Cheryl L. Stephens candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council
CHERYL L. STEPHENS
Cleveland Heights Age: 57
Education: Bachelor of Arts- Modern Languages and Communication, Master of Public Administration
Occupation: Director of Acquisition Disposition and Development
Qualifications: Cheryl Stephens has served on Cleveland Heights City Council since January 2010. Since being first elected to city council in 2009 and re elected in 2013, Stephens has been progressively more responsible. She served as chair of the Administrative Services Committee and the Finance Committee of Council, and co-chaired the successful Issue 53 campaign.
(income tax levy). In 2014 Stephens was elected Vice-Mayor of Cleveland Heights by Cleveland Heights City Council and in 2016 she was elected Mayor by City Council.Stephens is an air force brat and traveled the world courtesy of Uncle Sam. Born in Louisiana she made her first trip abroad at 18 months of age, learned how to speak English in Japan, was taught algebra in Germany and her first job after college was in Greece. She graduated from: High School in Centerville, Ohio; College with a Bachelors of Art in Collegedale, Tennessee; and university with a Masters in Public Administration in Dayton, Ohio.
She moved to Cleveland for a job believing she would only be here 3 to 5 years and move on. But learned to love Greater Cleveland and has lived on both the west and east sides of Cleveland, but chose to make Cleveland Heights her home.
QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES:
1. Unique qualifications: I want to serve on council because I like being an agent for positive change. The city of Cleveland Heights like other First Suburbs in greater Cleveland faces challenges that could have the city become unattractive to its residents and to the region as a place to shop, do business, and live. The city council and executive staff must maintain a continuous vigil and work with its residents to preserve its housing stock, encourage business development and manage its finances cautiously due to the changing economy of Northeast Ohio. I believe that I have a special set of skills to bring to the City of Cleveland Heights City Council due to my Masters in Public Administration; and employment with local and state government in Ohio and with local and national non profits, in the areas of community and economic development finance. In my first year on city council I found a ways to recommend financial savings to the city staff that saved over $200,000 each year for 3 years.
2. Top issues: The top issues facing Cleveland Heights today are Financial Stability and Development (Economic Development and Housing). As a member of Council I will (and I have in the past) work with staff to recommend ways to stabilize finances through regular reviews of financial statements, making recommendations on cost savings and/or operational savings. And supporting staff’s ideas that allow our organization to save funds or invest in project that will save us money long-term. I have encouraged staff to be aggressive on the exploration of concepts like citywide tax abatement with specific investment guidelines for property owners which will encourage owners to invest. I will work to facilitate investment in our business districts and commercial corridors so that community wide we can see increased property values (both commercial and residential). I will also encourage staff to focus on the Noble Road area.
3. Commercial development: The City can and has brought on staff to focus on the needs of the commercial districts. Staffing is a major factor needed to get process/projects moving forward on the ideas and recommendations.I encourage economic development that will assist the city in growing our tax base. As costs increase for everything over time it is important to work regionally and maybe even nationally to have additional development take place in the community. The Master Plan that was completed earlier this year outlines several opportunities for business development, redevelopment of Severance Mall and the attraction of redevelopment to underutilized properties in the community. It is time for staff to become more aggressive in their pursuit of businesses for the community. City council can work with staff to get businesses and development that is outside the box into the community. We should build relationships with Team NEO and Jobs Ohio so that more economic development opportunities are sent CH.
4. Safety: We are a Council Manager form of government we must work with the City Manager and the Police Chief and Fire Chief to evaluate the demand for additional services and our capacity to meet those needs. The city has received two grants from the Federal Government in the last eight years which have allow us to reduce some of the city’s general fund salary expenses for firefighter/Emergency Medical Technicians. That type of thinking that has the staff aggressively thinking about other funds that will help stretch local funds is what we will need to pursue in our to positively impact our capacity to provide safety services in a cost effective manner to our residents. On the issue of quality of life, it has been my experience that all things are related to quality of life issues. Some of those other areas of importance are regular inspections of the exterior of properties to encourage all of our residents to mow their grass and maintain the exterior of their homes, discussions about what type of redevelopment is necessary in our neighborhood commercial districts, and how to maintain our parks, recreational properties, and senior and youth programming. I will address these issues by working with staff and the City Manager to juggle all of these issues to the benefit of our...
5. City finances: It is my recommendation that we look at increasing our standard sources of revenue for the city in areas of: new housing construction with some tax abatement and low interest loans as incentives to increase our real estate base and values, infill development in commercial districts and on the main streets like Cedar and Mayfield. We should work with the Board of Education, Future Heights CDC and the neighbors around the new CH-UH High School to put a created some redevelopment in and on the houses that face the High School on Cedar and Washington (an idea discussed by members of the School Board). The City Manager and Council will have to continue to be conservative on staff and expenditures because we only have one unique non tax revenue source and that is income from the Cable Franchise granted years ago to Time Warners predecessor. The cable fund have been saved and used to create an economic development fund that may used creatively to help a significant development or program.
League of Women Voters
The 2017 Voters Guide to Candidates and Issues is published as a public service by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, CH-UH and FutureHeights. The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to encourage the informed participation by citizens in government. FutureHeights is a nonprofit community development organization. Election Day is Nov. 7, 2017. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.