February 7, 2022 CoW and City Council Meetings

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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 Melody Hart called the meeting to order. The Clerk of Council called roll. Present: Hart, Cobb, Russell, Moore, Cuda, Mattox.

Council President Hart noted that there was a tight timeline, with a lot on the agenda, and asked that comments be concise so Council could enter Executive Session by 7:15.

The first order on the agenda was a report and recommendation to Council regarding the initiative petition for an ordinance to require that a public activity park be created on 1.07 acre of City-owned land at the corner of Lee, Meadowbrook, and Tullamore. Law Director Bill Hanna distributed a proposed report compiled on behalf of the Committee of the Whole summarizing the City’s engagement with the initiative petition and providing its recommendations to City Council.

Hanna noted that on the City Council agenda, there are two pieces of legislation related to this issue—the ordinance for the park and an ordinance formally rejecting the ordinance. He noted that if someone on Council wanted to propose an amendment to the ordinance for the park, the time to do so would be after the first ordinance is introduced in the City Council meeting.

Ordinance 017-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance to require that a public activity park be created on the 1.07 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Ordinance 018-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance rejecting the Initiative Petition for 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.

Hanna stated that if Council rejects the proposed park ordinance (as recommended by the report), then the committee of petitioners would have ten days to require Council to send the ordinance to voters to decide, and if they do so, they can require that it be submitted with a written proposed change to the ordinance.

Councilmember Cuda asked how Council would send the ordinance to the ballot if the committee of petitioners required. Hanna stated that Council would do so through a resolution, which, due to timing and needing to submit before March 4 so it could be on the May 3 ballot, would need to be passed on the first reading.

Council President Hart asked for a motion to deliver this report to Council; Council Vice President Cobb moved, and Councilmember Cuda seconded. Clerk of Council called roll, and all voted for presenting the report to City Council.

Councilmember Davida Russell asked to remind her how much green space is projected to be a part of the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development with Flaherty & Collins. Council President Hart stated that there would be about a third of an acre on the vacant lot at Meadowbrook-Lee as well as more that would be behind and around the parking garage. Councilmember Josie Moore stated that she believed there would be almost 2 acres of public green space. (According to the most recent presentation from City Architecture, there will be 2.27 acres of total green space, most of which will be available to the public.) Councilmember Moore also stated that this development exceeds our City code’s requirements of minimum green space.

Next on the agenda was the legislative overview. Mayor Kahlil Seren began with:

Ordinance 012-2022: 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.

Mayor Seren reviewed the changes in the budget and expenditures outlined in the ordinance (available on page 8 of the packet). The first will allow the Mayor to participate in Cleveland State University’s Public Management Academy to complete the second half of classes that will enable him to hold a certified public manager status, as well as to allow the Mayor to participate in the 2023 Leadership Cleveland class, which he believes will help him better serve the city; the class begins in August and lasts for one year. The next is in regard to the refunding of the Cedar-Lee parking garage debt bonds. The third concerns the receipt of loan proceeds for our soon-to-be-implemented new trash and recycling pickup system. The fourth is part of the costs of purchasing the property that will be a part of the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook project.

Council President Hart asked about the increased expenses and whether we can do this because we have received more in tax revenues than we had projected. Finance Director Himmelein confirmed that it is.

Next, the Mayor presented two pieces of legislation that would allow the City to accept grant funds from the Northeast Ohio Sewer District to pay for part of the costs of design and construction of some of the city’s SSOs (sanitary sewer overflows, which are points in the sewer system where sewage is overflowing due to a defect or insufficiency in the system. The result is contamination of our water as well as sewage backups into homes and other buildings).

Resolution 013-2022: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a grant agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to accept funds under the 2022 Member Community Infrastructure Grant Program for the SSO Control of CH-2, CH-12, CH-30, CH-33, CH-39 and Rehabilitation Project; and declaring an emergency.

Resolution 014-2022: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a grant agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to accept funds under the 2022 Member Community Infrastructure Grant Program for the design control of the SSOs CH-9, CH-32, CH-57 AND CH-58 (Monmouth) Project; and declaring an emergency.

Public Works Director Collette Clinksdale explained that one grant is for design and construction of some SSOs, and the second is for design only of some other SSOs. Director Clinksdale requested that the ordinances be passed that night because work could not begin until they are passed; Mayor Seren asked if it would be sufficient if it were passed on February 22 (in order to provide two readings for the ordinances); Director Clinksdale stated that it would be sufficient and the engineers would simply wait for two weeks. Mayor Seren stated that he preferred to go two readings when possible, but Councilmember Russell stated she did not have a problem passing it that evening, and Councilmember Moore and Council Vice President Cobb concurred; it was decided to vote on the ordinance that evening.

