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Council chokes chicken ordinance

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

The March 2, 2009 Lakewood city council meeting was attended by about 30 people and lasted around one hour and 45 minutes.

Councilperson Mary Louise Madigan (Ward 4) announced the housing committee unanimously voted to indefinitely postpone consideration of the recently introduced ordinance allowing residents to house chickens in their yards for the purpose of harvesting eggs.

Councilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2), who introduced the ordinance, said he hoped to continue discussions with residents and to have an information session on the matter, as well as related issues.  Woodward resident Rob Burgoyne, who worked with Bullock to bring the matter before council, was present at tonight’s meeting, but did not broach the matter during public comment. He did announce Lakewood Earth and Food Community (LEAF) will hold their third annual meeting Sunday, March 15th.

Automated refuse collection blowback

Morris Novak, 62, of 1511 Hopkins used public comment to express his anger over the discontinuation of backyard refuse pick-up. He was totally unaware of the change until he received a piece of literature about it in the mail from the city. Representing who he described as fellow citizens who were either too shy to address council publicly or spoke English as a second language, he lashed out at council and the mayor for not making more of an effort to publicize the matter before a firm decision was made.

Novak, a 33-year resident of Lakewood, said he called city hall to discuss the matter and was bounced from department to department. He said Public Works Director Joesph Beno and Carol Rothgery, public works unit manager, did not return his phone calls. Novak was particularly concerned with the problems a 96-gallon garbage container might pose for the city’s elderly population. “I don’t think it’s fair,” he said, and asked council to reconsider their decision.

Beno and councilperson Nickie Antonio (At-Large) assured Novak precautions were being taken to be certain all people who needed help would get it. Beno mentioned the special refuse trucks will be delivered toward the end of May and the new garbage cans would arrive around the middle of May.

Councilperson Kevin Butler (Ward 1) disputed the claim that the refuse decision was made without proper public notice. He suggested Novak, who was getting progressively angrier as he spoke, put any other concerns in writing, so that they could be properly addressed.

Sidewalk dining approved

An issue that arose two years ago, when El Tango Taqueria requested permission to place tables on the sidewalk outside of their restaurant to serve overflow crowds, was resolved after council unanimously approved an ordinance regulating sidewalk dining. “It took a long time, but I think we have a good ordinance,” Antonio said. She hoped the new law would “get some excitement going” in front of Lakewood’s eateries.

Hideous AT&T U-verse box will rise in Lakewood Park

An AT&T representative met with council and allayed concerns they harbored about installing a U-verse box in Lakewood Park. Council gave final approval to the easement and Council President Michael Dever (At-Large) noted the box will be located in an out-of-the-way area and given a natural concealment.

Historic-looking fire alarm boxes are coming down

Top fireman Lawrence Mroz told council that all of the old exterior fire alarm boxes located around the city will be removed by April of next year. The 50-year-old boxes are part of an antiquated system being replaced by a digital network. They are actively used by about 14 Lakewood buildings. Councilperson Bullock inquired as to the fate of the boxes and wondered if the city might sell them on eBay. Mroz said the boxes will be disposed of in whatever method the FitzGerald administration deems fit. He said the city currently has several decommissioned boxes in storage in a secure undisclosed location somewhere on city property.

Finance stuff

The finance stuff is usually the most important and least understood business council deals with, at least from the perspective of your average citizen. I don’t understand all of it yet. Councilperson Michael Summers (Ward 3) outlined some matters the finance committee was considering.

There are three unfinished projects council needs to decide whether or not to continue to fund by issuing $3.85 million dollars in new bonds. In brief, Summers suggested going forward with Lakewood Park shoreline construction and Clifton and Detroit traffic signal upgrade projects because the city stood to lose too much by withdrawing. He recommended withdrawing funding from the program that residents use to replace their sidewalks.

Mayor Edward FitzGerald took time out from his covert campaign to become Cuyahoga County’s next auditor to urge council to sit tight a little bit longer before making any decisions on these projects. He reminded council the shoreline situation was a big deal because of a 40-year-old agreement the city had with the Sisters of Charity. The city agreed to accept all liability for matters arising from the dumping of discarded construction materials along the shoreline.

FitzGerald also wanted more time to tinker with the system the city uses to fund sidewalk replacement. Currently, a homeowner is cited for an unsafe sidewalk and given the option to replace it themselves or have the city do it for them. The city contracts with a third party to replace the sidewalk and then bills the homeowner. The homeowner either pays the bill or gets assessed via property tax. The mayor didn’t say exactly how he would change the system, but it might involve federal stimulus money.

FitzGerald indicated there was a lot of federal stimulus money flying around and he has his people running around trying to get Lakewood’s slice of the pie. Councilperson Madigan (Ward 4) expressed hope the city would be “creative” (one of her favorite phrases) in finding ways to use the money, particularly in partnership with local non-profits. FitzGerald said he’s had plenty of communication with places like the Lakewood Christian Center. “We may end-up just being a pass-through, which is fine,” he said.

