Between the 2009 campaign, and this one in 2011, I have personally walked the length of every street in Cleveland Heights. I view this as a testimonial to my commitment to serving the interests of Cleveland Heights residents. I targeted the homes of frequent voters – those who voted in three or more of the past four elections – ringing their doorbells or knocking on their doors so that I could meet them and ask them what they would like me to work on, if elected. If no one came to the door, I left information about myself, then headed for the next address.
What have I learned?I’ve taken notes along the way, which I intend to compile once the election is over. In essence, I’ve conducted unscientific research to serve as job preparation to represent residents’ interests, should I be elected. Not everyone is home or comes to the door. Sometimes kids or visitors answer the door, or the homeowner is too busy to talk. Still, I have had some input on the majority of Cleveland Heights’ 278 streets – sometimes extensive input! The following are general impressions.
First, many people are very happy with Cleveland Heights. Like me, they love living here. Many people can’t – off the top of their heads – think of anything they would like to change. This reaction was more prevalent in some neighborhoods than in others. It’s especially true in the southern part of town.
The biggest reported concerns were taxes, schools, and – especially in some parts of town – houses, either vacancies or issues with rental properties. The behavior of young people (such as walking in the street or, during the summer, the Coventry Road flash mob) and crime were concerns, too, especially in some neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods has very specific issues, such as feral cats. Many voters care about Oakwood; I am glad that South Euclid residents are voting on that issue. Issue 2 comes up sometimes; I signed a petition to get the issue on the ballot, but my focus is Cleveland Heights, so I am not taking a public position on state or national issues.
Cleveland Heights needs to become much more efficient at dealing with its issues. We’ve now had years of problems with foreclosed and vacant homes, as well as with an increased number of rental properties. Addressing these issues is going to take compiling data into usable form for targeted efforts. To speed up the process of dealing with issues, greater coordination among a variety of service areas, from police to our housing department to our schools, social service agencies and courts, as well as regional collaboration. City Council can set the direction and policies for the city manager to get this work done.
If our schools had excellent ratings, and our taxes were competitive with other cities regionally, it would be a game changer for Cleveland Heights. Under the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Douglas Heuer, our schools’ performance is moving in the right direction. That’s why I endorse the levy and want to see more collaboration between our city and schools. While the levy will raise property taxes somewhat (it’s partly a renewal, partly an increase), I believe we have great opportunities for reducing city and school costs through regional collaboration and other means. I will work to achieve those results.
Cleveland Heights is in a good position in many ways. We’re in a great location, and many of our homes and business districts were built to last and are worth preserving. We need to emphasize and build on our strengths, and deal efficiently and effectively with problems, so that we can focus on making this place even better than it already is. That’s what I want to do on City Council.