Councilmember Moore asked if the administration would like Ordinance 012-2022 voted on that evening as well; the Mayor confirmed that they would.

Next, the Mayor discussed:

Ordinance 010-2022: Second Reading. An Ordinance authorizing the Mayor to execute an agreement for the purchase of certain real property located at 13230-13232 Cedar Rd.; and declaring an emergency.

He reviewed that this is for the purchase of properties that will be a part of the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook project. The purchase price is $280,000, and the City is budgeting an additional $10,000 for closing costs. The Mayor requested that this be voted on that evening (it was on second reading).

Next, the Mayor reviewed:

Resolution 016-2022: First 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.

This is on first reading only so it can have a second reading at the February 22 meeting. The Mayor stated that the administration is working to bring legislation earlier to Council so that items have time for multiple readings without endangering the due progress of City services or progression of projects.

Councilmember Russell asked if the “emergency measure” language would then no longer be needed. The Mayor explained that this language enables legislation to go into effect immediately after being passed; without it, legislation would need to wait thirty days before it could go into effect.

Next on the agenda was discussion of a charter amendment that would create the position of a clerk of council who works directly for Council. Council Vice President ceded the presentation of the discussion to Councilmember Cuda.

Ordinance 015-2022: First 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. Councilmember Cuda provided a PowerPoint presentation:

Councilmember Cuda stated that he would like to have three readings of this ordinance before voting on it before March 4 so we could send it to the Board of Elections for the May 3 ballot. Council President Hart stated that to have three readings, we would need to schedule a special City Council meeting sometime in February.

Councilmember Mattox asked whether we currently have a clerk of council; Councilmember Cuda stated that Finance Director Himmelein presently serves as our clerk of council in addition to her finance duties. Mattox then asked whether Council ever had the power to hire its own clerk of council; Cuda stated that he believes it has always been this way—namely that the clerk of council is hired by and works for the administration. Mattox asked whether other amendments ever altered the clerk of council role; Cuda stated that he does not believe they did.

Law Director Hanna asked whether Councilmember Mattox was referring to the Issue 26 (Citizens for an Elected Mayor) amendment; Mattox affirmed that he was. Hanna stated that there was prior language in that amendment that would have given Council the ability to hire staff in addition to the Clerk of Council (which would still be part of the administration), but that language was removed. Mattox asked if we know why; Cuda stated that the people who removed that language are regretful that they did, but he does not know why it was removed.

Councilmember Russell asked Council Vice President Cobb whether it is true that, prior to the change of form of government, the City Council was in control and if they did not like what was happening, they could let a person go; Cobb stated that the City Manager had authority over most of the hiring, with the exceptions of some department heads (e.g., the law director, the finance director, the planning director), which required Council approval. Cobb stated that when we passed the charter amendment to change our form of government, we took out language that gave Council the authority to hire anyone it wanted, so currently, Council does not have the ability to hire anyone, and we are overworking Finance Director/Clerk of Council Himmelein. Cobb said that we need someone who Council hires and is answerable to Council rather than the Mayor.

Councilmember Russell clarified with Council Vice President and Councilmember Cuda that previously the clerk of council was hired by and worked for the City Manager, and now the clerk of council works for the Mayor.

Councilmember Cuda reviewed the research he did in interviewing clerks of council in University Heights, Beachwood, and other cities and stated that he was impressed by how responsive and helpful they were.

Mayor Seren noted that currently there are at least three people assisting the Council—the official clerk of council (Finance Director Himmelein), an assistant clerk of council who is an employee of the administration in the law department, and Steve Barker, the City’s digital coordinator and website manager. He stated that in the growing pains of our new government, there have been questions about Council’s internal processes to create an agenda and how to formalize an agenda between the two branches (legislative and executive). He stated there is growth that should be engaged together. He then asked Finance Director/Clerk of Council Himmelein to provide some more context.

Himmelein stated that, beginning a year ago, she, the law director, and the HR director realized that the job of clerk of council was too much for her in addition to her Finance Director duties, and some responsibilities were beginning to fall by the wayside. Together, they began developing a job description for an assistant clerk of council. That position was posted in August 2021, there were 22 applicants, and they found that two were appropriately qualified; of those two, one was hired, who is currently working in the law department, performing dual duties with law department work and clerk of council responsibilities. Moreover, the job description was approved by Council through the salary ordinance in December, and the administration does have someone who has the capability to perform the clerk of council duties.

