Observer Reports

Finance Committee, June 17, 2019

July 15th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Nancy Moore, Earl Williams, Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Linda Lalley, Martin Kolb, Anthony Moore

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Commander of Support Services John Cole, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:30 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. Mr. Malone presented the minutes of the May 20, 2019 Finance Committee meeting for approval. The minutes were approved without further discussion.
  2. Mr. Cole presented a recommendation to approve the proposed ordinance for sale of police dogs owned by the city. Upon retirement of a city-owned K-9, past practice has been to allow the retired dog to live with its handler until the dog dies. The handler has, generally, assumed all liabilities for the dog until its death. However, there has been no official paperwork that transfers the ownership of the dog to its handler. To fully address these issues, the police department is proposing that the city enact an ordinance formalizing the transfer of ownership. Nancy Moore recommended that we “tidy up this loose end.” Mr. Kolb recommended this be done at the next City Council meeting. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Mr. Baker proposed a resolution amending fiscal policy statements of the city relating to the desired level of certain city fund balances. The policy statements are not binding, but serve as guides for the city. The 2003 resolution provided that the city, as a goal, should endeavor to carry forward at the beginning of each year a General Operating Fund balance of not less than 20 percent of the budgeted operating fund expenditures. Any amount in excess of 20 percent shall be available for transfer to the General Capital Fund. The 2003 resolution also stated that the city, as a goal, should begin the year with a General Capital Fund balance that, at a minimum, is equal to the current year’s general capital debt funding requirement plus the total of all estate tax revenue received by the city and credited to the General Capital Fund in the prior year. The proposed new resolution would increase the General Operating Fund reserve to 25 percent and that any excess above 25 percent can be transferred to the General Capital Fund, the Sewer Capital Fund, or any other fund authorized by Council. The proposed new resolution recognizes the loss of estate tax revenue and states the General Capital Fund test should be that the year-end balance (plus grants receivable) equal prior unspent capital appropriations plus current year capital appropriations.

Nancy Moore counseled the committee to review the history of how the 2008 recession impacted the city, note the impact of the 2012 city income tax increase, and consider how the 2018 federal tax law changes were affecting 2018 and 2019 city revenue. She agreed this was a good policy, but will depend on Council not “spending down” to the limit. City Council has been maintaining a reserve around 30 percent rather than the 20 percent goal, which proved critical during the recession. Mr. Cicarella asked that Mr. Baker enlighten him on the difference between a policy and an ordinance. Mr. Baker replied that ordinances would require specific “rainy day” funds be set aside and specific limits be defined for their use beforehand, requiring actions to be taken that would need to be reversed after the fiscal emergency subsides. Mr. Zimmerman remarked that Council considers this policy frequently as situations arise, but is not forced into legislative action to sequester funds and modify ordinances. Nancy Moore added that recently proposals had been made to “spend down” the Operating Fund reserve in response to revenue shortfalls, which would bring the city closer to required action should we adopt ordinances. She reminded the committee that fiscal responsibility was a function of political will. Ms. Lalley agreed that policies were preferable to ordinances; she added that she was not a fan of large reserves because they constrain Council’s options. Nancy Moore asked what would be an appropriate reserve in order to maintain the city’s high bond rating and low borrowing cost; the rating agencies publish a reserve guideline nationally and for Ohio. Mr. Malone agreed with Ms. Lalley’s opinion on reserves; his recollection is that 20 percent was the minimum for an AAA bond rating and that the city did not have the revenue to achieve 35-40 percent reserves. Mr. Kolb said that it was incumbent on Council to change the policy rather than enact an ordinance; loss of funding would be traumatic if the city adopted an ordinance. Mayor Weiss outlined three issues: we must update the policy to recognize the loss of the estate tax; a policy is preferable to an ordinance; and the percentage target should provide a cushion for external stresses such as the federal tax law changes last year. He is concerned that the city will need the reserves in the future and raising the target to 25 percent sends a responsible message. Mr. Williams commented that until the city attracts more commercial capital investment, we should maintain a healthy reserve. Anthony Moore questioned how we could maintain accountability with a reserve policy when the underlying goal was to preserve our credit rating. He requested that a phrase be added to the policy specifically setting a bond rating target; be more direct. Mr. Cicarella remarked that the discussion had been helpful for him. He agreed that a policy was preferable, allowing Council to respond more easily. He added that the target chosen should be related to our recent experience and that experience indicated we should raise the target. He then asked that the policy be revisited annually rather than as a reaction to financial events. Nancy Moore concurred that an annual review during the budgeting process would be preferable. Mr. Zimmerman agreed that this policy comes up during many budget discussions. Ms. Lalley asked if we needed to add language to reflect the purpose of the reserve. Mr. Malone suggested the committee approve the resolution for raising the target with the addition of a reference to a bond rating target in the policy. The resolution was approved.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:19 a.m.

Frank Goforth, observer

City Council, June 24, 2019

July 11th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: All members of City Council, Mayor David Weiss, Law Director William Gruber, CAO Jeri Chaikin, Planning Director Joyce Braverman, Senior Planner Daniel Feinstein, and Director of Finance Robert Baker

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.

Two public hearings were held before the regular business meeting.

  1. Second reading of a proposal by Shaker Heights Country Club for rezoning land, equivalent to two parcels, of their property from Parks and Recreation to Single Family Residential. Several residents spoke about soil toxicity, saving green space and protecting wildlife. Lee Weingart, president and acting director of the club, stated that those issues were being considered and mitigated.
  2. Second reading of a request by RMS Corp. that the city establish an Outdoor Refreshment Area (ORA) at the Van Aken District, allowing open containers purchased from participating vendors in the District. Legacy Village has an OAR. Neighborhood meetings are planned.

