The Heights Observer asked numerous questions of candidates for Cleveland Heights City Council. Below are my answers to these questions. After my anwers and for your convenience, I have provided a link to the answers that were provided by all candidates and posted on the Heights Observer Web site .
What neighborhood or area of the city do you live in? Fairfax
How long have you lived in Cleveland Heights? What brought you here?
Lived in Cleveland Heights since 1970 – 39 years. My husband came to be a professor in the Chemistry Department at Case Western Reserve University. You might say I came because of love.
Tell us about yourself.
Married. Two sons, both grown and married, the elder now living in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters, the younger living in Yokohama, Japan, with his Japanese wife. Graduate of Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, B.A., English Literature; Stanford University, Stanford, California, M.A., Mass Communications (Journalism, with a minor in African Studies); Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve, Cleveland, Ohio, MBA, Finance and General Management. Former Peace Corps Volunteer teacher (chemistry and English) in Cameroun, West Africa. Former textbook writer and editor, Educational Development Corporation, and Addison-Wesley School Division, both in California near Stanford. Freelance magazine writer and editor. Two years as an account executive with Edward Howard & Co., public relations firm in Cleveland, Ohio; and 20 years as a senior vice president (ultimately) with Dix & Eaton, public relations and investor relations firm in Cleveland, Ohio. Served on National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) national board for five years (2002-2007) and as chairman of the board of NIRI (2005-2006). NIRI, with about 4,300 members, is the professional association for people engaged in investor relations, which involves two-way communications between public companies and investors. Retired since the end of 2007. Hobbies include travel (in addition to living in Cameroun for two years, lived in Oxford, England, for eight months, and Utrecht, The Netherlands, for three months. I have also visited Canada, Belize, many European countries, Japan, China, New Zealand, Iceland, Morocco, South Africa and more.), music (I play the violin, sang in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus for a couple of years, belong to Friends of Apollo’s Fire, etc.), yoga and jogging. Belong to NIRI, National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), PRSA and many Heights and Cleveland organizations (St. Paul’s Church, Heights Community Congress, Future Heights, Shaker Lakes Nature Center, Heights Arts, Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland Museum of Art, etc.).
If elected, how would you encourage citizens to participate in decision making?
I would first of all want to be sure that citizens who put forth ideas feel that their suggestions are considered seriously and implemented by the city, or they are empowered to implement the idea, if either is appropriate. People in Cleveland Heights have lots of good ideas, but getting things done requires a responsive government. Encouragement of good ideas should be forthcoming. Otherwise, there should be a discussion of the idea and perhaps of ways to improve it.
I would like to explore the feasibility of having a Cleveland Heights financial and environmental sustainability summit, similar to what Mayor Frank Jackson had in Cleveland. If carefully planned and executed, this would generate lots of ideas from concerned citizens and result in action plans to generate momentum toward becoming the excellent community we all want.
Describe one innovative idea that would transform the city.
Above all, we need a current vision for what we want to be and strategic action plans to achieve our goals. Rather than simply responding to emerging issues, we need to be working effectively to become what we want to be long term.
Cleveland Heights residents already have a lot of ideas. The city has many programs in place to be successful, but I am unclear on how well implemented they are, and whether they are ever evaluated for effectiveness so they can be improved, or abandoned if ineffective so that something new can be tried. Do we ever benchmark our programs against what other cities are doing to set expectations for employees?
The city needs a better way to educate newcomers to the city of what the rules, regulations and expectations are. Landlords must be more effectively a part of this. Citizens should be encouraged or organized to take responsibility for their neighborhoods, with a rapid response to their concerns (even if the response is an explanation of the process for dealing with the problem and a time frame – hopefully with deadlines – for resolving the issue). Citizens need to know that their engagement is producing results.
Who are the community stakeholders in Cleveland Heights? What ideas do you have for how these stakeholders can work together toward common goals?
Cleveland Heights community stakeholders include everyone in the city, our neighbors in nearby cities, and people at the county, state and federal level. Also included are foundations, such as the Gates Foundation that funded smaller schools within Cleveland Heights High School. We have owners of rental property who do not reside in our city or even our state.
We should engage in collaborative programs with neighboring cities to reduce the cost of government services while maintaining quality. We should ensure that Cleveland Heights residents know about and benefit from county, state and federal services. We should make it as easy as possible for residents to access government services at all levels. This will require collaboration with a variety of government entities. We need to work with owners of rental property to ensure that standards are met. I would like to see a program to encourage young people and families to start out as homeowners by buying two-family homes; this can be a cost-effective arrangement as young people build home equity.
What is your plan for the local economy?
I would like to see Cleveland Heights diversify its tax base by encouraging businesses spun off by University Circle institutions, such as BioEnterprise, for example, to locate in Cleveland Heights. Already, one has moved into the Rockefeller Pointe building. We lack space for businesses. One resident told me his company had to leave Cleveland Heights after employment grew to 55, when space was needed for 70 but unavailable in our city.
Our city seems to have a single-minded dedication to residential construction, especially condos. We also give tax abatement to people who buy these new residential homes. If we are going to give tax abatement, it seems to me that we should instead be giving short-term tax abatement to companies with the potential to ultimately grow into significant sources of taxes for the city. As land becomes available, and assuming we can attract the right developers, I would like to diversify our economy with space for biotech and other growth companies. At the same time, we must maintain the high quality of the businesses already here. People from all over Greater Cleveland already flock to our restaurants, theaters and business districts.
What are the best qualities of Cleveland Heights and what would you do to sustain them?
The best qualities of Cleveland Heights include its diverse population, recreational and cultural opportunities, wonderful homes and apartments, business districts and schools. We are well positioned near universities, cultural and health care institutions and should market the attractions of living in Cleveland Heights to people who work for or want to visit them.
