Taking University Heights for granted

For 28 years I took you for granted. I never gave a thought to any of your city services. The only time I went to city hall was to pay for a special pick-up. Career, interests and far-flung family was my focus. The frequent flyer miles just kept adding up. I knew more about the layout of Hopkins Airport than the streets of University Heights.

Sound familiar? You bet. But for me, it changed one cold dreary February night in 2009. The publisher of the Heights Observer, Deanna Bremer Fisher, asked me to cover a town hall meeting. Council had voted to form a Charter Review Commission to consider changing the city government from a mayor-council form to a council-manager form. Mayor Beryl Rothschild called the town hall meeting to inform residents.

Rules of incorporation for business contracts are easier to understand than city charters. But I made it my business to learn. What I learned concerned me. In my opinion the proposed charter, as written, was flawed. I now know about our city, its governance, its ordinances, the concerns of its residents and its quirks. I met many of you going door to door, at block parties, council and committee meetings, and as a volunteer on several city-sponsored committees. I also met many of our city’s employees and all of its directors. 

University Heights, because of its diversity, beautiful homes, tree-lined streets and stability, attracts people I am happy to call “neighbor.” For a town of less than 1.9 square miles and more than 12,000 residents you deliver services day in, day out, with rarely a glitch. How do you do that?

It is you, our city employees, who go the extra step. You are professional, ready smiles, and demonstrate a desire to ensure I can go about my business without being concerned about the services you provide. And, if that isn’t enough, you return tax dollars back to UH from grants that have been created with our tax dollars.

Between the police, service and fire departments, you brought back almost $483,000 in grant monies. These grants are over and above standard ones of Community Development Block Grants, or the Issue 1, Issue 2 Grants, considered part of your job.

The police applied for and are receiving about $100,000 in TARP grants for use in audio surveillance, video systems in patrol cars and crime analysis software. Another grant gives the department almost $2,000 a year for bulletproof vest replacements. Lt. Ed Schmidt obtained nearly $6,000 for a Juvenile Diversion Program.

The service department? You not only keep our trucks in good shape with ingenious repairs, but you also received a $10,000 grant from the sewer district to implement a storm water landscape design to alleviate flooding on a city-owned parcel on Ashurst Road.

Topping the list for this year is our fire department. Firefighter/paramedic Robert Perko brought in $275,000 from a FEMA grant proposal for a new fire truck that will retire the 1991 truck. Executive Captain Steve G. Ineman wrote a winning grant for almost $82,000 to purchase state-of the-art 3,883 smoke detectors and batteries free, to University Heights residents. 

And who doesn’t know the Ohio “Click it or Ticket” campaign for seat belt use? The fines collected go into a fund for public safety for cities with EMS. Our fire department applied for and received a $3,450 grant toward the purchase of a new rescue squad stretcher.

Given the size of our city, we can come face to face with each and every city employee. Not one employee is shielded from the residents. Whether it is the building, law, engineering, finance or service departments; fire, police or EMS; the city hall staff or Nancy English, the clerk of council; their doors are open to us. 

I was born, raised and lived in big cities-New York, the San Francisco Bay area, a Boston suburb and Edison, N.J. I lived in Rocky River and Cleveland. Larger cities have their benefits, but the ability to interact, influence and share coffee with your city’s service providers is not one of them. University Heights, thank you.

Anita Kazarian is a marketing professional, founder of Noah’s Landing, LLC and a long-time resident of UH. Reach her at anitakazarian@gmail.com.

Read More on University Heights
Volume 3, Issue 11, Posted 2:00 PM, 10.25.2010