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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: National Women’s History Month
Council President Hart referred to Councilmember Tony Cuda’s suggestion that Council hold a special event for Women’s History Month.
Councilmember Josie Moore put forward an idea—inspired by the three generations of women who fought for women’s suffrage and knowledge of her own mother’s limited rights when she was a young woman—for an event that would highlight the intergenerational march toward women’s equal rights and recognition of full personhood.
In response, Council President shared a personal story, when she was not allowed to own a home in solely her name when she was in her early twenties.
Councilmember Gail Larson suggested Council present a reading at each already scheduled meeting in March. Councilmember Davida Russell asked whether Council should create a separate event or honor Women’s History Month as part of regular meetings. Councilmembers Anthony Mattox, Moore, Cuda, and Council Vice President said they think it should be celebrated in a separate event.
Cobb also said it would be good to include a brief history of women in leadership in Cleveland Heights. Council President Hart asked who would like to plan the event. Moore asked Larson if she would like to plan the event with her; Larson agreed.
Council scheduled the event for March 28 at 7:30pm.
Agenda Item 2: ARPA Funds Consultant
Financial Director Amy Himmelein explained that ARPA has many complex rules for how ARPA funds can be spent, including recent guidelines in which all spending must be reasonably proportionated responses to COVID, which can be difficult to gauge and demonstrate. In addition, when she prepares the reporting to the federal government about how our ARPA funds were spent, she must include a program evaluation about either what our City decides to fund or a program based on evidence.
Himmelein stated that, while she is very knowledgeable about ARPA funding guidelines, she is not an expert and wants to ensure that the City is in compliance with ARPA spending. She asked Council’s permission to hire a consultant who would do this work for the City. She has a proposal from a firm that is already working with both Dayton and Akron in a similar capacity, and she has spoken to a couple of other firms as well to clarify the different spectrum of services offered by different firms. She recommends we work with the first firm she referenced.
Himmelein stated that the firm would be working on reporting for non-sewer funds, as the sewer funds are straightforward in how they qualify under ARPA guidelines. The cost would not exceed 2% to 3% of the funds they would be helping the City oversee. Council President Hart added that because $18MM to $20MM will be spend on sewers, and about $10MM could be spent on revenue replacement allocation for the City, this firm would not be helping to oversee these portions of the City’s ARPA funds; thus, the firm would be overseeing about $8MM to $10MM.
Councilmember Mattox asked about what is being asked for in the reporting—outcomes, impacts, and other tracking. Himmelein stated that the federal government wants evidence-based programmatic data to ensure that the funds achieve sought-after outcomes.
Council Vice President Cobb asked whether the City has sought quotes from more than one firm. Himmelein said that the other firms she has contacted do not provide services for all the areas she needs; the firm she is recommending provides the full spectrum of services our City will need to meet the federal reporting requirements for the ARPA funds. She added that if the City decided to offer grants to individuals or households, this firm would develop and collect the applications for those grants and help organize the information for the City to review and decide.
Councilmember Cuda clarified that ARPA does allow fund recipients to spend the money on consultants to help with the reporting requirements; Himmelein confirmed that it is allowed.
Councilmember Russell asked whether the firm could help develop applications for the small businesses looking to access the $1MM set aside for businesses; Himmelein said that they would and that they could help the City develop programs to target specific outcomes, as they can research what programs other cities across the U.S. have developed and then advise on how our City can create specialized programs for our ARPA funds to meet our unique needs and goals. Russell asked if, once the consultant is hired, they could meet with Council to provide guidance and advice; Himmelein said this can be provided to Council.
Moore asked whether the City could outline its goals and the firm could create a proposal of suggestions to help us meet those goals through our ARPA funds; Himmelein confirmed that they could.
Councilmember Larson asked what the next steps were and when the firm will begin. Himmelein said that if Council agrees to move forward, they will draw up legislation for official approval from Council, which will need to go through two readings. All councilmembers agreed to move forward with hiring the consultant.
Agenda Item 3: Other
Council President Hart has been informed of legislation in Minneapolis that requires landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration forms to encourage people to change their voter registration address in a timely manner. Hart said that the resident who brought this idea to her is working on researching the idea more and will present her findings if Council is interested in pursuing such an initiative.
Councilmember Mattox said he’s interested in creating something that would reach all people when moving int the city and is not burdensome to landlords.
Councilmember Larson said that the League of Women Voters would be interested in helping or learning more about an initiative such as this.
Councilmember Mattox brought up the possibility of working with other organizations on this, and Councilmember Russell noted that many organizations are working on this, and the City should be partnering with them and ensuring the City’s efforts do not replicate efforts.
Councilmember Moore asked about the Welcome Packets that the City used to send to new residents and whether the City could track when people move—either renting or owning a home—to residences in Cleveland Heights, and could the City send them a notification to change their voter registration.
