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- An ordinance that will place on the May 3 ballot a charter amendment proposal that, if passed by the voters, will place the position of the clerk of council (and any other staff hired for Council) under the domain of the council rather than the administration.
- A resolution recognizing March 2022 as National Women’s History Month.
- An ordinance to amend the 2022 budget, increasing it by $14,349.61, the funds for which will be covered by incoming grants from the Older Americans Act.
- An ordinance that will place an issue on the May 3 ballot for a proposed ordinance that, if passed, would require that a public activity park be created on 1.07 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard.
Committee of the Whole
Council President Melody Hart called the meeting to order. The Clerk of Council called roll. Present: Hart, Cobb, Russell, Moore, Cuda, Mattox, Larson.
Agenda Item 1: Sustainability Committee Proposal
Before ceding the floor to Councilmember Moore, Council President Hart read a statement that all councilmembers and the mayor recognize the climate change is a crisis. She stated that the discussions are part of a legislative process of revising proposed legislation to make it passable.
Councilmember Josie Moore began by thanking her fellow councilmembers for the previous week’s discussion, stating that the concerns she heard helped her go back to her original idea to refine and improve it. Moore then gave a presentation explaining why she is advocating for a Cleveland Heights–specific climate action plan and an Environmental Sustainability Committee made up of Cleveland Heights residents.
Moore then discussed revisions to her proposed legislation, which she had made in response to discussion from the February 14 CoW meeting. Notably, she changed the process for appointing Sustainability Committee members as nonvoting advisory designated liaisons to Council Committees and added a sentence authorizing Council Committee chairs to determine the advisory protocols between their committee and their designated liaison.
Moore asked if there were questions, emphasizing that she would like to resolve details to everyone’s satisfaction so Council can move forward.
Council President Hart asked Law Director Hart what he has seen other cities do. Hanna stated that he has not seen a structure exactly like this and that the changes made to the draft make the proposal work better structurally. He stated that he wants Council as a whole to decide the rights and responsibilities of the designated liaisons to Council Committees, noting that Moore had articulated and stated a justification for one option.
Councilmember Mattox stated that if Council were to create this designated liaison position for sustainability, they would need to create it for every issue. He stated he cannot justify giving voice to one focus group without giving space for others. He stated that while sustainability is important to him, it is not nearly as important as social justice.
Moore stated she agrees, saying she thinks that there are two issues that are at a crisis point in part because there has not been a lens on these issues in legislative decision making, and those are environmental sustainability and racial justice. She stated that she hopes that if Council can figure out a way to make this designated liaison structure work, when (not if) the Racial Justice Task Force is transformed into a permanent committee, Council can use the same structure for a seat on Council Committees for racial justice designated liaisons.
Mattox stated that he is concerned that these are not happening at the same time, and he does not want many voices in the Council Committees when councilmembers have been elected to lead. Moore stated that she has heard from at least one other councilmember who believes the Council Committees should have community stakeholders in them and that if other councilmembers agree that we should have community stakeholders as advisory voices in our committee’s decision-making, she is amenable to removing Section 4 if Council agrees to have conversations about how to productively bring community stakeholders into Council Committee meeting discussions.
Mattox said that then it’s a community discussion and not a committee meeting. Moore responded that there is a lot of expertise and necessary viewpoints that have been excluded from legislative discussions, and our world, our nation, and our communities have suffered because of it; she would like Council to find a way to bring these necessary lenses to our decision-making.
Councilmember Larson stated that at the last Public Safety and Health Committee meeting, Councilmember Cuda invited a member from the Racial Justice Task Force. She felt his contribution added to the discussion of the meeting, so the concept of inviting community stakeholders knowledgeable on key issues into the Council Committee meetings makes sense to her. She asked Councilmember Mattox whether what he is trying to avoid is people coming into Council Committee meetings when we are not expecting them.
Councilmember Mattox said that when he is having discussions with his Council colleagues, he needs to trust that those in the discussion see things the way they are trying to work on them. He said it’s one thing to have an expert that the committee invites in for a specific question; it’s another thing to have someone pushed onto them. He does not see why an expert in sustainability needs to be at the table for every discussion, stating that, because of his experience, he does not need someone to remind him about environmental sustainability. He again expressed concerns about how much the designated liaison can talk and what if they disagree, and he said there does not seem to be a clear way for him to choose who is at the table
Councilmember Moore reiterated that Section 4 states that committee chairs determine the advisory protocols between the committee and their designated liaison and that if he would like to establish that his committee’s designated liaison contributes only when a committee member asks a question, it is his prerogative to do so. Moore stated that she is not legislating that particular protocol because she does not want that in her own Council Committee; she wants a designated liaison to speak up if they can offer suggestions on how to improve legislation to better align with our city’s stated value commitments.
