December 20, 2021 CoW and City Council Meetings

Committee of the Whole

You can find the agenda HERE and the council packet for the week HERE. You can watch a video of the meeting HERE.

Council President Stein opened the meeting, and the City Manager reviewed the legislation that would be presented at the City Council meeting that evening:

Ordinance 157-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance authorizing the execution of a Property Schedule to a Master Tax-Exempt Lease/Purchase Agreement between U.S. Bancorp Government Leasing and Finance, Inc., as lessor, and the City, as lessee, for the purpose of acquiring an aerial ladder fire truck including related equipment and appurtenances, and declaring an emergency.

Ordinance 161-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $3,100,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of refunding the City’s outstanding Parking Deck Improvement Refunding Bonds, Series 2015, dated April 30, 2015, which were issued for the purpose of constructing and equipping a multi-level parking deck and improving the site thereof, and declaring an emergency.

Councilmember Cobb asked the Finance Director whether the date cited in the legislation, April 2015, was when the debt was refinanced the first time. The Finance Director and the City Manager confirmed that it was.

Ordinance 162-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance to amend certain subparagraphs of Ordinance No. 127-2020 (F) and subsequent amending ordinances, relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2021; and declaring an emergency.

Resolution 160-2021: Second Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Development Agreement with Amato Homes I, LLC for the redevelopment of vacant residential lots owned or controlled by the City with new single-family homes; and declaring an emergency.

Resolution 163-2021: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to submit the Community Development Block Grant entitlement application for the year beginning January 1, 2022; and declaring an emergency.

Ordinance 164-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance accepting the material terms of the Janssen Settlement Agreement pursuant to the OneOhio Memorandum of Understand and consistent with the terms of the July 21, 2021, National Opioid Settlement Agreement; and declaring an emergency.

The City Manager explained that this legislation would allow the City to accept any money from the national settlement. The Law Director clarified that this is the J&J settlement. Earlier in the year Council authorized a participation agreement with the other piece of the distributor settlement, McKesson, Amerisource, and Cardinal (~$21B nationally). This is a separate participation agreement (~$5B nationally) from the earlier one, and we need to enter into it by January 2.

Resolution 165-2021: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health concerning the Regional Sewer District Storm Water Program; and declaring an emergency.

Ordinance 079-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance enacting and adopting Chapter ___, “Tenant’s Right to Pay to Stay,” of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Cleveland Heights

Ordinance 155-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance amending Section 183.01, “Public Hearing,” of Chapter 183, Political Influence by Corporate Entities, of the Cleveland Heights Codified Ordinances to the date of the public hearing that is to be held annually;

Resolution 156-2021: Second Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into an agreement with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company for continuation of its protected liability self-insurance program for the City; and declaring an emergency.

Resolution 166-2021: First Reading. A Resolution declaring the organization meeting of City Council on January 3, 2022; providing for the first regular meeting of City Council to be held on January 10, 2022; and declaring an emergency.

The City Manager discussed that Resolution 166-2021 had originally included moving the meeting and swearing-in to the Community Center, but due to rising COVID numbers, the organizational meeting and swearing-in will be at City Hall in Council Chambers. Therefore, the Law Director prepared new legislation, which will amend the original legislation. He also noted that the new legislation includes language citing rising COVID numbers and encouraging Councilmembers being sworn in to limit the family and close friends they invite to the swearing-in. It also provides for the first regular meeting of Council to be on January 10.

Councilmember-elect Cuda asked whether it would be wiser to hold it in the Community Center, where there is more room for people to spread out, given that we are not explicitly limiting the number of people who can attend. He also asked whether attendees should present proof of vaccination.

Council Vice President Seren compared the reasoning to traffic lane widening: If you widen lanes, more people will use the road and create more traffic. Smaller spaces, thus, make it easier to limit people’s movement.

Cuda stated that we should limit the number of people allowed to attend, regardless of where the event is, and that at the Community Center, we will have more room to spread people out.

The City Manager stated that the staff will be better able to coordinate and manage people at City Hall.

Seren noted that we must also consider the need to accommodate AV equipment for the livestreaming, which will require additional labor if the event is held at the Community Center. He then asked about staff absences, and the City Manager confirmed that several city staff members are out right now due to COVID, including police officers, Public Works, and maintenance staff. She also expressed concern about unnecessarily further risking the health of people who work at the Community Center. She stated that she feels that it would be easier to responsibly conduct the event at City Hall.

Councilmember Russell stated that she agrees with Cuda. Councilmember-elect Mattox stated that, for the sake of minimizing the set-up of the event, including the need for additional demands on staff, holding it at City Hall would be a better option.

Councilmember Moore stated that she had a clearer picture of how to manage the movement of people safely in City Hall than she did for the Community Center, noting that this does not mean the movement of people can’t be managed safely at the Community Center, only that she sees it clearly for City Hall and that, while she will defer to the majority, she simply wants people to be safe.

