Commissioner crosses line

In the June 18 issue of the Times, Samantha Cottrill reported on a recent meeting of the Geauga County Board of Commissioners. As I read her article, I had to just shake my head in dismay at the comments of County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri.

When Mr. Spidalieri brought up the destruction of historical and veterans monuments in other states due to the riots he suggested, “That should be a shootable offense. I mean, here’s the line, and you crossed. It’s that simple.”

I think Mr. Spidalieri is the one who crossed the line. It may have been a rhetorical comment, but it concerns me when an elected official in our county suggests that shooting someone is fair retribution for property damage. Beyond that, his approach is extrajudicial – not even a trial before the shooting starts? I encourage Mr. Spidalieri to rethink his position on this subject.

Eric Reiter

Chardon

Why further Axiom’s interests?

We were very surprised to learn that Axiom is collecting signatures to put the Beech Brook rezoning initiative directly on the ballot, effectively bypassing any vetting by Pepper Pike’s mayor and City Council and denying citizens any public hearing on the issue. While not illegal, this move is clearly unethical and done in bad faith. We hope our mayor and City Council were not involved in it.  

On Oct. 22, 2019, the Planning and Zoning Commission signed off on Axiom’s proposed initiative and sent it back to City Council.  We wonder why this wasn’t put on the City Council agenda in November, December, January or February?  Was it because in October of 2019 the initial proposal was so unacceptable that Mayor Richard Bain knew there was not enough support in council or the community? This was well before February when the developer reported he got feedback from residents and wanted to make revisions. This is when Mayor Bain canceled the scheduled Feb. 13 public hearing.  

The new proposal still does not meet the character or core values of Pepper Pike and the developer doesn’t want to supply the other specifics repeatedly requested. He does not want to respond to the scrutiny of council and the public; that is the actual reason for his initiative petition.  The delays caused by the pandemic hitting in March are just being used as a diversion and could have been avoided.  If anything, in a post-pandemic era there is even less reason to add a total of 195,500 square feet of retail, commercial and restaurant space.

 Mayor Bain must report the results of vetting regarding Axiom and what really happened to Omni (Axiom’s prior name) to the residents, regardless of Axiom bypassing City Council. This is a critical piece of information as many of the principal players are the same.   

Axiom asked for building variances immediately after it was granted a zoning change for Moreland Commons in Moreland Hills Village. How can it be trusted to not do the same with Beech Brook?

Axiom still has no website.  

Axiom developer Bryan Stone has at least five negative reviews on file with the Cleveland Better Business Bureau. 

Why do Mayor Bain and City Council continue to trust Axiom, which continues to display unethical and questionable behavior?

 Mayor Bain was a board member of New Directions when Bryan Stone proposed this zoning change. His continuing support of Axiom raises questions of conflict of interest. 

 The lack of transparency associated with this proposed initiative is stunning. Bryan Stone’s reputation as a builder and business professional is questionable at best.  Is it any wonder so many Pepper Pike residents are opposed to this?  The real question is why Mayor Bain and City Council members appear to be furthering Axiom’s interests over those of Pepper Pike residents.

Bob and Cindy Hazelton

Pepper Pike  

Memories in a box

Like so many others in the community, I was able to walk the vacant halls of what was a great school in Newbury. It was difficult. It was difficult to see old uniforms of once proud athletes and band members tossed carelessly in piles on top of lunchroom tables. It was difficult to see stacks of yearbooks and trophies of great achievement left on tables in the gym to be doled out to whoever wished to grab them before they are thrown in a dumpster. It was difficult to look at the solemn faces of alumni and even more difficult to look at the smiling faces of board members knowing their job is almost done in the dismantling of the school. It was difficult.

The walk down the Green Mile at Newbury did give me flashbacks of happier days. I, like many, found friends for life in these halls. Most recently, I was able to forge a friendship with Dr. Jacqueline Hoynes, the superintendent and elementary principal at the school. To say I gave her a “hard time” initially is an understatement. I was very critical of her role at the school knowing she had to provide constant communication to the district about the pending territory transfer and for that, I was critical. Over time, however, I found that her professionalism and true love for the school and most importantly, the students of Newbury, was second to none. She really did care about what was happening to these kids in their final year and truly worked hard to ensure they will be taken care of in the months and years ahead. For that, I wanted to say, thank you.

At the end of the day, I realized that the “Death of Newbury School” is much like the death of a friend or a reflection of our own mortality. In the end, our entire lives are reduced to a “dash” representing our time on this earth. We were born in one year and we die in another year and in between, on our headstones, it merely shows “the dash” summing up a lifetime of accomplishments. A box, filled with pictures, valuables and trinkets of personal milestones in our journey, is all that is left to represent us and what we held dear in our lives. I walked out of Newbury school for the last time with a box. A box of memories of sports teams I played on, of trinkets with Black Knight Pride embossed on them, of small items which will forever paint a smile on my face when I think of all the great times I had at Newbury school. For those in the community that cared about the school I say, they cannot take our memories away. Be proud. Be thankful. Cherish the friends and feelings forever. The buildings may be gone but the fond memories will last a lifetime. Goodbye Newbury school, we will miss you, 1927-2020.

