March 7, 2022 CoW and City Council Meetings

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Legislation Passed

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An ordinance authorizing the Mayor to enter into an agreement with Made Cleveland, LLC, for the lease of City-owned property located at 1807 Coventry Road for the operation of a retail store.
  • An ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $1,500,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of paying a portion of the costs of the acquisition of a portion of, and redevelopment of the site generally known as “Top of the Hill” located on approximately four acres of land situated between Euclid Heights Boulevard and Cedar Road at the top of Cedar Hill in the City.
  • 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.

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, Larson.

Agenda Item 1: Legislation Review/Caucus

Mayor Kahlil Seren began by reviewing Ordinance 023-2022, an ordinance authorizing the Mayor to enter into an agreement with Made Cleveland, LLC, for the lease of City-owned property located at 1807 Coventry Road for the operation of a retail store; and declaring an emergency.

The Mayor explained that a City-owned property adjacent to the parking garage in the Coventry business district was recently vacated and the City would like to lease this property to Made Cleveland, a marketplace of independent creators in Northeast Ohio. He and the City’s Business Development Manager, Brian Anderson, feel this is a good fit for the culture and spirit of the district and the values of the city.

Anderson explained the unconventional lease, which includes low rent at first and increasing rent payments as the business grows so as to support this kind of small business in Cleveland Heights (three months of abated rent, when they will move in and set up; first year $2,000/month, then increasing rent each year, and by year four $4,750/month). The Coventry SID is supportive of Made Cleveland moving in.

Councilmember Tony Cuda asked about the glass-blowing facility that Made Cleveland would need; Anderson stated that the fire department has inspected the site and requested some minor modifications to the ventilation systems and that those will be done to ensure safety.

Councilmember Gail Larson asked whether this lease arrangement could be a model for other spaces throughout the city. Anderson stated that it could be with the right landlord and tenant, but this is a unique opportunity because this is a City-owned property.

Mayor Seren then discussed the first reading only of Resolution 024-2022,which confirms the Mayor’s appointment of Joseph E. Sinnott  as City Administrator for the City of Cleveland Heights. Council President Melody Hart explained that this position is one of a handful of City positions that require Council approval.

While not required, Council can hold a public hearing to interview the candidate. The Mayor would like Council to vote on the ordinance on March 21, so Council needs to schedule a time to interview the candidate soon; Hart recommended March 14 for the interview. She also asked whether Sinnott should be in person for the interview or could we interview him via Zoom.

Councilmember Cuda asked whether the interview should be done in executive session. Law Director Hanna said that the appointment of a public official is a legal reason for an executive session, but whether Council interviews Sinnott in a public hearing or executive session is up to Council. Hart recommended a public interview, followed by an executive session for Council to discuss their reflections on the interview. Mayor Seren also recommended a public interview so residents can get to know Sinnott and see the process better; he also supported an executive session for Council’s deliberation.

Council agreed to schedule the public hearing for March 14 and that Sinnott should be in person for the interview.

Mayor Seren then reviewed Ordinance 025-2022, which establishes salary schedules, position classifications and other compensation, and benefits for officers and employees of the City. The majority of the amendments are in response to a change in the federal minimum wage, clarifying that the City has no employees presently making less to the new federal minimum wage but that our salary schedule needs to be amended to reflect this new federal minimum. Another change is reverting a position to a lower salary schedule after the position was bumped to a higher salary schedule to accommodate a longtime employee who had accrued enough raises over the years to surpass its salary limits; that employee has retired, so the position will return to its previous salary schedule. The Mayor explained that the changes will have no practical affect on any current employees.

Councilmember Larson asked whether our minimum wage for hourly employees are competitive with other area municipalities. Mayor Seren stated that we do not have a salary study that could tell us how we compare with others, adding that the federal minimum wage is not a competitive nor a living wage and that there is work that the City needs to study how we can better pay people to meet our staffing needs and values. The Mayor said he is conversation with Councilmember Russell about creating a plan to make sure our City’s wages are competitive and honor our employees’ needs, adding that it is more complicated than raising some salaries because it has a cascading effect.

