CH council seat applicant interviews are posted on city's website

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Greater Cleveland, Heights Chapter, conducted nonpartisan video interviews of the 34 applicants for the vacant seat on Cleveland Heights City Council. Both the applications and LWV’s video interviews are available for public viewing at www.clevelandheights.com/1144/city-council-applicants.

Former CH Council Member Cheryl Stephens vacated the seat on Nov. 26, after being elected to represent District 10 on Cuyahoga County Council.

The six current Cleveland Heights council members will view the video interviews as they decide whom to appoint to Stephens’ council seat. 

[Editor’s note: Stephens had been re-elected to a third four-year term in November 2017. Whomever council appoints to her seat will serve out the remainder of 2019. The appointee will have to run for election in November 2019, to serve out the remainder of Stephens’ unexpired term.

According to the writers of this article, six of a total of 41 applicants withdrew from consideration prior to the interview stage of the process, and another applicant did not show up for the scheduled interview. E-mails and/or phone calls to city staff to confirm this information were unreturned as of press time.]

This LWV-interview process was created in 2016, the last time a CH council seat was vacant between local elections. Council felt the involvement of a strictly nonpartisan organization would produce better results than if council conducted the interviews itself. It was Stephens who developed it, in consultation with the LWV and chapter member Katie Solender, who interviewed the then 12 applicants. 

This time, the field of applicants required three LWV volunteer members, Khaliah Fisher-Grace, Kathy Petrey and Blanche Valancy, who worked with Susanna Niermann-O’Neil, vice city manager, and Steve Barker, digital and GovTV program coordinator.

LWV Heights Chapter members developed the questions, which are similar to those asked of candidates responding to the VOTE411 process that LWV uses to create its voters guides for general elections. Among the questions were:

  • Why do you want to serve on council? 
  • What skills, qualities and previous civic activities do you bring to the table?
  • What do you see as the top two or three issues or opportunities facing CH? 
  • What are your opinions about incentives to developers, such as tax abatements, tax increment financing, and the free or below market conveyance of city-owned property?

Each interview was limited to 10 minutes. Niermann-O’Neil received and oriented each applicant, and LWV interviewers asked the questions off-camera.

The interviews took place between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, at CH City Hall.

LWV is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to informing the public about the election process and the individuals who are asking to represent us in government. Its members do not support or oppose candidates or political parties. LWV welcomes new members. For more information, visit www.lwvgreatercleveland.org.

Blanche Valancy and Robin Koslen

Blanche Valancy is voter services chair and Robin Koslen is co-chair of membership and leadership development of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland.

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Volume 12, Issue 3, Posted 11:00 AM, 02.12.2019