Odds and ends

Council approved a liquor license transfer for Mullens, the bar in ward 1 at 17014 Madison. Councilperson Butler (Ward 1) talked with the owner and gave thumbs-up to the transaction.

Council’s new intern is a Shaker Heights resident.

The tumult in the finance world is giving Lakewood’s top finance lady little surprises. Some of the financial organizations that were expected to handle bond issuance needed to drop out of the process. They were replaced.

FitzGerald pronounced the city would acquire and/or demolish more Lakewood homes in 2009 than ever before.

RTA received funding to study the possibility of a bus/rapid transit line along Clifton Blvd.

Lakewood mayor lusts after county auditor post

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Lakewood Mayor Edward FitzGerald is “openly running” for Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo’s seat, according to a report in The Daily Morning Disappointment. The primary election isn’t until May of next year.

Mike Tuttle, of 1500 Lauderdale, asked the mayor during tonight’s council meeting if the report was true. “Am I thinking about it?” replied FitzGerald, “Yeah, I am.” He said he would make up his mind sometime this year.

Last time FitzGerald’s ego propelled him to seek a stage greater than Lakewood, he was defeated by Michael Skindell 3,985 to 2,776 in a 2002 democratic primary contest for a state seat.

Between his side gig as a lawyer and his not-so-stealthy campaign for Russo’s office, let’s hope FitzGerald finds time to serve the city that elected him mayor ($71,506 base salary).


Councilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2) missed about half of the council meeting because he was traveling back from a business event in Cincinnati. Council unanimously excused his absence.

Councilperson Nickie Antonio (At-Large) introduced a representative from an organization that will be working in Lakewood and other western suburbs to assist residents struggling with foreclosure. It wasn’t clear if the city will be paying this group. Antonio endorsed the group after receiving a positive review from Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis.

Tip of the Iceberg

A lot of people are turned off to city council meetings because they can be hard to follow and things are discussed without context. It’s like walking into a movie theater halfway through a film and trying to figure out what’s going on.

For instance, council approved some kind of partnership with a private company to try and get a state grant to replace a couple of diesel engines on some construction equipment. Two representatives from the company were present and explained a little bit about the grant process. They indicated that no other companies had applied for the grant previously because there was some kind of reluctance to team with city governments.

Councilperson Brian Powers (At-Large) said he researched the issue and “was in favor of [the city] stepping forward and being a part of this.” Why Lakewood? And what are these corporate guys really getting out of the deal? I just don’t know. I do know the corporate guys boogied out of the room immediately after speaking. Their love of Lakewood has its limits.

Birdtown Properties Not Expected to Get 300K Grant

Director of Planning and Development Nathan Kelly presented council with a couple of resolutions seeking permission to apply for grants. One, described by Kelly as being “essentially a done deal,” is for about $1.1 million in state money to deal with vacant, abandoned and foreclosed houses. The money should arrive in April.

The other grant is for up to $300,000 and originates from the First Suburbs Development Council. The money would specifically go towards demolishing or rehabbing three houses in Birdtown. Kelly didn’t think Lakewood had a shot at landing this one. He felt the money was going to be given to those suburbs that didn’t get any state neighborhood stabilization funding.

Police and Fire Chiefs Get 2.5% Pay Scale Boost

Council handled a bunch of finance-related stuff dealing with bonds. They also voted to boost the pay range for the heads for the police and fire departments 2.5% to between $73,697 and $100,842. This was contractual increase. All other pay ranges remained the same.

Daytime Curfew Restriction Passed

Council unanimously approved a strict daytime curfew law. The home-school contingent that had raised objections to the law earlier was nowhere to found, so they must have been pretty pleased with the final wording of the law.

Detroit Ave Might Lose Some Traffic Lights

Public Works Director Joseph Beno presented an ordinance to council regarding a $1.9 million project to replace traffic lights along Detroit between Arthur and Ridgewood. 80% of the cost is being paid by NOACA. The lights on Mars, Marlowe, Manor Park, and Nicholson have been deemed “unwarranted signals” by the project engineers and might be taken down.

Dever Unfurls Mandatory Recycling

Councilperson Michael Dever (At-Large) cut loose the first reading of his mandatory recycling ordinance. He’s doing his best to get this law into place in time for the start of automated front yard garbage pick-up. Fines for not recycling will vary from $100 for first-time offenders to $500 for repeat offenders.

Schools Ask for Rate Increase at City Pools; Madigan Not Happy with Calanni

Lakewood City Schools are asking council to approve the first increase in pool rates since 2002. The school system manages the pools. The city handles physical maintenance. There was some confusion over what exactly the city’s responsibilities are in regard to the parks. Councilperson Mary Louise Madigan (Ward 4) asked for a written clarification of situation.

And as if she didn’t have enough to worry about in her own ward, Madigan complained about the situation at Calanni’s by Lakewood High School (Ward 3). She was dining at a restaurant in the area and noticed far too many cars parked along the street and on Calanni’s property. She wondered what the status was of the city’s court case against Calanni about the matter. Law Director Nora Hurley said the case was over. “They’ve been complying,” Hurley said. “I don’t see a change,” Madigan replied. “Maybe it’s time to go check it again.”