Councilmember Mattox expressed concern that a sustainability designated liaison would disagree with his committee’s decisions and become disruptive in their disagreement. Moore reiterated that the designated liaison is a nonvoting, advisory role. Mattox asked but how far would he need to go back and forth with them? Moore reiterated that, as the chair, he would have the right to say that he wants to hear their advice when asked and no more, per the changes in the draft Moore made in response to his stated concerns from the previous week’s discussion.
Council President Hart agreed that she would like to only hear from a sustainability expert if she asks for their input. She also stated that we already have a committee that works on sustainability (the Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee), and perhaps we can revise the legislation to make it emphasize sustainability more, stating that transportation is also sustainability in many ways. Hart expressed concern that a 25-member committee with various subcommittees is large burden for both committee members and City staff, who need to assist the committee meetings and work, and that a smaller committee would better meet our goals.
Councilmember Moore emphasized that creating a climate action plan is vitally necessary and that it is not a simple nor small task, reiterating that Lakewood hired a consultant that, she believes, Lakewood is paying $100,000 for assisting them create their CAP over a year-long process. Moore said she does not want Cleveland Heights’ CAP to be created in-house by only one or a few people because then it does not include community engagement and does not incorporate the diversity of experience, expertise, and demographics that a committee like this would bring, and she does not want it to be farmed out to a consultant, as many residents would like to tap the resources within our city.
Councilmember Tony Cuda asked about Council President Hart’s concern that, with subcommittees, there would be a lot of meetings for staff to assist. Moore responded that the current draft of the legislation does state that the committee meets monthly, but that can be revised. She said that, while she has anticipated a certain subcommittee structure, how the Sustainability Committee divides up its work would be up to them.
Councilmember Cuda confirmed with Moore that this legislation creates two functions—a Sustainability Committee that would oversee the creation of a climate action plan, and a mechanism for seating people knowledgeable in environmental sustainability in our Council Committees, adding that as the chair of the Housing and Building Committee, he would welcome that input.
Council President Hart asked to wrap up the discussion and table the discussion for the next meeting, and Moore said that she made changes last week according to feedback, asking whether those changes respond to the concerns that were voiced. She stated that she does not want to keep tabling this conversation in perpetuity, and she is trying to work with other councilmembers to decide upon the details. She stated that if Section 4 is the obstacle, she is open to taking that out for now and work on it as a separate piece of legislation that decides how we bring in community stakeholders to our Council Committee discussions.
Councilmember Mattox added that he also has an issue with the subcommittees and the burden on staff that would create, stating that there a lot of logistical details that he needs to know about before moving forward. Councilmember Moore then asked Law Director Hanna, noting that the subcommittees of the Racial Justice Task Force did meet at City Hall and require staff assistance, whether it is necessary to make meetings of three members of a 25-member committee to be available to the public; Hanna responded that it depends: if the three people have not been designated to perform a certain role and the meeting is not scheduled, then no, but if the three people have been assigned to study a certain subject, then their planned meetings to discuss that subject would be considered a public body and their meetings would need to be made public.
Councilmember Moore then asked Hanna about past legislation creating committees and whether that legislation went into the level of detail that Councilmember Mattox is asking for; Hanna said that the legislation did not go into that level of detail but discussions of those details shaped what that legislation ultimately looked like.
Councilmember Russell asked Mayor Seren if anyone had spoken to him about his plan for sustainability. Mayor Seren stated that he has been involved in the conversation only in these discussions with Council. He said that he believes committees to be an inefficient and ineffective way to produce a document such as a climate action plan. He sees committees as a way for Council to offload its work onto others. He agrees that Cleveland Heights needs a climate action or sustainability plan, and he and his administration will be doing that work in collaboration with Power a Clean Future Ohio, the County’s Office of Sustainability, and some individual experts both within and outside Cleveland Heights.
Responding to the Mayor’s comments that his administration will be spearheading a climate action plan and noting that at last week’s meeting he said he does not know whether he will hire sustainability staff in one year or two, Moore stated that she believes it’s critical that there be robust community engagement early and throughout when creating a CAP. She clarified that her two goals here are (1) quickly begin the process of creating a CAP and (2) ensure there is meaningful community engagement in the process. She is happy to hear that Mayor Seren plans to create a climate action plan for Cleveland Heights, but asked (1) what is his plan for the process of creating a CAP, and (2) how will his administration engage the community to ensure that the plan reflects what residents want for their city?
