John P. Rach candidate for University Heights City Council, two-year unexpired term
JOHN P. RACH
University Heights Age: 33
Education: Master of Architecture and Environmental Design; Master of Business Administration; Bachelor of Science in Architecture
Occupation: Architect; Director of Marketing - CBLH Design; City Councilperson - University Heights
Qualifications: 2016-Present - City Council; 2015-2016 - City Master Plan Steering Committee Member; 2014-2015 - NOACA Planning Steering Committee Member; 2014 - New Zoning Code Committee Member; 2012-2016 - Board of Zoning Appeals Member
QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES
1. Unique qualities: As an Architect, I believe it is our role to shape the environments in which we live, work and play. I understand what it takes to brand, beautify, and build a sense of place. Appointed to a vacant seat nearly two years ago, I had previously served on the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals for over three years and assisted with the development of the City’s master plan and new zoning codes. With an education in Architecture and Business Administration, I have been able to make informed business decisions for the community that will help elevate home values. While on council, we kept busy fighting to improve streetscapes, start a housing bank, consolidate dispatch services with neighboring cities, and replace outdated vehicles. My next two years will continue to build upon our council's collaborative hard work and creative ideas. I want to continue to serve my community because I believe I can make a great impact to improve the lives that interact in our city.
2. Top issues: Safety: To address the 43% increase in crime in the last two years, our budget should allow for an increased officer presence. We must restore the Fire Department by providing access to the best training/equipment. I’d like to reinstate the following programs: CPR training, child seat installation, smoke detector exchanges, and community emergency response team. Home Values: In order to elevate home values to pre-recession levels, we have to address the problems causing the stagnation. With an increase in rentals, we need to hold the absent landlords accountable and incentivize the good owners. A first-time homebuyer program and tax incentive for rehabilitation of foreclosed/vacant homes would attract new families into our city. Taxes: In 2016, UH had a $2.5 million surplus and the highest income tax rate out of the 279 RITA municipalities. I support an increase to the credit our residents receive by .25% lowering the effective tax rate and aligning with our neighboring communities.
3. Community concerns: Safety, city improvements, and unkempt properties oftentimes go hand in hand. To address safety and unpleasant properties, the City has to first make an investment into its neighborhoods and business districts. Last year, our council worked with the Cedar/Taylor business district to create a streetscape plan, approved the project unanimously, and voted to set aside $25,000 to fund the project. Our robust road program over the last two years has been over $1 million each year in road/curb improvements. If we can continue this aggressive road paving program each year, we can put each UH street on a 15 year resurfacing plan. Once others start to see the investments that are being made, it may entice them to further improve their homes. However, many of our residents cannot afford the repairs that pop up. I'd like to see a city program that assists our senior population in securing the necessary financing. Let’s work with our residents to get the work done instead of penalizing them.
4. Financial issues: Federal and State budget cuts are a big worry for many cities. However, I believe our city can find creative ways to offset future cuts by being proactive and attracting new residents. We have to be aggressive to get further ahead. If we can begin a tax abatement program to repair or replace homes on vacant or foreclosed properties, we will be making it easier to attract new families to our city who would then contribute to our income tax collection. Additionally, if we investigate areas for housing redevelopment, such as the nearly vacant University Square, we can further increase our income tax participation. Of course, to be competitive with our neighboring cities, we need to be on a level playing field by lowering our effective income tax rate.
5. UH schools: I’m so proud of our schools in the Heights! I talk with many families who choose to live in University Heights because of the wide variety of options: both public and private schools in close proximity. I believe the working relationship the City has with the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District has greatly improved. We began regular School Board/City Council Joint meetings to share ideas, raise awareness, and ask questions. Two years ago, we welcomed the district’s High School in our City, and the combined Middle Schools this past August. Our children are our future. The district’s 2020 plan, “The Path to Student Success” is an equitable roadmap to prepare every student for college or a career. I believe our new High School, filled with the latest innovative features, will create a better teaching environment and improve the quality of education. It’s up to us as city leaders to market this asset to recruit and retain families into our city.
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.