The minutes of previous meetings were approved as written. There were no public comments on the subsequent agenda items discussed during the regular meeting.

Council approved on third reading zoning text amendments to the Child Day Care Regulations, Sections 1262.03 and 1263.09. Ms. Moore voted “No.” [Details about these amendments can be found in earlier observer reports on the meetings of the Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Appeals and of City Council.]

Unanimous confirmation was given to City Planning’s approval of a conditional use permit for the B-1 rooftop bar at 3386 Tuttle Rd. (in the Van Aken District].

Council unanimously approved enacting a new chapter to the Business Regulation Code: Discrimination Prohibitions in Employment and Public Accommodations. This was done in order to be consistent with federal, state and county anti-discrimination law.

Sent to third reading were amendments to the Fair Housing sections of the Business Code to make them consistent with county law; and a resolution to reaffirm and expand the City’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy.

In other business, council unanimously approved a franchise for the nonexclusive right of Verizon to construct, own and service a fiber-based data and communications network for business and government customers in the public right of way of the city.

Other items approved:

Police Officers may purchase retiring police dogs for $1 each.

Acceptance of grant funds from NOACA’s Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative for improvements at the Warrensville-Shaker Boulevard intersection.

A non-binding resolution recommending a General Operating Fund balance of not less than 25 percent of budgeted operating fund expenditures and elimination of reference to an estate tax in the makeup of the annual Capital Fund. Ms. Senturia voted “No,” objecting to language connecting the reserve to the city’s bond rating.

The meeting adjourned at 10:05 p.m.

Linda Lissauer, observer

Board of Education, June 11, 2019

July 11th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: William Clawson, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Jeffrey Issacs (president), Heather Weingart

Absent: Lisa Cremer

Also present: Bryan Christman, treasurer; Marla Robinson, chief of staff

Mr. Isaacs opened the meeting at 6 p.m.

Dr. Robinson stood in for former Interim Superintendent Stephen Wilkins, who has left the district to work for former superintendent Gregory Hutchings. In her opening remarks, she referred to this as a “time for transition” for the district. She praised the highly successful high school graduation ceremony. Kevin LaMonica, our 2018-19 Legacy Fellow, was one of two student speakers. Congratulations was given to Assistant Principal Sara Chengelis for her work coordinating the graduation ceremony. The district’s summer enrichment program, SELF, has 900 reservations as of June 11. SELF stands for Summer, Exploration, Learning and Fun and includes all grades levels.

Honors and Recognitons:

• Four Shaker Heights High School seniors were named National Merit $2,500 Scholarship recipients. They are: Emet Celeste-Cohen, Fenner H. Dreyfuss-Wells, Isabel A. Levin, and Leo Schirokauer. They were among 95 National Merit Scholars in the state. This is the highest number of National Merit Scholars from any high school in Northeast Ohio.

• Senior Erenalp Kahriman received a college-sponsored National Merit Scholarship from Case Western Reserve University. Scholarship winners are selected from among the finalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program.

• Fifty-six Shaker Middle School and High School German students earned recognition in one of four levels of the National German Exam. More than 20,000 students nationwide participat- ed in this year’s exam.

• Dr John Moore, the District’s IB coordinator, hosted a guest delegation from South Korea. They visited the district’s schools to learn more about the District’s IB implementation. Guests in the delegation included a provincial governor of education, teachers, professors and journalists. Every year, the delegation selects one exceptional school system in the world to visit.

The Shaker Heights High School classes of 1950 and ’51, working with the Shaker Schools Foundation, have donated funding for a social-emotional learning curriculum. “Caring School Community” was piloted this year at Lomond and is for students in grades K-8. All of the district’s K-8 schools will begin implementing the program during the 2019-20 school year.

• Graduating Senior Sophie Calabrese won a gold medal in the Girls Single Sculls at the Scholastic National Championship Regatta. She is the first Shaker Heights High School rower in the team’s 25-year history to win a national championship.

Graduating senior Lyle Yost was named the 2019 National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All America Diving Boys Champion.

Rising senior Jaivon Harrison was the State Runner-Up in the Boys High Jump at the OHSAA Track & Field Championships.

• The SHHS Varsity Super Smash Bros. Esports team advanced to the Esports Ohio League Super Smash Bros. State Championship.

Public Comments: Two residents spoke. A current parent who had spoken at the May board meeting regarding the actions taken against SHHS teacher Jody Podl returned to speak again to the Board. He had hoped to see some action from the board, and he was there to reiterate what he felt to be a badly mishandled matter. He urged the board to issue a formal apology and hoped that they would reexamine their procedures in handling such matters. He would like to see an acknowledgment of mistakes made. His concern is that an “atmosphere of distrust” has been engendered as a result of district actions. A Fernway parent, on behalf of the Fernway community, wanted to thank Dr. Wilkins and the Fernway Task Force as being superb for their rapid response. She thanked members of the board; David Boyer, director of operations; Chris Dewey of Van Aukin Akins Architects; and the principals and teaching staff of Onaway, Mercer and Woodbury. She made special mention of Dana Howard, Fernway PTO president, who she described as going above and beyond in being a “key piece of the puzzle to keep the Fernway community together.” Finally, she commended Fernway School Principal Chris Hayward, who “moves mountains small and tall,” and presented him with an inscribed slate from the original roof of Fernway.