Mayor Seren stated that he does not think a Sustainability Committee is a good idea for this purpose. He said he is working with Power a Clean Future on the first step of the process, which is data collection on the current state of our city and its power usage and emissions. After that data collection is done, his administration will be assessing our regulatory environment, and from there they will assess what can be done based on the data they collect. The Mayor stated they are looking at both short- and long-term plans. He reiterated that he thinks a Sustainability Committee would duplicate efforts, and he is unsure about the community development aspect of the idea as well, as he sees that Council creates committees to absolve Council of conducting community engagement.
Councilmember Russell suggested having some members of the Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee work on transportation and some on sustainability, stating that she would not want to make it a Sustainability Committee only because Mary Dunbar worked hard to create the transportation committee and that Dunbar did the Cleveland Heights Green Team a favor by adding environmental sustainability to the Transportation Advisory Committee.
Councilmember Moore stated that it is difficult for councilmembers to work on issues legislatively when they don’t know what the administration is working on, saying that councilmembers do not wish to duplicate efforts and don’t want to work on ideas and bring them forward only to learn that the administration is already working on the issue. She again emphasized her two primary goals and said she is not insistent on a specific path for how we get there, but she does need to know what is happening and wants to be brought into the conversation. Council President Hart said that if there is anything councilmembers want to know from the Mayor, they can ask her and she will ask the Mayor to brief Council at upcoming Committee of the Whole meetings. Hart then asked whether the Mayor would meet with Councilmember Moore so the administration and Council can work together on this issue.
Mayor Seren stated that he does not intend to invite a councilmember into meetings with Power a Clean Future or other groups his administration is working with, “especially before things are baked, even slightly baked, before some ingredients are put together.” He reiterated again that he does not think a Sustainability Committee is the most effective way to conduct this work, asking that whatever Council chooses to do does not burden staff any more than they already are. He said he will update Council when plans are taking shape and that he does not imagine Council wants an email after each meeting he has about sustainability.
Agenda Item 3: Black History Month Event
Council President Hart moved this agenda item forward to ensure it is discussed in the time remaining. She then asked about the status of the planning of the event.
Councilmember Mattox said that he has been coordinating with the Heights High PTSA president to arrange for musicians from the high school to perform; they will provide Council with specific information so Council can finalize a program for the event.
Councilmembers Russell, Cobb, and Mattox agreed to each make a short (two-minute) speech, and Mayor Seren will as well.
Councilmember Russell said that Superintendent Liz Kirby will also be coordinating with Council President Hart on the event, and Councilmember Cuda confirmed that Hart received information about a string quartet he helped secure for the event.
City Administrator O’Neill stated she needs all information by the following day to create the program.
Agenda Item 2: Legislation Overview/Caucus
Law Director Hanna stated that Ordinance 015-2022 (to send to the May 3 ballot a charter amendment for a clerk of council who works for Council) and Ordinance 022-2022 (to send to the May 3 ballot an ordinance to create an activity park at Lee-Meadowbrook) will need to be voted by roll call that evening so they can be submitted to the Board of Elections prior to the March 3 deadline. Councilmember Cuda stated he will be calling for an amendment to Ordinance 015-2022 before Council votes on it.
Hanna said that Resolution 019-2022 (a resolution declaring support for Medicare-for-All) and Resolution 021-2022 (a resolution establishing a flexible spending account fund for City employees) are on first reading only and do not need to be voted on that evening.
Finance Director Himmelein stated that Ordinance 020-2022 (a budget appropriations ordinance) needs a vote at first reading. Council President Hart confirmed with Himmelein that the budget change does not impact the budget because the increase is funded by a grant.
Council President Hart asked Councilmember Larson (chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee) whether she will be making a motion to nominate new members of the Racial Justice Task Force. Larson said she will not and that she can discuss the matter with Council in Executive Session.
Agenda Item 4: Charter Review Discussion
Council President Hart tabled this discussion for a future Committee of the Whole meeting.
Agenda Item 5: Other
Council President Hart stated that she tried to secure a moderator for the upcoming February 28 Council retreat but was unsuccessful. She asked if Council was amenable to Hart moderating the retreat; Council Vice President Cobb stated that having a professional, independent moderator is important for the success of the retreat.
Council President Hart suggested again postponing the retreat and to find a date that works for her chosen moderator and all councilmembers. Cobb suggested reaching out to the Case Western Weatherhead School of Management to find another moderator. Hart said she would continue to try to find someone for February 28, but if that is not possible, Council will need to reschedule the retreat. (Update: the retreat has been canceled and Hart is looking for a new date that works for all.)
