Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blizzards and Street parking- an unsavory combination

Attention all Lakewoodites!
it is time to “rekindle’ our snow storm memory.
Snow storms are hard on Lakewood. Our 9,400 people/square mile, and our in excess of 35,000 cars make this time of year our most challenging.
The good news is that we now have a two year supply of salt. The bad news is that we will have to use it!

Some key observations about removing snow in Lakewood:
       1) It is hard to make progress while it is still coming down.

2) The worst. Storms to clear are the ones that start right at the beginning of a work day- 6AM- 8AM. This is because rush hour is very difficult, traffic makes plowing more difficult, and remember #1 above, it is difficult to make headway.

3) It takes about 48 hours after a storm is finished to really clear all of our 93 miles of streets.

4) Parked cars make snow plowing very difficult.

5) Salt takes traffic to grind it in to become effective. So first cars out face the biggest challenge.
Snow bans are automatically in effect on our main arteries (listed below) when accumulation is 4 inches or more.

Should We really get blasted with 8 plus inches, I may have to declare a city wide snow ban. This means every car parked on every street must be removed for 24 to 48 hours so that we may clear the streets. Eliminating parked cars will speed our efforts to get back to normal.
parking is available in all muncipal lots. do not forget that driveways are even better for parking in these emergencies.

Please pass on this information to your neighbors who park on the street. Of course, be a good neighbor and help one another.
Keep up to date by checking:

2) follow city twitter: @lakewoodoh
3) follow my twitter: @lakewoodmayor

Emergency Snow Parking Bans

Whenever there is snow fall of four (4) inches or more within a twenty-four (24) hour period, the emergency snow ban takes effect. The snow ban restrictions on parking take effect without any requirement of an announcement by the City of Lakewood.

In the event of a snow fall of four inches or more, parking is not permitted on streets posted as emergency snow ban streets. Motorists should always consult the posted signs, and be advised that in the event of a snow fall of four inches or more, the emergency snow parking bans will be enforced.

The Emergency Snow Parking Ban streets are as follows:

  • Athens Avenue (Carabel to Lincoln)
  • Belle Avenue (Madison to Lake)
  • Berea Road (Horseshoe Bridge to W. 117th)
  • Bunts Road (Lakewood Heights Boulevard to Clifton Boulevard)
  • Clifton Boulevard (Webb to W. 117th)
  • Delaware Avenue (McKinley to Brown)
  • Detroit Avenue (Gridley to W. 117th)
  • Lake Avenue (Webb to W. 117th)
  • Lakewood Heights Boulevard (Woodward to Horseshoe Bridge)
  • Madison Avenue (Riverside to W. 117th)
  • Riverside Drive (Sloane to Fischer)
  • W. 117th Street (Berea to Edgewater)
  • Warren Road (Lakewood Heights Boulevard to Clifton Boulevard)

Lakewood Codified Ordinance 351.26 contains the provisions of the emergency snow parking bans.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hurricanne Sandy- What a blast!

The word 'Sandy' no longer just evokes pleasent thoughts of beaches and water.

Torandos, blizzards, and now hurricanes!

The sawdust is beginning to settle on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on our region. We experienced record setting power outages, massive tree damage, massive electrical power infrastructure damage- and not a single injury to life and human limb!

typical backyard problem
There was plenty of drama and some humor. The drama was the increasing concern about senior citizens in the high rise apartments without heat and water pressure. Many would not leave without pets, and many places would not accept pets.  The American Red Cross came to the rescue- literally and figuratively. They set up a terrific shelter serving over 200 citizens. They also brought food to the senior citizen high rise apartments.  The Red Cross is truly deserving of our support.

Red Cross Food Delivery at LakeShore Towers on the Gold Coast. power restored Friday morning
Humor showed up when a group of citizens were camped out in a lobby of a gold coast building. When informed that they could go the Red Cross Shelter for food and warmth, the politely asked if wine was served. When informed  that no, it was not, they quickly decided to stay put.

