WOODMERE — Tensions appear to be reaching an all-time high in the village as the Feb. 23 recall election for four council members approaches. That was apparent as multiple residents expressed their concerns during last week’s council meeting. Their comments ranged from frustration over the perceived divisiveness of village officials to questions about statements on the political literature distributed throughout Woodmere.
“I believe the onus is on the government of the village to residents and engage them in healthy discussions,” Roselawn Avenue resident Shannon Fuller said at the Feb. 10 council meeting. “The recall isn’t about chickens, it’s not about sidewalks. It’s about our village government serving as partners with the citizens of the community.”
Last fall, a group of residents known as the Woodmere Project gathered signatures on a petition to recall Councilwomen Jennifer Mitchell Earley, Lisa Brockwell and Glenda Todd Miller and Councilman Craig Wade. The petitioners, led by attorney and resident Rachel Kabb Effron, said that these council members voted down a sidewalk on Brainard Road and voted against maintaining the village’s website.
Members of the Woodmere Project also said that these four council members did not properly handle one family’s request for a permit to keep chickens in the village. The council members up for recall filed a protest on the grounds of inaccurate statements in the petitions, but the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections denied their objection last month.
“This was a difficult meeting to listen to,” Ms. Fuller said. “It seems that residents are penalized and even humiliated for their desire to be involved. I feel my face getting red and that’s a little embarrassing.”
She said that she takes a lot of pride in the village and appreciates the services that it provides. Ms. Fuller said that she heard concerns about the cost of the proposed sidewalk on Brainard, sewage on Belmont Road, the lack of personal protective equipment for frontline workers, and needs for the K-9 officer, Revan, that are not always met. Village government officials, she said, cannot see the forest for the trees, but there is still time to turn the trajectory around with increased respect and communication.
“Respect is a big issue,” Ms. Earley said, who serves as the council president. “We’re not always going to agree, and everybody has said that. I agree with the fact that we all have to learn to agree to disagree.”
Maplecrest Road resident Jackie Whitlow commented on political literature that has been distributed throughout the village. She said that the reasons given to recall the council members are “ridiculous.” Ms. Whitlow said that the four council members up for recall have overseen village affairs for many years and have been cautious about spending taxpayer dollars.
“I’ve lived here for many years and I feel that this is very sad and that this should be stopped because this is very unfair, it’s very sad,” she said. “This has caused much distress to all who live here in Woodmere. It’s causing division in our city.”
Resident Donna Morris echoed Ms. Whitlow’s comments. She said that the information distributed by the Woodmere Project is divisive and has been taken out of context. In response to comments from Ms. Whitlow and Ms. Morris, Brainard resident Gerald Carrier said that he could not stay silent. Mr. Carrier is a former councilman and his wife, Trina, circulated petitions for the Woodmere Project.
“It’s a little disappointing that people are being accused after exercising their right which is under the charter as taxpayers as well as freedom of speech,” Mr. Carrier said.
He asked for Treasurer Bernice Schreiber to comment on the financial status of the village. Mr. Carrier said political literature being distributed claims the village is “broke” and he wanted a professional opinion from the treasurer.
“The village is not broke, we’re far from broke,” Ms. Schreiber said. “In 2021 we will be spending more than we are taking in. That’s the reality of that situation, but we are definitely not broke.”
Ms. Earley asked the treasurer to further explain village spending and the long-term consequences. The council president said that the village has had higher expenditures than revenues for quite some time. Ms. Schreiber said that the trajectory of village spending depends on the capital expenditures council chooses to take on, such as a new server and new equipment for the police, fire and service departments.
Brainard Road resident Seth Young also asked for more clarification from the treasurer on budgeting. “Maybe if the council president didn’t talk so much during the Q&A for residents, there would be more time for residents to ask questions,” he said following the meeting.
Earlier in the meeting, a motion to prepare plans for the Brainard Road sidewalk and advertise for bids failed 3-0 with two abstaining. Four affirmative votes are required for passage. Councilwomen Nakeshia Nickerson and Vivian Walker and Councilman Tennyson Adams voted in favor of the motion and Ms. Earley and Mr. Wade abstained. Ms. Brockwell and Ms. Miller were not present. The five present council members passed a motion to accept a $53,975 proposal from Mason Mechanical, LLC to replace and upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Village Hall.
The recall election for Ms. Earley, Ms. Brockwell, Ms. Miller and Mr. Wade is scheduled for Feb. 23.