Councilperson Michael Summers (Ward 3) remained silent on the issue.

Public Comment

There were nine people in attendance, and if you subtract me, the people who spoke early in the meeting and then left, and the Sun Newspaper reporter, there were closer to three people.

Clifton Apartment Dweller Edward McCartney expressed his concerns to council about the amount of foot traffic in the streets due to impassible snow-covered sidewalks. Council pretty much shrugged its shoulders and threw-up its hands. Councilperson Dever said people regularly walk in the street, even when there’s optimal weather outside. FitzGerald said the laws that require property owners to clear sidewalks are “unenforceable.”

“We thought about sending out warning letters, especially around schools,” he said.

FitzGerald said it was not possible for the city to get into the sidewalk snow removal business because it’s a “whole enterprise” and “we don’t want to hire additional personnel.”

Having witnessed groups of thirty or more school children walking in the street along Franklin, I can tell you it is completely unsafe and only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured. The fact that the mayor and council aren’t concerned enough to take action and clear those sidewalks tells you all you need to know about what their priorities are and where Lakewood is headed.

Lakewood Park surveillance cameras

Monday, February 16th, 2009

The surveillance cameras at Madison Park are a disgusting monument to the decay of Lakewood’s east end. Late last year, even with very painful budget problems, the mayor and city council approved funding for the expansion of the video surveillance program to include one of the city’s jewels, Lakewood Park.

Based on a review of incidents in the area over the course of 2008, I don’t believe there’s strong evidence to support the expenditure. I question whether even those who live near the park or visit it frequently feel the need to install Big Brother. The matter leapt to mind recently after a robbery was reported to have occurred at Lakewood Park on February 10th, around 5 p.m. A female said she was robbed of her iPod and headphones at knifepoint by a short white juvenile male.

Major incidents 2/7 – 2/13:

Ward 4 – 2145 Halstead – Burglary 2/8

Ward 3 – 13900 Detroit – Lakewood Healthcare Center – Sex Offense 2/8

Ward 4 – 1600 Newman – Burglary 2/9

Ward 4 – West 117th – Northcoast Beer and Wine – Aggravated Menacing 2/9

Wards 2 and 3 – Lakewood Park – Robbery 2/10

Ward 4 – 2002 Chesterland – Burglary 2/12

Ward 4 – 1492 Coutant – Burglary 2/12

Ward 4 – 11712 Nelson Court – Assault 2/13

Ward 4 – 12950 Clifton – Burglary 2/13

Ward 4 – 13114 Detroit – Garfield Middle School – Dangerous Drugs 2/13

Ward 3 – 13408 Detroit – Aggravated Menacing 2/13

This list doesn’t include the rash of five car-related property theft reports on 2/12 or the early morning traffic stop and running tour in Birdtown on 2/9 featuring a suspect with a contempt of court/drug abuse warrant. (Listen to the radio traffic.) Councilperson Mary Louise Madigan’s Fightin’ 4th Ward once again claimed its spot as Lakewood’s biggest festering sore.

Five burglaries, two assaults and an arson

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

In the six days since the project ended, Lakewood has seen five burglaries, two assaults, and an arson.  Councilperson Mary Louise Madigan’s Fightin’ Ward 4 led the charge.

Ward 4 – 2033 Halstead – Arson 2/1

Ward 2 – 2171 Arthur – Assault 2/1

Ward 4 – 1476 Newman – Felonious Assault 2/2

Ward 4 – 2057 Robin – Burglary 2/3

Ward 2 – 15614 Detroit – Burglary 2/4

Ward 3 – 2226 Wascana – Attempted – Burglary 2/4

Ward 4 – 11820 Lake – Burglary 2/4

Ward 4 – 11849 Lake – Burglary 2/6

Ward 4 – 2025 Halstead – Burglary 2/6

Want to know what’s going on in your neighborhood?

Call or e-mail Edward FizGerald (phone: 529-6600, e-mail:, Lakewood’s safety director, and demand the city publish a regularly updated searchable crime blotter.

Neighborhood crime watch signs need to come down

Friday, February 6th, 2009


Lakewood Neighborhood Crime Watch

Lakewood Neighborhood Crime Watch Sign

Block clubs are no doubt helpful. But without easy access to crime information — and therefore knowledge of the true state of crime — do their ubiquitous signs do more harm than good? Can you imagine what goes on inside the mind of someone driving through Lakewood looking for an apartment to rent or a house to buy? Between the persistent graffiti and crime watch signs, I suspect fear of the unknown moves them to invest elsewhere. 

Lakewood’s director of public safety/mayor lives in a comfortable house on a very safe street in the far western edge of the city. Lakewood’s chief of police resides in the positively placid suburb of North Royalton. As a result, they cannot properly appreciate the quality of life issues a majority of Lakewood residents face. Their families, homes, and neighborhoods are not at risk, ours are. 