Council President Hart suggested the City conduct a wage study. Mayor Seren reviewed with the city manager that the City last did a wage study was about six years ago and that he will look at where to place this need in our City’s priority list, noting that it can be expensive but the administration can look at issuing an RFP for the project.

Councilmember Cuda asked why the city manager position remains on the salary schedule; Mayor Seren clarified that the City has not removed the position yet because it is still occupied by Susanna Niermann O’Neil, who remains with the City during the transition.

Councilmember Davida Russell stated that the City needs to prioritize ensuring its wages are competitive.

Law Director Hanna discussed Ordinance 026-2022, which authorizes and approves the presentation of entertainment programs in Cain Park for the year 2022. Hanna stated that the change of note is adjusting upward from $125 to $200 maximum cap on ticket prices.

Finance Director Amy Himmelein reviewed Resolution 021-2022, whichestablishes 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. Himmelein stated she would like to establish this fund because she does not believe the City has been accounting for this employee benefit in the proper way, and this change will allow her to account for these funds correctly.

Councilmember Larson asked whether this is a “use it or lose it” benefit; Himmelein said yes, the federal government has set a timeframe in which these monies must be used by the employee.

Finance Director Amy Himmelein then discussed Ordinance 027-2022, which provides for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $1,500,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of paying a portion of the costs of the acquisition of a portion of, and redevelopment of the site generally known as “Top of the Hill.” This will refinance a short-term bond note the City currently has, and current interest rates make it more beneficial for the City to lock in a long-term rate at a low interest rate; this refinancing will be on a ten-year term.

Councilmember Cuda asked whether this was for a TIF; Himmelein replied no, that at the beginning of the Top of the Hill project the City contributed about $1.8MM toward the project, and this was refinanced last year and this ordinance refinances it again, converting the bond from a one-year term to a ten-year term.

Councilmember Moore asked how this will affect the payments; Himmelein stated they are estimating the payments to be about $155K/year. She said the City also looked at a fifteen-year term, which reduced the payments by about $47K/year, but Himmelein thinks the City can afford the ten-year payments. Moore asked if there is any pre-payment penalty; Himmelein said there is not.

Himmelein stated they are trying to refinance it now because they anticipate that interest rates may rise within a month, so they would like to secure refinancing quickly.

Himmelein then reviewed Ordinance 028-2022, which is a normal budget appropriations ordinance. Council President Hart noted that, of the appropriations listed (page 53 of the packet), all are budget neutral except an increase for the Home Heritage Program. Himmelein explained that this program was left off of the 2022 budget as one of many budget cuts, but each department head prioritized budget items they would like to see added back in if revenues allow; because the City has seen more revenues than anticipated, they are able to add programs back in that had been cute. This program is one that the Mayor and the Planning and Development Director agree is valuable and should be maintained.

Councilmember Moore asked to learn more about the Home Heritage Program; City Manager O’Neil stated that the cost is an annual fee that allows the City to be a participant in the program. (You can learn more about the program HERE.)

Councilmember Larson, noting that the City is using unbudgeted cash on another item, asked to get a copy of the January financials so Council can review unencumbered balances; Himmelein said she is working on finalizing January, and when it is complete, she will provide it to the Mayor for him to distribute.

Agenda Item 2: Other

Councilmember Josie Moore asked fellow councilmembers to join her in passing a resolution condemning Russia’s aggressive military actions and voicing the City’s support for the people and government of Ukraine. All councilmembers and the Mayor concurred. Moore and Law Director Hanna agreed to speak later in the week about crafting the language of the resolution.

Councilmember Davida Russell asked fellow councilmembers to join her passing a resolution supporting the Vouchers Hurt Ohio lawsuit, in which our own public school district is a lead plaintiff. Fellow councilmembers agreed; Councilmembers Moore and Larson thanked Russell for bringing the idea to Council.

Council President Hart discussed councilmembers’ request to receive packets by the preceding Wednesday, stating that Council and the administration would need to establish deadlines from various departments and staff to meet that Wednesday deadline. She said that she would like to discuss this at a future meeting and gather staff input. Councilmember Russell emphasized the necessity of councilmembers getting their packets earlier so they have time to prepare for discussions. Hart said she will put the discussion on the March 21 Committee of the Whole agenda.

