CLEVELAND CITY GOVERNMENT. Cleveland's city government took its present shape in Jan. 1914 with implementation of a new Home Rule Charter (see HOME RULE) which increased the city's powers of self-government so that it could deal with modern, complex urban affairs. Prior to 1914, city services were provided by a combination of officers, boards, and commissions, many elected directly by the people or appointed by city council.

The Village of Cleveland was incorporated by the Ohio general assembly on 23 Dec. 1814, which directed that a president, recorder, 3 trustees, treasurer, village marshal, and 2 assessors be elected by the citizens. By 1836 the population had increased sufficiently to replace the village charter with a new city charter incorporating Cleveland with a mayor-council form of government. The new city status gave it increased taxing and borrowing power. The council was preeminent at this time, with most administrative work performed in standing committees. As president of the council, the mayor could vote in case of a tie. Ohio cities depended on the state legislature to alter their form of government, and the General Assembly monitored city affairs closely. Local matters took up a great deal of the assembly's time until the General Municipal Corp. Act of 1852 was passed establishing a standard governmental structure for all municipalities. Administrative boards were given authority over certain city services. The mayor was no longer president of the council and did not appoint standing committees. In addition, more appointed positions became elected offices, such as police judge and commissioner of waterworks. As the management of urban affairs became more complex, the number of boards and commissions multiplied, and by 1891 voters recognized that such a government was inefficient. As a result, the more centralized Federal Plan was adopted, giving the mayor authority to appoint directors of public safety and public service, concentrating responsibility for these departments under one elected official. The Ohio Supreme Court, however, declared Cleveland's Federal Plan unconstitutional in 1902, making it necessary to adopt a new code. Although Cleveland enjoyed good government under Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON during the next 9 years, the desire for home rule remained strong to clarify the executive and legislative functions. A home rule amendment to the Ohio constitution, approved by voters in 1913, allowed municipalities to enact their own charters. In 1923 the voters replaced the charter with the CITY MANAGER PLAN to improve the efficiency of local government and reduce corruption. The 25-member council was elected from 4 districts by proportional representation, and a professional city manager was chosen. Continuing corruption and conflict between city council and the manager, however, ended the experiment in 1931, and the city returned to the mayor-council form and the ward principle.

In 1986 Cleveland's city government was divided into 3 branches: the legislative branch, consisting of a 21-member council; the judicial branch, consisting of the municipal court and the clerk of courts; and the executive branch, consisting of the mayor, his adjunct offices, advisors, and the administrative departments. The mayor is the chief executive of the city and is responsible for enforcing the city charter, city ordinances, and the laws of the State of Ohio. He has the right to introduce legislation and may participate in the discussion, but he has no vote. The mayor supervises the administration of city services, and appoints the director of each department. The mayor and the directors constitute the Board of Control, which oversees the awarding of contracts. Adjunct offices, such as the Office of Management & Budget, formed in 1965, Personnel, Consumer Affairs, and Equal Opportunity aid the mayor in carrying out his charter-mandated duties. The Office of Consumer Affairs was created in 1972 to protect consumers from fraudulent business practices by enforcing the city's Consumer Protection code. The historical precedent for this office was the Weights & Measures Bureau, moved to Consumer Protection from the Department of Parks, Recreation & Public Properties. The director of the Office of Equal Opportunity establishes and monitors equal employment and affirmative-action policies and programs required by federal, state, and municipal law.

Thirteen administrative departments reporting directly to the mayor provide the city with the full range of municipal services. The Home Rule charter provided for 6 departments, Law, Finance, Public Safety, Public Service, Public Utilities, and Public Welfare but also allowed council to create new ones by ordinance or charter amendments with the concurrence of the Board of Control. The Law Department, formed in 1903, combined the formerly elective positions of city solicitor and police prosecutor and is responsible for defending the city in all suits as well as drafting or approving legislation, contracts, and bonds. The law director is legal advisor, attorney, and counsel for the city, acting mayor when necessary, and first to succeed the mayor if he should resign. There are 2 divisions in the Law Department: the Civil Division, headed by the chief counsel, and the Criminal Division, headed by the city prosecutor. The Finance Department is in charge of the city's fiscal affairs. The Division of Accounts, which maintains Cleveland's accounting records and certifies that funds are available and appropriated for expenditure before payment is made; the Treasury Division, which serves as custodian of all moneys, deposits, and investment securities. There are also Divisions of Assessments & Licenses and Purchases & Supplies, Internal Audit, Printing & Reproduction, established in 1952 to prepare financial reports, and the Central Collection Agency, organized in 1966 to collect the municipal income tax.