Councilmember Cobb stated that he sees both sides of the discussion and that he would have liked that the discussion could have come before the announcement of the change, as it is councilmembers’ swearing-in. Moore noted that it is also the swearing-in of our first mayor, which risks larger crowds. Seren stated that, while he acknowledges the importance of the event, he would not have a public swearing-in if it risked the health of any community members or sent a message that it is acceptable to hold public events such as this at a time when COVID cases are surging.

Russell asked if he would be sworn in at the event; Seren said he did not believe so. She asked when he would be sworn in; Seren said that is yet to be determined, particularly with the COVID numbers rising.

Councilmember Hart (via Zoom) stated that she is fine with holding the event at City Hall as long as the numbers of people are limited and the movement of people is controlled.

In response to Cobb’s comment, the City Manager stated that until very recently, the plan was to hold the event at the Community Center. However, in light of rising COVID numbers and predictions that they will spike after the holidays, she felt it was responsible to make this decision quickly.

Russell reiterated that a larger space would mean that we could spread out more.

The City Manager stated that all the AV equipment would need to be rented if the event is held at the Community Center.

Cuda asked whether we are agreed that the general public would not be invited into City Hall for the event. The City Manager stated that the thought was that there would be a screen set up in the atrium, or people could watch from home, further noting that there will be no public comment that night. Stein stated that having a public viewing space in the atrium would defeat the purpose of moving the event to City Hall.

Councilmember Moore asked if there was any sign from the state that virtual meetings would again be allowed for City Council if necessitated by the rising COVID numbers. Law Director Bill Hanna said he is not aware of anything but that he would not be surprised if the state legislature revisits the question as COVID numbers rise. Councilmember Hart asked if we could make that decision ourselves through home rule; Hanna replied that it’s less likely that we could legally defend that action, given the language of our charter.

Councilmember Moore then asked to discuss requests from a resident to create emergency legislation that would temporarily mandate bars and restaurants to require proof of vaccination for patrons dining in. Stein stated that this should wait until the next Council convenes on January 10. The City Manager stated that she knows that some of our restaurants are closing their dine-in services and only offering takeout. The Law Director stated that the Law Department will follow Council’s lead and research and create any legislation that Council directs it to create.

Councilmember-elect Cuda then asked about Resolution 156-2021, regarding the City’s liability insurance, inquiring what is meant by “an informal evaluation of other alternatives,” noting that this is a million-dollar insurance policy. The Law Director stated that it is just under a million, that $970k is the cap, and that the City has worked with Arthur Gallagher for 25+ years to study the market, solicit proposals, and compile the most competitive package of coverage possible. Hanna stated the City has been working internally to try to find savings where possible, such as insurance pools, and that study is continuing. In the meantime, Arthur Gallagher has worked diligently to realize as much savings as possible. The Finance Director stated that the broker looked at many possible carriers, and the City provided a great deal of information to all of those companies to obtain their quotes.

Councilmember Cobb asked to clarify the role of Gallagher. The Finance Director confirmed that Gallagher is a broker, and the majority of what the City is paying for is the insurance and some is for Gallagher’s services in creating the most competitive insurance package for our needs. She stated that the City communicated to Gallagher our budget available for this cost, and they conducted a market analysis to compile a package of multiple insurers. Cobb asked about a self-insurance pool, and Hanna confirmed that there are pools, and the City can look more into those in the future and that they explored one at length this year but opted not to participate this year.

Councilmember Russell asked about Ordinance 162-2021, thanking the Finance Director for the information within the legislation and stating she would like to ask questions at a later date after reviewing the numbers in greater depth.

The City Manager stated that although an Executive Session is on the agenda, it is not necessary after all.

Councilmember Hart then asked that all members of the 2022 Council provide to the City Manager Saturday dates in January when they have availability so as to schedule an orientation and strategy meeting. Mattox asked whether we should postpone the orientation until after the mayor has reorganized departments under the new administration. Hart stated that there are discussions that should happen right away.

The City Manager then announced that staff is working on Top of the Hill issues, working with the developer, the construction team, and surrounding residents to address the problem of the water in the parking garage as well as issues with construction workers’ parking practices, adding that the City will begin ticketing when construction workers’ park where they should not.

Councilmember Moore asked about the City’s response to a resident’s concerns about rodent issues in the Caledonia area. The City Manager reported that the director of Public Works followed up with the resident, provided information from the County Board of Health, as they will come out and bait. The City Manager stated that our refuse employees have not seen the issue but acknowledges that this does not mean it’s not happening elsewhere. The City Manager reported that the resident responded to the Public Works director by thanking her for the information and follow-up.

Council President Stein then adjourned the meeting.

