Building the Bench

  

Recently, I had the honor of serving on a panel with two strong local leaders, Judge Melody J. Stewart and Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail. We spoke with college women at the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women at CWRU as part of a training day by “Running Start” to inspire young women to run for office.

On average, just under 1 in 4 elected officials are women.  (If you like the details, check out these current stats at differing levels of government.) According to Running Start, the two biggest deterrents to running for office are perhaps not what you might guess. The first is fundraising and the second is lack of party support. I thought about the fundraising piece in particular as Judge Stewart described gearing up for her state-wide run for Ohio Supreme Court Justice this fall.

We had a lot of agreement on our panel about how to prepare to run for office. Each of us spoke about finding your voice/passion/interests and getting involved first to gain experience. In addition, each of us mentioned something about being encouraged to run along the way.  That piece really stayed with me – how much you have the ability to influence someone you probably already know would be a great candidate – make sure you tell them!

Thank you to the Center for Women for inviting me to participate.  I was inspired by my fellow panelists and by the level of engagement and interest from students.

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Mayor Announces Resignation

UPDATE: Council has decided to take applications for the position of Mayor of Shaker Heights. All of the details and the application can be found here.

This week, Shaker Mayor Earl Leiken announced that he will resign in early April in order to become chief of staff to County Executive Armond Budish. City Council was informed as a group on Monday night, and the information was public Tuesday morning. In this completely unexpected moment of transition, I am grateful for the reassuring guidance that our city charter provides. Tested over time, the charter speaks to the overall structure of the city government. It was last updated in 1999. The article addressing the Mayor includes general details of the term of service and the powers of the office. Especially relevant at this moment is section IV, which addresses vacancy of the office.

Here are the basic steps:

1)    Mayor announces an actual date to resign, April 1, 2018;

2)    On that date, current Vice-Mayor, Anne Williams (who was elected in January of 2018) will become “Acting-Mayor”;

3)    Immediately on the same day, or anytime in the next 60 days, the council must appoint a qualified person to be Mayor with a majority vote (If council doesn’t appoint anyone, Anne Williams automatically becomes Mayor);

4)    That Mayor will serve through 12/31/2018 only;

5)    And, so there will be an election for Mayor on Nov 6, 2018… for being Mayor for the year of 2019… but wait there is more…

6)    And, finally there will be another election for Mayor on Nov 5, 2019… to be Mayor for a regular four year term 2020-2023.

A smart Council colleague quickly noticed the possibility of up to four different Mayors in two years. I think we can do better than that. By the way, if a member of council becomes (any of) the Mayors, we’ll have an open council seat to fill as well.

The charter doesn’t tell us the details of how, and we have little precedence to draw on.  But, we are deep into research to make sure that whatever process we all agree on will be transparent and thoughtful. I welcome your thoughts at this unprecedented moment. Feel free to comment here or send me an email at jjsenturia@gmail.com.

To see the full Shaker Heights City Charter, follow this link and click through to the Codified Ordinances. Look to the left for the contents navigation and near the top you’ll find the charter.

 

Tax Update: SALT under fire

Shaker Heights, like other cities, has had significant reductions in income from the state level over the several years, and had to adjust to the loss of the estate tax. Shaker has worked hard to reduce our costs to deliver services and unfortunately, had to increase income taxes to successfully stabilize local finances in 2012.

Now, especially in cities like a Shaker Heights, a new threat could impact our ability to fund the services we most rely on day to day:  the elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT). The ability to deduct local and state taxes from federal returns makes a big impact on many Shaker residents' taxes each year, and allows cities to fund essential services without 'double taxing' the same income. This deduction, along with mortgage interest deduction, make a big difference for middle class tax filers.

As you read this, the SALT deduction is in danger of being eliminated by Congress to help pay for misguided tax cuts for corporations and as part of a series of changes that further limit the local control of cities.

Act now to make your voice heard on this important issue. Find a detailed fact sheet from the National League of Cities here.

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Women's March on Washington

Women's March on Washington DC January 2017

Women's March on Washington DC January 2017

On January 21, 2017, I boarded a bus at 3:00am to join hundreds of thousands of others in Washington D.C. because showing up matters - here, there, every day, in many ways. I traveled on one of three ‘Eastside’ buses with about 160 others, including my daughter. It wasn’t my first march for women’s rights, but the last one had been as a graduate student in 1992.

     A few months after that '92 march I completed my MA in American Politics and Policy, with a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. That background led me to make a series of career choices that focused on improving the communities where I have lived. Eventually those choices led me back to the Cleveland area, and into Shaker Heights, and into the church parking lot at 3:00am. I over heard an older woman traveling with us say, "Are we really still having this conversation, this same fight- I was doing this in the 70's." Right? I was trying to explain to my daughter why I had marched the last time around, and how strange it felt to be back at it. And, the truth is, I try to act to improve my community in many ways day to day, I'm engaged as a decision-maker locally. So, I had thought, perhaps my marching days were over for a lot of reasons. But then, things started to reach a tipping point for me. I grabbed a clear back pack, my daughter's hand, a home made sign and jumped on the bus.

     There’s been a lot of news coverage since the Women's March and we now know that 5 million people marched across the globe that day. According to the planners, it was the 'largest coordinated protest in the history of the United States.' The crowd in D.C. was uplifting and encouraging – we felt enveloped by the humanity. We were amazed at what was happening across the country and around the world, and that we were a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. I’m still thinking about what it all meant to me personally and more broadly for political engagement. But, I know that more women are inspired to action here in Shaker, as seen in part by the array of candidates for local offices this Fall and the women leaders I see taking action on issues they care about most.

There are many ways to act locally to build a stronger community. Start with getting to know the candidates at the League of Women Voters local candidate forum on September 28th from 7pm-9pm at the Shaker Middle School. Men and women who care deeply about our community are putting themselves out there and it isn't easy. Join me in thanking each of them for caring, acting on their values, and taking time away from family to bring important issues into the public sphere.

Washington D.C. 1992

Washington D.C. 1992

   

Independence Day!

It's a bit of a rivalry, and people may disagree, but I think I now know the answer to the oldest block party in Shaker Heights... it's Townley Road. However, Grenway Road is the longest consecutively running block party, 75 years and going strong. Both streets boast lovely, unique houses, friendly neighbors and have a good sense of humor about this "contested" title. But, I think there's room for each street to have their own place within Shaker lore! The block party season is just one of things that makes our community special. I'll be stopping by block parties all summer. Hope to see you there!

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