Crime is a significant concern. Why not share with the public exactly what’s occurring? The more we know and understand, the better able we will be to take measures to preserve our collective well-being and also hold our elected officials accountable.

Bullock asks council to consider backyard eggs

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

The February 2, 2009 Lakewood City Council meeting started 15 minutes late and lasted about an hour and a half. 15 people were in the audience, along with a surprisingly quiet chicken. The detailed meeting docket, usually found on the city’s Web site, was not immediately available for review.

Lakewood Hospital

A couple of corporate suits from the Cleveland Clinic addressed council and explained the Clinic’s plans to expand and modernize Lakewood Hospital. They basically recited some baloney talking points written by their public relations spin doctors. You can see their act at the Lakewood Alive forum on February 18th at Emerson Middle School. Councilperson Nickie Antonio (At-Large) was pleased with the Clinic’s commitment to stay in Lakewood. “We appreciate it,” she said. The two speakers left immediately after they were done talking.

Outdoor Dining

Council nearly gave final approval to an ordinance enabling area restaurants to offer outdoor dining on public sidewalks. Antonio, who worked on the issue for two years, described it as being “laboriously researched.” Councilperson Kevin Butler (Ward 1) wanted more time to review the ordinance’s final wording and asked for the matter to be referred to the Committee of the Whole. Council is expected to formally approve it at their next meeting.

Farmers Market and Backyard Eggs

Councilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2) introduced an ordinance to allow dairy, eggs and meat to be sold at the local farmers market. Director Kelly explained that the administration supports the ordinance because it would allow the Lakewood farmers market to better compete against the diverse offerings of other farmers markets.

Councilperson Antonio voiced hope that the market would stay open beyond 2 p.m. Bullock agreed the hours of operation were “not ideal,” but noted it had a steady following among city workers and senior citizens. The North Union Farmers Market pays $5,000 to the city to operate the site.

Bullock’s proposal was referred to the Rules and Ordinances Committee for more discussion.

Bullock brought forward another ordinance to permit residents to keep chickens on their property for the purpose of farming eggs, known as backyard eggs. Councilperson Mary Louise Madigan (Ward 4), who lives in the hermetically-sealed Carlyle Condominiums complex, did not appear pleased with the idea of legalizing farm animals in Lakewood. “My questions at this point are numerous,” she said. “How will [this concept] fit into one of the most densely populated cities east of the Mississippi?”

Madigan was unmoved by the existence of similar legislation in nearby cities. “I’m not always interested in following the ideas that come out of Cleveland City Council,” she sniffed.

Four residents spoke in favor of Bullock’s proposal.

Chris Cowen of 13231 Merl said she supports the proposal because she wants to have organic eggs. She said she’s done a lot of research on the matter and found that chickens are not dirty, and they are helpful in eliminating bugs.

Regina Koran of 2151 Wyandotte said “I would like to have fresh eggs in my yard.” She believed caring for chickens would help her get in touch with nature and lower her carbon footprint. Koran compared chicken farming to dog walking as an activity to help slow down her busy life. She also said the kids in her neighborhood thought raising chickens would be a great idea.

Steve Hoffert of 1504 West Clifton brought a live chicken to the council meeting to demonstrate how quiet it is. The hen was remarkably well-behaved throughout the evening’s proceedings. “Sometimes they squawk when they lay a big egg,” he said.

Hoffert has raised poultry for seven years and even purchased a property out of foreclosure in Oberlin for the express purpose of farming chickens. He said the birds are quiet and have a minimal odor. Hoffert claimed chickens can live in as little as 2 square feet, but recommended the city mandate at least 20 square feet per animal, meaning the average Lakewood yard could hold no more than 4 hens.

Rob Burgoyne of 2169 Woodward, a leading supporter of Bullock’s proposal, said aside from being able to get fresh eggs, the chickens would serve as a natural pest control solution for his slug problem. “It might sound crazy,” he said, “but the truth is that [this] is being done in other cities.”

Everyone present to speak about the chicken issue stayed for the entire meeting. Council voted to send the ordinance to the Housing Committee for further review.


Council had the first reading of a series of ordinances to issue around $8 million in bonds to:

  1. Retire old bonds. ($4.3 million)
  2. Improve certain streets ($1,635,000)
  3. Design, renovate, and replace traffic signals ($920,000)
  4. Improve Lakewood Park Shoreline by installing beach access, install a stone facing to stabilize the shoreline slope and improve other city parks ($850,000)
  5. Resurface city parking lots/rebuild fire dept. fuel tank bulk head/improve various city buildings/make capital improvements to Winterhurst. ($310,000)
  6. Fund 2009 city sidewalk program. ($100,000)
  7. Reforest Lakewood. ($60,000)

Council also considered a couple of economic development resolutions to apply for and accept $1.1 million from the state to deal with vacant, abandoned and foreclosed homes.

Councilperson Butler saw an article in the newspaper about talk of creating a storm-water district and thought it would be a good idea to begin discussing the city’s response.

Mayor Edward FitzGerald announced the city applied to the state for a recycling-related grant. There was some question earlier about whether or not the city would be able to front the money needed to be eligible to receive matching funds.

