Evans hopes for "opportunity to remain on council"
In her 18 years on Cleveland Heights City Council, Vice Mayor Phyllis L. Evans has always balanced her council responsibilities with a full-time job as a certified lab technologist for University Hospitals.
At the end of this year, however, Evans, now 66, will retire from her hospital job. She’s definitely hoping to keep the council one, though.
“I didn’t want to give up everything at once,” she said, when asked why she’s running for council again at a time of life when many people think about retiring.
“If there’s an opportunity for me to remain on council, I’d like to, if that’s what the voters decide,” she said in an interview. “It would be nice to be able to spend as much time as I like on council business.”
Evans has lived in Cleveland Heights for 36 years – all that time in the same house, she said. And over the years she has seen many changes. The biggest is demographic, she said. As the city’s overall population has declined, its African American population has increased, enhancing the city’s overall diversity.
For Evans, the numbers don’t matter much. “I could look it up,” she said, when asked what the percentages were. “We don’t really talk about the makeup of our population (in those terms). I like to think in terms of people being treated like people.”
“Mostly we see the change in the school population,” which is more African-American, she added.
“We see a good number of white people moving in with families. We look at our school population and wonder what happened to them.” Many, it seems, are sending their children to private and parochial schools.
One of Evans’ major contributions on council has been to ensure affordable, quality recreation programs and facilities for people of all ages, but particularly for children. As chair of the city’s community relations and recreation committee, she oversees the maintenance and construction of new facilities, the costs of recreation programs and related issues.
The challenge of declining revenues and budget cuts has been a perennial problem for the city, Evans says. She expects those challenges to continue.
She is proud of the fact that Cleveland Heights has managed those budget cuts without eliminating services. Forced to cut staff, they managed to do it through attrition or, when jobs were eliminated, finding other positions for those who would otherwise have been laid off.
Finding money to maintain parks and improve recreation facilities has not been so difficult, she said, because of “Issue 27” funding from a levy approved years ago. “That fund really helps,” she said, pointing to new artificial turf at Denison Park this year, and renovations to the Cleveland Heights Community Center in recent years.
The past summer’s “flash mobs” on Coventry Road and elsewhere, which resulted in some stressful council meetings and a curfew, was notable for the fact that “they were not our kids, so to speak,” Evans said. They came from other communities with less to offer their young people.
While the flash mob incidents were “very frightening and perplexing,” they have led to some positive developments, Evans noted, particularly the youth committee that is still working to prevent future incidents.
Carrie Buchanan teaches journalism and related courses in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts at John Carroll University.