Opening Comment: I’m Mary Dunbar. I’m running for Cleveland Heights City Council. Please vote for me. I’ve had two four-year terms on Council, and I’d like one more, because I believe I can be more effective than ever at driving the renovation and revitalization of our City. I’ve learned how to get things done and want to build on what I’ve learned as a successful advocate for multi-modal transportation. I want to focus on housing in the coming four years, because it’s the one area that needs the most attention, and we have enormous upside potential to improve our status as a residential community. I also want to see our economic development projects become reality. Thanks for coming tonight to become informed. (These comments are not a transcript – this part was not written in advance, so it’s what I wish I’d said! The following answers to questions were scripted as recorded below).
Question 1: Describe your most significant contributions to the Noble Neighborhood. Describe your most significant contributions to the city as a whole.
Answer 1: I’ve talked to Noble residents to learn about issues and then promote solutions. I’ve teamed with the Greater Cleveland Congregations Noble team to pass foreclosure bond legislation and to survey vacant homes, so we can fill them. I take credit for the new crossing facility at Noble and Quilliams, with additional improvements scheduled for Monticello Middle School, and for adding bicycle safety to the PE curriculum for third, fourth and fifth graders at all public schools. I served on a Housing Committee that ordered demolition of a decrepit Noble house, but now we want to renovate houses. As for my contributions to the City, Cleveland Heights is nationally recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community, with the nation’s best Complete and Green Streets Policy, and with a wealth of historic districts, including one submitted by me.
Question 2: Offer your perspective on the Noble Road Corridor Planning project as a whole. Describe your priorities for the development of the Noble Road business districts. Describe your solutions to the challenges faced in the Noble Road business districts.
Answer 2: I read all 85 pages of the Noble Road Corridor Plan for both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland and have attended presentations on the study. We should support this plan and work to make it a reality. Implementing it will take support, dedication, persistence and coordination from a variety of governmental, private and nonprofit organizations. Some Cleveland neighborhoods have made dramatic comebacks, demonstrating that neighborhoods can move up. Cleveland Heights is blessed with capable City staff and dedicated activists to tackle our challenges, so I am optimistic. The people who have made the flower planting happen on Noble deserve huge credit for kicking off the transformation we are looking for. I absolutely support the multi-modal initiative. Cleveland Heights has initiated studies that have enabled multi-modal improvements on some of our roadways, including Edgehill, Cedar Road, North Park and Mayfield. We know how to do this. The proposed technical transportation study will set the stage for funding a very different environment on Noble Road – one that improves the quality of life in the neighborhood. A technical analysis of the economic benefits of corridor improvements could be an excellent way to attract developers to transform Noble Road – if the analysis validates the potential we envisage. Then there’s the redevelopment feasibility assessment. I regret that the Camiros study was not in itself definitive, but it did clarify what else needs to be done to move the plan and its vision forward. Obviously, there’s a lot more work to be done but, based on my experience in government, it will pay off. The Noble Neighborhood deserves the best. I am committed to getting the work done.
Question 3: Considering the Noble neighborhoods beyond Noble Road itself, what are the most significant issues that need to be addressed. How will you address those issues as a member of Council?
Answer 3: The issues affecting the Noble neighborhoods beyond Noble Road include some vacant houses, some house and yard maintenance issues, problems with some rentals, reductions in home values, and the poor ratings of area schools. The last of these makes it hard to recruit some to the area. One idea to overcome this problem is an incentive such as academic loan repayment for young college-educated people who will stay in the neighbor for lengthy periods. City Council is exploring this option. I have promoted many initiatives to address our issues. Our Law Department has not been involved in housing prosecutions but now our municipal court and City Law Department are developing plans to prosecute deficient landlords. The City has encouraged people behind on property taxes to either pay up or get on a payment plan with the County to avoid tax foreclosure, as otherwise, this will be the next wave of foreclosures. First Suburbs housing officials (and I) will be meeting soon with Cleveland Municipal Housing Authority officials to revive programs to prepare inner-city residents for suburban living. Due to turnover at CMHA, such programs lapsed. Some issues from Noble Road spill over into the neighborhoods. Implementing multimodal transportation on Noble Road will calm traffic. Diligent enforcement will be needed to discourage speeding and noise violations, but speed should go down. Council has endorsed recommendations by our police that the State revoke liquor licenses for some troublesome businesses. This are just high lights – I am committed to a multipronged approach and continuous improvement that restores and then increases the value of your homes and neighborhood.
Question 4: If the ballot initiative to elect a full-time mayor in Cleveland Heights passes, you would serve on City Council two years before a mayor would be elected. Describe the direction that you would advocate for Council to take regarding the several economic development initiatives that are already in progress. What other directions would you advocate for Council to take regarding current city priorities?
Answer 4: First, I urge you to vote No on Issue 26. Changing our form of government will not solve our problems, which are the result of bad federal and state policies. We have to deal with the unintended consequences of these policies at the municipal level. And we are. We are implementing a master plan to build on and improve Cleveland Heights’ status as the place to be. We need to see the numerous economic development projects under way to completion in ways that satisfy the largest number of residents and serve the greater good. Top of the Hill, Meadowbrook-Cedar and the others will strengthen our tax base, enabling us to maintain excellent City services. The plans for improving the Noble Road Corridor, Taylor Road and now Compton Road will revitalize swaths of our City – we need to build momentum on all of these. As these areas improve, spill-over effects will benefit neighboring areas. We have a lot to build on. The housing stock in the Noble Neighborhood and elsewhere in this City is generally very good. Cleveland Heights homes were designed and built to last and the overwhelming majority have stood the test of time. The investment in our public schools is increasing enrollments, and we have school choices. We have some strong business districts and a wealth of arts organizations to entertain and stimulate us. The strategy of making Mayfield Road a tech corridor has great appeal, and I’d like to see us make progress there. Let’s keep the progress going. Vote No on Issues 26, or risk losing the progress we’ve made with our City Manager and Council!
Closing Statement: Please vote to keep me on City Council. On Council, I earn $9,200 annually, and I’m a bargain. As a retiree, I have the time to attend meetings to learn about what’s affecting our business districts and neighborhoods. As a Council member, I can drive implementation of needed changes and action. I have an MBA in finance, which gives me the skills to analyze and monitor City finances. My two terms on City Council have given me a good understanding of City operations and issues. The learning curve never ends, but I love the challenge and embrace it. I am passionate about keeping Cleveland Heights the place to be for diverse families and residents who love living here as much as I do. Please re-elect me, and consider putting up my yard sign!