The Department of Public Services originated in 1836 when an ordinance was passed permitting city council to appoint a commissioner of streets. The General Municipal Corp. Act mandated a Board of Improvements consisting of the mayor, civil engineer, and 3 city commissions, all elected offices. In 1910 the mayor was given the authority to appoint a director of public service. The divisions of Streets and Engineering were combined under this department, as well as divisions for all public properties. Engineering Division designed and constructed the city's sewer system, main interceptor sewers, and the three sewage-treatment plants until 1937 when the treatment plants were transferred to the Utilities Department. In 1986 the service department had 5 divisions: the Engineering Division, which rehabilitated and maintained and inspected the city's bridges and docks, maintained the city sidewalks and did all survey work for any city property; Waste Collection and Disposal, responsible for the city's sanitation; Motor Vehicle Maintenance; Street Maintenance and Construction; and Architecture.

The expenditures of the Department of Public Safety accounted for over half the total budget of Cleveland in 1986. The city's largest department, with 3,335 full-time employees, it has 5 operating divisions: Police, Fire, Emergency Medical Service, Traffic, and Dog Pound. Police and Fire were 2 separate departments until 1904, when the first Board of Public Safety was created to oversee the operations of both departments. This board was superseded by the Department of Public Safety in 1910. Early in the city's history, volunteer forces handled fire and police duties. In 1837 a fire warden was appointed for each ward. In 1862 the volunteer plan was discontinued in favor of a department headed by a chief engineer. The first Fire Prevention Bureau was organized in 1896 with 2 fire wardens, whose duties were to inspect buildings for fire hazards and note violations of ordinances. In 1986 the Fire Division operated 5 programs: Fire Prevention, Fire Suppression, Fire Communication, Fire Training Service, and Right-to-Know. Right-to-know enforces the 1985 ordinance which requires employers to inform employees of hazardous substances in the workplace.

The city council appointed the first night watch in 1850, after volunteer forces proved inadequate in preserving the peace. The watchman had equal authority with the city marshal in that duty. Ohio's Metropolitan Police Act was passed in the 1866, creating a Board of Police Commissioners which passed levies to fund operations. Initiated in 1975, the Emergency Medical Service was upgraded to an all advanced life support system in 1986, providing pre-hospital emergency care and basic and advanced life support on a 24-hour basis to Cleveland's citizens. The first Board of Water Works Commissioners was elected in 1853 to preserve the public health from water-borne diseases and provide a reliable supply of water with which to fight fires; the first water flowed through the new city-owned system in September 1856. Electricity and gas were originally supplied by private companies supervised by a commissioner of franchises. Cleveland acquired electric light plants when it annexed the villages of S. BROOKLYN in 1905 and COLLINWOOD in 1910. After Cleveland's home rule charter enabled the city to own and operate public utilities, a new light plant was opened in 1914 and the Department of Public Utilities was organized, consisting of the self-supporting Water and Light & Power Divisions (see WATER SYSTEM, MUNICIPAL OWNERSHIP). In 1937 the sewage treatment plants were transferred to the Department of Public Utilities from the service department and a self-supporting Sewage Disposal Division was formed. During the post-World War II period, the new division acquired responsibility for the major interceptor sewers and sewage engineering and was renamed the Water Pollution Control Division. In 1972 all responsibility for the sewage treatment plants, interceptors, and sewage engineering was transferred to the newly organized Cleveland Regional Sewer District (known as the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in 1986).

The Department of Public Health & Welfare, established in 1913, was one of the first in the U.S. to deal with recreation, charities, housing, employment, and corrections, as well as public health and sanitation. At one time the department included in its operations the City Infirmary, City Farm, Workhouse, correctional institutions for both boys and girls, and Camp Cleveland. Eventually it was decided that most of the correctional and welfare institutions should be turned over either to the county or the state. In 1986 the focus of the department was on the enforcement of state and local health, environmental, and sanitation codes. That was accomplished by operating neighborhood health clinics, conducting inspections, and issuing licenses. The Air Pollution Control Division was formed in 1947 by ordinance and merged the activities of smoke abatement (which had belonged to the Division of Housing in the Public Safety Department) with the Bureau of Industrial Nuisances and the Bureau of Industrial Hygiene. The division is responsible for measuring the extent of pollutants in the air and enforcing federal, state, and local pollution regulations.

Cleveland was known as the "FOREST CITY" because of its abundance of trees, and in 1898 a Department of Forestry & Nurseries was established to safeguard this asset. By 1921 it was formally known as the Department of Parks & Public Property, renamed the Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Properties in 1980. In addition to parks and playgrounds, it was responsible for airports, CEMETERIES, markets, golf courses, and swimming pools, as well as the convention center. In 1954 a Department of Port Control was established, taking over airports from the Department of Parks and Public Properties and the docks from the service department, to plan and develop the necessary airport and harbor facilities in anticipation of the St. Lawrence Seaway opening. In 1968 the port and harbor functions were transferred to the newly organized CLEVELAND-CUYAHOGA COUNTY PORT AUTHORITY, with Port Control retaining its responsibility for CLEVELAND HOPKINS and BURKE LAKEFRONT airports.