Phil Paradise Jr.

Newbury

A few spoil it for the rest

The article in the June 18 edition of the Times on the possibility of putting the recycling center on timeout is disturbing to many local residents. Many of us use this service on a regular weekly basis. For example, I usually go on Tuesdays and have noticed recently that there has been an improvement in folks following the rules on recycling. There have been few if any plastic bags in the bins and cardboard has been broken down and flattened.

It is disturbing that a few locals abused the clean- up day event and left their trash at the recycling center.

I understand the dilemma for the Bainbridge Township Trustees. Options to curtail the random abuse are costly, but probably necessary to keep this service open; i.e. installing cameras that are monitored in the evenings and weekends; building a fence that is closed when the bins are full; posting signage and warnings when the bins are full and to return another day; etc.

My hope is that local residents will abide by the rules so this service many of us use to help the environment won’t end. A few people who can’t understand the rules or refuse to accept them should not be allowed to ruin it for the vast majority of us who do follow them.

Richard L. Larrabee

Auburn

Police protect and serve

In these troubling times, I just want to provide a word of support to our local police force, which has been doing an admirable job under the watchful eye of Chagrin Falls Police Chief Amber Dacek.

I think they all truly represent the courage and commitment required to continually provide the necessary support to keep Chagrin Falls such a peaceful and positive community.

We all owe them a debt of gratitude here, and a simple thank you can go a long way. Contrary to what appears to be a trend to criticize, defund and reform, I have to say that I consider our funding to be well spent here, and have no inclination to reform what is working so well.

I do have to say, though, that I truly miss the 1957 police car parked out front.

We need to lighten up a little.

Robert Schrader

Chagrin Falls

Kindness will conquer all

I am deeply saddened by the events of the past month, especially the killing of George Floyd. And what does the slogan “make this country great again” even mean? For me it is not militarization or returning to the 1800s or the 1950s, as some have suggested. In my heart, I believe kindness and compassion will conquer all.

Quotes of “lock & load” and “we don’t need [expletive] around here” reported in the Chagrin Valley Times issue on June 11 are inflammatory and disturbing. I simply ask why this?

There is no room for racism in this country. We must speak up against systemic injustices. Keeping quiet when a wrong is done is equally as bad as siding with the wrong doer.

A verse from the Baha’i faith: “Ye are all the waves of one sea, the rays of one sun, the flowers of one garden, the leaves of one tree, the birds of one meadow: wherefore, ye are even as a single soul.”

Pari Tuthill

Chagrin Falls

Going too far?

Are our Geauga County Commissioners going too far in response to protests?

As a 26 year American Government teacher in our community, I’m so disappointed that you are framing the issue of peaceful protesting in Geauga County as being violent when there is no evidence of that. “Those people” that Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand referred to are my students, teachers, pastors and other students who were protesting peacefully and don’t deserve to have their efforts mischaracterized.

Upon reading the Chagrin Valley Times June 18 article that referenced your meeting on June 16, I am discouraged by some of your comments and disappointed in what you want to spend my tax paying money on. During this meeting, conversation by Commissioner Lennon was to give full support to Sheriff Hildenbrand. While I support what the sheriff and all that the deputies do on a daily basis and the ability to recruit top notch deputies, I have concern when the conversation turns to the discussion of possible violence from Black Lives Matter protestors coming to Geauga County. 

The protests in Chester have been small groups that were peaceful and so were the protests in Chagrin Falls. Unfortunately, we immediately turn to fear that the protesting is not about George Floyd’s death, but as Mr. Spidalieri states, “It’s just people taking the opportunity to vandalize property.”  I just don’t see that happening in Geauga County. For goodness sake, Chagrin Falls boarded up their stores, for what?  There was no vandalizing! There was just discussion about how we make this country wake up to race issues that have persisted for hundreds of years.

“Those people,” as Sheriff Hildenbrand referred to, are my students. I highly doubt we need riot gear, chemical munitions and masks in Geauga County.  What also disturbs me is that I know of no Ohio Revised Code that a police officer should shoot someone who vandalizes a monument as stated by Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri.  What’s even more disturbing is that Sheriff Hildenbrand didn’t even correct Commissioner Spidalieri to say deputies would not shoot vandals. The job of the courts is to decide the consequence of vandals. I thought we’re a county that follows the rule of law? 

We are America, not North Korea or Russia, and as such we need to learn how to de-escalate violence if it were to come to our county. How about some training in de-escalation? Our teachers are taught that in special education classes where students whose behaviors might go from zero to 100. Why not our police officers?  Why not training for our police force to have situational awareness in unfamiliar settings?