What did we do? We used Twitter, Facebook, email, web site announcements, fielded hundreds of calls per day. I conducted interviews with local media including each of the TV networks. No one strategy was enough. We organized our ability to more quickly deploy generators to more traffic signals. We walked neighborhoods that were without power to asses and communicate. We communicated with CEI several times daily to share and obtain information to pass along.
Gold Coast power restoration- 10 trucks needed

We worked with the Red Cross to open a shelter. This was a first for Lakewood. It went very well.

What did we learn from this? Huge storms seem more frequent. Each of us has to improve our emergency preparedness. Our information sharing strategies and methods have to be improved. A particular challenge was the fact that the very homes we desired to reach were unable to use electronic devices (smartphones, TV’s, internet access from computers). Many citizens are not users of social media.

Red Cross Cots in Garfield Gym
What have we done as a result?

We  have  added  AM radio updates to our communication tool chest.  We need to work with CEI to obtain an agreement/protocol to let a dedicated crew with high bucket capability coordinate with our Fire Chief to address downed lines, especially those blocking streets. We have arranged to leverage county resources more effectively such as sheriff Deputies to help guard down wires and man shelters.

We added a emergency preparedness link  on the City’s Web page to the  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA  to provide “how to” information. (Right side of

What must still be done?

·         Meet with CEI (scheduled for December 12th) to identify communication improvements.  Identify the actions that had the most and least effect. Advocate to CEI to perform replacements of very old poles and wires.

·         Replace some of the back-up folding stop signs that were removed when new traffic poles were installed.

·         Identify how to use our school system communication capability more effectively for city use and updates. This includes robo- calls and signs on school buildings.

·         Create more awareness that we have to work as community to help communicate and look after one another.

·         We need to support and recruit more CERT volunteers. Citizens Emergency Response Team consists of citizens who have received training to support the myriad of tasks that will free our Police and Fire Safety Forces to focus on more threatening issues.

·          In general, we need to keep learning from each of these experiences, and not forget the lessons already learned.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How does a government communicate to a complex community like Lakewood?

The candid answer to the above question is “with great difficulty and varying degrees of effectiveness. When I arrived in the Mayor’s office in January 2011, I quickly identified 18 different sources that our citizens are likely to use to obtain information of interest to them. Since then, a few new ones have come about. The traditional strategies of government have been mainstream media. This year, I started this blog in an attempt to provide more background information of important issues in Lakewood.

Of equal importance and challenge, is how the Lakewood community tells its story to those who do not know us. This is every bit a challenge because there are many communities within Lakewood and each has their own story.

Fortunately, social media and search engine technology can be our ally in this important effort.  because we are "many communities- one home", The big idea that we need to embrace is the use of the Hash tag of #1LKWD
What Is a Hashtag?
The hashtag was invented as a label for groups and topics using internet chat technology.  By adding the '#' sign before a string of text, users made that string easy to find in a search. But the hash tag went mainstream thanks to Twitter.

Lakewood, all of Lakewood’s communities, can enhance being found and viewed by placing the #1LKWD hash tag in their online material: web sites, pictures, YouTube videos, blogs, face book sites, twitter, etc.

Check out this technology. Google #1LKWD. You will see those places using this tag.

We cannot own or license a hash tag. We can, however, dominate one.
I especially like the idea that who better to tell a particular community’s story that the community itself. My hope is that anyone in the world inquiring about our city and a community within our city (biking, housing, culture, etc.) will get to know us.
Please start using #1LKWD in your community’s social media.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wondering about Lakewood Hospital?