A complete reorganization of Cleveland's city government was undertaken when an Operations Improvement Task Force was established in 1980 by Mayor George Voinovich to streamline the administration in the wake of DEFAULT. In its report, both capital improvements and organization changes were addressed, including a 4-year term for the mayor and members of city council. Among the departments affected was the Department of Community Development, organized in 1966. In 1980 the Operations Improvement Task Force recommended the addition of the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization to develop and implement plans for the use of federal block grant money. In addition, the Division of Rehabilitation and Conservation helped homeowners improve their properties through low-interest loans and grants; the Division of Building and Housing was responsible for enforcement of the city's building and housing codes; the Redevelopment Division reviewed and evaluated proposals to redevelop city-owned properties and managed city properties being used for commercial purposes; and the Administrative Services Division provided support services for the entire department. The Department of Human Resources & Economic Development was established in 1968 to implement programs for employment opportunities, manpower organization, and industrial development. After the Operations Improvement Task Force, Economic Development was given separate departmental status. The Department of Aging, which assisted in administering all city programs relating to older persons, evolved from the Mayor's Commission on Aging established in 1971 receiving department status in 1981.

Besides the three branches of government, there are specialized boards and commissions that are appointed by the mayor and/or council to provide citizen involvement, assist in policy formation, or regulate activities of an administrative department. The Board of Building Standards & Building Appeals hears appeal cases of citizens who have grievances with the building code. The Board of Zoning Appeals performs a similar function in regard to the zoning code. The Board of Examiners of Plumbers certifies contractors to do work within the city. The 7-member City Planning Commission, established in 1915, acquired its own professional staff in 1942. The commission and its City Planning Department implemented a general plan adopted in 1949, which covers land use, transportation, recreation, and industrial, commercial, and residential development and improvement for the city. The commission also makes plans for specific improvements that it deems desirable for the city and recommends a 5-year capital-improvement budget to the mayor.

The 11-member Landmarks Commission was established in 1971 to safeguard the heritage of the city by preserving sites and structures of cultural, social, economic, political or architectural history. The 6-member CLEVELAND COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD was organized in 1945 to improve race relations. In 1950 it was also given the authority to receive and investigate complaints of employment discrimination under the local Fair Employment Practices ordinance passed that year. The board also provided the information and skills necessary to resolve neighborhood tensions in order to establish amicable relationships among the city's diverse population.

The first Civil Service Commission, made up of 3 members, appointed by the presidents of the Board of Education, city council, and the Sinking Fund Commission, took office in Jan. 1910, pursuant to the Ohio Municipal Civil Service Law. The 1913 city charter maintained the composition of the commission but vested appointing authority in the mayor. A 1967 charter amendment increased the number of commissioners to 5. The commission and staff were responsible for testing and certifying individuals in the classified civil service, maintaining personnel records, and conducting hearings for disciplinary action against city employees.

The ex officio boards and commission are those whose members serve by virtue of their positions in city government, including the Sinking Fund Commission, the Board of Review for Income Tax, the Board of Review for Assessments, the Board of Sidewalk Appeals, and the Moral Claims Commission. The Sinking Fund Commission, established in 1862, accumulated funds from tax levies and income to discharge the outstanding debt of the city at maturity. It was composed of the mayor, the president of council, and the director of finance.

Some of Cleveland's local government services have been regionalized to achieve the benefits of a larger tax base and to qualify for state and federal subsidies. Urban transit was provided by the privately owned CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO. for 30 years before Cleveland purchased the system in 1942 and reorganized it as the semi-independent Cleveland Transit System (CTS). CTS was operated by a 5-member Cleveland Transit Board appointed by the mayor with city council's approval. The system's steady decline in ridership was due to the popularity of the automobile and the population shift to the suburbs, which reduced revenues so that regional organization and a subsidy were necessary to keep the system in operation. On 1 Jan. 1975 the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY was organized to own and operate CTS. After a subsidy was approved by the voters in July, the SHAKER RAPID TRANSIT and numerous suburban bus lines throughout the county were added to the system. The Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority was established in 1933 to provide decent, affordable housing for low-income people. After World War II, area-wide housing shortages required that more public housing be built. Other regional authorities in the Cleveland area are the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, the CLEVELAND METROPARKS SYSTEM, and the NORTHEAST OHIO AREA-WIDE COORDINATING AGENCY (NOACA), a comprehensive area-wide planning organization comprised of representatives from Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina counties.

Mary Ellen Kollar

Public Administration Library

Snavely, Charles. "A History of the City Government of Cleveland, Ohio" (Ph.D. diss., 1902 WRHS)


City of Cleveland Wards, 1840

City of Cleveland Wards, 1860

City of Cleveland Wards, 1880

City of Cleveland Wards, 1900

City of Cleveland Wards, 1920

City of Cleveland Wards, 1949

City of Cleveland Wards, 1963

City of Cleveland Wards, 1986

City of Cleveland Wards, 1995

Cleveland Mayors (by Year)

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