Facilities Update: Summer Construction and Fernway: Mr. Boyer introduced Rick Freer, whose role is to assist Boyer and be his “eyes and ears on the ground.” Mr. Freer is a resident of Shaker Heights and has in the past been involved in facility planning projects. All projects are on schedule and on budget. Regarding Fernway, all bids had been received as of June 11 and most of the contracts have been authorized. Mr. Boyer commented that most of the work up to the present has been behind the scenes. The work this summer may get a bit noisy as alarm and security systems are tested. This will be true for the whole district as capital improvements are made. A communication department has been established to keep the community informed and up to date. Capital improvements, including repairs at Fernway, require a fair degree of staging given the complexity of the projects. Also mentioned was the contract renewal of ABI food services. He feels that ABI is a high-caliber organization, emphasizing its nutritious and varied offerings. Mr. Christman noted that each renewal contract has a specific date and management fee.

Second of three required readings of the Board Policy Review Committee’s recommended proposed policies regarding qualifications and duties of the treasurer, student absences and excuses, student suspensions, reporting of child abuse and mandatory training.

Unanimous approval of various action items by the board, including the treasurer’s financial and budget report to be filed for audit and the adoption of the 2020 Shaker Library Public Tax Budget as was approved by the Library Board of Trustees. Some specifics of the Library budget are: Library Resources totals $19,782,278; Library expenditures total $11,527,034; estimated ending balance $8,255,244. The approval of the Shaker Library budget on a calendar year basis (fiscal year ending in July) is a duty of the Board of Education.

Incoming Superintendent Dr. David Glasner’s report to the board: After spending needed time closing up the school year, Dr. Glasner has been gathering a transition advisory team, which includes representatives from the community: students, parents, teachers, current and former board members, and other invested community stakeholders. Much of his presentation referred to the work of the transition advisors. Approximately 20 people are on this team and will be informally advising the superintendent during the first 100 days of his tenure. They are to provide input on short-term and long-term priorities, and will help connect with other stakeholders in the community. His short-term priorities include hiring and having a convocation for the district. Long-term priorities are strategic planning and work on equity issues. Two questions posed to the superintendent by the task force are: 1. What are your action steps for implementing your ideas? 2. What mistakes do you hope to avoid? A few takeaways resulting from his meetings with the transition team are: 1. Get a few quick victories. 2. Be very visible. 3. Get students involved. 4. Encourage a diverse applicant pool for district positions. 5. Continue equity training. Further advice for Dr. Glasner included: 1. Don’t try to do too much too soon. 2. Be intentional in your new work. 3. Don’t undervalue teacher voices. 4. Don’t assume your previous experience translates to the job of superintendent. Dr, Glasner said that he had been paired up with superintendent mentors. Finally, he commended those who had helped facilitate his transition, including Lori Brem, administrative assistant; senior executive groups; and teacher teams.

The meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Anne Batzell, observer

Safety & Public Works Committee, June 7, 2019

July 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Nancy Moore, council member and chair; Julianna Senturia and Anne Williams, council members; Jonathan Hren and James Sammon, citizen members; David Weiss, mayor; Jeffrey DeMuth, chief of police; Patricia Speese, director of public works; Jim Heath, assistant fire chief; Jeri Chaikin, chief administrative officer

Others present: William M. Ondrey Gruber, law director

The agenda and supporting documents for this meeting may be found here:

The meeting was called to order at 8 a.m. by Ms. Moore. The minutes for the May 3, 2019, meeting were approved with a few small edits and are available here:

The first order of business concerned installing backbone fiberoptic cable using the city’s right of way, both aerial and underground. Verizon applied for and was granted the license franchise permit to install the cable for telecom and internet (not residential); the city cannot deny such utilities. MCI Metro Access Transmission Corp. will do the work. The company’s representatives assured the panel that their intent was to do the least damage. They will present the footprint and show all aspects of the work at the major projects meeting on June 11 (the maps provided in the packet were not helpful). Planning has already signed off on the work, which can begin immediately after all approvals and will last about 60 days. Approval was unanimous.

Supporting documents may be found here:

The next and last order of business concerned the sale of city-owned police dogs (K9). Chief DeMuth explained that the K9 program has been in operation for more than 30 years. When a dog is retired, past practice has been to allow the dog to live with its handler, but there is no official paperwork recording the transfer of ownership, so the city is liable should the dog injure someone. The proposed ordinance would solve that problem, allowing the handler to buy the dog for $1. The average tenure of a police dog is 7 to 9 years, sometimes longer. Their noses are still fine as old dogs, but they have trouble getting in and out of the car. Approval of the ordinance was unanimous.

Supporting documents may be found here:

Among the updates were Ms. Speese’s comment that it is difficult to find and hire employees, especially since Beachwood pays $6.50 more an hour. The city is now down nine employees in the Public Works Dept. Ms. Speese said that Mayor Weiss and Councilman Tres Roeder joined garbage-collection crews in a contest to see which team did it faster and without problems (there is a video on the city’s Facebook page). Mr. Roeder’s team won, but he injured himself in the process. The major issue is recycling appropriate items, which continues to require specific information and explanation; the smallest contamination means the load goes to the landfill. Ms. Chaikin discussed greenspace care, explaining that 78 percent of city land is pesticide free. Organic products are used everywhere except vacant lots, city flower beds, and the RTA track medians. Chief DeMuth reported that low crime rates continue and discussed the recent retirements of many police officers, all of whom were in the same age range. Other officers have been promoted to fill vacant administrative positions, and a civil service exam will be conducted this summer so there should be new hires in the fall. The retirements will continue but not at the same rate. He also talked about the car found in the lower lake, which ended up being on Cleveland Heights property. It had been stolen in 2009; Shaker Heights police officers helped CH remove it from the lake.

