Noble Neighbors election forums cover candidates and elected-mayor issue
Noble Neighbors held well-attended, neighborhood-focused election forums on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 at Noble Road Presbyterian Church. The first of the two forums was for school board and Cleveland Heights City Council candidates; the second was on Issue 26, which, if it passes, will change the city’s form of government from a council-manager to a mayor-council arrangement.
At the candidates’ forum, school board incumbents Beverly Wright and Jim Posch, both running unopposed, talked about school district successes, including improved graduation rates and the three-quarters of Heights High graduates who go on to postsecondary education. A challenge they cited is the financial drain caused by diversion of funds to private schools through the state’s voucher programs.
Three CH council incumbents—Carol Roe, Mary Dunbar, and Kahlil Seren—were joined by challengers Melody Hart and Anthony Mattox Jr., as well as Craig Cobb, who was appointed to fill the vacancy left when former council member Cheryl Stephens moved on to county council, and who is now running against Davida Russell to complete Stephens’ unexpired term. Russell was represented at the forum by her campaign manager.
The candidates agreed on the importance of addressing the city’s housing challenges and need for economic development. They also generally supported the Noble Road Corridor plan, with Cobb acknowledging the importance of overcoming prejudice against investment in majority-African American neighborhoods.
Asked how, if Issue 26 passes, they would address the gap that would exist between this year’s election and the start of a new government in 2022, the candidates were split according to whether they support the issue.
Those supporting a switch to a mayor-council government—Seren, Mattox, and Hart—said they didn’t foresee problems during the two-year transition.
Cobb said he thought the issue was tearing the city apart and expressed concern about a possible staff exodus if it passes. Roe and Dunbar urged votes against Issue 26, and Roe expressed the importance of reassuring the development community that the change, if it comes about, will not slow momentum.
The candidates agreed that the city does a good job of providing basic services, with more attention needed on economic development and housing issues.
Mattox stated that African Americans feel they have no representation, and Hart said she thought economic development efforts should be concentrated in areas that need it most.
All agreed that deer overpopulation is a problem. Seren was the only candidate to express concern for the deer, and he also stated his discomfort with the prospect of shooting taking place in the city’s neighborhoods.
At the Issue 26 forum, each campaign had three representatives, with the pro-Issue 26 Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM) led by Tony Cuda, and the opposition Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government (CHCGG) led by Mike Gaynier.
The opposition speakers cited the 98 years of effective, accountable, and professional management the city has experienced under the council-manager system. The pro-Issue 26 group stated that the current system lacks accountability and a balance of power. In CEM’s view, a new system would shift power to the people, while CHCGG’s stance is that it would shift power to one person.
Vince Reddy is a 23-year resident of Cleveland Heights and a supporter of Cleveland Heights Citizens for Good Government, which opposes Issue 26.