Cobb then confirmed with Law Director Hanna that, regarding the ordinance to put the park initiative on the ballot, Council has no choice but to pass it and that if Council did not, they would face a mandamus lawsuit, which is used to hold governments accountable when they have legal duty to act.
Cobb then stated, in regard to the charter amendment for a clerk of council, after some thought he is not in favor of detailing supervisory functions in the charter but believes it should be done by ordinance. Councilmember Mattox disagreed, and Councilmember Russell stated she agrees with Cobb. Councilmember Cuda said we can go out and vote on the amendment to the ordinance and see what happens.
Cobb asked for more discussion, noting that five people need to agree; Cuda clarified that four councilmembers need to agree to pass the amendment and five councilmembers need to vote for the ordinance so it can go to the ballot.
Law Director Hanna said he had found other city charters that place the supervisory functions in the charter.
Agenda Item 6: Executive Session to consider the appointment of a public official
Councilmember Larson moved to go into Executive Session.
After exiting Executive Session, Council President Hart adjourned the meeting.
City Council Meeting
Council President Hart called the meeting called to order. The Clerk of Council called the roll: Present: Hart, Cobb, Russell, Moore, Cuda, Mattox, Larson. The Clerk of Council confirmed there is a quorum.
Council President Hart called for the swearing-in of Gail Larson, which was then done (noting that she was legally sworn already that evening so she could participate in earlier meetings). Councilmember Larson then expressed gratitude and humility in being appointed and stated she is ready to get to work.
Hart then approved minutes of the January 18, 2022 City Council meeting, noting that any amendments should have been referred to the City Administrator by this time.
Hart then opened personal communications from our citizens. The Clerk of Council announced residents who had signed in to speak.
- One resident spoke on behalf of the People for the Park, announcing that the initiative for the Lee-Meadowbrook park will be going on the ballot and encouraging residents to learn more.
- One resident spoke on behalf of the Cleveland Heights Green Team, stating that climate change needs to be treated as top priority and that Cleveland Heights needs a climate action plan. She stated that a climate action plan would spur equity because environmental sustainability issues are interconnected with economic and social issues, and all issues have an environmental sustainability component. She noted that over 600 cities in the U.S. already have climate action plans.
- One resident expressed discontent that he was not chosen for the previously open Council seat.
- One resident told Council of a recent incident at Zagara’s in which two young people had tried to steal her car, although they were unsuccessful. She stated that police were responsive and arrived within a couple of minutes. However, because there are no security cameras, and she was not able to get a good look at their car or license plate as they sped away, police had little to work with to apprehend the two young people. She stated that we need security cameras in our business districts.
- One resident spoke in favor of the City taking strong action on environmental sustainability and climate action commensurate with the City’s previous declarations and value commitments on this issue. She encouraged councilmembers to pass Councilmember Josie Moore’s resolution to declare climate change an emergency, form an environmental sustainability committee, and create a Cleveland Heights–specific climate action plan.
Council President Hart then closed public comments.
Council President Hart called for Communications from the Mayor. Mayor Seren announced that he had no communications to announce.
Council President Hart stated that, starting in March, there will be Committee of the Whole meetings only on the first and third Mondays of the month, and councilmembers will be conducting much of the work of council in individual Council Committees.
For the Housing and Building Committee, Councilmember Tony Cuda had no legislation to present. He announced that there would be a Housing and Building Committee meeting on March 7 at 4:00pm.
For the Municipal Services Committee, Councilmember Josie Moore had no legislation to present. She announced that there would be a Municipal Services Committee meeting on March 21 at 5:00pm.
For the Planning and Development Committee, Councilmember Anthony Mattox had no legislation to present and nothing to announce.
For the Public Safety and Health Committee, Councilmember Gail Larson had no legislation to present. She announced that there would be a Public Safety and Health Committee meeting on April 18, and the time will soon be announced on the City website.
For the Administrative Services Committee, Council Vice President Cobb ceded the floor to Councilmember Tony Cuda, who presented the following legislation:
Councilmember Cuda described the ordinance as a proposal for a charter amendment that would appear on the May 3 ballot and, if passed, would enable the Council to move the position of the clerk of council from under the administration to Council in an effort to create a more productive, organized, and effective Council.