Public Comment

Mary Mendyka, of 1440 Graber, complained about the heavy amount of traffic that rumbles through a tiny alleyway by her house. “My 106-year-old house doesn’t like it,” she said. After a recent snowfall, she measured the tire tracks about 70 inches from her house and 50 inches from her neighbor’s house. One time, she recounted, she looked out and spied someone in the alleyway urinating on her house.

Mendyka presented council a signed petition from 13 neighbors seeking some kind of relief from the city. She produced the petition at the request of councilperson Butler.

The alleyway is a public road that has sporadically been closed and then reopened over the years, according to Butler.

“You’ve been very persistent, and patient and polite, and I appreciate it,” Butler said to Mendyka.

“I understand it’s a big concern, and we’ll take a look at it,” added FitzGerald.

Council adjourned the meeting, booted out the public, and went into executive session to continue a discussion begun earlier in the evening at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Planning for automated front yard garbage pick-up, mandatory recycling continues

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The Public Works Committee met on Friday, January 30th to get a progress update on the city’s transition to automated front yard trash pick-up and to discuss the establishment of a mandatory recycling program. The group also briefly touched on the city’s reforestation plan. Council members Michael Dever (At-Large), Nickie Antonio (At-Large), and Thomas Bullock (Ward 2) were in attendance. Also present were Joseph Beno, public works director, Carol Rothgery, public works unit manager, Scott Claussen, assistant law director, Diane Bickett, deputy director of Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, and Sarah the Intern.

The meeting started around 8:30 a.m. and ran about an hour and a half. The only member of the public present other than me was Clifton Apartment Dweller Edward McCartney.

Is automated front yard garbage pick-up still on target to begin May 1st?

Maybe. Public Works Director Beno explained the start date is largely contingent upon how quickly the city takes possession of the special automated refuse trucks and garbage cans. The bids on the vehicles and cans are coming due soon and more will be known at that time. Automated refuse collection could begin in middle of May, or the end of May. Beno will be able to provide a more firm start by March 1st.

How large will the new cans be and what will residents do with their old garbage cans?

The city is scheduled to purchase 17,000 96-gallon containers and 1,000 64-gallon containers. The weight of the 96-gallon container when empty will be between 32 and 36 pounds. There is still some debate about how the old cans can be used. Some people have suggested using them for yard waste. The matter is under discussion.

Does the city have any idea how many of its residents physically won’t be able to wheel their trash to the curb?

Beno told councilperson Antonio that he met with Human Services and combed through their service lists. Together, they identified about 300 addresses where citizens might need extra attention.

Antonio asked if there was a specific type of garbage container design they were going to use and whether or not the new garbage trucks would be built using unionized labor in the United States. Beno said the requests for proposal (RFP) called for a very specific kind of container design, one that received the most positive feedback from those who saw it. He said portions of the trucks will come from Canada, but wasn’t really sure of their origin and if they would be union made.

Mandatory Recycling Discussion

How much does the city have to pay to dispose of garbage?

Lakewood pays $42 per ton of waste and disposes about 20,000 tons of garbage per year. Total cost: $840,000.

How much money is the city earning right now by selling its recyclables?

Zero. “The market is at an all-time low,” said Diane Bickett, deputy director of Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. Demand for recyclable material bottomed out in September, according to Bickett, who has been in the refuse business for 20 years. She said the business is cyclical and will rebound at some point.

Carol Rothgery, public works unit manager, said Lakewood was earning $60 per ton of paper and $10 per ton of blue bag material (aluminum/glass/plastic). The city had been a member of a county consortium that was getting a guaranteed $40 per ton for its recycled paper. However, it opted out to get a higher per ton price. The members of the consortium continue to get $40, but that agreement expires this summer. Lakewood will have the opportunity to rejoin at that time.

Although the recycling depot is not currently paying Lakewood for its recyclable materials, it is still accepting them free of charge. Bickett noted that the city of Lyndhurst was recently notified by its recycling partner that it was going to charge $35 per ton to take their recycling.

What percentage of Lakewood households currently recycle, and how is that percentage expected to change if recycling is made mandatory?

Rothgery said about 35% of the houses in Lakewood put out recyclables on garbage day. She estimated that participation will increase in the first year of the program 1.5 times to 52.5%. “50% is good even with mandatory recycling,” she said.

Who is the person driving for establishment of mandatory recycling and why?

Mandatory recycling is Dever’s brainchild. His primary interest is seeking cost savings for the city. The environmental benefits of the program are considered important, but clearly secondary.

What person will be responsible for executing the new refuse and recycling plans?

The city’s new top garbage and recycling man is James Paul. He just started. He most recently worked at Chemtron Corp. in Avon Lake as a territory manager and account rep dealing with hazardous materials management, solid waste, and recycling. Paul was in attendance for about half of the Friday committee meeting.

Did anyone voice opposition about having a mandatory recycling program?

