Councilwoman Davida Russell Launches “You Talk, I Listen” Virtual Town Hall Series
On Saturday, June 6, Councilwoman Davida Russell hosted the first in a series of Town Hall listening sessions with residents of the Noble and Taylor Roads community. There were 10 participants in a Zoom conversation and more than 100 others listened on Facebook Live. The diverse group of Zoom participants included residents, business owners and a member of the faith community. The objective of the Town Hall was to identify concerns and issues that impact the health and growth of this community and to create a process to develop solutions.
Councilwoman Russell began planning this listening session last December, shortly after her election to Cleveland Heights City Council. “It is very important to me to hear from residents about their concerns and what it would take to make the Noble and Taylor Road areas grow and prosper,” Russell said. It is the community where she lives. She drew from her career in labor union administration and landed on the Town Hall idea. By February, it became apparent that a large gathering of residents would not be a good option because of COVID-19 and the virtual Town Hall concept was explored, planned and launched.
Each participant came to the session prepared with a list of concerns and opportunities. From this comprehensive list of ideas, the group voted on the top 3 issues to address first. Those 3 issues are as follows: (1) Raising awareness of the businesses and services available in the community, (2) Addressing maintenance issues of commercial properties, and (3) Beautifying the community and making it a destination point. Task Force groups are being formed around each issue with volunteer chairs. Co-Chairing Task Force 1 – Raising awareness – is Elizabeth VanderLees and Gurne’e Green Task Force 2 – Maintaining commercial properties is chaired by Diane Hallum and Pastor Harry Cain will chair Task Force 3 – Beautifying the community. To join a Task Force, go to Councilwoman Russell’s website: www.davidaforch.com, click on the “You Talk, I Listen” drop down tab and find a place to sign up and a space to leave comments and suggestions.
The first step for each Task Force is to gather information from other organizations that are working in the neighborhood and from the City. The Task Force Chairs want to ensure that they are not duplicating efforts already planned and underway by other organizations and identify opportunities to collaborate or coordinate plans. A walking tour of Noble Road is being planned. “I am very excited about the energy and enthusiasm of our Town Hall participants and appreciate the plans that are in place to move the conversation forward into action items,” Russell said.
Later in June and in July, Councilman Russell will host 2 more Town Hall meetings, but these will be very different from the first one. The audience for these listening sessions will be young adults, generally between the ages of 18 and 25. The Councilman participated in a peaceful protest march over the George Floyd killing earlier this month and met young adults who were frustrated and wanted answers and action. Russell invited anyone interested in planning a Town Hall meeting to join a Zoom meeting. Five thoughtful, concerned young adults participated in the meeting and made plans for 2 events.
The first event will be June 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Front Stage Multiplex (former Regal Theater) in Severance Town Center. Masks will be required and social distancing will be in place with only 75 young adults admitted into the event for everyone’s health and safety. The topic will be police community relations and police policies and practices. At the first event, the young adult leaders will facilitate a discussion about the issues and concerns the audience members have about the Cleveland Heights Police Force. Those concerns and issues will form the agenda for the second event, which will be July 11 at the Metroplex, again from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Cleveland Heights Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg and some of her officers will be present to respond to the agenda issues.
“I was very impressed with the calm persistence of these young adults in wanting to have their voices heard and to move beyond protests and into policies. They are angry and frustrated, but understand that peaceful dialogue is the first step to systemic change,” Russel said. Since attendance at both events will be limited to 75, anyone interested in participating should go to Councilwoman Russell’s website: www.davidaforch.com and let her know that you want to attend.