Around 40 residents were present for Mayor Edward O. FitzGerald’s Listening 2 Lakewood presentation on September 30th at the Lakewood Public Library on Detroit.
The event was designated for Ward 2 residents living in the area ranging from Westlake to Belle, between Detroit and Clifton. Ward 2 Councilperson Thomas Bullock was absent from the meeting; Ward 3 Councilperson Michael Summers was in attendance.
The mayor rolled through the standard self-promoting public relations package of PowerPoint slides emphasizing his administration’s claims of accomplishment since he took office nearly two years ago. The largely pro-FitzGerald audience seemed sedated by the mayor’s pandering charm, and asked few challenging questions.
The mayor said a portion of the city’s financial problems occured towards the end of the Madeline Cain regime and the beginning of Thomas George’s term when more personnel were hired than the city could afford.
FizGerald said the George administration felt the economy was going to improve and the city’s finances would recover. “We used to have very contentious meetings,” recalled FitzGerald, who was an at-large councilperson at the time.
Someone in the audience asked FitzGerald if the city’s money woes were linked to criminal negligence. “I don’t think there was any wrong doing,” he replied, just incorrect priorities.
MHS and Bonnieview: ‘We’re treading very, very carefully.’
In response to a question about the situation with Oak Tree Manor at 1327 Bonnieview Rd, where approximately 30 Mental Health Services (MHS) clients from Cleveland were relocated on July 1st, the mayor said, “I’m very careful and judicious about what I say.” He noted with disapproval that a city council candidate put out a bunch of misleading flyers in the area regarding the situation and it “plays right into the hand of their lawyer.”
The mayor explained he received “a few days notice” about the move, and contacted MHS to communicate his concerns. He said he was essentially told by MHS that they could do whatever they wanted. [The reader should be aware the mayor received an anonymous e-mail on June 3rd informing him of MHS’ plans to move to Bonnieview. They didn’t move in until July 1st.]
FitzGerald said a couple of potential MHS-related zoning code violations were before the Board of Zoning Appeals. “We’re treading very, very carefully,” he said.
Since MHS has moved in, there have been complaints of “people roaming the neighborhood,” who are “behaving in an antisocial way, and sometimes not,” FitzGerald said.
In an unusual moment of total candor, the mayor told the audience about the city’s experience with Hidden Village, a youth re-entry program run by a non-profit located on Clifton. “The city tried to do a lot enforcement on it,” and got sued, he said. The lawsuit was withdrawn, but can be refiled. FitzGerald intends on holding MHS clients to the same standards as everyone else in the city. “The rules are the rules,” he said.
Mandatory recycling: ‘No one’s been fined yet.’
The city’s mandatory recycling program launched on July 1st has led to a decrease in the amount of trash the city must pay to have hauled away and an increase in the overall rate of residential recycling participation, according to FitzGerald.
The mayor said if refuse workers see a pattern of noncompliance, they’ll open up the waste can. If they notice any recyclable materials, a warning letter will be issued. “I want a lot of warnings,” he said. “It’s going to be a judgment call…No one’s been fined yet.”
One resident in the audience wondered if the city might provide a recycling container to go alongside existing garbage cans located on city sidewalks. “We probably should have a recycling receptacle,” FitzGerald said. “I don’t think we’re doing the greatest job with that.”
There are a handful of public recycling cans, but they aren’t clearly marked and tend to fill up with garbage, the mayor noted.
The mayor said some consideration is being given to the idea of phasing out existing sidewalk garbage cans and replacing them with containers that are easier to maintain and more cost efficient.
Is Madison Park family friendly?
One resident brought forth a complaint her daughter had: Madison Park is not family friendly. The mayor said it is a challenge to change the park’s atmosphere because “it’s closer to tougher neighborhoods…close to Cleveland.” He is considering the addition of a full-time monitor to the park next year because “we have had some behavior problems there.” The city has firm plans next year, FitzGerald said, to make improvements to the walking path and area around the baseball field.
The QuitzGerald Watch continues
Addiction to political power makes a man do strange reckless things. It is completely conceivable, for instance, that Lakewood residents will see their mayor of barely two years quit his coveted post in order to assume the throne of Cuyahoga County Auditor.
When queried by a member of the public at a city council meeting earlier this year about a Plain Dealer report that he was interested in seeking the county spot, FitzGerald had a “Whatch you talkin’ bout, Willis?” reaction.
As the county corruption investigation advanced in the following months, though, his public proclamations of non-commitment and denial regarding the auditor job fell away and undeniably tilted in the opposite direction, essentially confirming what the local news media had been reporting all along: FitzGerald badly wants the job, and it’s his for the taking – just as soon as he can figure out a way to get rid of Public Official Number 2.
In response to a question from the crowd, FitzGerald acknowledged that two of the three Cuyahoga County commissioners have signaled their desire to see him hoisted into the auditor’s office. “I’m interested in doing it,” he said, and referenced to his prior executive experience and onetime role as an FBI agent.
Not surprisingly, the mayor frowned at the corruption problems surfacing in county government. “It’s a total disgrace,” he said. “It really makes me angry.” FitzGerald said he hoped those convicted of crimes go to jail for a “long, long time.”
FitzGerald said Law Director Nora Hurley would be next in line to succeed him as mayor. He described the Lakewood resident as “very competent” and capable.
[Incidentally, the day after this event, the mayor commented on LakewoodBuzz.com that he "may be appointed county auditor." It caused Cleveland Magazine blogger Erick Trickey to suggest that the mayor’s ambition, once described as "unseemly," was beginning to pay off. Today the PD’s political writer Mark Naymik said he doubted any indictments would be issued before the November election and “not soon enough for Ed FitzGerald.”]
No building inspectors were laid off?
Responding to a question about the Division of Building and Housing, the mayor said Jeff Ashby, who he recently appointed to head the department, “gets it.” For instance, FitzGerald said, the number of inspections performed before a case advances to court has dropped from 9 to 4. The department also intends to invest in technology in order to streamline their processes and make them more effective. “I think they’re going to get there,” the mayor said.
FitzGerald said he held off on bolstering the roster of building inspectors because it didn’t make sense to “hire more inspectors in an inefficient system.” He deceptively claimed to have laid of a sidewalk inspector in 2008, but no building inspectors. Information provided by the city’s human resources department indicates three code compliance specialists also got the ax.
According to FitzGerald, the stamped concrete crosswalks don’t cost much more than the standard lined cross walks. “I think they look great,” he said, adding they’re safer, more visible, and more appropriate for the city’s brand.
Owner-occupied duplex persecution
An audience member said she lives in a duplex she owns on Lincoln and felt like the housing dept. ought to give equal scrutiny to single family homes. “Rental is different,” the mayor said. “The condition of the exterior of your house affects my property value.”
Virginia and McKinley
One resident was unhappy with parking situation on Virginia and asked the mayor to consider implementing an overnight parking ban. Another resident, who happened to be a bus driver, complained about the continually reoccurring potholes on McKinley. He also said it seemed like the city appeared to be planting the trees in the same spots over and over again.