Councilmember Mattox asked what the goal was for the assistant clerk of council when she was hired; Himmelein replied that the goal was to have her work full time to assist Council, although currently she is working both on Council duties and for the law department. Mattox asked whether this charter amendment is necessary if we have someone hired to perform the duties. Councilmember Moore replied that she believes the charter amendment is necessary because it puts the hiring and supervision of the clerk of council under the Council, that the clerk would work for and be accountable to Council, and this will help the City create two truly coequal branches of government.

Councilmember Mattox is concerned with HR-related questions and other practical details. Law Director Hanna stated that the proposed language doesn’t get into that level of detail, and it would be unusual for charter language to do so; he said he does not know the level of discussion with the administration regarding support functions, with HR being the most obvious. In other cities where the clerk of council is hired directly by Council, typically Council works with the City’s HR department to publish a job listing and collect applications, and the Council reviews applications, conducts interviews, and decides who they want to hire. Hanna stated that he anticipates that HR support would be negotiated with the administration.

Hanna added that the language in the proposed amendment that the clerk would report to the president of Council was his addition, which, although he thought he had discussed it with Councilmember Cuda, he believed to be a wise addition because he has seen other cities’ councils “burn through” clerks when they have seven supervisors, and it is often the source of chaos and confusion.

Councilmember Mattox then asked, if this amendment passes, what will happen to the person who has already been approved by Council and hired by the administration. Other councilmembers then noted that they had not approved the hire, and Mayor Seren clarified that in December Council approved the creation of the job and salary, and the administration then made an offer to the person they had chosen. The Mayor stated that while he feels responsibility for that person, and this change may create a complication that they will need to navigate.

At this point, Council President Hart stated that Council needed to stop for executive session and asked what we should do with this ordinance—should it be tabled or given a first reading that night? Councilmember Cuda stated that he would like it to move forward with a first reading, adding that he would like an amendment regarding the language that the clerk would report to the Council president. Council President Hart stated that tonight is not the time to discuss the amendment. It was decided that the ordinance would get a first reading that evening, but discussion would continue in Committee of the Whole meetings in the coming weeks.

Councilmember Moore asked that the discussion of the resolution to create an Environmental Sustainability Committee be placed at the top of the agenda of the next Committee of the Whole meeting; Council President Hart agreed that it would be.

Councilmember Russell asked about the amendment to the ordinance that Councilmember Cuda just mentioned; Council President Hart stated that it would be discussed later and possibly amended at a later Council meeting.

Council President Hart asked for a motion to go into executive session, Councilmember Moore moved to go into executive session to discuss the appointment of a public official, Council Vice President seconded, there was a roll call, and the Committee of the Whole went into executive session.

After executive session, Council President Hart 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 Hart called the meeting called to order.

The Clerk of Council called the roll: Present: Hart, Cobb, Russell, Moore, Cuda, and Mattox. The Clerk of Council confirmed that there is a quorum.

