other constituent demographics in the community before being willing to take a stance as an advocate. 

Her answers in CSD’s candidate questionnaire, and the answers she gave in her interview with us, came from a place of not just ignorance, but animosity and shallow respect toward the LGBTQIA+ residents of Cleveland Heights. 

Danforth’s interview was so difficult that many of our volunteers wanted to stop it midway through, as she just wasn’t remotely open to education on LGBTQIA+ issues. She also argued with interviewers about the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people needing access to safe restrooms.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 5:13 PM, 10.05.2021

NextDoor can be helpful or hurtful

It was the day after my 69th birthday. I asked myself—why am I here? 

It was an ordinary day. I got in the car to do errands. I passed the elementary school and turned left on Canterbury Road, heading toward Meadowbrook. I was driving down a hill. Something caught my eye. There was a young child pedaling quickly down the hill on the sidewalk. 

A thought came into my mind. Something is not right! This child should not be pedaling quickly downhill. I drove slowly, alongside him. Maybe my unconscious mind was offering protection.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:45 AM, 10.05.2021

Protest co-organizer expresses support for Russell

As co-organizer of the Protest For Peace at city hall in June 2020, I support the re-election of CH City Council Member Russell.

She walked up to me before the march began and asked to march alongside me, then did. At this protest she promised a crowd of over 500 locals a town hall to express their concerns, and she delivered. She organized an audience with myself and [a peer] with the Cleveland Heights Chief of Police to discuss our concerns and next steps, then proceeded to plan and deliver on another town hall meeting where the police department and my peers were present. She even provided me and my colleagues an opportunity to sit down and talk history and change with Mr. William Lucy, a notable right-hand man for Nelson Mandela.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:44 AM, 10.05.2021

In CH mayor, we need a leader—not another manager

As we venture into unfamiliar territory in local government, our choice for Cleveland Heights’ first elected mayor comes down to one question: Who can LEAD our city on this journey in a way that makes the most out of this opportunity?

My opponent will tell you that what’s important is having someone who would run government like a business, with experience answering to a board of directors. I think she’s setting the bar too low. If the answer to our challenges was just competent management, we could have stuck with a city manager. We deserve—and should expect—more from our mayor.

Being mayor isn’t just the technical job of managing public employees as a cautious corporate caretaker. Mayors have to LEAD. Leadership means standing in the vanguard and fighting for progress.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 12:02 PM, 10.01.2021

Danforth thanks CH voters

Thank you, Cleveland Heights voters, for your heartwarming support in the recent mayoral primary election!

Over the last few months, I knocked on thousands of doors. I’ve heard your hopes, dreams and frustrations. And I am more committed than ever to work to address them. 

Clearly, we must improve the delivery of city services, without raising taxes. Ensuring that we all feel safe and secure in our homes and businesses is essential. And, building on our reputation for equity and inclusion must continue as a top priority.  

Public safety and attacking crime: Safe neighborhoods are the foundation of a thriving community. That requires well-equipped, highly trained safety forces.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 12:01 PM, 10.01.2021

Why I'm running for UH mayor

My name is Phil Atkin. I am running for mayor of University Heights.

I have lived here 30 years amidst a sea of beautiful family homes. I am not a politician.

All those years I watched major issues remain unaddressed, only worsen. We have one of the highest property tax rates in the country. We support a failing public school system at a cost that is over twice the state average, and growing.

Miraculously, four years ago the state inaugurated the voucher program for failing school systems. Everything changed. People started moving here to take advantage of the program.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:49 AM, 10.01.2021

Sign the petition to put Cedar Lee park on the ballot

I am circulating a petition to put the Lee Meadowbrook park on the ballot.

As most residents know, a big development project is planned for Cedar Lee. Many of us would like to reduce this project by about 25% in order to preserve the vacant lot on Lee Road, between Tullamore and Meadowbrook. We want a park there. Over 900 people signed a petition appealing to the city to preserve this green space. Nonetheless, city council is moving forward quickly and, we believe, without sufficient consideration.