Ms. Moore adjourned the meeting at 8:55 a.m.

Barbara Bradley, observer

Board of Education, May 14, 2019

July 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Board President Jeffrey Isaacs and board members Bill Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Hardaway, and Heather Weingart; Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Wilkins, and Treasurer Bryan Christman

The meeting was called to order by Board President Jeffrey Isaacs at 6 p.m. The board approved the minutes of its April meetings.

Dr. Wilkins recognized the following:

  • Senior Corin Manning was awarded the University of Cincinnati Darwin T. Turner Scholarship (which seeks to enrich the educational environment for undergraduate students by supporting the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students with high potential for academic success. The scholarship covers eight semesters of tuition, all student fees, and books. Seniors Erin Harris and Christopher Scott were named Morrill Scholars at Ohio State University; this is Ohio State’s premier diversity/merit scholarship program, rewarding academically talented students who are actively engaged in diversity-based leadership, service and social justice activities. Both Erin and Christopher will receive full-tuition scholarships.
  • Art Exposed 2019, the annual showcase of artwork by Shaker Heights Middle and High School art students, opened Friday, May 10, at the Shaker Heights Main Library. The show ran through May 22 and a selection of artwork will be for sale.
  • Two-thirds of the Shaker Heights High School students who took the 2019 National Greek Exam earned awards. Thirty-one Shaker Heights High School students earned honors on the 2019 Ohio K-12 Chinese Essay Contest. Six Shaker Heights High School Latin students were winners in the 2019 CAMWS (Classical Association of the Middle West and South) Latin Translation Contest. Sixty Shaker Heights High School Spanish students earned honors on the 2019 National Spanish exam.
  • Shaker Heights High School boys and girls tennis coach Al Slawson celebrated his 1,000th career win as a Shaker coach on April 16 at home versus Westlake. Coach Slawson’s career has spanned more than 50 years.
  • Shaker Heights High School’s Theatre Arts Department earned four nominations for its production of “Pippin” in Playhouse Square’s Dazzle Awards.
  • On April 23, students in Miss Burns’s first-grade class at Onaway welcomed two special visitors to their classroom: Silver MacDonald, Head of LEGO North America, and Steffanie Forbes, Regional Account Manager for LEGO Education.
  • Eight Shaker Heights High School students earned recognition on the 2018-19 Medusa Mythology Exam, an international standardized exam for students who are enthusiastic about mythology.

Members of the Student Advisory Council (totaling 24 students) gave an annual update, which included highlights on learning about restorative practices and having some specialized meetings with guest speakers from the district. This year freshmen were invited to serve on this committee as well. 

Brian Berger, Social Studies teacher, and students presented an update on their service trip to Laos over spring break.

Continuing contract teachers, whose names were on the agenda, were honored.

Kristen Miller, assistant director of communications, updated the board on the first annual Kindergarten-Kickoff registration event for the class of 2032 was held April 27: an open house with 15 stations to expose new families to the district. More than 50 volunteers helped out and all K-4 principals and PTO representatives along with eight teachers greeted all the families. Turnout was good—150 families made reservations and 110 families attended. Next year’s event will be held Sunday, April 25, 2020 at Lomond.

Danny Young, principal of Woodbury, gave an update on the new Woodbury School schedule: 100 students are divided into communities of four teachers, with a five-day rotation schedule of special subject classes and five days of recess.

There was no update on facilities and capital projects at this meeting.

Eric Juli was approved as the new principal of the High School. He gave a brief address after he was introduced. Due to Dr. Wilkins’s announced departure for Alexandria, Virginia (where former superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings is now superintendent), Dr. Glasner’s appointment as superintendent was modified and became effective on June 15, 2019. 

All personnel updates and changes were approved.

The following business items were approved: an agreement with and conveyance of a portion of the Fernway site to the city of Shaker Heights for a grant application, and flex summer hours for the district’s secretarial and clerical employees.

The board had the third of three readings on revisions of board policies in five areas. The board then had the first of three readings on additional board policies, including the qualifications and duties of the treasurer, student attendance issues, and suspension.

The board approved a routine request for the Shaker Heights City School district to be voluntary members of the Ohio High School Athletic Association with regards to interscholastic athletic programs.

The Treasurer’s report for April: real estate tax revenue received YTD this year was $7.4 million, or 10.2 percent less than last year due primarily to the timing of advance amounts paid out by the county in early calendar year 2018; the advance amounts were affected by accelerated tax payments made by residents in advance of the Jan. 1, 2018, federal income tax law changes limiting state and local tax deductions. The reduced collections include $433,058 less in delinquent tax collections during the first half of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018. Also included in these YTD tax receipts was the first Shaker Plaza TIF payment totaling $386,036, which included a catch-up payment for part of calendar 2017; the second payment for the Shaker Plaza TIF received in April; and $84,406 for the preliminary Van Aken Plaza TIF. Investment earnings are $0.4 million, or 61.3 percent more than last fiscal year-to-date.

Other local revenue totals $1.7 million, or 47.5 percent less than the prior year, due primarily to the nonrecurring receipt in the prior fiscal year of a $1.7 million reimbursement for the Middle School roof project from the bond issuance fund. Additionally, the district received $120,611 less from the state for certain payments as compared to the prior fiscal year.

