Craig Cobb, candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council, two-year unexpired term
Cleveland Heights Age: 64
Education: B.A., Miami University (OH.); J.D., Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Current Occupation: Managing Attorney, Farmers Insurance Cleveland Legal Office
QUESTIONS and RESPONSES:
1. Top issues: The main source of revenue to operate the City is from income tax on wages paid by residents and employees of our businesses. The City receives only $.10 of every dollar paid in real estate property taxes. Instead, most of the property tax collected from property owners goes to the Cleveland Heights/University Heights School District, a separate and elected governing board from Cleveland Heights City Council. Therefore, my number one priority is to grow our income tax base by attracting new residents to off-set population losses, and increase employment through revitalization of our commercial districts to create new business or grow our existing ones.We need to retain our current residents by maintaining our housing stock with diligent code enforcement and holding absentee landlords accountable for the condition of their property and disruptive tenants that harm the neighborhood. To attract new residents and particularly those that desire new construction, the City must find and partner with established developers on projects like Cedar-Meadowbrook, College Club, Medusa and Top of the Hill. The City must eliminate unnecessary delays and red tape that discourage developers from pursuing projects here and new businesses who want to come to the City. It is incumbent upon me to collaborate with other Council members to establish policies that foster growth and development, and hold the City Manager and our employees accountable to our residents who deserve good government.
2. Position on form of city government ballot issue: I am in favor of maintaining our current form of government, and am committed to addressing those legitimate concerns and issues that have led many of our residents to conclude that a change is needed at this time to move the City forward. However, regardless of my personal opinion, after 100 years of our current form of government, I am in agreement with the Citizens for an Elected Mayor that the residents should have the opportunity to vote on the form of government they would like going foward. In fact, I was one of several thousand citizens who signed the petition to have the issue placed on the ballot. City Council was debating this summer putting a competing ballot measure on for this November to adopt the Charter Review recommendations which maintain the current city manager form of government. That would mean two competing measures on the same ballot regarding opposite forms of government where a voter could vote yes on both. I believed that would cause voter confusion, potentially resulting in lengthy and costly litigation, and taint the results of any vote. Therefore, I did not provide the 5th vote needed by Council to place a competing measure on the ballot this November.
3. New residential and commercial development: Where the City has available buildings or vacant land it owns or controls, we should seek qualified developers to partner with by way of Requests for Proposals to undertake construction to attract residents that prefer newer homes, and retain our older residents who wish to downsize into modern apartments or town homes that are suitable for senior needs. We are currently working with a developer to revitalize the Lee, Cedar and Meadowbrook Roads area with a mixed use development that will help accomplish these goals. We must require that any new construction follows best building practices for sustainability and to protect our environment. We should offer tax incentives, when appropriate, to encourage development particularly in our less affluent neighborhoods and distressed business districts. As it should be, our current business loan and tax abatement programs, provide extra incentives for those businesses willing to locate in our distressed business districts. Working with consultants, we must implement a strategy that forces the current absentee and private owner of Severance Town Center to work with the City to redevelop it as part of a master plan to transform the entire Severance property into a viable mixed-use community with a variety of housing options and welcoming green spaces. In the meantime, we must block any efforts by the current owner to further degrade the property.
4. Privatization of city services: The essence and purpose of municipal government is to provide on a local level, vital services to residents such as police fire, EMS, and public services such as street maintenance and repairs, garbage, housing preservation and code enforcement, recreation, address our infrastructure needs and perform miscellaneous administrative duties. These have all long been traditional governmental functions performed by municipal employees who for the most part, work tirelessly for the benefit of the public good and value public service. Their jobs are performed without the primary purpose or motivation to provide a profit for the benefit of a private business entity. To turn over any of these functions, to the private sector, undercuts in my opinion the essence and purpose of municipal government because then the private provider is performing the job of local government for a profit as opposed to being motivated by serving the public good. These private companies often cut corners and pay their employees less wages and benefits to increase profits. While privatization may prove initially to be more economical, in the long run, it has usually proved to be more costly for the municipalities after the first contract comes up for renewal, and the privatized department no longer exists. At that point, the municipality has no leverage in negotiations, and the cost to start up a now dissolved city department may prove to be cost prohibitive.
5. Regionalization efforts: Regionalization is generally a good practice where it can afford cost savings to a local government by sharing in the costs of duplicative services, or by banding together thereby having greater purchasing power of vehicles, equipment, and supplies. A good example of regionalization is the shared dispatcher services for police, fire and EMS shared by Cleveland Heights, Shaker, South Euclid, University Heights and Richmond Heights. In fact, the dispatch center, Heights Hillcrest Communications Center, is located in Cleveland Heights at Severance. Regionalization exists with respect to having mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments, which allows the nearest fire company to respond and means that essential services can be provided with less equipment and firefighters having to be on standby. These efforts have only helped the City.
League of Women Voters
The 2019 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. 5, 2019. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.