Woodmere Village: Land of Discord

Torched houses, racial threats, and town leaders at each other's throats — it's just another day in Woodmere

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Mayor Smith says the nit-picking about his spending was just a ploy to reduce his power. He stands by the expenses, explaining that his plan to reduce the city's budget has been to shop competitively for new service vendors. That includes business lunches with potential bidders — and the mayor picks up the tab to offset any talk that he's been bought one way or another. Rather than keep costs down, the legislative checkmate has hurt the public, he claims.

"They're trying to gang up on me and make a mockery of everything I'm doing," Smith says.

Thanks to the fencing match of egos, the village can't get much done when it comes to simple civic matters. This summer, when the sliding door on the fire station's garage broke, the cost of repairs exceeded the mayor's spending authority, so the problem went unfixed. Smith obtained a new contract for the city's dispatch services with Pepper Pike that would have saved the village more than $100,000 a year; but the contract wasn't put on the council agenda for three months and eventually was yanked off the table by Pepper Pike. What legislation that does get passed by council is often handled not through the usual procedure, which calls for three hearings, but rushed through with an emergency vote.

And the slowdown is felt in other departments, including the police.

"On certain occasions I've been called by police agencies in New York or Pennsylvania saying they have open slots for new training, can we get a guy there," says Woodmere Police Chief Terence Calloway. "You're talking about $1,200 to $1,300 worth of training that doesn't cost us anything, but we can't go because council decided they want to micromanage where we go."

In terms of long ball, time and money lost may have hurt the village. More immediately, this standoff has run up the annoyance levels of the electorate. Start with a history of racial discrimination, add a lack of results from the investigations of the Brockwell fire and the incendiary flier, and top it off with icy discord and warring newsletters papering the town — the recipe proved to be enough to get residents to forgo their Wednesday evenings to plop into the folding chairs at village hall. It's also why, when the bombastic Singh started circulating a petition for recall and dismissal of certain council members, signatures weren't hard to come by.

"I went around, both days and nights, talking to residents. People are very responsive," Singh says. "We live in a democracy. How can you avoid [the people's] feedback?" Singh collected around 70 signatures, delivered with great fanfare at the July meeting.

But this being Woodmere, it wasn't clear whether the recall drive had been properly executed. The clerk of council identified issues with a number of signatures, leaving the recall effort stranded somewhere between the board of elections and the village.

Singh is still going door to door, but this time he's drumming up votes: He's decided to run for council. Stu Lecht is also dropping into the fray. Gerald Carrier and Jennifer Mitchell Earley are running for reelection. Two of the five targeted by the recall — Carolyn Patrick and Shelley Ross — have decided not to run.

Glenda Todd-Miller, the only council member targeted by the recall election to speak with Scene, was surprised residents went as far as a recall.

"That's their right," she says. "If they don't think I'm the voice for the village, then I respect that."

But it's Brockwell whose tenure at village hall has cost more than anyone else — in terms of sleepless nights, anxiety, and an arson that has yet to be solved. She admits she might not be long for Woodmere politics.

"I'm worn out with all this drama that goes on up there," she says. "Our residents deserve so much more than they've been getting."

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