The district is expected to receive approximately the same State Foundation funding in Fiscal 2019 as in Fiscal 2018 due to being on the “guarantee” funding method. Due to minor variations in the guarantee calculations coupled with a negative adjustment for the Fiscal 2018 payment, the district currently projects this line item to be $79,846 below budget as projected through the end of the fiscal year.

Federal receipts YTD this year were $81,320, or 21.7 percent more than the prior year primarily due to the $118,677 higher Medicaid settlement payment received this fiscal year as compared to last fiscal year, partially offset by the nonrecurring September 2017 receipt of a $49,706 Medicaid reimbursement settlement payment delayed from the previous fiscal year.

The district’s required five-Lyear financial forecast was approved by the board, and the treasurer was directed to file this forecast with the Ohio Department of Education. This is required by law and the forecast is used as a planning tool.

Additional comments by Treasurer Bryan Christman included:

  • eFinanceplus conversion work is still taking place, with a deadline of July 1 to use the new system.
  • Legislative items: House Bill 166 (the operating budget) does not include any new school financing strategies but keeps the guarantees that Shaker expected; HB 154 dissolves and replaces academic distress commissions.
  • On May 7, 79 local school district levies passed out of 194 on the ballot (76 percent passage rate).

Incoming Superintendent David Glasner presented his vision for restructuring administrative staff, with Dr. Marla Robinson to serve as Chief of Academics overseeing two new positions: Director of Primary Education (pre K-4th grade) and Director of Secondary Education (5th-12th). Dr. Erin Herbruck will serve as interim Executive Director of Human Resources (Dr. Wilkins also thanked Lois Cavucci for her years of service in that post). Dr. Terri Breeden will be the Chief of Strategy and Equity Policy and will oversee Chris Rateno, Director of Data and Accountability. The job of Chief Operating Officer (Dr. Wilkin’s prior position) will be posted as well.

The public session of the meeting adjourned at 8:55 p.m.Mr. Isaacs thanked Dr. Wilkins and Lois Cavucci for their service.  announced the next School Boarding meeting will happen June 11, 6:00 pm in the High School small auditorium.

The board adjourned the public session at 8:55 pm.

Holly Wang, observer

Joint Facilities Task Force, June 20, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Shaker City: David Weiss, Tres Roeder, Anne Williams; Shaker Schools: Scott Stephens, Jeff Isaacs; Shaker Library: Amy Switzer, Brian Gleisser; citizen members: Jim Neville, Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, Vicki Elder

Members Absent: Michael Bertsch, David Glasner, Lisa Cremer

Others Present: Joyce Braverman, Alex Nichols, Earl Williams, Ann Klavora, Cameron Roberts, Sara Schiavoni

Mayor Weiss opened the meeting at 2:10 p.m. with an introduction of the new citizen members of the task force, Jim Neville, Stephanie Ryberg-Webster and Vicki Elder. He briefly reviewed the agenda and the expectations for the meeting.

City Planning Director Joyce Braverman reviewed the actions being taken by the city in support of the task force, especially the city’s efforts to consolidate city functions and personnel into the City Hall space and freeing the space used in the STJ Community Building. A detailed analysis of the Thornton Park ice rink was in process by the Recreation Department. The Warrensville connection path project had begun and Shaker Lakes Dams were ongoing priorities.

Library Director Amy Switzer reviewed progress on the Main Library upgrade project; the architect will be reaching out to the community with a meeting and surveys this summer, the design will consume the remainder of 2019 and work will begin in 2020. Library Board Chairman Brian Gleisser shared that the Certificates of Participation had been offered and the full $10.4 million of financing for the main building would be available by the end of June.

Shaker Schools Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations Scott Stephens reiterated that the school district’s top priorities: maintaining facilities “warm, safe and dry” and practicing equity in education. He said it would require $190 million to bring all facilities up to all state standards: $10 million will be spent toward that effort this summer, with additional money going toward the Fernway reconstruction; Fernway will reopen in the fall of 2020. The Woodbury and Middle School indoor swimming pools are a challenge; in fact, the Woodbury pool is presently out of commission. The Shaker School’s transportation depot and IT office building on Lee Road are part of the discussions with the city regarding the Lee Road corridor development.

Ms. Switzer next opened a discussion on how to communicate ongoing updates among the task force members, suggesting there might be joint board meetings. Ms. Elder suggested two levels of communication might be important, one between the task force members and their assigned staff support and another between the task force members and the administrations and boards of the three governing bodies. Ms. Braverman said the task force will meet monthly and the task force members could report separately to their boards. Mayor Weiss said that he and Ms. Switzer have had informal chats in the past. Ms. Elder said all interactions should be shared with everyone on the task force in order to preserve a history.

Principal City Planner Ann Klavora introduced the purpose of a “group exercise”: The task force members would be asked to provide their personal input on the 12 “Big Ideas” and to indicate their top three “Big Ideas.” They would likewise be asked for their personal feedback on the vision and goals statements. She shared a summary of the “Forward Together” public workshops and priority open house results: 425 people had taken personal time to attend these activities, and had shared 2,850 specific comments and ideas about joint use facilities, a remarkable response for a city our size, according to the consultants.

These comments had resolved to seven common themes:

  • 26% New facility type/use/amenity
  • 20% Utilization/access
  • 18% Programming
  • 15% Physical Connectivity
  • 12% Maintenance/Operations
  • 7% Collaboration
  • 3% Economic Development

with a single vision: Shaker Heights will lead in providing community facilities that are … modern and innovative while respecting historic character; inclusive and accessible to all people; adaptable and multifunctional; efficient with respect to costs and the environment and; collaborative in the broadest sense.

