Here I am, an adult, working 8 – 5, recently married, and evaluating how many constructs exist around me which govern our day to day lives. Since I got married I started to look into the future and how to properly situate myself to be successful and provide for my wife and our future children. This meant trying to understand how taxes work, school systems, public services, cities and the laws that govern them, etc. I approached this all with a healthy level of skepticism and an open mind.
One of the first things I did was start to read the charter for my city, which I understand to be the base rule set off of which all the other laws/ordinances/legislation is based. Then I started to follow local politics, how does city council make their decisions, what do they prioritize, how are the people truly being represented in these affairs. Much to my chagrin it seemed like these people, who are trusted with making decisions for me and ~46k of my fellow residents of Cleveland Heights, weren’t following their own laws. I felt it was my duty as a concerned citizen to reach out to the Law Director to confirm. That was over 2 weeks ago and I haven’t heard a response.
It is our duty to ensure that the people we trust to make the most important decisions in our lives are held accountable to the city charter. Alternatively it is our duty to start to trust someone else…
Below is a copy of that letter.
Dear Mr. Juliano,
My name is T. Nadas. I have been a resident of Cleveland Heights for over 8 years and I am writing in regards to a legal concern I have resulting from the conduct of the most recent City Council meeting on June 1st, 2015.
At the aforementioned meeting there were 11 resolutions passed allocating funds for various purposes in the total amount of $2,535,355.58. Two of these resolutions were capital expenses whereas the rest were general operating expenses. All were passed as emergency measures. In fact, looking over the history of legislation passed by this and past councils it would seem that most if not all resolutions have been passed as emergency measures. My question essentially is why is it allowed for all resolutions to be passed as emergency measures?
Article III Section 9 of the Cleveland Heights charter definitively states that no “grant, renewal or extension of franchise […] shall ever be passed as an emergency measure” and yet all of the above mentioned resolutions appear to do precisely that. Section 111.20 of the Administrative Code appears to directly contradict the charter with its mention of the “emergency measure” although that same section also provides rules such that no expenditure measure shall be passed without being read at 2 regular meetings. The latter portion is presumably there so that the residents of Cleveland Heights might have an opportunity to examine such expenditures prior to enactment by the City Council however by using the language of the “emergency”, Council is able to completely ignore this important process.
Of particular note is that there is no definition that I can find at all for what constitutes an emergency. There is, however, mention in section 111.03 of the Administrative Code of emergency meetings. Why does it not stand to reason that given the lack of a proper definition of an emergency that emergency measures should only result from emergency meetings?
Please note that I am not questioning the validity nor necessity of these resolutions but simply the process by which they have been acted upon. By declaring all resolutions emergency measures Council bypasses a critical part of the democratic process. This seems to be a procedural artifact that is grossly overused by Council, one which inhibits active participation by residents and therefore proper oversight of the government.