Voters versus property owners: losing sight of the forest for the trees.
To the Editor
Few would disagree that there are plenty of unhappy people on both sides of any one of these issues: John Carroll University’s property usage, development of a McDonald's fast food restaurant on Warrensville Center Road; greenlighting the B’nei Torah congregation for the property next to my house on Green Road. In each instance, our elected officials claim they are acting in the best interests of the city — a poorly defined objective to be sure — though even the winners are upset by the process of vetting reported in the media.
It seems to me that in University Heights, our elected representatives are really good at transactional government: the kind where a councilperson might focus on incremental tasks and definable work. I suppose this is logical because transactions are things with which any adult resident of the city will no doubt have experience. For example, buying a new truck; servicing a roof-top air conditioner; renovating the city hall building; hiring an attorney or some of the other 21 agenda items on this month's Council agenda.
But it also seems to me that in University Heights, our elected representatives are less good at envisioning our future and the transformational steps needed to protect our interests as property-owners. After all, if we are worried about the tax base and the value of our properties, why not consider incentives and ways to improve our lot sizes, increased square footage and modernization of our homes, and figure ways to compete with Solon and Aurora? Do we really need to make zoning exceptions for a McDonald's or a house of worship despite the protests of neighbors? Do these changes amount to anything more than tinkering for the sake of expediency because these are the projects we are presented with or we owe voters?
In the detail work of transactions, our elected officials miss the bigger picture of preserving the property interests of all the thousands of property-owning, tax-paying residents of the city and not just the few hundred voters that put them into office. Frankly, unless we are smarter than Shaker Heights or Cleveland Heights in these matters, there really is no reason to have a University Heights.
Stuart Mendel is a resident of University Heights