City Council Meeting

You can find the agenda HERE, a synopsis of the legislation that was read HERE, and the council packet for the week HERE. You can watch a video of the meeting HERE.

Council President Stein called the meeting called to order.

The Clerk of Council called the roll: Present: Stein, Seren, Ungar, Cobb, Russell, Moore. Absent: Hart (due to illness).

Stein then approved minutes of November 22 council meeting, noting that any amendments should have been referred to the City Manager by this time.

Before Stein could open personal communications from our citizen, Council Vice President Seren asked to make a statement. On behalf of the City Council, City staff, and the residents of Cleveland Heights, Seren presented Councilmember Mike Ungar and Council President Jason Stein with placards of appreciation for their years of service to our city and community. (As the last Council meeting of this year, this is the final Council meeting for Stein and Ungar.)

Stein then opened personal communications from our citizens.

  • A resident stated that there is an apartment building on Noble where residents are putting trash for pickup on the ground because there is no dumpster. She also said there are overgrown trees on tree lawns in the Noble area and the branches are blocking the street lights. She followed up after her comments by speaking directly to the City Manager, who will direct staff to address these concerns.
  • A resident began by thanking City staff for addressing a previous issue related to trash. He then stated that many cars speed on Taylor and asked for a greater police presence to deter speeding. Council President Stein directed him to the City Manager to provide more information.
  • A resident reported that there are many cars and trucks parked around the Greyton and Taylor areas and that they stay there all night. She followed up with the City Manager to provide more information.
  • Councilmember-elect Tony Cuda made a statement supporting Council Vice President’s remarks expressing gratitude for Jason Stein’s and Mike Ungar’s years of service to our City.
  • A resident reported that there is a house in her neighborhood that is owned by an out-of-town landlord, and the property is neglected and should be cited by the City; she also said there is a tree on her street that needs maintenance and that she is concerned it is becoming a danger.
  • Lee Barbee made a statement announcing that he has applied for the soon-to-be-vacant City Council seat and providing a brief biography and description of his qualifications.
  • A resident expressed gratitude to the police for their timely response during a recent alarming incident she witnessed. She also stated that the city, particularly commercial districts and many areas on the north side of town, needs better street lighting and more functional cameras. In response to her comments, Councilmember Russell spoke in agreement of the need for better lighting and cameras for the north side of town and for the commercial districts.
  • A resident spoke for the People for a Park, stating that the petitions submitted to the Board of Elections did not yield the required minimum valid signatures and that their group is currently collecting more signatures. She said that any residents who signed and want to make sure their signature is valid can reach out to her. She also stated that she would like to see a clear discussion of the costs and benefits of the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development.
  • A resident spoke on behalf of her father, who could not be there that evening, thanking the City for repairing a manhole and looking forward to the installation of a long-requested curb in front of his residence.
  • A resident thanked Council for their service, congratulated Mayor-elect Kahlil Seren for his electoral victory, and expressed optimism about the future of our city. He also communicated concerns about the instability of our democracy on the national level and would like the City to be mindful of the need to be prepared for shifts in leadership.

Council President Stein then closed public comments.

Council President Stein called for the Report of the City Manager. The City Manager commented that it has been an honor and privilege to serve as the final City Manager for the City of Cleveland Heights. She stated that it has been a challenging year, but she has been grateful for the support and encouragement of her staff, City employees, residents, and Council. She is looking forward to closing out the first century of our city and embarking on the next century, which will begin with the administration of our first mayor, Kahlil Seren. She closed with the words, “Ever onward,” and the room responded with a standing ovation. (I try to keep these summaries objective, but this was truly a beautiful moment.)

Council President Stein called for the Report of the Clerk of Council. The Clerk of Council had nothing to report.

For the Community Relations Committee, Councilmember Russell had no legislation to present. Russell then made a statement thanking Council President Stein for his support and mentorship to her since she joined Council and his calm leadership; expressed appreciation to Councilmember Ungar for his friendship and insight on Council; congratulated Mayor-elect Seren and stated that she is looking forward to his leadership and supports him in the work ahead; thanked residents for their support and asked everyone to be safe and to get vaccinated.

For the Finance Committee, first Councilmember Hart spoke from Zoom (who was absent due to COVID). She expressed appreciation for Council President Stein’s calm demeanor and measured leadership, and gratitude for Councilmember Ungar’s willingness to engage in challenging debate and push dialogue among Council. She then expressed congratulations to Mayor-elect Seren and stated she is looking forward to working with him. She encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and wished all happy holidays.