No. “You’ve got the chest cracked open to work on the heart, so you might as well work on the liver,” said councilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2). Like Dever, he believes that since the city is revamping garbage pick-up, it’s an equally good time to revise the recycling program. Rothgery voiced support for the idea, but expressed concern that staffing levels would not be adequate to handle the increased volume of recyclables. Six people are currently assigned to handle recycling.

Is the city going to go to single stream recycling system?

Probably not. On a few occasions in the past, the city sent its recyclables to a single stream recycling facility. Single stream recycling is where paper and blue bag materials are commingled and separated at the recycling depot.  Right now, the city utilizes dual stream recycling — residents separate paper from blue bag material.

Bickett recommended the city maintain dual stream recycling because it allows them the flexibility to shop around for the best market price. Single stream recycling would lock the city into working with only a small number of companies. It is also sometimes less profitable because the material must still be sorted. Lakewood City Schools are on a single stream program.

Is there any state grant money the city could get to help finance its recycling program?

Dever indicated the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division has a grant opportunity, but the application deadline is Monday, February 2nd. In order to get the money (up to $100,000), Lakewood would need to match the grant dollar-for-dollar. For the city to get $100,000 from the state, it would need to put up $100,000 of its own money. Beno and Dever didn’t believe the city had that kind of loot sitting around. Dever said he was going to speak to the mayor after the meeting to see if anything could be done.

Councilperson Antonio, who has experience with grant applications, suggested the city apply for the grant regardless of whether or not they have immediate access to matching funds. Dever and Beno said the grant application specifically prohibited any city from applying that couldn’t provide the money up front.

What is the city doing to educate residents about the new refuse and recycling systems?

The community relations department is handling much of the education process. Beno said the city is including announcements along with the first quarter city income tax mailings.

The county is providing grant money to produce pamphlets to help educate residents on refuse and recycling changes.

How soon can residents expect council to formally vote on mandatory recycling?

Dever is in a huge rush to get this issue in front of council. He wants the law in place by the time automated front yard garbage pick-up begins in May. He stole word-for-word Cambridge, Massachusetts’ mandatory recycling ordinance and is working with the Lakewood’s legal department to complete a draft ordinance by next week.

Sarah the Intern provided several pages of research she’d done on mandatory recycling programs.

Residents are being asked to recycle, but does Lakewood City Hall also recycle?

Yes. Beno said the police department and court system produce massive amounts of paper that get recycled

How much money in labor and gasoline expenses will the recycling program cost?

Councilperson Bullock asked to see these numbers. They weren’t available. However some other miscellaneous numbers were provided. Lakewood recycled about 2,100 tons of paper in 2006, and just about that same amount in 2008. The city saved about $200,000 in landfill fees by recycling trash and thereby keeping it out of the dump.

Forestry Discussion

Lakewood’s reforestation plan was supposed to be discussed, but the conversation was rushed and one key person was absent. People are clearly distracted with budget problems and refuse problems, and not paying much attention to the trees.

Beno described the city’s five arborists as being “all pro-tree.” It was not clear if they are professionally certified arborists or not.

People sometimes call and demand that the city chop down a tree because it is causing sidewalk problems. Beno said there’s an evaluation process in place and it is rare that a tree is cut down and not replaced. “They don’t randomly go out and take down trees,” he said.

The city will spend $50,000 to $60,000 to plant trees in 2009. It costs about $225 to buy and plant a tree. Beno said the city is considering planting the trees themselves rather than outsourcing the work in order to save some money.

Beno claimed 90% of the tree lawns in the city were home to at least one tree.

According to Dever, the number two guy in the planning and development department is supposed to have a super duper mayoral-endorsed tree plan. He wasn’t present at the meeting to share it. Dever wrapped up the meeting and said he’d try and get more information about the plan.

Mandatory recycling good, newspaper window coverings bad

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

The January 20, 2009 Lakewood City Council meeting lasted a breezy 40 minutes. Five people were in attendance. Councilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2) was not present. Council unanimously excused his absence.

Council President Michael Dever (At-Large) said five residents so far have expressed interest in filling the open slot on the Hospital Board. Council is still accepting applications and will soon schedule interviews with each candidate.

Two corporate number crunchers were appointed to the Lakewood Audit Committee. One new member is the treasurer of Nordson. The other appointee is the CFO of OM Group.

17 finance-related ordinances received final approval from council. They also gave thumbs-up to an ordinance prohibiting residents from hanging sheets, plywood, newspaper, or dark plastic from their windows for an extended period of time. Councilperson Mary Louise Madigan (Ward 4) spent two years fine-tuning the ordinance in committee meetings.

Councilwoman Nickie Antonio (At-Large) hoped the new law would help preserve Lakewood’s uniqueness. She attended a recent event and encountered some East Siders who commented that they enjoyed Lakewood’s historic quaintness.

Council President Michael Dever (At-Large) read from a prepared statement asking  council to further investigate implementation of a city-wide mandatory recycling program. He noted “significant upfront” costs prohibit the city from rolling the recycling process into the new automated refuse system scheduled to begin in May. For now, recycling will continue to be collected as it has in the past. The Public Works Committee will meet and give the issue more thought.