Why are we letting the news cycle of mostly negative events in cities frame what we do in Geauga County? And lastly, why are we spending taxpayer’s money on military grade gear and equipment for our policing?

Anissa Smith

Auburn

Remember to serve and protect

According to Times coverage, Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand wants local law enforcement ready for a “show of force.”  Geauga County Commissioners Tim Lennon and Ralph Spidalieri then go on to talk about arming our rural county’s police with riot gear, helmets and tear gas in preparation for local public demonstrations.  Spidalieri goes on to say that vandalism should be a “shootable offense.” 

The statements made by our sheriff and our commissioners are so utterly tone deaf, I am embarrassed for them.  I am embarrassed for our county that these are our elected officials. 

Do they understand why there have been nationwide demonstrations since the murder of George Floyd?  The demonstrations are a response to police militarization.  The demonstrations are a response to riot gear, helmets and tear gas.  The demonstrations are a response to police overreacting to minor crimes, such as vandalism.  The demonstrations are a reaction against these exact proposals that Hildenbrand, Lennon and Spidalieri want to impose on our neighborhoods. 

Perhaps Hildenbrand, Lennon and Spidalieri should stop speaking and start listening.  Perhaps instead of spending our money to militarize our police force, these three white men should go to a local demonstration and ask questions.  Perhaps they should know why their neighbors are out in the streets, making their voices heard.

Remember, there is nothing more American than protesting.  It is our right and our duty to use our voices, whether or not you agree with the message.  Hildenbrand, Lennon and Spidalieri seem to forget that they are public servants, sworn to protect this right.  If they no longer feel that they can serve the people of Geauga County without tear gas and riot gear, perhaps it’s time for them to go.

Nicole Mulloy

Russell

Protect Pepper Pike

Let’s not go along with the idea that the second reading by Pepper Pike City Council is only about the language of the proposed rezoning ordinances. We all know that the mixed-use rezoning issue is about much more.  It’s about the experience, integrity and financial stability of the developer and about maintaining the character of our community.  It’s about not setting a dangerous precedent for other even larger developments. It’s about why the residents of Pepper Pike choose to live here.

The implications of mixed-use rezoning of these three properties are far-reaching and too important to just pass along down the line. Protect Pepper Pike and do your due diligence.

Manny and Judi Naft

Pepper Pike

Have trust in officers

I just read a strange article in this paper about Geauga County Commissioners supporting investment in riot gear based on events happening in large cities and distant states. They seem to be creating hysteria, even though there have been no Black Lives Matter events in their county. Fortunately, I talked with officers from Geauga County and other municipalities at both rallies in Chagrin Falls. They were professional, and courteous in “serving and protecting” the people attending. They seemed to know the identities of people with a history of causing trouble at rallies, and kept an eye on them.

These officers were much better representatives of their communities than many of the politicians.  The level of fear in Chagrin was increased by social media and local politicians. Business owners made prudent decisions about closing and boarding up windows based on the exaggerated information they were given. It was not our proudest moment.

The local politicians may have had good intentions or may have been politically positioning themselves, while the officers were clearly focused on doing their jobs well.  As far as I can tell, all of the BLM events in our area were peaceful and under control, thanks to all of the officers, organizers and participants for making this happen. I hope our local politicians can focus on real local challenges (like death threats to event organizers) rather than big city police defunding discussions and protecting historical (mainly confederate) monuments.

Our local historical monuments have not been at risk, and suggesting that people should be shot to protect them is the height of political irresponsibility. Our politicians need to have more trust in the abilities of their officers.

Gary Welch

Chagrin Falls

Listen to need for change

This letter is in response to the Geauga County Board of Commissioners article in the June 18 edition of the Times.

We were dismayed by the lack of understanding the Geauga County Commissioners relayed in their response to Black Lives Matter rallies. No where in their statements was there understanding of decades of systemic racism or the injustice in policing black citizens in our country. The article simply calls for more militaristic resources for police in Geauga County.

The desire to purchase more riot gear just escalates readiness and willingness of police to use excessive force when facing protesters. We have watched as police in other areas have joined protesters in support and tried to defuse violent behavior. Instead, these commissioners are perpetuating the destructive impulses of a few with their overreaction to the behavior. They also show no understanding why Confederate statues are an affront and a reminder that racism is still deeply embedded in our society.

When Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri says that the destruction of monuments “should be a shootable offense,” he is not only out of touch with the sympathies of most Americans, but more importantly he seems so willing (shall we say, “quick on the trigger”) to injure someone for desecrating a symbol of our racist past. The call for more chemical munitions, helmets and protective gear is the antithesis of what we are trying to curtail with the policing of America. We hope this commission can educate themselves by listening and reading what thoughtful people are saying about changes that need to begin with the systemic racism in policing.

Rob and Becky Thomas

Chagrin Falls

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