And four goals: Facilities where the community can Gather and Connect and that are Utilized to their full potential. And very important: the governing bodies commit to Collaborate continuously in the best interests of the community.

The public workshops and online responses had been refined to 12 “Big Ideas”:

  1. Explore the potential for creating a central recreation and community center.
  2. Create a community asset trail map.
  3. Expand inventory and access to community meeting spaces.
  4. Create more multigenerational programming.
  5. Explore the need for additional athletic field space within the community.
  6. Invest in Shaker Lakes.
  7. Study opportunities for community use of school facilities.
  8. Explore opportunities for the joint funding of facilities.
  9. Develop a facilities strategy plan for Lee Road.
  10. Create a community-wide joint calendar of events.
  11. Create a mechanism to regularly communicate and collaborate across the City, Schools and Library.
  12. Explore opportunities to better connect residents through technology infrastructure.

With that summary complete, Ms. Klavora requested all the task force members use the white boards placed around the room to complete their group exercise. Each task force member could choose only three “Big Ideas” (39 votes total).

Planning Director Joyce Braverman presented the “Big Ideas” priorities results to date, including those received online and during the June 12 Priorities Open House at the STJ Community Center. Seventy-two percent ranked the need for a central recreation and community center as the top priority, followed by a Lee Road facilities strategy plan and investment in the Shaker Lakes.

The task force members then reviewed their personal priority-setting results from the previous exercise: only Big Ideas #1 and #8 received more than four priority votes; Big Ideas #6, #7, #9 and #11 received four priority votes each; the other six Big Ideas received between 0 and 3 priority votes. Ms. Braverman asked the task force, regarding the top priority, if a single central facility was envisioned or there might be multiple facilities. A lively discussion ensued. Ms. Elder said the Main Library area is a central community hub already and worried that several locations would divide the community rather than bring it together. Mayor Weiss said the Middle School area contained two facilities and a lot of open space, while the Colonnade area adjacent to the Main Library had multiple facilities and a lot of open space as well. Ms. Ryberg-Webster mentioned the Thornton Park area, which might also be considered “central” and has multiple facilities. Mr. Isaacs reminded the group that the school (and library) district and city boundaries are not the same; many Shaker Square residents consider themselves part of the community although they live outside the city limits. Mr. Weiss said the Lee/Chagrin corridor is getting a lot of community attention and wondered if a special $1 RTA fare would attract Shaker Square residents to the city. He felt the task force also needs to consider the educational facilities strategy and how this might be impacted. Mr. Gleisser said the Main Library renovation and the library’s near-term use of the STJ Community Building were examples of coordination between the city and library, but he felt the Colonnade “park” was an orphan among these near-term plans. He added that he considered the largest Shaker schools (high school/Woodbury/Onaway) campus might be part of a multiple-facility central recreation and community center along Lee Road from South Woodland to Scottsdale; all students attend Shaker Heights High School and it is a very walkable area. Ms. Elder felt it was advisable to consider the immediate plans for the Main Library.

Ms. Braverman challenged the task force members to come prepared for the July 18 meeting, which is to be critical to “wrap up” a joint facilities vision and decide on some “quick wins” to maintain momentum. Mr. Isaacs asked what should happen before the July 18 meeting. Mayor Weiss suggested that each government body should decide its near-term projects and have them compiled for the July meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.

Frank Goforth, observer

City Council Work Session, June 10, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

The session started at 7:02 p.m., with the mayor and all Council members present. 

Shaker Square: Presentation and update by Wayne Mortensen, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Director of Design and Development, and Tiffany Graham, Land Studio Senior Project Manager. A District Framework Map was presented and discussed along with 80 slides. In a month, the presenters will be back with a conceptual plan.

Early Childhood Education: An overview was given to Council by Joanne Federman, Family Connections Director; Sara Miller, Carol Nursery School Director; and Beth Price, Early Childhood Enrichment Center Director. Evidently this is given to Council from time to time to keep them current.

2019 Budget Discussion: The loss of revenue in October, November and December 2018 and January 2019 is not continuing. Income is looking positive since January this year; city officials will have a better idea in July.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:54 p.m.

Stevie Robinson, observer

Library Board of Trustees, June 17, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: All board members, Library Director Amy Switzer, library staff

The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. and the previous meeting’s minutes were approved with minor changes. Board member Meinhard reported on ongoing conversations with school officials and with representatives from the city of Shaker Heights about long-range funding/tax issues and related matters.

The fiscal officer’s report began with a report from Mike Prcella about the issuance of financing instruments (certificates of participation). The interview with Moody’s (the rating organization) went well, he said, and the Library was awarded an AA1 rank, just short of the highest rating. The certificates were issued at an opportune moment with $10.4 million sold at an aggregate interest rate of 3.38%. He related that the process went very smoothly and the results were entirely satisfactory. The Library still has available additional borrowing capacity based on the PLF (Public Library Fund) received from the state of Ohio. Year to date, PLF received is up 5 percent over last year. Revenues and expenditures are in line with the budget. The board approved the financials report.

Ms. Switzer commented on the summer reading program and thanked participants in the Memorial Day parade before the board took up consideration of hiring the Construction Manager at Risk. From nine respondents to the RFP, a committee including the director and several board members formed a short list of three firms that were interviewed. They unanimously recommended Turner Construction and explained the criteria used. The board discussed the matter and approved the choice. Ms. Switzer also engaged the board in a short exercise for the Forward Together initiative, to indicate priorities and community engagement activities.

