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In Woodmere Village, More Than Half Of Council Faces Recall Vote

Woodmere Village will decide Tuesday whether to recall more than half of its council members.

The tiny East Side suburb of about 700 people has been locked in a dispute over spending, a new sidewalk and maintenance of the village website.

Four out of the village’s seven council members could lose their jobs.

Ideastream’s Nick Castele spoke with Glenn Forbes about the issues driving the dispute.

Who is pushing for this recall, and why do they want it?

There’s this local group of residents that call themselves “The Woodmere Project,” which is a play on the anti-Trump Republican group, Lincoln Project. They want to recall these council members.

Basically they accuse four members of village council, including the council president, of standing in the way of projects in the village. At the heart of things is the mayor’s proposal to use grant money to build a sidewalk along Brainard Road. Now this project has so far failed to pass out of council. And the recall supporters want to see this pedestrian path built. Here’s Gerald Carrier with the Woodmere Project.

“My mother-in-law is 89 years old. It’s unsafe for her because there’s no sidewalks and she likes to walk,” Carrier said. “Other people that are trying to go back and forth between Brainard and Chagrin, they have to walk in the street. It’s just very, very unsafe with the high volume of traffic.”

Now there are actually council seats on the ballot later this year in the fall. But Carrier told me that he and other recall supporters basically just didn’t want to wait that long to try to change the makeup of council. And that’s why they’re going with a special election recall in the middle of February.

Nick, typically sidewalk projects aren’t controversial. Why is this one controversial?

So this path would run from Chagrin Boulevard, which is where there’s a big shopping strip in Woodmere Village, it would run from there along Brainard Road south and connect to Orange Village.

The village has received $265,000 in grants from the state and from Cuyahoga County and to build it. Supporters of this project say basically it makes the village look bad to sort of balk at free money like this.

Now the council members who have been questioning it, they’ve got questions about costs. One of the council members facing recall, Craig D. Wade, he told me that he just does not feel certain that the project will not end up costing the city more money than the grant covers.

And his argument to voters now is that if you recall him and others, you might not have a city council that is acting as a check on the mayor.

“So now you run a very strong possibility that there is no checks and balances in the system when it comes to who is sitting on council,” Wade said. “Because the reality is is that, fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t feel as though council needs to be in lockstep with decisions just because the administration wants something.”

So earlier this month, the project was up for a vote. It failed to get the majority of votes it needed to pass. And Wade was one of two council members who abstained from voting.

So that’s the sidewalk piece. Why is the village website so contentious, Nick?

Council voted last year to stop paying the person who ran the website, along with two other contractors, as part of a cost-cutting move. Councilman Wade said he wanted someone else brought in to run the site because he wasn’t happy with the management of it.

One wrinkle here is that this has thrown meetings into jeopardy, because local governments are supposed to post online notices of upcoming meetings. Now an arrangement has been worked out now so that there is a schedule of meetings on the page, but everything else seems that it hasn’t been updated since last year.

You’ve talked about city council members here and the group campaigning to recall them. Where does the village mayor stand on this?

I spoke with Mayor Benjamin Holbert, and he told me that he has hesitated to weigh in on the recall question. But he told me that he has had conflicts with the council members who will be on the ballot Tuesday.

“There’s very little communication between this administration and those four individuals who are up for recall,” Holbert said. “And I think that that spells bad news for residents of this community.”

Now, it shouldn’t take too long to count ballots, as there are fewer than 500 registered voters in the village of Woodmere.

An earlier version incorrectly referred to council members being on the ballot "next week." The election is this Tuesday, Feb. 23. 

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