Putting the park initiative on the ballot gives us a voice. Even if you are not sure how you feel about the park, you may feel as I do: The citizens should have a say in this.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:43 AM, 10.01.2021

Why I'm running for school board

I am a graduate of Height High, and two daughters graduated from Heights.

In a recent news article, three career academic math scholars, from NYC, Georgia Tech and Princeton, gave a stern warning about the “deplorable” state of math education in the United States. They said U.S. schools prioritize social justice and diversity over merit, thereby allowing China to successfully advance as the world leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This is their opinion; I believe educating our students to compete in the 21st century should be the number one objective of this district. This is the reason I am running for the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE).

I previously wrote about the largess paid to the principals, administrators, treasurer and superintendent, only to witness the board penalize the teachers; not the administrators, treasurer or superintendent.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:27 AM, 10.01.2021

Lynn on why she is a candidate for BOE

I am seeking election for the CH-UH school board because I believe that our public schools and the students are essential for a strong, thriving and successful community.

As seen throughout the country, communities without strong public schools see the population decline, home values decrease, and poverty increase. No one wants to see this happen in CH-UH. I want to be a part of the school board to ensure that the schools are exceptional for children of all backgrounds and abilities. 

It is well known that the CH-UH school district is generously funded and has the highest tax rate in the entire state of Ohio. Many in the community have been asking the school board to [request] a state performance audit by Ohio’s state auditor.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:21 AM, 10.01.2021

'Top 10' reasons to support Cuda for CH City Council

10. Tony Cuda led the successful campaign in 2019 to change Cleveland Heights’ charter to an elected mayor form of government.

9. Tony is laser-focused on housing issues and will collaborate with the mayor, his fellow council members, and the community on a strategic plan to protect and expand our housing stock.

8. Tony’s experience teaching and working in government will be invaluable during this critical transition period.

7. Tony and his wife, Sandy, live on Fenley Road in the Oxford/Noble neighborhood. Council would certainly benefit from the perspective of another member who lives north of Mayfield Road (where, currently, only one council member lives).

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:06 AM, 10.01.2021

Silverman cites experience in run for CH council

This November the city of Cleveland Heights will see big changes with the direct election of our mayor. In January, there will be at least three, maybe four, and possibly five new members of city council. I believe it is important for us to have at least one new member with previous elected experience. For this reason, I am running for the two-year unexpired term on council.

I firmly believe that experience matters. We have seen on a national level what happens when we elect those with ZERO experience. In this race, I am the only candidate with local elected experience, having been elected three times to the CH-UH school board (1993, 1997, 2013), as well as being appointed to a seven-year term on the CH-UH library board.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:03 AM, 10.01.2021

Danforth might discard essential housing preservation tools

Cleveland Heights’ first elected mayor will have to rebuild the city’s housing department and programs. The need is especially critical for those neighborhoods that have long suffered blight and disinvestment.

A candidates’ survey by the Greater Cleveland Congregations Cleveland Heights Housing Team (https://chhousingteam.wordpress.com) provides a useful glimpse into the thoughts of Barbara Danforth and Kahlil Seren on housing policy.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 11:00 AM, 10.01.2021

Resident grateful for public schools and their advocates

Despite Cleveland Heights’ many challenges, I often feel like I live in a utopia, especially when engaging in public-school activities.  

As a parent, I’ve been blessed to work with a vast array of wonderful people to support our schools and uplift all, advancing the common good.  

Those wonderful people include CH-UH Board of Education incumbents Malia Lewis, Jodi Sourini and Dan Heintz, and CH City Council candidate Josie Moore.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:59 AM, 10.01.2021

AFL-CIO, Sen. Brown endorse Russell in CH council race

The campaign to re-elect Davida Russell to Cleveland Heights City Council has received an extensive list of endorsements.

