Lessons of local history

Is it too early to congratulate the Chagrin Falls Historical Society and John Bourisseau, its president, for his excellent “occasional” series on the history of the valley? Future articles may well expand the focus, but the spotlight on race relations is a welcome insight into the currently topical examination of the legacies of slavery.

As a child I remember chicken dinners deep fried by “Mae” Strickland and sweet potatoes to fundraise for the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center. I also remember my fourth grade elementary school class listening to local history from one of Henry Church’s descendants, who displayed a 1920’s era photo of the Ku Klux Klan assembled large and in raimant on what is now the sledding hill at the South Chagrin Metropolitan Park.

And I remember my first experience with an artesian well. It was drilled on the Bentleyville side of South Franklin Street to provide water to a bulldozed swimming hole, where residents of the Park could swim because the Chagrin Recreation Center was off limits.

A life-long resident of Chagrin Falls, I am no stranger to the biases that shadow my and many of my schoolmates’ journey to adulthood. I remember a letter I wrote as a high school senior in 1964 to the editor of the Chagrin Valley Herald, protesting Lyndon Johnson and Congress’ civil rights legislation of that year. Al Tenny, the editor-publisher, alerted my dad to the letter. My dad was angry at my to-be-published description of “Lyndon Johnson and his fellow traveling friends.” He hoped it would not hurt his hoped-for and eventual appointment to the federal bench, but he did not ask his friend at the Herald to spike the letter.

We all have had opportunities to re-examine from whence we came, and where we are going.

Thanks again to the historical society for encouraging a local version of what the late Congressman John Lewis described as “good trouble.”

Stephen G. Thomas

Moreland Hills

Newbury, it’s funny

I thought it was a joke when I first heard it. I thought originally that there was no way that the Newbury School Board members that told us “we have no money” and “we can’t support any levies for an independent school district in Newbury,” would ever want to come back and “re-purchase” the property and buildings they gave away, but I was wrong. Believe it or not, there is a task force with members assigned by Newbury Trustee Bill Skomrock to explore buying back the land (we taxpayers paid for previously) we couldn’t afford just months ago.

But wait, it gets better. Mr. Skomrock has assigned Dave Lair, Maggie Zock and Kimya Mathews (yes, three of the former Newbury Board of Education) to be on this committee. The same school board that worked so diligently to reduce the workforce to ensure millions of dollars, along with the buildings and property were transferred to West Geauga, now want to explore buying it back. Three people who cried their crocodile tears during the last official school board meeting about closing the school because “we have no money in Newbury to support it” are actually on the committee. It really isn’t a joke, although it sounds like one.

Thankfully, the meetings with the five-board panel (Dave Gifford and Carol Drabek are also on this committee) must be open to the public. Although Ms. Mathews said they would “be open and transparent,” they tried to hold the first meeting privately in executive session, but fortunately, that is illegal. Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. will be fun for all.

Basically, what happened is West Geauga took the cash and the kids in exchange for some property they never planned to use anyway. What a waste of a great school district.

When all is said and done, the citizens of Newbury get to have no local school district and pay for it twice. It appears the three former Newbury school board members are changing their tune from reducing our taxes to asking for more to “undo what they have done.” Obviously they have realized the error of their ways in giving away not only our tax dollars and property, but also our community’s identity and are desperate to try and get it back. No joke Newbury, prepare for the taxes to go back up, whether it’s Mr. Skomrock’s “task force” recommending a bond or levy to buy our property back, or our territory transferred school district heading into the red in need of operational funding and/or new construction. While I am a supporter of having something, anything, to represent the school in Newbury, I would have rather had the school itself and the kids attending it, but that is no longer possible. What is possible is our ability to voice our opinions, speak out about the mess this has become and place the blame specifically on those that created it. Please, don’t be misled by the same people again.

Phil Paradise Jr.


Where are local experts?

On Aug. 4, I sat in on the Axiom webinar with their experts. I’m sad that Cleveland is so devoid of experts that everyone on the panel, save Bryan Stone and Dale Markowitz, were from out of town. Has Cleveland sunk so low that we have no building or real estate experts who know Northeast Ohio? The architect and real estate experts were from Washington, D.C. and the infrastructure expert was from Ashville, North Carolina.

Every project shown far exceeded the size of Beech Brook. Some exceeded the size of Pepper Pike as a community. The architect’s overview drawing showed placement of the houses, retail, commercial with a beautiful canopy of mature trees. For this to be a reality, it’s a drawing 50 years from now when the 2.5 inch diameter replacement trees (two saplings for one mature tree per Axiom) are maturing.They said a lot of generalities about mixed-use although I’m not sure that any of the out-of-town experts have ever been to Pepper Pike.

One expert not represented was from Steiner. (They were listed on the invite). I was anxious to hear what their representative had to say. Steiner is the leasing agent for Legacy Village and a major mixed-use builder based in, not Cleveland, but Columbus.

It is my opinion that the hometown developer is getting his financial backing from out of town players. “The [population and business] growth in Columbus is significant,” Steiner noted, “and that attracts a lot of developers. In Columbus, there is NIMBYism [Not In My Back Yard]. If you already have five or six projects in Columbus, why not look at Cleveland with your well-oiled machine?” (June 30, 2019 Crain’s Cleveland Business) Yaromir Steiner owns Steiner.

Does Pepper Pike need an out-of-town “well-oiled machine” destroying our community? After all, “the one with the money, controls the project.”

Lou Ann Graham

Pepper Pike

Future of fire department

There has been much discussion about Chester Township firefighters turnover in staff and most attribute attrition to low salary, benefits and work schedules. But for Chester Township there is another possible reason, one of low departmental morale.

If morale is low, why aren’t the firefighters vocal about this?   I understand that firefighters are intensely loyal to each other and their departments and it would take a lot for them to come forward and speak up.  But if they are brave enough to enter a burning building to save a life, they need to employ that same courage to stand up for each other in their workplace.

I feel that Chief John Wargelin is a good man and he really cares about the firefighters and our community, but something is wrong.

It’s time for the Chester Township Fire Association to call for a “no confidence” vote for the leadership of this department.

I’m of the strong opinion that Chief Wargelin will easily fare well.

Judy K. Zamlen-Spotts

Chester Township

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