For the Finance Committee, Councilmember Moore presented the following legislation:

  • Ordinance 157-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance authorizing the execution of a Property Schedule to a Master Tax-Exempt Lease/Purchase Agreement between U.S. Bancorp Government Leasing and Finance, Inc., as lessor, and the City, as lessee, for the purpose of acquiring an aerial ladder fire truck including related equipment and appurtenances, and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.
  • Ordinance 161-2021: First Reading Only. An Ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $3,100,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of refunding the City’s outstanding Parking Deck Improvement Refunding Bonds, Series 2015, dated April 30, 2015, which were issued for the purpose of constructing and equipping a multi-level parking deck and improving the site thereof, and declaring an emergency.
  • Ordinance 162-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance to amend certain subparagraphs of Ordinance No. 127-2020 (F) and subsequent amending ordinances, relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2021; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

For the Municipal Services Committee, Councilmember Moore had no legislation to present. Moore then made a statement thanking Council President Stein for his steady leadership through a tumultuous time; expressing appreciation for Councilmember Ungar’s willingness to engage in dialogue with collegiality and passion; expressing gratitude for Susanna Niermann O’Neil’s kindness, generosity, professionalism; and commitment to our city; and looking forward with optimism for what lies ahead under the leadership of Mayor-elect Seren, who, Moore stated, brings experience, knowledge, and values to help our city forge ahead. She then asked everyone to be safe, get vaccinated and boosted, stay home if you can, and wished everyone a happy holiday season.

For the Planning and Development Committee, Councilmember Ungar presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 160-2021: Second Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Development Agreement with Amato Homes I, LLC for the redevelopment of vacant residential lots owned or controlled by the City with new single-family homes; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.
  • Resolution 163-2021: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to submit the Community Development Block Grant entitlement application for the year beginning January 1, 2022; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

Councilmember Ungar then made a statement thanking the citizens of Cleveland Heights for the opportunity to serve. He said it’s been a great ride and he’s enjoyed every minute of it. He thanked our City Manager and our City staff for their dedication, hard work, and patience. He further thanked O’Neil for stepping into the role of City Manager during a very difficult time and rising to the challenge of the moment with fortitude and grace. He addressed Mayor-elect Seren and stated that he is looking forward to seeing Seren’s and our City’s success, reiterating that Seren has his full support. He expressed appreciation for his fellow councilmembers’ dedication and commitment. Ungar thanked Council President Stein for his service and reminisced on their years of service together. Ungar then closed by expressing gratitude to Tom Jewell, for his years of journalistic integrity and accuracy in his coverage of our city. Ungar wished all a happy, healthy holiday season and new year.

For the Public Safety and Health Committee, Councilmember Cobb presented the following legislation:

  • Ordinance 164-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance accepting the material terms of the Janssen Settlement Agreement pursuant to the OneOhio Memorandum of Understand and consistent with the terms of the July 21, 2021, National Opioid Settlement Agreement; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.
  • Resolution 165-2021: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health concerning the Regional Sewer District Storm Water Program; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

Cobb then made a statement thanking Council President Stein and Councilmember Ungar for their service, stating it’s been an honor and privilege to serve with them. He acknowledges that we are losing a great deal of institutional knowledge when they go. He wished them well moving forward. Cobb thanked O’Neil for her service to this city, acknowledging the complex balancing act of her job and appreciating her professionalism and grace through it all. He wished everyone a happy holiday season and new year, looking forward to 2022 to bring great things under the leadership of our new mayor.

For the Administrative Services Committee, Council Vice President Seren presented the following legislation:

For Ordinance 079-2021, Seren gave the floor to Councilmember Ungar to present, as Ungar was the driving force behind the legislation:

  • Ordinance 079-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance enacting and adopting Chapter ___, “Tenant’s Right to Pay to Stay,” of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Cleveland Heights. Passed 6-0.

Seren then presented:

  • Ordinance 155-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance amending Section 183.01, “Public Hearing,” of Chapter 183, Political Influence by Corporate Entities, of the Cleveland Heights Codified Ordinances to the date of the public hearing that is to be held annually. Passed 6-0.
  • Resolution 156-2021: Second Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into an agreement with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company for continuation of its protected liability self-insurance program for the City; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.
  • Resolution 166-2021: First Reading. A Resolution declaring the organization meeting of City Council on January 3, 2022; providing for the first regular meeting of City Council to be held on January 10, 2022; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

Council Vice President Seren made a statement acknowledging that this was his last Council meeting as a councilmember, thanking his colleagues for the debate and experience it gave him. He thanked the citizens of Cleveland Heights for trusting him with this and his next responsibility as mayor. He asked everyone to be safe and have a healthy, happy holiday season.

Council President Stein then made a statement, thanking the residents for giving him the honor to serve our city. He thanked our hardworking staff. He recognized Susanna Niermann O’Neil for her decades of love and service to our residents and our city. He expressed his full support to Mayor-elect Seren and extended an offer of assistance if he should ever need it. He stated it has been a pleasure serving with fellow councilmembers and wishes Councilmember Ungar well in the future. He thanked his children and wife for their love and support.

Council President Stein then adjourned the meeting.