Westshore Council of Governments (WCOG) Meeting, Oct. 14, 2020
This report is not an official statement of the League of Women Voters. Mayor Koomar's office prepares official minutes.
Present: Mayors Koomar (Bay Village), Cooney (Fairview Park), George (Lakewood), Kennedy (North Olmsted), Bobst (Rocky River), Clough (Westlake); WCOG Fiscal Officer Renee Mahoney.
Guests: RTA General Manager and CEO India Birdsong.
The meeting was held at Bay Village Police Station Community Room, Mayor Koomar presiding. It was called to order at 9:30 a.m.
Mayor Clough introduced RTA’s new General Manager and CEO, India Birdsong. Birdsong’s background is in planning. She is adopting innovation and technology and has been successful in retaining employees over the Covid crisis. She is bringing in new staff, including a search for a new chief of police and creation of a new department for diversity and community inclusion. The 10-year strategic plan is in final draft and currently seeking public comment. Simultaneously, the RTA is working on service redesign which had been delayed by Covid. Currently, ridership is only about 55% of pre-Covid ridership. In the height of the crisis it was at about 30%. 93-95% of the RTA system is now in service.
RTA is planning to replace rail cars, a $300 million project, with heavy rail first. The cars are on average 31 years old, the oldest in the industry, and each car costs $4.5 million on average. $132 million first phase financing will come out of the RTA budget and CARES Act grants. RTA will not have to ask for additional financing until 2022.
Some discussion occurred about the possibility of using local freight tracks for commuter rail service. It has been discussed at NOACA and there is a lot of interest but it is not currently feasible because of the cost. Maybe someday.
NOACA: NOACA is accepting applications from communities and public agencies for its Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Planning Studies Program. More information can be found at noaca.org (under Commuity Assistance Center). Mayor Bobst also reminded the mayors that NOACA is still seeking public comment on a number of issues. More information can be found at: noaca.org/about/contact-us/public-comment.
Land Bank: Mayor George will be appointed to the Land Bank.
County Planning Commission: Mayor Bobst announced that they have a short list of three excellent candidates for the position of executive director.
Planning Commission wants to be more active with NOACA and RTA. It does an incredible amount of work that could help inform decisions. For example, its Data Book series includes necessary information on local communities and lists sources to facilitate deeper inquiry; there is a Special Improvement District Guidebook that shows how to form SIDs by criteria like a lakefront access plan. NOACA works with SmithGroup JJR which also designed Bay Village’s lakefront plan.
Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association: Mayor Bobst announced that a subgroup is analyzing financial pressures on communities, such as changes in RITA allocations caused by employees working from home. She will get that information to WCOG.
Mayor Bobst also recommended the procedural justice seminar developed for all police officers available by Tri-C's Public Safety Training Center.
An update on the court expenses discussed at the September meeting was requested by early November.
MORE NEW BUSINESS
Mayor Koomar requested that WCOG re-consider mutual aid agreements involving watercraft rescues. Increased lakeshore recreation involving paddleboards and such and increased lake use in general have resulted in increased calls for water rescues. Some municipalities’ safety forces including Bay have only inflatable Kodiak watercraft which may be unsafe when small craft warnings are in effect. Other municipalities have more equipment but lack trained staff. Mayor Koomar suggested a discussion on sharing larger, safer watercraft and personnel in a mutual aid agreement involving water rescues. This discussion was deferred until the November meeting because Mayor Bobst had to leave the meeting early.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:15 a.m.
The next WCOG meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 2:00 p.m. in the Bay Village Police Station Community Room. All meetings are open to the public.
LWV observer Susan Murnane
historian, legal historian, former tax lawyer, author of Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: The History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Akron University Press, 2014)