Mayor Edward FitzGerald said he was “in full agreement of all the principles of recycling.” He also said a hiring decision on the person who will lead the city through its refuse collection transition would be made “very soon.” FitzGerald indicated there was a “pretty good field of candidates” and they were looking at people “experienced in recycling, not just refuse.” He had previously noted he favors candidates experienced in managing change.

Public Comment

Patricia Russell, of 2100 Arthur, spoke very briefly to thank Public Works Director Joseph Beno, Mayor FitzGerald, and Councilperson Bullock for returning her phone calls. She was pleased with the city’s snow removal service. “The streets have been terrific,” she said. Russell, however, was not happy with the decision to end backyard garbage pick-up.

A bit more background on Hidden Village

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Real World Lakewood
Troubled teens force a suburb to confront its worst fears.
By Lisa Rab
Cleveland Scene Magazine
Published: July 18, 2007

No one wants these kids. They grew up running from schizophrenic moms and sexually abusive brothers. They got pregnant too young, dropped out of high school, and found their way into juvie.

They drifted from one foster home to the next, until the system deemed them adults and kicked them out. That’s where Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries stepped in.

Sixteen years ago, the charity started a program to help teens, ages 16 to 21, learn to live on their own. They get apartments, counseling, bus passes, food vouchers, and help finding jobs and earning diplomas — everything they need to start a life that doesn’t include an orange jumpsuit. Case managers are on hand 24/7 to make sure they don’t go astray.

For years, Lutheran ran the program where you’d expect it — on Cleveland’s East Side, with a front-yard view of the abandoned buildings and drug-peddling turf near the Cleveland Clinic. But in the spring of 2006, leaders decided this cornucopia of temptation wasn’t the best place to plant fresh starts.

So they moved to Lakewood, land of curfewed streets and cheap rents. It has all the trappings of suburbia — moms on porches and kids in decent schools — while offering quick bus routes to jobs in the city. They found a slew of apartments to house 28 kids in a complex on Clifton Boulevard, just over the 117th Street border with Cleveland. It seemed a perfect solution.

There was just one catch: Like all inner-ring suburbs, Lakewood is struggling to cope with the tide of Cleveland refugees streaming over its borders. It’s desperate to avoid the fate of places like Warrensville Heights or Maple Heights. Yet as new families arrive seeking better schools and safer streets, they’re often accompanied by those small things that, piled atop one another, spell a suburb’s decline: loud music, petty crime, subsidized renters.

Lakewood’s east end is its highest crime area. It’s also haven to an unusually high number of pedophiles, since it’s one of the few available locations that fulfills the mandate that they live more than 1,000 feet from a school. As city officials saw it, the last thing the neighborhood needed was a few dozen more troubled teens.

They tried to shepherd the program away from the area, noting that Hidden Village apartments weren’t zoned for institutional use. But Lakewood’s planning commission saw a willing landlord and do-gooder Lutherans with a noble cause. They weren’t about to turn the kids away.

Their arrival stoked neighbors’ fears — and the human tendency to make them come true. Last fall, someone circulated a flier warning that the building had become a halfway house. Police began getting complaints of loud music and kids out late, wandering the streets. Residents fretted over the occasional fight, the shouting throngs in the parking lot, the guys who gathered on street corners early in the morning. All were signs, they feared, of a neighborhood not long for prosperity.

To Cheryl Moorman, a small woman with weary eyes, this was one more worry she didn’t need. The mother of six lived through Cleveland’s busing fiasco, which she credits with spreading “the mess” from East Side schools to the rest of Cleveland. Eastern Lakewood became her modest refuge.

Now subsidized renters have moved in across the street. She suspects one neighbor of selling drugs. And she’s starting to believe the age-old prophecy of suburban moms everywhere: The more blacks that move in, the worse the neighborhood becomes.

“We moved here ’cause we thought it would be a good community for our kids,” she says in her bikini and towel, watching her brood splash in an inflatable pool. Now, “We’re no better than Cleveland.”

Her friend Elizabeth, who manages a fast-food joint, says she’s afraid to walk to work at 5 a.m. because of the groups of young men yelling on the corners. She and her husband are considering moving further into Lakewood to find a safer place for their two young kids. “There’s only so much you can take,” she says.

Johnny, who won’t give his last name for fear the hoodlums will retaliate, is more annoyed than afraid. He moved in nearly two years ago. But he ended up with a backyard view of Hidden Village’s parking lot. And he’s sick of hearing the kids hanging out late at night, using the “n-word” and drinking. It’s not a race thing — he’s black himself. It’s a matter of courtesy.

“Doesn’t matter where you live,” he says. “You can’t be loud at two o’clock in the morning.”

Of course, not everyone agrees. This is Lakewood’s most liberal enclave, home to European immigrants and a large population of gays and lesbians who pride themselves on tolerance. Some haven’t even noticed the new teenagers.

“It doesn’t bother me,” says Jill Gefert. “I don’t want anybody to be forced out. It takes all different kinds of people to make the world go round.”