Gifts were accepted and appropriated and personnel changes noted. A letter of thanks is being sent to Ohio State Senator Sandra Williams for her support for PLF in the state budget being finalized. The meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

Kathleen Hickman, observer

Sustainability Committee, June 13, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

The agenda for the meeting is available here:

The audio for the meeting is available here:

Members Present: Council member and chair Julianna Johnston Senturia; Council members Sean Malone and Anne Williams; citizen members Julianne Potter and Norman Robbins

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Sustainability Coordinator Michael Peters.

Ms. Senturia called the meeting to order at 7:31 a.m. and adjourned at 8:41 a.m.

The minutes of the May 9, 2019 committee meeting were approved and are available here:

Daniel Brown, scheduled on the agenda to give a brief presentation on the Shaker Heights Residential Composting Program, was absent, and the presentation was postponed to a later date.

LEED for Cities: Mr. Peters updated the committee on a conference that he attended in Washington, D.C., regarding the LEED for cities program that Shaker Heights is pursuing. At the conference, attendees were given information on what data the city must provide and the processes of doing so. Peters mentioned that the LEED for cities program is still new for the U.S. Green Building Council, and that the administrators are open to making changes and accommodations for Shaker Heights, as we are a smaller city. Mr. Peters was also offered marketing support and was connected to the Ohio representative of the U.S. Green Building Council. Mr. Peters explained that in order for Shaker Heights to reach the base level of certification in the LEED program, the city must collect specific data. However, as a small city we do not control utilities like water, sewers, and energy, but the private organizations that do have been cooperative and helpful in providing the necessary data. Later, Mr. Peters explained that in regard to collecting city data, vendors will need one year of utility bills, and that he is working with First Energy to ensure that its records match the city’s. Mr. Peters explained that students and other volunteers will help collecting data necessary for the LEED project. After Shaker passes the LEED certification level, the committee may focus on changing city procedures, policies, and legislation regarding sustainability where necessary in order to achieve the next level of certification.

Sustainability Roadmap: Mr. Peters then led a discussion on the city’s Sustainability Roadmap, which can be accessed here:

The Roadmap provides specific sustainability goals and metrics to determine when they are accomplished. The objectives outlined in the Roadmap are as follows: 1. Reduce city costs for electricity, natural gas, water, sewer; 2. Increase efficiency and reduce costs (Energy Conservation Measures for City Buildings); 3. Reduce fuel consumption for cost and greenhouse gas savings, reduce vehicle maintenance costs; 4. City staff involvement, buy-in, and attraction and retention; 5. Solar demonstration project (solar power generation on city-owned vacant lots); 6. Respond to opportunities outside initial scope (other green initiatives); and 7. Provide staff support to the Sustainability Committee and city Green Team.

Mr. Malone expressed concern about the feasibility of objectives numbers 1 and 2 (reducing city costs and energy conservation measures for city buildings, respectively). Malone questioned if the objectives are doable in the first year. Peters stated that the committee has already made good progress, that the city will have to engage a vendor to analyze the city’s energy use for the first objective, and that it is certainly achievable to be on the path to completing the objectives if not completing them within the first year.

Alternative City Vehicles: Ms. Senturia brought up the feasibility of city vehicles using electric fuel. Peters mentioned a survey regarding green vehicles sent out to city employees. He explained that the survey demonstrated that there is a real interest within the city of increasing the use of electric and hybrid vehicles, and that there are two next steps: 1. Receiving a quote from a vendor that would input a device in vehicles representative of city use to determine how cars are used, along with what vehicles could be replaced with environmentally friendly options, and 2. The Ohio EPA grant for diesel replacement would help Shaker repower older diesel vehicles, to replace motors to be more efficient, or to replace diesel vehicles with new alternatives. Ms. Potter mentioned her involvement with a project regarding Green Fleet procurement and feasibility, and how Fleet users can be incentivized to choose energy alternative vehicles. She stated that she will have more information on the project closer to the end of summer.

Missions, Visions, & Objectives: Committee members shared a document that detailed the Sustainability Committee’s missions, visions, and objectives. Ms. Senturia began a discussion on the document. Potter expressed concern that many of the priorities outlined in the document that were carried forward from the previous task force are climate and environmentally focused, while sustainability also encompasses social and economic issues, and that the committee should also potentially focus on social issues. Furthermore, because it is difficult for a single resident or a single city to make an extensive impact in sustainability, the committee should significantly emphasize collaboration. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals were published in 2015, end in 2030, and incorporate the social aspect that Potter is concerned is absent from Shaker’s goals. Ms. Potter also explained that the Sustainability Development Goals are not necessarily targeted at relatively affluent and developed cities like Shaker, but rather more towards developing countries; for that reason, the goals may not align perfectly. However, there are already other cities that have outlined criteria to allow them to align with the goals, and there already exists target indicators for public transit, affordable housing, etc., and the UN has already laid out what a sustainable city should look like. Basically, Ms. Potter expressed concern for Shaker’s lack of sustainable social goals, goals that the UN has included within its own guidelines. Regardless, while the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide a rough outline as to what Shaker can focus on, the specific aspects may not be very applicable to the city. Ms. Potter believes that the best practice would not be aligning to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but only to where they apply to the city and where it would make sense. She also explained that the Sustainable Development Goals have the added benefit of sounding very aspirational without the city actually having to sign onto anything.

Ms. Senturia mentioned that external indicators and global thinking in terms of sustainability allows Shaker’s sustainability goals to be easier to explain to residents and easier to market. Therefore, they can be used to attract and retain citizens.