Councilmember Cuda, in anticipation of the May 3 election, asked the Mayor to send a memorandum to all City-owned properties clarifying where and how people can campaign on public properties. Mayor Seren stated he will send appropriate and accurate information will be supplied to the people who manage City facilities. He added that City staff will fairly and impartially enforce directives to ensure residents’ safety and use of facilities is not hindered.

Agenda Item 3: Executive Session to consider the appointment of a public official

Councilmember Moore moved to go into Executive Session; Larson seconded.

After exiting Executive Session, Council President Hart 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, Mattox, Larson. The Clerk of Council confirmed there is a quorum.

Hart then opened personal communications from our citizens on topics relating to agenda items only. She explained that comments about non-agenda-related topics will now be heard at the end of each Council meeting. The Clerk of Council announced residents who had signed in to speak.

  • One resident stated that she is here to witness, support, thank, and celebrate the passage of the resolution in support of Medicare for All.

Council President Hart then closed public comments.

Council President Hart called for Communications from the Mayor. Mayor Kahlil Seren announced:

  • The plans and designs for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook have gone through multiple meetings with all the required boards, committees, and commissions (the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Architectural Board of Review, the Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee). The project has received all final approvals from these bodies and is ready to proceed.
  • The administration has hired a new Director of Communications and Public Engagement, Mike Thomas.

Council President Hart called for Report of the Clerk of Council; Clerk of Council Himmelein had nothing to report.

For the Municipal Services Committee, Councilmember Josie Moore had no legislation to present.

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

Ordinance 023-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance authorizing the Mayor to enter into an agreement with Made Cleveland, LLC, for the lease of City-owned property located at 1807 Coventry Road for the operation of a retail store; and declaring an emergency. Passed 7-0.

For the Public Safety and Health Committee, Councilmember Gail Larson had no legislation to present. Larson moved to appoint two members to the Racial Justice Task Force—Sheila Keller and Melody Yates; Council unanimously approved.

For the Administrative Services Committee, Council Vice President Cobb then presented the following legislation.

Resolution 024-2022: First Reading Only. A Resolution confirming the Mayor’s appointment of Joseph E. Sinnott, upon his taking the oath of office, as City Administrator for the City of Cleveland Heights; and declaring the necessity that this Resolution become immediately effective as an emergency measure.

Ordinance 025-2022: First Reading Only. An Ordinance establishing salary schedules, position classifications and other compensation, and benefits for officers and employees of the City; and declaring an emergency.

Council Vice President Cobb then moved to appoint/reappoint the following people to City boards, committees, and commissions, and Council unanimously approved. Cobb also stated this is Council’s first step in filling these City bodies now that we have a full Council; this does not complete the process of making these bodies whole.

  • For the Planning Commission, Adam Howe was reappointed.
  • For the Landmark Commission, Mazie Adams, Margaret Lann, and J. Mark Southern were reappointed.
  • For the Board of Zoning Appeals, Thomas Zych and Dennis Porcelli were reappointed and Gayle Lewin was appointed.
  • For the Commission on Aging, Shirley LeCompte and Jody Taslitz were reappointed, and Ira-Etta Black and Peter DeGolia were appointed.
  • For the Architectural Board of Review, Terry Saylor was reappointed.
  • For the Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee, Mark Lefkowitz, Howard Maier, Chris Cummings, Jeffrey Bendix, Charlie Mosbrook, Kathy Petrey, and Sam Bell were all reappointed, and Catalina Maddox-Wagers was appointed.

All boards, committees, and commissions, and Cobb stated that Council will be reviewing applications to fill the remaining vacancies over the coming weeks. (The following do not have enough applicants to fill the vacancies: the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Commission on Aging, and the Transportation and Environmental Sustainability Committee.)

For the Architectural Board of Review, Council Vice President Cobb stated that there are two vacant positions, and applicants must be licensed to practice architecture to be considered, but none of the applicants are licensed architects.

For the Community Relations and Recreation Committee, Councilmember Davida Russell presented the following legislation.

Resolution 019-2022: Second Reading. 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. Passed 7-0.