“They’re just noisy. They’re just kids,” adds a neighbor named Gail, who has lived in the area for nearly 30 years.

In fact, evidence of real criminal activity caused by the program is scant. There was a shoplifting incident at Sapell’s supermarket. In June, another kid was accused of trying to rob a Walgreens employee at knifepoint. He was expelled from the program. For an apartment complex full of 28 troubled teens, that’s not a bad batting average.

But for a suburb struggling to stay afloat, such details were never the point. Police have been summoned to the building more than 160 times in the last nine months. Only a quarter of the incidents appear to involve teenagers — ranging from loud music to fights to a pregnant girl having contractions. But these aren’t exactly numbers that scream “asset to the neighborhood.”

As the months passed, tensions between city and program mounted. The kids complained police were targeting them, treating them like suspects in any crime that might involve a black person. Lakewood’s notoriously vigilant cops, in turn, were pissed that program staff once had the audacity to ask for a warrant when they arrived in search of suspects.

Finally, in February, Mayor Tom George lost patience. He wrote a letter to the president of Lutheran’s board, claiming that police incidents in the area had more than doubled since the program moved in. He would “seek to have the program removed from Lakewood at the earliest possible time.”

So far, he hasn’t followed through on the threat. But he made his point. After witnessing what a few rowdy neighbors, petty crimes, and crumbling rental properties have done to other inner-ring suburbs, he’s not about to let Lakewood become the next domino.

Problem is, he has no legal power to kick them out. So for now, both sides are at an impasse, struggling to patch wounds, prevent a media war, and improve neighborhood relations.

A few weeks ago, program coordinator Dwayne Jacobs attended a block meeting on Johnny’s street, passing out his phone number and urging residents to call anytime, winning him kudos from neighbors.

Meanwhile, he and other staffers hope the kids start winning fans on their own.

Take the 20-year-old former foster kid from St. Clair, who’s finishing up a job at Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s office, planning to attend Tri-C in the fall, and preparing to start an internship in County Treasurer Jim Rokakis’ office.

When he graduates from the program in August, he plans to stay in his adopted suburb. It’s quiet, he explains, and peaceful.

“I like Lakewood — even though they don’t like us.”

Hidden Village, home of youth re-entry progam, sues Lakewood for ‘intimidation and coercion based on race’

Friday, January 16th, 2009

On December 1, 2008, owners of the Hidden Village Apartments at 11849 Clifton Blvd. filed a lawsuit against the City of Lakewood in federal court alleging that, among other things, “African-American residents of Hidden Village and Plaintiff Hidden Village LLC have been subjected to a pattern and practice of government intimidation and coercion based on race by Defendant City of Lakewood and Defendant City officials.”

Hidden Village Apartments is home to a youth re-entry program operated by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries. The program’s purpose is to “ready young adults, overwhelmingly minority, for the real world as they emerge from foster care.”

The 26-page court filing gives a detailed history of the clashes the group has had with the city. (Download it here.)

Some of the more interesting claims and  events:

77. On May 22, 2007, without probable cause, ten (10) white police, fire officials, building department officials and health department officials appeared unannounced at Hidden Village Apartments without warrants, including a canine unit in a van, to conduct a suite-to-suite raid in order to inspect apartments occupied by African American YRP tenants.

81. Because most of the apartments searched were occupied by tenants who are young African-Americans, Defendant police and fire officials assumed they would find weapons or drugs.

82. They found no weapons or drugs.

83. Although Defendants knew both Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries and Plaintiff Hidden Village LLC had legal counsel, they went forward with warrantless searches with the purpose and effort of coercion and intimidation of African-American young people without informing the lawyers.

100. YRP African-American tenants are approached by police at nearby bus stops and are subjected to continued harassment and intimidation designed to coerce them to leave their residence at Hidden Village.

101. The young African-American population at Hidden Village is likely the largest concentration of African-Americans in Lakewood.

102. With a history of Fair Housing Act violations based on race, the City of Lakewood has done nothing to alleviate the fear of continuing intimidation and harassment.

110. Defendants were and continue to engage in a pattern and practice of official governmental conduct which includes, but is not limited to, (a) urging and coercing a “voluntary” mass exodus of African-American tenants from Hidden Village by Defendant George in his official and personal capacity (b) executing mass raids of units rented by African-American citizens (c) threatening the owners and program officials (d) insisting zoning non-compliance despite a unanimous finding of the planning commission from which the Defendant took no appeal (e) using police power to intimidate individual residents without cause, and (f) attempting to intimidate the owners of Hidden Village by conducting building inspections and citing violations which are unfounded.

The city has denied any wrongdoing. View their response.

[Update : On March 11, 2009, Hidden Village amended their complaint to include Edward Favre, who is a Lakewood police officer and president of the Lakewood Board of Education. Hidden Village claims Favre  “was principally responsible for creating, directing and implementing the City’s unlawful attempts to expel the Hidden Valley Apartment tenants from the City of Lakewood.” View the amended complaint.  See the city’s response]