Cleveland Heights City Council Passes Curfew Amendments
Curfew law now has six exceptions and allows the city manager designate other curfew areas in emergencies
City Council passed two amendments to a controversial curfew ordinance Tuesday night — one that adds six new exceptions to the law, and another that gives the city manager authority to designate new curfew zones during times of emergency.
The first amendment passed Tuesday explicitly states the six ways children under 18 can be in the designated curfew areas — right now the Coventry and Cedar Lee business districts — after 6 p.m.
Minors are exempt from the new curfew law:
- when accompanied by a parent or guardian or an adult member of the family,
- when the child is on an errand or legitimate business, like patronizing the library, under the “immediate direction and authorization” of the parent or guardian,
- when employed in the area, but the minor must carry a written note signed by the parent or guardian or the employer stating the location and hours of employment,
- when going to or returning home from a school, religious or volunteering activity, or a “place of public entertainment” like a movie, play or sporting event,
- when attending a “controlled-admission recreation venue” (such as The Grog Shop or Cedar Lee Theatre), and
- when the minor is exercising his or her First Amendment rights, which will require at least 24-hours notice and written communication to the police chief or designated agent that is signed by the minor and parent or guardian. The note will also have to include a home address, phone number and specify when, where and in what manner the minor will be.
Several council members said the exceptions resulted from discussions they and Mayor Ed Kelley had with affected business owners, residents and teens in the days since the original curfew law was passed June 27. That law was quickly passed just a few days after 16 teens were arrested when several fights broke out after the Coventry Street Arts Fair.
Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens said the original law was a response to the growing concern that people were feeling unsafe at area business districts like Coventry, but even as they passed it council members knew it would need to be tweaked.
“When most of you called us, we responded,” Stephens said, referring to the days immediately after the fights broke out. “We didn’t always get it perfectly right, we know that. But that’s why we’re amending the legislation and why we’ll continue to amend it until we get something most of us can live with.”
The exception dealing with attending a “controlled-admission recreation venue” came about after discussions with business owners, who feared the lack of minors after 6 p.m. would curb business considerably. Grog Shop owner Kathy Blackman thanked the Council for the exceptions, but said the ordinance was still “too extreme” and added that other Coventry business owners feel the same way, specifically that the 6 p.m. time is too early.
The teenagers who made up about half of the close to 40 people who attended Tuesday night’s meeting agreed with Blackman and felt they were being punished for something they didn’t do. Adin Colie, 20, said he feels bad for the kids who will be robbed of the memories and relationships developed through nights hanging out at the P.E.A.C.E. Park, then grabbing a bite to eat at one of the Coventry restaurants.
“The next generation is being prevented from having that life experience,” he said.
Kelley said that most of the teens involved in the chaos in Coventry were not from Cleveland Heights and the law was necessary to restore order.
“These kids are coming from places other than our city, and they’re taking away our rights,” he said. “We are standing up to them and we’re going to make this community the safest community in Cuyahoga County if not the state of Ohio.”
The mayor’s words came right before the unanimous passage of the two curfew amendments and were met with applause from nearly everyone in the audience inside council chambers.
The second amendment that was passed gives the city manager authority to designate other areas of the city as under the curfew ordinance should he or she receive information that a “‘Flash Mob’ or similar event involving the gathering of minors” would pose a threat. The designation would only apply for the “minimum amount of time” necessary for the threat to disperse, according the ordinance.