I would like to see a stronger effort to maintain integration in parts of our community. I would like to see the city and schools working together more closely to attract all kinds of students into our schools. We need to redouble our efforts in housing inspections and enforcement of rules to maintain the quality of our neighborhoods.
Let’s promote “buy local” programs to support local businesses.
How do you view recent residential and commercial developments in terms of overall planning, architecture, functionality and sense of place? What types of new development do you think are appropriate and realistic for Cleveland Heights?
See answer to the question about a plan for the local economy above. I wish that our community had long had building standards that gave it a more unified look. However, we have not.
Reflecting national trends, condos have been overemphasized.
I have heard a number of older residents say they would like smaller, one-floor housing that they could downsize into. I can envisage a development of cluster homes of this type.
If space becomes available, why can’t we have a biotech or business park to diversify our tax base?
In any case, I would like to see developments that are consistent with the overall architectural style of Cleveland Heights. The proposed RTA structure as an entryway to Cleveland Heights is inappropriate. Some of the churches have done great jobs with additions (Church of the Savior, for example). Eyesores are in the eye of the beholder, but it seems to me that there are some around town.
As a community, we need a vision and strategic action plans to become what we want to be.What do we want to be? How can we get there? Should we take a page from our historic districts and try for compatible new structures or restorations?
Describe one way you think the city could realistically work cooperatively with other local governments to reduce costs and/or improve services.
“Realistically” is the operative word here, because it may be difficult politically to make the right changes. Consolidations of businesses often do not succeed because of different organizational cultures and poor communications. Collaboration on or consolidation of government services requires gaining buy-in and commitment from key players.
However, costs are going to push collaborations forward. Cities already are beginning to adopt the same accounting and computer programs to facilitate cooperation in purchasing and other areas. Cities should also look at creating uniform regulatory standards for inner suburbs.
By far the biggest cost of government services is people costs. Fire departments already cooperate on fires in neighboring cities. With operative GPS systems, the danger of police and firefighters being unable to find addresses in a larger geographic area is greatly diminished. But getting to know neighborhoods is always going to be important for police, and we need to maintain that.
Despite differences in the services provided by different communities, garbage collection is one area where collaboration would likely offer cost savings with little difference to residents. At a minimum, we should be studying the possibilities to understand the opportunities.
What would you tell a current resident of the City of Cleveland Heights who was thinking of leaving town?
I would say that they must do what is right for them, but if the move is optional, I would ask them to consider what they would be leaving. (See answers to the “best qualities” question above and the “market to a prospective resident” question below.)
Some people leave because of high taxes. I will work to reduce costs of government services through collaboration.
Some people leave because they believe the public schools will fail to educate their children to high standards. I want the city and schools to work together for improved performance. Housing and schools are inextricably linked. The city must be effective in its housing and other programs to ensure ready-to-learn and disciplined children attend our schools.We can raise the visibility of the Heights Parents Center and other effective programs for children and parents. I want to encourage parents to use our public schools as a starting point.
Some people leave for jobs elsewhere. I will support programs in our city and regionally that will strengthen the economy in Northeast Ohio and contribute to growth.
Unemployment in Cleveland Heights is below state levels because of our proximity to job growth in University Circle, which I applaud.
How would you market the City of Cleveland Heights to a prospective resident?
I would highlight our many wonderful neighborhoods and houses, vibrant business districts with many excellent restaurants and retail stores, parks, cultural and recreational opportunities, schools and proximity to University Circle museums, academic and health care institutions. I would tell them they will love living here – because virtually everyone I meet agrees on that. Our city has an increasing number of historic districts; we should have a scenic route that connects and showcases these treasures of Cleveland Heights that make our city a great place to live.
Please give one concrete example of how you propose to address one of the following real or perceived quality of life issues: crime, litter, vacant storefronts, disengaged youth, foreclosures/vacant houses, population decline, public school performance, high taxes.
Foreclosures/vacant houses are a major problem. Housing and our schools are clearly linked, as school performance depends on who attends. Recognizing this, the city must assiduously continue programs to maintain and upgrade our housing stock and rental properties. Inspections and enforcement of regulations – especially pertaining to rental properties – must be rigorous.
We must build on favorable trends, such as people moving back to inner-ring suburbs because of concerns about rising gasoline prices and the growing recognition of the environmental cost of sprawl. We need effective marketing programs to encourage this trend, perhaps in collaboration with Shaker Heights and University Circle, as discussed in the article I wrote for the July issue of the Heights Observer.
Throughout Cleveland Heights, I have found vacant homes being fixed up for sale. The city must support these efforts as best it can. We have lots of young families in Cleveland Heights, because our housing is affordable and attractive to young people. We need programs that encourage these families to stay and use our public schools when their children reach school age.
How would you work together with the CH-UH City School District to address the issue you identified above? Please restate the issue you are addressing.
The issue is essentially to “restock” as many Cleveland Heights homes as possible with families with children who are disciplined and ready to learn. We need young people who are preparing to start families moving into our vacant and for-sale properties. We already have many such families, and effective marketing programs that encourage young people to settle in our city can help bring in more.
But many young families move elsewhere when their children reach school age, or put their children into private or parochial schools. So we need programs that encourage and support young families to use our public schools as a starting point. Such programs might involve an enlarged role for the PTA, or perhaps something else.
We also need to build awareness of the importance of using the many excellent institutions and programs that help young children off to a good start – our libraries, Parent’s Center, Invest in Children and others.
Finally, I would like the city and schools to collaborate on civility and other quality of life programs.
Schools and housing are linked, and the city and schools must work collaboratively to make each better. I am committed to that.
Here is a link to other Cleveland Heights City Council candidates’ answers to the Heights Observer questions: http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/news-/city-government/cleveland-heights