Already endorsed by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, state Rep. Janine Boyd, state Sen. Sandra Williams, Cuyahoga County Council Vice President Cheryl Stevens, the Cleveland Heights Democratic Club, and the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, Russell recently added the North Shore AFL-CIO to that list.

“Organized labor supports me because I’ve been a steward of labor and an advocate of the people my whole life,” Russell said. “Together, we will continue to work on community/neighborhood investments, work closely with our police force to increase safety, support our schools, and improve resources and programs provided to youth and senior populations.”

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:59 AM, 10.01.2021

Three BOE candidates have worked against public schools

All are welcome here. It's our city's slogan, and an ideal I believe in. We are a community whose residents represent a wide array of backgrounds, races, religions, socio-economic classes and lived experiences. We also have residents with varying political views, though it is clear we are predominantly a Democratic, progressive city. 

While all are welcome here, and all are welcome to share their views, argue for or against certain issues, and speak up in public forums, I strongly believe that when people seek to serve in an official capacity, where they are charged with making decisions and setting policy on behalf of other people, they should at least share those people’s values.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:58 AM, 10.01.2021

Our school district needs Sourini, Lewis and Heintz

Boards of education across the country have faced some of the toughest decisions they have ever faced over the last two years. When we think about what board members are needed for the decisions of today, and for the years to come, we believe in Jodi Sourini, Malia Lewis and Dan Heintz to do the work on behalf of our students. We have valued their advocacy to obtain fair funding for our district, which is work that will need to continue beyond this election. 

We have been in the CH-UH school district since our son, currently a junior, entered kindergarten at Boulevard Elementary School. Our daughter, a fourth-grader, is currently at Boulevard, with her four cousins.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:56 AM, 10.01.2021

Sen. Brown, others endorse Snodgrass for CH council

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate since 2007, has endorsed Al Snodgrass for Cleveland Heights City Council.

"Al Snodgrass is a leader who will fight for affordable housing, economic development, and to expand vaccination efforts and help Cleveland Heights recover from this pandemic. A long-time community organizer, Al understands that the Dignity of Work is not just a slogan, it's how we govern—that's why I'm proud to endorse Al Snodgrass for Cleveland Heights City Council,” said Brown.

Snodgrass said of his candidacy, “We can’t wait another four years to elect next-generation council members who will work to drive economic growth, invest into our housing stock, and streamline council operations that help us better serve residents.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:56 AM, 10.01.2021

Lynn's divisive behavior makes her an unfit BOE candidate

I read with disbelief and disgust Maureen Lynn’s opinion in the September Heights Observer, "Parents question library's mask requirement." According to reports, she chose to ignore Heights Libraries’ COVID mask rules, and subsequently engaged in a loud and threatening confrontation with librarians so serious that police had to be summoned. Our Heights librarians are among the most laid-back, helpful and nicest people around. Bullying them as a publicity stunt is inexcusable.

Worse, her statement that masks “impede oxygen to the brain” would be laughable if not so deadly serious. Virtually every medical expert agrees that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of COVID, especially among the most vulnerable—children too young to be vaccinated. Ignoring science and endangering children to make a political point is unconscionable. (Thank you, Sheryl Banks, for your article in the September Heights Observer, "Library's mask policy protects visitors," quoting evidence-based guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.)

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:55 AM, 10.01.2021

Heintz, Lewis and Sourini deserve four more years on school board

In the upcoming CH-UH Board of Education election, I’m voting to re-elect Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis and Jodi Sourini for many reasons. Here are three:

First, they are committed to running the district in a fiscally sustainable manner while maintaining educational quality. Reasonable public-school advocates recognize that the desire to fund our schools must be balanced against the high tax burden we face in CH-UH. Heintz, Lewis and Sourini each have real-world business experience, know how to balance a budget, and will get us the most educational bang for our property tax buck.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:53 AM, 10.01.2021

A MAGA school board coup is afoot in the Heights

If you voted for Donald Trump in 2020, chances are your core values do not align well with the 80% of CH-UH residents who voted for Joe Biden. The Trump/Biden choice was stark. So far as I can tell, Maureen Lynn, Mordechai Rennert, and Charles Drake, the GOP slate running for CH-UH school board, are three red peas in a Trump-loving MAGA pod. 