Ordinance 026-2022: First Reading Only. An Ordinance authorizing and approving the presentation of entertainment programs in Cain Park for the year 2022.

For the Finance Committee, Council President Hart presented the following legislation.

Resolution 021-2022: Second Reading. 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. Passed 7-0.

Ordinance 027-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $1,500,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of paying a portion of the costs of the acquisition of a portion of, and redevelopment of the site generally known as “Top of the Hill” located on approximately four acres of land situated between Euclid Heights Boulevard and Cedar Road at the top of Cedar Hill in the City, and declaring an emergency. Passed 7-0.

Ordinance 028-2022: 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.

For the Housing and Building Committee, Councilmember Tony Cuda had no legislation to present. Councilmember Cuda announced that the Housing and Building Committee recently met for the first time and discussed the Novak Report (found on page 12 HERE), vacant and abandoned property, civil options, the Racial Justice Task Force’s rental agreement that they will be presenting soon, and the need for an overhaul of our housing codes. Cuda said there is a lot to do, and the committee will be meeting again on April 4.

Hart then opened personal communications from our citizens on topics not relating to agenda items. The Clerk of Council announced residents who had signed in to speak.

  • One resident announced the launch of the campaign in support of Issue 9, which puts forward an ordinance requiring the City to create a public park at the vacant lot located at Lee and Meadowbrook. She invited residents to donate to the campaign, predicted large donations to the opposing campaign from the developer, and challenged the City’s statement that there was “extensive community input” for the CLM development project.

Council President Hart then opened the floor for councilmember comments.

Councilmember Josie Moore read THIS STATEMENT voicing condemnation of Russia’s aggressive military action and support for the people and government of Ukraine. She announced that she asked fellow councilmembers to join her in passing a resolution on this, and all councilmembers agreed; the resolution will be introduced soon.

Councilmember Russell announced that she asked fellow councilmembers in passing a resolution supporting the Vouchers Hurt Ohio lawsuit, in which our school district is a lead plaintiff, and that all councilmembers agreed. She then made a statement about her “You Talk, I Listen” meetings, explaining that recently the cost of these meetings (venue, fliers, etc.) have been covered by residents in the Noble and Taylor areas, and those residents have requested that the meetings be open to only Noble and Taylor residents. She stated that if the City would like these meetings to be open to all, then the City should cover the costs of the meetings.

Councilmember Cuda addressed the resolution supporting Medicare for All, stating that it’s important for local governments to voice their preferences to the federal government.

Councilmember Larson voiced support for the resolution in standing with the people and government of Ukraine, as well as support for the resolution supporting the Vouchers Hurt Ohio lawsuit. Larson then stated that there are two more vacancies on the Racial Justice Task Force and encouraged residents to apply.

Councilmember Moore spoke again, commenting on her reasons for supporting the resolution in favor of Medicare for All. She shared personal stories of her family being left with significant medical debt, even though they had “good insurance.” She also discussed the fact that the U.S. spends more on healthcare as a percentage of GDP than any other nation and that the one nation with a true single-payer health insurance plan, Taiwan, pays among the least as a percentage of GDP.

Council President Hart also voiced support for Medicare for All, as well as the resolutions in support of Ukraine and the Vouchers Hurt Ohio lawsuit. She announced that soon the City will release financial report for 2021, and these will be available to the public and reviewed in the March 21 Committee of the Whole meeting. She encouraged residents to check for Council Committee meetings, as the majority of the work of Council will now be happening in those committees rather than in Committee of the Whole. Hart said that the Mayor continues to hire staff for our City’s transition.

Hart then announced that a group of nursing students have studied health and food access in 44112 and proposed that Cleveland Heights create a community garden in the part of 44112 that is in Cleveland Heights, and she will be working with Councilmember Anthony Mattox on this project.

Hart then announced that Council will be holding an Amazing Women of Cleveland Heights event on March 28, and Council is seeking nominations of women who are making our city and our world a better place. Council will acknowledge all nominees and will choose five women to honor at the event. (You can nominate an amazing Cleveland Heights woman HERE.)

Council President Hart then adjourned the meeting.