The current lease with the clinic expires in 2027. The lease obligates the Clinic to provide very specific services through out the term of the lease.
The question to be asked and ultimately answered is: What should a community based health care service and facility look and behave like in 2028?
The compelling issues to ponder include:
  1. Who will pay and how much will be paid and for what service?
  2. How will technology continue to change the health care and medical delivery systems?
  3. What trends are apparent today that render systems built in the last century obsolete?
(For example, pharmaceuticals have minimized the need for heart bypass surgery. Hip replacements are soon to be done on an outpatient basis. early diagnostics will make prevention the focus rather than intervention(sick in bed).
Once we understand these trends and their implications, we must identify strategies to be implemented  to address them.
This will not be quick nor easy. It will be very interesting and very important to our community and citizens.
We will begin to address all of these issues and questions in 2013. This Fall, the Hospital Trustees will be shaping a framework to lead us to the best solution for Lakewood. Citizens will be engaged in a thoughtful manner.
I believe it is appropriate to begin this thoughtful and complex journey while time is our ally.
As news and information develops, I will share it on this blog.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Listen to Lakewood - I mean, "TWEET" Lakewood

Attention Gen Y'ers and Millennials of Lakewood!

Ready, Set, Tweet!

Listening to citizens is a very important part of my job. Citizens are my bosses. I have 52,136 bosses. Citizens   provide feedback regarding our service quality. They help identify emerging trends. They spot problems that are difficult to see.  All of which helps us improve.

Thirty five percent of our citizens are between the ages of 20 and 39. This generation of citizens is very connected to their “universe” by using  social media. This generation takes a “virtual” approach to place versus physical place.  Thus, being available via social media is just important, if not more important, than being in the same room.

For all of the above reasons, I am experimenting with a new (to me) communication vehicle to make City Hall more accessible to Citizens.

On Tuesday, August 21  from 5:30-6:30 PM I will be at my keyboard, logged onto Twitter ready to field questions and comments.

"stuck on ready" to tweet!

My twitter handle is @LakewoodMayor

 I am looking forward to Tuesday August 21st. For this baby boomer, it will be a great adventure.

Future “physical “ Listen –to-Lakewood dates and locations: (all start at 5:30PM)
September 11th at Mahalls.

October 9th at Around the Corner
November 13th at Buckeye Beer Engine

December 11th at Trinity Lutheran Church
(no comment on 3 bars and one church!)


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 4th Fireworks (or lack thereof!) lessons learned

What happened to our Fireworks? What are you doing to make sure it does not happen again?

For many Lakewood residents, our national holiday of July 4th is known as our nation’s birthday, yet we also like to think of it as “Lakewood’s Day”.  It is marked by pageantry, family fun, a day to reflect, and much like Thanksgiving, a simple day of celebration that does not require a great deal of preparation, decoration, or planning.

A traditional highlight is our Fireworks display at Lakewood park. This event is seen annually by more than ten thousand in the park, and thousands more from rooftops, porches, lawns and apartments all over Lakewood. 

Fireworks displays became increasingly regulated about 10 years ago. As a result, these displays are almost all ignited electronically. The sequence is controlled by a specialized computer processor that programs the timing of the various ignitions. The Fireworks themselves are packed into closely confined crates. A maze of wires connects everything to the processor board.
The Electronic match

This past July 4th Fire Chief Gilman and I were monitoring the advancing weather from the West.  We seemed to dodge the storm as it went South and then back East. We could see the lightening to the South.
fireworks rack- packed close- eliminating safe manual ignition

Our biggest threat, however, lay in the complexity of electronics and wires. The test launch worked. The wind was fine. Several shots were fired, with increasing delay between these, and then nothing.  Pytrotecnico, our licensed vendor who provided spectacular shows the previous two years, went into high gear. They swapped out the main lead with two sets of back up wires. They swapped out the main fire control processor with a preprogrammed back up. The lead operator was talking via cell phone, with intermittent service, to the programmer to trouble shoot the problem. All to no avail.
the culprit- firing sequence control board

The whole delay, from first recognition of the problem until I made the decision to cancel the show, lasted 45 minutes.

The biggest criticism heard from citizens was the lack of information throughout the 45 minutes as to the nature of the problem.  I think this is a valid criticism.