- Ordinance 015-2022: Second Reading. An Ordinance providing for the submission to the electors of the City of Cleveland Heights of proposed amendments to the Charter of the City of Cleveland Heights for placement on the May 3, 2022 ballot; and declaring an emergency. (voting result below)
Councilmember Cuda then introduced an amendment to the proposed charter amendment to change the last sentence from “The Clerk of Council and any other person so appointed and employed, hired, or engaged by the Council shall serve at the pleasure of the Council and shall report to the President of Council, or the designee of the President of Council, as their supervisor.” to “The Clerk of Council and any other person so appointed and employed, hired, or engaged by the Council shall serve at the pleasure of the Council.” Cuda stated that he believes supervisory details should be established in an ordinance and not in the charter. He promised to begin working on an ordinance with Council that will clarify how the clerk of council will be supervised and administrated.
Council President Hart then opened the floor to discussion.
Councilmember Mattox stated he disagrees with removing the language from the charter and that Council will elect their president with the expectation that they can and will supervise the clerk of council. He does not believe the supervisory role should be easily changed.
Councilmember Larson stated that Council needs this charter amendment to assist Council with their duties. She believes the president of Council should supervise this role, but she thinks the details of supervisory responsibilities should be established in an ordinance, Council rules, and/or the job description, and not in the charter. She noted that Councilmember Cuda promised to put forward legislation establishing the president of Council as the supervisor.
Council President Hart agreed with Councilmember Mattox, stating that the clerk of council will not be successful if they have seven supervisors. She stated that she understands it can be done by ordinance, but she believes by putting it in the charter, the supervisory role cannot be politicized.
Councilmember Russell agreed with Councilmembers Cobb, Cuda, and Larson, citing her contract-negotiation experience and what it has taught her about where general information is placed and where specific details are placed. She thinks that this detail should be established by ordinance, not charter.
With no other comments, Council voted on the amendment to the ordinance for a charter amendment. The amendment to the charter amendment passed, with Cobb, Russell, Moore, Cuda, and Larson voting in favor of it, and Hart and Mattox voting against.
Council then voted on the amended legislation, Ordinance 015-2022, which passed 7-0.
For the Community Relations and Recreation Committee, Councilmember Davida Russell presented the following legislation.
- Resolution 016-2022: Second Reading. A Resolution recognizing March 2022 as National Women’s History Month; and declaring the necessity that this Resolution become immediately effective as an emergency measure. Passed 7-0.
Councilmember Cuda asked Council President Hart to put on next week’s Committee of the Whole agenda a discussion of an event for Women’s History Month; Hart said she would do so.
- Resolution 019-2022: First Reading Only. A Resolution in support of the Medicare for All Act of 2021 (HR 1976); and declaring that universal access to quality healthcare is a human right.
Council President Hart noted that the resolution in support of Medicare-for-All was introduced by the Mayor and all of Council and that all are in agreement on it.
For the Finance Committee, Council President Hart presented the following legislation, first reviewing the appropriation and that it would have no impact on the 2022 budget because the increase in budget was covered by incoming grant funds.
- Ordinance 020-2022: First Reading. An ordinance to amend certain subparagraphs of Ordinance No. 139-2021 (F), relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022 and declaring an emergency. Passed 7-0
- Resolution 021-2022: First Reading Only. A Resolution establishing the Flexible Spending Account Fund and affirming that funds received by the City as a payroll deduction from employees shall be used only to cover costs incurred by the City of Cleveland Heights consistent with Internal Revenue Code §125 and applicable law and regulations; and declaring an emergency.
Speaking for the Committee of the Whole, Council President Hart presented the following legislation. She clarified that Council is bound by the charter to pass this legislation.
- Ordinance 022-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance calling an election on a proposed Ordinance to require that a public activity park be created on 1.07 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; and declaring an emergency. Passed 7-0
Council President Hart then turned to Clerk of Council Himmelein and asked whether Council had done her clerk report; Himmelein stated that Council did not but has been told it’s not necessary at this time.
Council President Hart then opened the floor for councilmember comments.
Councilmember Russell reminded the Noble and Taylor communities that there will be a meeting to discuss ARPA funds on March 13 at 4:00pm at the Front Stage Multiplex Center at the old Severance movie theater. She stressed that the meeting is for Noble and Taylor residents only by the request of the Noble and Taylor residents.
Councilmember Larson announced that she does intend to run to retain her seat in the November 2022 general election.
Council President Hart invited everyone to the February 28 Special City Council meeting that will be exclusively devoted to honoring and celebrating Black History Month. The meeting will showcase poetry, music, and more from students in Cleveland Heights.
Council President Hart then adjourned the meeting.