Hart then approved minutes of the January 10, 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 asked the City to remove the planters on Mayfield Road between South Noble and Warrensville. She stated that they are being used as garbage cans and are filled with snow. Council President Hart asked Mayor Seren whether to refer the matter to him; he responded that he would be reaching out to the resident with more information about the process by which these temporary planters were placed in collaboration with the business owners in the area.
  • One resident advocated for two pieces of legislation on the agenda that evening: one for the purchase of properties for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development, and one for the rejection of the ordinance for the park initiative. She stated that if the initiative does appear on the ballot, she will do everything she can to defeat it and to advocate for public support for the development.
  • One resident spoke on behalf of the People for the Park, stating that the committee of petitioners will put the initiative on the ballot. She stated that they did not start the park initiative to stop the development, but they are intertwined, and she believes the City can do better than the Flaherty & Collins plan. She said that someone acted on their behalf and asked Council and the City to meet with the People for the Park to try to find common ground, but the City refused.
  • One resident urged Council to introduce and pass a resolution supporting Medicare for All. She spoke as a mental health professional, and informed Council of her patients’ struggles to afford the healthcare they need. She also discussed the financial insecurity people face when overwhelmed with medical debt.
  • One resident spoke on behalf of another, who could not be there that evening. She urged Council to introduce and pass a resolution in support of Medicare for All, citing the rising costs of healthcare and costs of living and stagnant wages. She urged Council to support Medicare for All in recognition that healthcare is a human right.
  • One resident urged Council to introduce and pass a resolution supporting the passage of Medicare for All. The Affordable Care Act still leaves millions without healthcare and does not address the root causes of rising health costs. She plans to be a doctor, and she does not want to tell patients they cannot afford the care or medications they need. She stated that we cannot deliver on the promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness until we truly guarantee healthcare as a human right.
  • One resident urged Council to introduce and pass a resolution supporting the passage of Medicare for All. She reiterated that our current healthcare is failing us. She shared a story of her own health challenges, that she has severe allergies that require her to carry EpiPens with her at all times, but one company in the U.S. holds a monopoly on EpiPens, and at times there are shortages and none are available; the German alternative is not covered by her insurance, and she must pay for the entire cost out of pocket. Americans every day are forced to decide between affording life-saving care and the basic necessities of life.
  • One resident, before speaking on the Lee-Meadowbrook development, said he was moved by the speakers for Medicare for All and that, as a Type-1 diabetic, he understands the concerns of the speakers. Moving to his original topic, he is saddened that the choice on the ballot will be yes or no on the park, and he wishes there were more choices on the ballot so citizens can state their preference for what they want.
  • One resident urged Council to reject the park ordinance. He stated that he understands that the petitioners have the right to put the initiative on the ballot, and he hopes they make it to the May 3 ballot to minimize the cost to the City. He said the development is a strong step toward growth in the city. He also stated that it is not a question of development vs. green space because the development includes over two acres of green space.
  • One resident urged Council to reject the park ordinance, purchase the additional properties, and appoint a new Council person who supports the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development. She stated that she supported the F&C proposal because it planned to develop both parcels at the same time, and she said that the People for the Park have not clarified how their proposed park would be paid for.
  • One resident thanked Council, Flaherty & Collins, and City Architecture for all that’s been done for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development, and he urged Council to reject the park ordinance.

Council President Hart then closed public comments.

Council President Hart called for Communications from the Mayor.

Mayor Kahlil Seren responded to the speakers for a resolution in support of Medicare for All, stating that he has been working on a resolution doing so and would be happy to add co-sponsors from Council; all councilmembers stated that they would like to be co-sponsors. The Mayor then requested permission to bid several projects:

  • Project 2201-2022: Street resurfacing and ADA curb ramp replacement program
  • Project 2202-2022, 2023, 2024: Pavement striping program
  • Project 2203: East Overlook water line replacement and street resurfacing

He also notified Council of:

  • Change Order #1 Final for Project 1903-2019, 2020, 2021: Pavement striping program, which increased the original contract amount of $458,459.14 by $10,512.01, for a final contract amount of $468,971.15.
  • Change Order #2 Final for Project 2006: Delamere Drive basement flooding relief, which increased the revised contract amount of $1,026,998.73 by $13,504.63, for a final contract amount of $1,040,503.36.

Those were made a matter of record, and he requested a motion to approve the request for permission to bid those projects. Russell moved; Moore seconded, and all councilmembers voted in favor of bidding the projects.

Council President Hart called for the report of the Clerk of Council, who notified Council “that a notice has been received from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control advising that an application has been made by Hunan Coventry LLC, d/b/a Hunan on Coventry, 1800 Coventry Road, 1st Floor and Basement, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 for a transfer of a D5 and D6 permit from Hunan Coventry Mingli Inc., d/b/a/ Hunan on Coventry, 1800 Coventry Road, 1st Floor and Basement, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118.” Council President Hart referred the matter to the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Director of Law.

Council President Hart then ceded the floor to Council Vice President Cobb, who asked to change the agenda to move up new business concerning Council’s need to appoint a new councilmember to fill the vacancy. Cobb made a motion to appoint Gail Larson to the vacancy; Cuda seconded it. The Clerk of Council called roll, and all councilmembers voted in favor of appointing Gail Larson.

For the Finance Committee, Council President Hart presented the following legislation, first reviewing the appropriations and their impacts on the 2022 budget:

  • Ordinance 012-2022: 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 6-0

For the Housing and Building Committee, Councilmember Tony Cuda had no legislation to present. He announced that they did need to cancel the previously scheduled Housing Committee meeting; he plans to reschedule it as soon as possible.