 I made an announcement over the pool PA system indicating electronic issues and requested  patience. This information system proved woefully inadequate. The bandstand microphones used by The Lakewood High Rock Orchestra had been all packed up.

As we have reviewed how we could have improved, we have identified several opportunities to get the word out to 10,000 people over 15 acres of park, plus those scattered throughout Lakewood.

1)      We should have tweeted the situation. This would automatically update our Facebook page.

2)      We should have put an immediate update on our website

3)      We should have installed a working PA system in the park.

We should have improved our communication between police and Fire Chiefs and me, as cell phone service proved to be unreliable.

4)      In order to perform the above, we will need to;

a.       Have immediate access to a hardwired internet workstation. The Board of Education has such a workstation in the Pool Pavilion. We will  have prearranged password and user access

b.      We need to upgrade our early warning siren system to include microphone access and speech broadcasting ability

c.       I will carry a public safety police/fire radio.

d.      Have access to the City’s Tweet and website from my cell Phone (already done)

e.      Any PA announcement should be repeated multiple times, with a request to  “pass the word”

f.        Encourage citizens to sign up for alerts and become a city tweet follower. on our website. Approximately 3000 have done so.

I am sure we will continue to think of other improvements. I am grateful we could learn all of the above in a non-emergency situation. Had it been an emergency, we would have triggered the early warning sirens. While this would have indicated an emergency, it would not have provided any information.

 I want to compliment the crowd on the orderly  exit from the park despite being very hot and disappointed. We are working with our vendor to get full credit for this year's costs, and apply them towards a great fireworks display on July 4th, 2013!

We know we can always do better, which is why we will.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What’s up with all of the activity on Detroit?

Our $13 million investment is beginning to pay off!

13 Million dollars?  How was it spent? The investment started in 2004 under Mayor Tom George. The first step was a $3.9 million dollar sewer replacement, paid for with bonds financed by our sewer fees. This was a very smart first step because it required tearing up the entire street. The second step was to resurface the torn up street. This was primarily paid for by the State of Ohio. (Detroit is a State Route). The next big step was the design phase for creating a sense of ‘place”, followed by the traffic signals we are now seeing. 
The pie chart shows the breakout of our investment.

How did we pay for all of this?

The local share of all of this was little more than half of the total. $3.9 million of the $6.7 million of local tax dollars was dedicated to the sewer work mentioned above. The remaining  $2.8 million was our required local participation to get more than $5.8 million of Federal and State grants. 
 The following pie chart shows the break down.

Who did the work?

All of this work took many, many partners. This included the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) which oversees federal transportation money, several private contractors and engineering firms, Baily Building owners, our staff at City Hall, and many dedicated citizens.
What do we have to show for this investment?

We have a structurally sound, upgraded street ready for its 2nd century. We have traffic signals that will use less energy, allow us to manage and adjust for changing traffic patterns, and will require less maintenance. These signals should be good for 30 years, perhaps more.  

Most importantly, we have a dynamic, revitalized sense of  “‘place” that continues to attract millions in private investment. In fact, there is in excess of $20 million of private investment up and down Detroit.

Was this a good investment? Time will be our best judge- but all of the indicators point to it being superb investment.



Monday, June 4, 2012

Why doesn't government behave more like business?

I am frequently asked about my views and experiences regarding the differences between business leadership and government leadership.  It is a great question and I am in a very unique position to answer it. I spent 32 years in business.  Twenty six of these years were spent owning and operating a mid-sized industrial distribution company. I left the management of this Company on December 31, 2010 and walked into the mayor’s office 24 hours later.

The differences are many, yet the five of the clearest differences I have observed:

business  leadership- more autocratic- I speak,others listen
1.       Ownership:  In government, the owners and customers are the same. Every citizen is an owner and customer, and has a rightful seat at the table. Business has a clear distinction between owners and customers. This is a very important distinction. In business, owners choose their customers by their strategies. Government cannot make this choice. Government must serve all of its customers. The strategic options available to government to manage costs are therefore fewer.

