local election results in new UH mayor, BOE members and judge
On Nov. 7, Michael Dylan Brennan defeated incumbent Susan Infeld in a closely contested race to become mayor of University Heights. In unofficial election results posted on the Cuyahoga County Board of Election website, Brennan received 1,546 votes, 50.9 percent of the total, giving him a narrow win over Infeld, who received 1,492 votes.
In addition, Cleveland Heights and University Heights voters elected three new members to the CH-UH Board of Education: Dan Heintz, Jodi L. Sourini and Malia Lewis. Cleveland Heights voters elected James Costello to be its next municipal judge with 5,075 votes, representing 49.1 percent of the total. Voters in both cities retained incumbents in their city council races. Cleveland Heights reelected Cheryl Stephens, Jason Stein, Mike Ungar and Melissa Yasinow for its city council, while University Heights voted to retain Phillip Ertel, Susan D. Pardee, John Rack and Mark Wiseman.
“I'm elated and ecstatic, but it is tempered with a sense of solemn responsibility,” said Brennan when asked how he felt about the election. “The people of University Heights have entrusted me to move the city forward. I am anxious to get started.”
Brennan said he has already started to prepare for the position by meeting with community leaders and department heads. “I value institutional knowledge. I don't plan to change out people merely for the sake of change,” he said.
Brennan said that his very first order of business is to install video cameras in council chambers. “It may sound like a small thing, but money for this is already budgeted and is a crucial first step toward transparency of our process. With that in place, everything that follows should be recorded and readily available. Then we're going to dive into the finances and the budget, because this is a critical prerequisite to the community investments and tax credit adjustment I ran on. And I'm going to begin the search for a new fire chief.”
He pledged to approach working with members of city council with openness and respect, even when they disagree with him. “I respect the deliberative role of council and the legislative process. We're going to brainstorm and make priorities together,” he said. “I imagine everyone has a pet project, something they've wanted to accomplish. We are at a time of great unity, and I want to see us maximize this opportunity to accomplish great things for our city.”
The decision by three seasoned board of education members not to seek reelection in 2017 assured voters that there would be three new members elected on Nov. 7. This hadn’t happened since 1993.
Dan Heintz said that it is an exciting time and that he and the other school board candidates became quite close during the long haul of the campaign. “I can't imagine a more positive and mutually supportive campaign. Tiera [Briggs] came up a few votes shy this time, but knowing how committed she is, I'm confident that she'll continue to find ways to contribute,” he said.
Heintz said that his neighbors have “entrusted him with an enormous task,” and that he has “a great deal to learn.” He is meeting with school officials and current board members to help him prepare, as well as visiting the district’s schools to hear teachers and students share their vision for the district. “I hope that my experience as a teacher will help inform the decisions which impact our classrooms,” he said.
Jodi Sourini said that she is “excited, honored and humbled that our community has entrusted me with this opportunity to serve.” She said she is reading everything she can about Heights schools and about serving on a school board: “I'm reaching out to individuals who have served on school boards, and I'm benchmarking other districts [who] I believe are doing great things. In addition, I'm listening to people in our community who want to talk about our schools.”
In addition to establishing a good working relationship with her fellow board members, Sourini said that she wants to initially focus on two critical issues facing the district: attracting and retaining families and improving communications. “I think we can make significant progress in these areas by focusing on: reviving the Kindernet program, which provided outreach to young families, and establishing a formal communications policy which outlines guidelines and media for communicating specific types of information to identified audiences within specific time frames,” she said.
She also said that she wants to establish positive working relationships with other elected officials. “I believe it's in all of our best interests if our school board and our city governments work together for the betterment of our collective communities,” she said
The new school board members will be sworn in at the first CH-UH Board of Education meeting of the new year, on Jan. 9.
James Costello said that he learned a lot about himself and the city of Cleveland Heights while campaigning for municipal judge. “While walking all the streets in Cleveland Heights and meeting so many new people, it really hit home how great our city is,” he said. “It was so encouraging to hear how passionate people are about this city.”
“I very much look forward to serving as judge, and the first thing I want to accomplish is to make sure there is a smooth transition from Judge Buchanan to me,” he said. Costello said he has already stopped into the court informally and will have more formal meetings with a number of people in the court and the city in the coming days and weeks. “I am lucky that there are already a number of talented people serving in our court. The magistrate, bailiffs, and clerks, will all be a great asset to me and will make transitioning to my new position so much easier,” he said.
Costello said that he will work to improve the efficiency, technology, and accountability of the court; focus on the housing docket; find ways for the court to play a more active role and interact with the youth in our community; and address inequities in the justice system. “Some of these improvements can happen right away,” he said. “For example, I will consolidate what are now separate housing violation dockets (presently, some are heard by the magistrate and some are heard by the judge) to a single docket that I will oversee exclusively. I will also take advantage of some underutilized technology in our court to do some of the initial appearances remotely, making the court safer and reducing the need to have our police officers transport individuals up into the courtroom.” Other changes will be more gradual. “I look forward to working with and collaborating with others to make those improvements,” he added.
See a compilation of all CH-UH election results at http://media.heightsobserver.org/media/docs_1510175907.pdf.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.