For the Municipal Services Committee, Councilmember Josie Moore presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 013-2022: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a grant agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to accept funds under the 2022 Member Community Infrastructure Grant Program for the SSO Control of CH-2, CH-12, CH-30, CH-33, CH-39 and Rehabilitation Project; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0
  • Resolution 014-2022: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a grant agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to accept funds under the 2022 Member Community Infrastructure Grant Program for the design control of the SSOs CH-9, CH-32, CH-57 AND CH-58 (Monmouth) Project; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0

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

  • Ordinance 010-2022: Second Reading. An Ordinance authorizing the Mayor to execute an agreement for the purchase of certain real property located at 13230-13232 Cedar Rd.; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0

For the Public Safety and Health Committee, Councilmember Cuda had no legislation to present but provided a report of the Committee’s recent meeting. They discussed:

  • staffing challenges of the police department, and the Mayor stated that with 84 officers, they are at full staffing;
  • traffic stop data and data collection, noting that most of the data remained unchanged from the data from 2019, and more data is being collected;
  • gunfire on New Year’s Eve, stating that locating where gunfire is coming from is challenging, and while there is technology that can be implemented, it comes with its own risks, which need to be weighed and discussed
  • drivers speeding and running stop signs, and the Committee is looking at traffic-calming measures
  • a representative from the Racial Justice Task Force provided a presentation on the RJTF’s progress

For the Administrative Services Committee, Councilmember Craig Cobb delegated the presentation of the following legislation (on first reading only) to Councilmember Cuda.

Councilmember Cuda described the ordinance on first reading, that it is a proposal for a charter amendment that would appear on the May 3 ballot and, if passed, would enable the Council to have a clerk of council who works directly for Council in an effort to create a more productive, independent, and responsive Council.

  • Ordinance 015-2022: First Reading only. 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.

For the Communications and Recreation Committee, Councilmember Davida Russell presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 016-2022: First Reading only. 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.

Speaking for the Committee of the Whole, Council President Hart read THIS REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION from the Committee of the Whole.

  • Ordinance 017-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance to require that a public activity park be created on the 1.07 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Failed 0-6
  • Ordinance 018-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance rejecting the Initiative Petition for 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 6-0

Council President Hart then opened the floor for Council Member Comments.

Councilmember Anthony Mattox praised our snow removal services for their hard work during the latest storm. He also celebrated Mayor Seren in honor of Black History Month as our first mayor and first black mayor.

Councilmember Josie Moore reiterated gratitude and recognition for our City’s snow removal services and the excellent work they have done for our city. She also encouraged residents to shovel their walks, stating that she has seen many people walking in the streets because sidewalks are unshoveled, particularly kids walking to school and the elderly. She asked people to help their neighbors, friends, and family if they know anyone who is unable to shovel their walks for any reason.

Councilmember Russell also praised the City’s snow removal services. She asked the Mayor to direct staff to create a public registry of people who can clear driveways and sidewalks for others, so residents can easily find people who can perform these services. She stated that, for residents who have been asking about the new garbage and recycling cans, she assured them that they are coming soon. Russell announced a meeting on March 14 for the Noble area to discuss ARPA funds, and the community has requested that the Mayor attends.

Council Vice President Cobb also praised the City’s snow removal service workers, stating that they have been working relentlessly through the unusual amount of snow we’ve had. Cobb then congratulated Gail Larson for her appointment, pointing out that she was in attendance that evening, and also noting that the Council made this decision within the 45-day time frame prescribed by the charter amendment passed in November.

Councilmember Cuda stated that NextDoor has some wonderful stories on it about neighbors helping neighbors throughout the snowstorm. He then welcomed Gail Larson to Council and stated that he is looking forward to having another ally on Council in pursuit of housing issues. Cuda then shared that a friend passed away that morning who had been a COVID long-hauler and urged people to wear masks, get vaccinated and boosted, and remind people how important it is to take care of each other.

Councilmember Russell then spoke up to thank the Parks and Recreation Department for hosting an event providing boosters recently and stating that they plan to hold another soon.

Council President Hart congratulated Gail Larson and said Council would like to swear her in as soon as possible. She stated that Council had many excellent candidates, and it was a difficult decision. Then, in response to questions she has received, clarified what it means when legislation ends with “declaring an emergency”: The number of readings legislation receives is not related to whether it is declared an emergency. Rather, when legislation is declared an emergency, it can go into effect immediately; if that language is not present, then the City must wait thirty days before the legislation can go into effect.

Council President Hart then adjourned the meeting.