2.       Power and authority: Business is more autocratic. Government in the United States is everything but autocratic, as it should be. This defining characteristic dramatically changes the speed and process of decision making and implementation.  Thus, checks and balances  and the owner/customers having a voice can make for a sometimes chaotic, very lengthy decision timeline.

government leadership - 2nd row- top- listening, more listening
3.       Approach to risk: Businesses must be risk tolerant to succeed. The very essence of business decision making is risk and reward.  Business understands that not all investments will succeed. Business reconciles its setbacks and moves on. Government is risk averse. We are charged with taking the hard earned tax dollars of our owner/customers and making certain that every penny is spent well. Big, bold initiatives are therefore hard to justify. Government mistakes can affect every citizen, not just a “few owners.”  Good ideas that do not pan out are frequently viewed as ‘waste and fraud’. All of these issues foster a decision making culture that favors caution.

4.       Approach to investment:  The essence of investment is to get an expected return. Business can much more easily quantify the cost and return. In government, the returns are frequently “aspirational.” Leaders can seek a desired state of behavior or achievement that may take a very long time in coming. It is more difficult to quantify if and when success is achieved. In government, there are many more variables at play outside of the control of government that will ultimately determine success.

5.       Short term vs. long term thinking: Government leadership is very transitory. I am the fourth mayor in nine years.  With the exception of a few, all of the top managers of our government serve as “At Will” appointees of the mayor. Thus, with each new mayor you can anticipate a turnover of top managers. This makes it very difficult to create and sustain a long term investment view.

Likewise, some other noteworthy differences between government and business are the respective approaches to strategy development processes, customer feedback, suppliers and competitors, performance measurements, organizational development and employee motivation.  These subjects will be a story for another day.

By no means should these differences be viewed as excuses for lesser government performance. Business leadership principles do apply. But not directly.  At the core of both good business and good government is a commitment to goals, great customer service, efficient use of resources and effective implementation of thoughtful strategies. This is exactly what we are endeavoring to do in Lakewood city Government.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Volunteer Lakewood: What? Why? How?

Our country is coming off a 60 year run where government has been viewed as the primary solution provider for many of our society’s needs. The fact is that we are looking at a future of less government resources at all levels- Federal, State, and local.

In Lakewood, we have reduced our program and service at the margins. The good news is that “the margins’ means we have and will continue to focus on service excellence at our core mission: Public Safety (police, fire, Emergency Medical Service), Public works (streets, parks, water, sewer and refuse), Building and Housing safety, Economic Development and Specific Human Service programs. All of these must and will focus on the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens.

But what about the smaller specific programs that serve a smaller number of citizens? The honest answer is that these services are at risk if we continue to rely on government as the answer. These services include snow shoveling, back yard refuse pick up, and lawn care for some senior citizens. It could include transportation as RTA shrinks. Other services include social support for dislocated families. Some of our nonprofit social support agencies such as Lakewood Community Service Center, which provides food and shelter for needy citizens, reports  a disturbing trend of seeing  past volunteers who are now their clients.

Lakewood is fortunate. We do not have to look far to see needs or travel far to help. It is not hard to spot someone in need.   The need could exist with a senior citizen on you block who needs an occasional ride to a medical appointment. It could include a neighbor with a physical limitation who may need occasional help with lawn care, snow removal, bringing the refuse container to/from the street, or some basic house repair. It could be more formal by volunteering at one the local service providers listed on the city’s web page.
The needs are growing, and the resources are scarcer than ever. This trend will not lessen for years to come, if ever.
Each of us who are more fortunate have an opportunity to help. Government is not the answer in many of these needs. Government, can, and in Lakewood’s case, will help match needs with helpers. Neighborhoods are made by neighbors.