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:52 AM, 10.01.2021

Why not a lake and a brook at Horseshoe?

The discussion around Horseshoe Lake has been presented as a binary choice: either fix the old dam and refill the lake for $20.7 million, billed to Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, or get rid of the lake altogether and transform that part of the park into a riparian brook environment. Why only two options?

The cost-benefit issue for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is that repairing the dam would not improve flood control at the critical “pinch point” of University Circle, because the watershed draining into that one lake is quite small. However, NEORSD would fund the creation of a brook designed to help slow down and absorb stormwater runoff.  

Right now, the drained, man-made lake is filling itself in with wildflowers and other vegetation. It looks lovely and is attracting some wildlife, but its current state is likely temporary. Left alone for 20 or 30 years, it would fill in with trees and look much like the rest of the shallow wooded valley downstream and upstream of it.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:34 AM, 09.28.2021

How a CH council appointment became an election

Mary Dunbar resigned from Cleveland Heights City Council on Aug. 16, effective immediately.

That was about 78 days before the upcoming general election on Nov. 2, where a mayor and four council members will be elected.

The very next day, the city issued a press release announcing that applications were being accepted to be considered for appointment to the remaining two years (plus a little more) of the term.

I saw that press release on FaceBook, and decided to read the city's charter to see if that was correct. I've read that paragraph previously, so already had my doubts.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:13 AM, 09.16.2021

Moore announces run for vacant CH council seat

I’m excited to announce my candidacy for the unexpired term of the vacant CH City Council seat.

But let’s begin with the elephant in the room: I ran for mayor. While I am proud of my campaign—that I focused on my own message, ideas and vision, and did my best to raise the level of dialogue—I reached a point when I knew I had gone as far as I could in the race for mayor. Because I want the results of that election to accurately reflect what Cleveland Heights residents want for our city, I felt that the right thing to do was to pull out of the race.

One could say that—in running for such a high-profile office before living here long enough to create the kind of community network needed for a successful campaign—I had put the cart before the horse. Or perhaps my mayoral campaign created a horse for a future cart. Little did I know that the cart would pull up so soon.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:12 AM, 09.16.2021

Good lake, bad lake

We have two well-loved lakes in the Heights—Lower Lake and Upper Lake (Horseshoe Lake) of Doan Brook.

They were created in the early 1800s as mill ponds for the Shaker Societies’ water-powered mills. By the early 1900s the land, renamed Shaker Heights Parkland, became the property of Cleveland, but only on the condition it be reserved and protected continuously for public use.

Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights embraced the land’s beauty and unique recreational value, and gained responsibility for it by lease agreement. Caretakers and visitors over time seemed to agree that the two lakes are the crowning glory of this parkland.

Fast forward to 2021. Horseshoe Lake has suddenly been taken from us, and we deserve to have it back. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) drained it quickly a few years ago, without warning, saying it was to fix the dam, and would be temporary. But the water is still missing.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 10:44 AM, 09.14.2021

Seren should be CH's first elected mayor

Kahlil Seren wants every street in Cleveland Heights to see the street sweepers, not just the ones lined with mansions. 

The mayoral candidate unveiled this “radical” position at a backyard meet-and-greet, after an attendee noted disparities in street services between affluent and less-affluent neighborhoods. She wanted to know what he would do about it if elected mayor.

Kahlil had an answer. He almost always has a well-thought-out answer, and when he doesn’t, he is ready to listen and learn. 

Kahlil honed a simple strategy for governance at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, at Policy Matters Ohio, as an advisor to Cuyahoga County Council, and serving on Cleveland Heights City Council.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 9:56 AM, 09.09.2021