Mayor Seren confirmed that the City used to send Welcome Packets when people moved in—either homeowner or renters. The Mayor stated that our current code does not require landlords to update the City within a specified time limit when there is a change of tenant —the requirement for notification is vague. He said that the prior year, when he was a councilmember, he introduced a piece of legislation regarding lead-safe measures that, among other code changes, would alter the notification requirement to within 30 days of a change of occupancy. If Council were to revisit this legislation, it could help the City know in a more timely manner when renters move in our city.
Mayor Seren said that there remains a budgetary issue with sending out welcome packets, but perhaps that could be negotiated.
It was decided that the lead-safe legislation, which only had a first reading last year but was then referred to committee, would be discussed in the Housing and Building Council Committee.
Councilmember Cuda asked if the new garbage bins are on track to be delivered this spring. Mayor Seren said the City is still on track to receive and distribute the new bins in late spring. City Administrator O’Neill said there will also be an insert in the March edition of Focus that will provide extensive information to help residents with the transition.
Councilmember Moore said that she would like to see EV chargers installed in commercial districts and is aware that there is a great deal of federal grant money being made available for this purpose, and then she asked the Mayor if the City is planning to apply for any of these grants, and if so, which commercial districts would get EV chargers and how many would they get? The Mayor said his staff is working on getting the grant funding, though he does not know at this point which districts the chargers would go in. They are also looking at grant funding from NOPEC.
Councilmember Russell asked about grant funding from NOPEC for street lighting and solar lighting and whether the City is looking at those grant funds to increase lighting in the Noble and Taylor areas. The Mayor said the NOPEC funds are flexible, so they are looking at different ways the City can use them, adding that the City is looking at other funding possibilities for increased lighting and security.
City Administrator O’Neill added that the City is also receiving NOPEC funds to help pay for the Cain Park Arts Festival this year and ensuring it is safe.
Councilmember Cuda asked Finance Director Himmelein whether ARPA funds can be used for lighting; Himmelein said this is one of the questions she will have for the consultant to help her understand how she can frame initiatives as demonstrating a proportional response to COVID.
Councilmember Russell asked about whether the bike lanes being planned for Noble Road were designated by the county through a grant or the City designated that area for bike lanes. Mayor Seren said the implementation grant for CDSG (Community Development Supplemental Grant) is not yet mapped, but the plan is to connect every area of Cleveland Heights to a wider regional network of trails and transportation access. While Compton and Noble are included, the grant funds (which the City has applied for but has not yet heard back about) and plan for diversifying transportation access are not specific to only those areas. The Mayor confirmed that the City selected these areas where the work will be concentrated so that all neighborhoods are equitably connected and no neighborhoods are left out of these plans.
Councilmember Russell expressed concern that Noble Road is a busy thoroughfare and is not safe for bike lanes. Councilmember Mattox stated that many people in these areas do not own cars and need safe streets for riding bikes to get to work and other transportation needs. Russell responded that bike lanes on Noble would be dangerous and few people ride bikes there.
Councilmember Moore noted that just because few people currently ride bikes on a street where it’s dangerous to ride does not mean that more people would not ride bikes if the street were redesigned to make it safe for bike riders—it could be that there are few bike riders currently on Noble because the street is not designed to be safe and inclusive for all kinds of transit.
Councilmember Russell emphasized that the Noble and Taylor areas don’t feel they have a voice. Councilmember Larson asked Mayor Seren whether there will be opportunity for public input when the redesign of the streets begins to be developed; the Mayor confirmed that there would be.
Council President Hart welcomed back Brian Iorio, who had been away for family medical leave.
Mayor Seren introduced Patrick Costigan, his new executive assistant.
Mayor Seren announced that he has restructured the Planning Department to become the Planning and Development Department, which is headed by Eric Zamft, and the department will include Planning, Economic Development, and Community Development.
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.
This was a Special City Council meeting in honor and celebration of Black History Month.
Council President Hart gave an opening welcome statement, and Council Vice President Cobb provided a brief history of Black History Month.
Cuyahoga County Vice President Cheryl Stephens facilitated the event, providing depth, context, and inspiration throughout.
The following students from Heights High presented writing and music in celebration and in honor of Black History Month:
Nadia Walker read her writing “Our Story.”
Najee Coore read “Me” on behalf of the writer, Artrese Roberts.
A string quartet called the Cat Burglars performed String Quartet in C Major, K. 157 by Mozart. They were Sophie Muller and Patricia Chen (violins), Ella Herr (viola), and Cassie Sisson (cello).
All readers, writers, and musicians were presented with awards of appreciation by councilmembers.
Mayor Kahlil Seren closed the event.