Perceptions? Realities?

With summer temperatures of 93 degrees outside over 100 people with various public issues sat in the audience for the June 18, 2007 council meeting.

After calling the meeting to order at 7:34 council president Robert Seelie recognized Mary Louise Madigan (ward four). She introduced a resolution recognizing Ennis Court which has been recognized by the Ohio Department of Aging for its excellence. Madigan’s mother was a resident there. In the Ennis community audience were notables such as Common Pleas Judge and former Cleveland Browns lineman, Dick Ambrose and Friend of the Beatles, Jane Scott, formerly of the Plain Dealer.

This resolution was followed by one introduced by Ryan Demro (ward two) recognizing Eagle Scouts Timothy Sweeney and Ronald Giermann.

Seelie then switched the public comment portion of the meeting from the end of the meeting to the beginning. He recognized a ward three constituent, Sandy Donohoe of Baxterly Avenue for comment. Her concern was her perception of an increase in crime and general disregard of standards in her family’s neighborhood. For her and her neighbors, crime is a reality. She cited numerous instances of witnessing crimes, first or second hand, and listed many reported instances of criminal acts and violations. In a well crafted but very heartfelt presentation, Donohoe seemed to summarize a perception held by some Lakewood residents.

Members of council then weighed in. Edward Fitzgerald (at large) indicated that adding to the police force might require a redirection or addition of resources. Demro suggested the elimination of a city division, possibly trees, in order to supplement the police budget. Nickie Antonio (at large) pointed out the overall need for greater civility and that the newly established community relations board could contribute to this. Fitzgerald did point out the difficulty in having a reasonable, rational conversation in a political year.

Police Chief Malley then took the time to respond on a case by case basis many of the incidents that Donohoe raised. Several of the crimes he pointed out were committed by people from out of state and had nothing to do with the neighborhood. As to an addition to the staffing of the department, Malley said that four or five officers could be absorbed if there was funding, but going beyond that level of increase would require a substantial increase in money for equipment, training, and support. Malley also said that the FBI statistical reporting model which the department uses shows a slight decrease in overall crime this year as compared to past years.

Mayor Thomas George added to the discussion by pointing out the various initiatives that the administration has been taking which attack the overall problem. These include increased housing inspections along with special police details.

The next largest audience contingent was thirty members and patrons of the Lakewood Dog Park. That facility is located in the Metroparks right next to the water treatment plant and the Lakewood Animal Shelter. It has become very popular for area dog owners since it opened a few years ago. However, the perception of a small number of Rocky River residents who live on the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley is that barking dogs from the park are creating an intolerable nuisance. The reality is the results of scientific noise tests and monitoring which have been conducted by the city in response to these complaints. Within the past week Human Services Director Dottie Buckon was at the park to supervise the testing. There were no violations of any noise ordinances according to these tests.

Nevertheless, Rocky River Mayor Bobst requested that Lakewood close the park. Mayor George and Law Director Brian Corrigan met with the Rocky River officials last week. Monday night, George said he responded to Mayor Bobst by saying, “closing the park is not going to happen.” George and Buckon did point out to the appreciative dog owners that everybody still had to pay attention to the behavior of their pets so that the park could be enjoyed by all.

A final example of perception versus reality: the intersection of Madison and Warren Roads has been busy in the last few years with street construction and the new Walgreens and Sherwin Williams stores on the corners.

Council member Demro claims that this has made this intersection more dangerous and has requested a traffic study.

The reality according to figures from the Lakewood Police Department is that vehicle and pedestrian accidents at this intersection have decreased by over 1000% in the last ten years.

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Volume 3, Issue 13, Posted 1:51 PM, 06.20.2007