Dr. Robbins asked for a specific example of a social goal that Shaker might need to focus on. Mr. Malone provided examples of making Shaker more affordable (reducing the tax burden) and increasing access to resources like public parks. Ms. Potter added that the Sustainable Development Goals include disaster preparedness.

Ms. Potter said that the city should aim for transparency around its sustainability metrics and to the progress Shaker makes on that front, and asked if the committee will publish a report. Ms. Senturia explained that at the end of the first year there will be at least a formal committee discussion regarding progress (the minutes would be public), but that there does not necessarily have to be a report.

Subcommittees: Ms. Senturia began a discussion about subcommittees and if it makes sense to create a few. The rest of the committee expressed interest in the following topics: storm water management, energy, and LEED for cities. Ms. Senturia confirmed that they will get the storm water management and energy (John Scott and Dr. Robbins) subcommittees started and that Mr. Peters and Ms. Williams with continue to work on the LEED for cities project.

Ryan Brady, observer

Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission, June 4, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: David Weiss, mayor and chair; Rob Zimmerman, council member; John J. Boyle and Joanna Ganning, citizen members

Others Present: William M. Ondrey Gruber, director of law; Joyce Braverman, director of planning; Dan Feinstein, senior planner

The agenda for this meeting may be found here:

The meeting was recorded and the audio is available here:

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.

The minutes of the May 7, 2019, meeting were approved unanimously with typographical corrections only and are available here:

Board of Zoning Appeals

Shaw Residence, 14206 South Woodland Road

Continuation of a public hearing on the request of Trevor and Callie Shaw, 14206 South Woodland Road, for a variance to the height and setback requirements for front-yard fences. The Shaw property (two lots) extends from South Woodland Road through to Van Aken Boulevard. The request was continued at the March 5, 2019, meeting. The applicant has installed a 6-foot-tall wood board-on-board fence, but the maximum permitted height for a front yard fence is 3 feet. The fence is set back 15 feet from the Van Aken Boulevard property line, but a 33-foot setback is required for a fence in the front yard of Van Aken Boulevard. The applicant now proposes 15 arborvitae bushes, staining the fence dark brown, and maintaining the existing landscaping of bushes and trees to soften the view of the fence from Van Aken Boulevard. There are six “through” lots in the city, so this is an unusual property situation and there are precedents for approval. Dr. Ganning asked what would happen were the property to be sold as two lots. Mr. Gruber related that the fence would have to be removed but the landscaping could stay. Staff supports approval of the two variances.

There were no comments or questions during the public hearing and the board voted unanimously to approve with the condition that the landscaping stay.

Supporting documents are here:

Cleveland Restoration Society Property, 18520 Winslow Road

Public hearing on the request of Margaret Lann, Cleveland Restoration Society, 18520 Winslow Road, for a variance to the garage regulations in order to construct a two-car garage at a two-family house. The applicant, the Great Garage Co., proposes to construct a new two-car garage and a parking pad in the rear yard at this two-family house, but code requires a three-car garage for such houses. The existing two-car garage, which faces sideways, is a Housing Inspection violation and requires demolition. The new garage will be located in the rear corner of the lot facing the street—a code-conforming location. The Architectural Board has reviewed the plans for the new garage. Staff supports approval of the variance, especially since there are precedents.

There were no comments or questions during the public hearing and the board voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Supporting documents are here:

Michael and Katherine Lee, 2932 West Park Boulevard: Public hearing withdrawn.

City Planning Commission

Van Aken BC, LLC, 3386 Tuttle Road

Public hearing on the request of Mackenzie Makepeace, RMS Investment Corp., on behalf of Van Aken BC, LLC, for a Conditional Use Permit for a wine bar. The applicant, Jason Russell, general manager of the Van Aken District, proposes to establish a wine bar on the upper floor of the B-1 building in the Van Aken District. The space is located on the second floor and rooftop of the building over the Sawyer Restaurant. The rooftop bar space will accommodate approximately 150 patrons, both inside and out, and serve alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks; food will be available through Sawyers Restaurant. A wine bar requires a Conditional Use Permit in the CM Commercial Mixed Use zoning district. Council confirmation of such a permit is also required. Staff supports approval with certain conditions that include operating hours, compliance with the city noise ordinance and state liquor permit requirements, and a review after six months.

There were no comments or questions during the public hearing and board voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Supporting documents are here:

City of Shaker Heights, Zoning Text Amendment

An unusual referral by City Council to the City Planning Commission for further study to amendments to the zoning ordinance text regarding the regulations for Child Day Care Homes, Types A and B. Child Day Care Homes are permanent residences in which child day care is provided. Revisions are proposed concerning the ownership of the property of Type A homes: whether to include an additional condition that Type A homes be owned by those who provide the service.

During the public hearing, which is not required for such actions, eight residents spoke to the topic, both for and against requiring such homes to be owner-occupied (about half and half). One gentleman, while not in favor of renters as day-care providers, thought instituting such a regulation would be discriminatory and the top of a slippery slope in regulating renters; after all, Shaker Heights is not a home-owners association. Mayor Weiss told the panel they could either take action to recommend the condition that Type A Day Care Homes be owner-occupied or leave it as is. Mr. Zimmerman assured those present that he will present the points they made as accurately as possible at the third hearing of the issue during the regular City Council meeting on June 24, but also told them they would have an opportunity then to voice their opinions again. Then both Dr. Ganning and Mr. Boyle stated that they would not support such a condition as it would be discriminatory.

Supporting documents are here:

The meeting was adjourned at 8 p.m. The next meeting is July 2, 2019, at 7 p.m.

Barbara Bradley, observer