Program to raise awareness
I moved to Solon with my family in 2013, but I grew up in Strongsville, and graduated from Strongsville High School in 2002. At that time, inclusion and belonging were not truly on anyone’s radar. We were taught to “be colorblind,” and by doing so, we adopted a quieter and more passive form of racism. We thought that refusing to see something that so deeply influences a person’s existence was virtuous, when in reality we were turning a blind eye.
We cannot say that “racism is done” simply because we don’t directly feel it. We cannot decide that a person’s lived experience didn’t happen because it conflicts with our way of seeing the world. We cannot refute a fundamental truth because we find it uncomfortable. There are many ways to see the world, many of which we cannot ever directly experience, but they exist. And it is by bringing those different perspectives and different experiences together that we can build a true community.
There is great value in community action. Diversity of thought and diversity of experience lead to the best outcomes for all of us. These are truly the ideals of teamwork that we grew up with, but with a level of honesty to be able to recognize that not everyone on the team is starting at the same place or being treated in the same manner. It only works, though, if we all are playing on the same team.
I, for one, am excited for my kids to have access to the diversity and inclusion programs in the Solon City School District. Bringing awareness, holding space for students to speak their truth and supporting a sense of curiosity are all wonderful aspects that, frankly, I have come to expect from this city.
I recognize that the implementation of these programs will not be perfect: nothing is ever perfect on the first try. Leaders of these programs need the space to learn and change and grow, just as we as parents need the space to learn and change and grow. We must continue to meaningfully and constructively engage and hold our schools accountable. We do not, however, have the right to keep our children (or ourselves) ignorant of basic truths because we find them challenging or uncomfortable. Growth and change is painful, and I understand that there is fear, but we must resist the temptation to retreat into privilege and silence, so that we can emerge stronger as a community.
Non-biased trail analysis needed
We call upon Pepper Pike Mayor Richard Bain to turn all the raw survey data concerning the proposed Gates Mills Boulevard trail over to City Council members for them to assemble an independent subcommittee to handle the tabulation, analysis and generation of report findings. The next step would be to develop a master plan based on these findings. By taking this step, the questions of bias that were raised by many residents will hopefully be lessened going forward.
We understand that the mayor does not see any bias occurring; however, he needs to understand that many residents see that:
On March 15 he issued a letter with the trail grant application that states, “City staff has been planning this project for many years and we are pleased it is finally ready for implementaion.” Hopefully, City Council will set aside this pre-existing bias as they evaluate the survey inputs.
In a public city meeting, he stated that he “is not a survey kind of guy” and resisted even having the survey done, but based on pressure from some council members and residents, eventually developed and issued a survey. Unfortunately, representatives from both sides of the issue were not included in this process as had been suggested. Additionally, special attention should be given to the responses from Gates Mills Boulevard residents.
To this day, the mayor continues to say that he and city officials have the authority to decide what happens in this matter without this input from residents. Thus, he is already minimizing the importance or impact of the survey findings.
There is no master plan regarding increasing recreational offerings for residents yet he submitted emergency legislation that was voted on to put into motion plans to spend $1.2 million to build a 1.3 mile trail that will require further dollars for planned beautification of the trail and then an additional $700,000 future commitment for the final leg of the trail from Lander to Cedar. (All this with no parking or bathroom facilities.)
Alternatives have not been considered or pursued for establishing a true park with trails, parking and bathroom facilities.
There is property that might very well be available to establish a real park and trails and could be affordable by the city by joining a consortium to purchase. It would be a shame to allocate funding prior to fully researching what very realistically could be possible.
The median strip trail alternative will always be there as the city owns this land.
Based on the above, hopefully he can see how the bias concern of many residents arises. Fortunately, there is an easy solution for the mayor to avoid this concern by just allowing a council subcommittee to handle the survey data analysis, reporting and development of an action plan. The subcommittee would then present its findings to the full council, the mayor and the residents of Pepper Pike.
Manny and Judi Naft
Return to county oversight
What’s all the fuss about? The Geauga Park District made a small administrative change, right? No. About a month ago the park district bailed out of the smoothly running and highly secure computer accounting county operated data network. That system keeps track of all things financial for the county. Monies collected from taxes and other fees go into the county treasury. The auditor then reviews the county’s bills as he should by law, and assuming they provide the proper evidentiary materials authorizes that the bills be paid. A problem occurs when there is no description of what the bill is for. Our current auditor looks back to the $1.5 million loss to the county by the last auditor and insists on proper accounting of the public’s money.
To avoid this proper oversight Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy J. Grendell, who controls the park by appointing all park commissioners, has discovered a perfectly legal loophole to circumvent scrutiny. The park district hired its own treasurer/fiscal officer to do the oversight. The county auditor will no longer provide oversight. My guess is that the day this new treasurer/fiscal officer does not approve a bill will be the day he’s looking for a new job.
None of this had to happen. The system that the park district was using was working well and at almost no taxpayer cost. This highly secure electronic system of accounting is being replaced by a hastily cobbled together system with the potential for exposing both the park and the employees to hacking and ransomware.
When the park district bailed out on June 28, it had no system in place. As early as February, Geauga County Auditor Charles Walder provided a comprehensive list of the services to have in place to make a smooth transition. The park district did nothing.
Why would the park district ditch a minimal cost, well working and secure accounting system, trading it for a slapdash one which will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of unneeded expenses? Is the answer that they want no oversight of expenditures? Now the oversight of income and expenditures is overseen by an in-house park district employee who answers ultimately to Grendell via the park board commissioners.
Is the fox guarding the henhouse?
We have some of the finest parks and natural areas in the state of Ohio. The people of Geauga love their parks and they generously support the levies that maintain the parks, but behaving like this may seriously erode the trust we have in those who manage these wonderful parks.
I urge the park commissioners to reverse this unwise and costly decision and return to using the county’s accounting system.