Candidates address Noble neighborhood concerns at Meet the Candidates event

Attendees talking after the Noble Neighbors candidates forum.

More than 100 people attended the Noble Neighbors candidates forum on Oct. 6 at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. Neighborhood leader Brenda May moderated the discussion, which focused on issues affecting the Noble quadrant of Cleveland Heights—the parts of the city north and east of Taylor and Mayfield roads. The six candidates running for three seats on Cleveland Heights City Council and the three candidates running for two seats on the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board all participated.

May opened the discussion by noting that, while the candidates were being asked to focus on issues affecting the northern part of the city, the challenges facing Noble have an impact on the entire community. She then set out the format for the evening, in which candidates would make brief opening and closing statements and address, in one- or two-minute time frames, questions they had been given in advance. Audience members were asked to listen politely, and, although there was no opportunity for the audience to ask questions during the formal part of the event, all of the candidates were available afterward for one-on-one conversations.

The school board candidates spoke first. Candidates James Posch, Katura Simmons and Beverly Wright talked about their involvement with, and enthusiasm for, the school system. When asked to address the likely closing of Noble Elementary School and its effect on the neighborhood, both Posch and Simmons noted that the closing has not definitely been decided upon but acknowledged that it may be necessary. Both said, in the event of its closing, they would work to make sure the school property was put to beneficial use. Posch noted the school’s strong PTA and acknowledged the difficulty school closings cause. Simmons mentioned the planned renovation of Oxford Elementary and Monticello Middle schools as evidence of the district’s commitment to the neighborhood. Wright said she had not heard about the possibility of the school closing, but hoped it would be possible to keep it open.

The city council candidates followed a similar format, with incumbent Mary Dunbar speaking first. Dunbar spoke positively about the neighborhood and mentioned her concern about falling property values. Candidate Julie Love said her home of 12 years had lost 30 percent of its value over time, while her taxes had doubled. She is running on an anti-tax platform. T. Nadas spoke of his love of the “magic and diversity” of Cleveland Heights.

Carol Roe, a 20-year neighborhood resident, talked of the importance of city council being responsive to the needs of all citizens, and said she would bring caring, listening and fairness to the job. Incumbent Kahlil Seren, who was appointed to fill an empty seat on council, cited his experience in public policy and the need for the city to focus on economic development and assist with bringing life to its commercial districts. Keba Sylla noted his experience in teaching city management at Cleveland State University and work organizing merchants in the Noble Nela commercial district.

Asked to address the topic of economic development, Nadas cited the importance of municipal broadband, which would be faster than what is now available in the city, both as a tool of access for citizens and a resource for drawing modern tech businesses to town. Roe said the city should hire an economic development director and named businesses—a restaurant, coffee shop, and dry cleaner—she would like to see in the neighborhood. Seren said the city should get back to basics in its economic development efforts and hire a director who was aware of programs available to support businesses and who understood Cleveland Heights specifically. In a follow-up conversation, he said he would support establishment of a Community Development Corporation (CDC) that could work with the city to foster development.

Sylla said hiring a skilled economic development director who would not be too strictly controlled by city government would be important, and Dunbar mentioned the city’s current master planning process and opportunities for public participation that would accompany it. She thought a CDC or something like it may be a good idea.

Love said the problems of the Noble area were “creeping south” toward other parts of town, and cited high taxes as the main barrier to development. She said the city had turned down an offer by celebrity chef Michael Symon to open a restaurant, and had said no to a developer who wanted to develop an $80 million project in the city. When asked later for more information about these claims, she did not offer any.

Noble Neighbors holds meetings at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at various locations in the neighborhood. Visit www.nobleneighbors.com for more information.

Vince Reddy

Vince Reddy is a FutureHeights board member and an 18-year resident of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 5:21 PM, 10.29.2015