Volunteer Lakewood is an attempt to create awareness of local needs.  You can be a solution: low cost and very efficient.  Start with

Check out the list. Find a need that makes sense for you. Give it a shot. Please.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

When is direct intervention in a neighborhood by a government (at any level) justified and appropriate?

   Why would the City Purchase 3 boarding Houses?

Starting in the 1920’s and continuing through the 1980’s, boarding houses had a place in Lakewood’s housing mix. These boarding houses offered affordable rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. Transient residents- newly arrived or temporarily dislocated persons could find very modest and affordable living accommodations in a city that was safe, easily accessible by mass transit, and most of life’s necessities could be purchased within walking distance.
1436 Grace Boarding House: 6 roomers
As Ohio and our region’s population growth became negative, the market forces provided many more options for these residents. By the year 2000, the demand for this type of housing applied more to individuals dislocated from mainstream life. Demands for city services such as police, Emergency medical, building and Housing, and fire safety grew substantially.  The surrounding neighborhoods were forced to deal with increasing  levels nuisance activity, and therefore a threat these entire neighborhoods. Ward 4 Councilperson  Mary Louise Madigan and Ward 2 Councilperson Tom Bullock each handled hundreds of complaints from nearby residents.
1446 Mars Boarding House: 8 roomers
How does this cycle get corrected? Who would have the economic capacity and incentive to challenge these trends? The current owners of these boarding houses would not have this incentive. Only the Lakewood Local Government (City Council and Mayor) could and would step in.
Opportunity presented itself when a Grace Ave resident brought to my attention that The Grace Ave Property might be for sale. To make a long story short, our government recognized and took advantage of a once in a generation opportunity to purchase these properties and reintroduce them in their original form which were as single family homesteads.
Newman and Madison Ave Boarding House: 15 roomers
While this is a very aggressive move, it is clear to me that there are unique and compelling circumstances which makes this appropriate governmental action. Government is obligated to identify and protect to collective good of all.  The private sector has no such charter.   Government’s broader duty allows it to take a longer view, and can put heavy weight on opportunity cost and, as in this case, the stabilization of values of all other homes in the neighborhood. It does so with confidence that the return will be evident in the pocketbooks of these neighbors. No private sector investor could make such a justification.
We expect to get most of the taxpayer’s money back by reselling these properties with deed restrictions preventing them from use other than single family, or possibly two family homes. But Profit is not our motive.  Neighborhood stabilization and enhancement is our goal.
This was government doing some of its best work.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Posting- Housing and landlords april 2012

Everyone has been a renter at some point. This means we all have had a landlord. Lakewood has 1,500 one and two family structure landlords. Tonight, April 17th, 2012, City Hall is hosting its 4th landlord training session. This session, as well as the three previous sessions, is full. 200 seats are taken.

Lakewood's landlords are responding to our call to" help them to help us." There has probably never been a more difficult time to be a landlord. The housing crisis of this downturn hurts everyone.

Landlords will learn about Housing Court experiences, laws, and advice from Judge Patrick Carroll. This is free legal information that you cannot 'buy". Federal, State, and local Fair housing laws will be reviewed. This helps landlords gain a better understanding of the boundaries of their responsibilities- to themselves and our society. This is an important and complicated subject. I learn more each time I hear it. This is my fourth time tonight. bring it on!

Landlords are also given a briefing of Lakewood’s Criminal Nuisance laws. This law holds landlords accountable for any disruption to our neighborhoods by their tenants. We have issued over 300 warning letters during the past 4 years. We have had about 100 convictions with fines during this same time period. This is very important to Lakewood's neighborhoods. Some landlords feel this accountability is unfair. I feel it is a very fair law. Our neighborhoods generally agree with me.

We need our landlords to be informed, fair, attentive, responsive, and financially successful. We need them to be all of these things so that they can and will reinvest in their house. Their house is in our neighborhood. Lakewood: many communities, one home, one Lakewood