Cleveland Heights Age: 46
Campaign address: 2248 Stillman Road
Campaign phone: (216) 213-1716
Education: Metropolitan State University of Denver, BA, English & Philosophy; University at Buffalo, MA, English
Current occupation: Communications: copywriting, branding and messaging
Qualifications: My professional work is in communications, and my political work is in grassroots activism. I have helped build effective local and statewide organizations from the ground up to advocate for progressive issues. In these, I led outreach and community engagement. I quickly rose to positions of leadership, where I managed multiple simultaneous and complex projects to meet our overall goals; directed diverse teams; formed coalitions and facilitated coordination with other organizations; and mediated dialogues to find opportunities for compromise that opened pathways to progress.
Volunteer activities: Capital NYPAN (Albany, N.Y., area), NYPAN (New York Progressive Action Network), Ohio for Bernie, Cleveland Heights Progressives
What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the elected mayor and members of City Council?
A strong, positive relationship between the mayor and council is vital. While the mayor has been elected with a mandate to effect progress and lead the city with a clear vision and direction, the council serves as a vehicle to balance community concerns and to represent residents’ varying needs. Although there needs to be a general alignment of vision and direction among the mayor and council members, it’s healthy to include different viewpoints and ideas on how to work toward our common goals. The mayor and council members need to be willing to reach out, discuss ideas and concerns, and be responsive to each other in a spirit of collaboration and problem-solving. We need leadership—both in our mayor and our council members—that sees civil disagreement as an opportunity to find pathways for improvement. This is why open, ongoing, and respectful communication is key to an effective working relationship that enables the achievement of our city’s goals.
What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between Cleveland Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
Our region’s municipalities share many challenges, and our leaders should be working together to collaborate, coordinate, and build scale. Because many issues we face do not stop at city borders, in addition to exploring opportunities for service-sharing—such as snow removal, garbage collection, and so on—we should work regionally to innovate and collectively advocate for improved and more responsive solutions. Some areas we can take on jointly include: (1) finding ways to make both public transit as well as broadband more affordable, accessible, and to improve quality; (2) addressing poverty and helping low-income households achieve financial stability; (3) tackling sewer and water infrastructure needs; (4) building a regional environmental sustainability plan of action; and (5) developing a program similar to Cleveland’s Co-Responder Program, in which police and social workers work together in response to mental health and substance abuse needs in our community.
What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to reverse the decline of its aging housing?
Cleveland Heights’ housing stock is fundamental to the health of our economy. But it’s our people who make this place our common home. Protecting the well-being of both needs to be one of our city’s highest priorities. The privatization of our Housing Department has resulted in inconsistent quality of inspections, varying application of standards, and inequitable access to resources for homeowners trying to address violations. We must rebuild our Housing Department, in time bringing all inspections in-house, as well as hiring community liaisons to help people access resources to repair and improve their homes. In addition, our city’s leadership needs to bring together all local organizations working in housing to align and maximize our goals as a city. We should also encourage one or more of our CDCs to develop a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) loan fund for increasing access to low-interest financing for community housing needs.
What is your vision for the redevelopment of Severance Center, and what city actions would be necessary to facilitate that vision?
Severance Center is ideally situated to be a thriving city center that can offer improved quality of life and increased access to needed businesses, services, and amenities to our community. However, its current owner has not shown interest in improving the property. We must begin by working with our legal team to develop a dynamic strategy to get control of the property—either securing active cooperation or taking ownership. After that, to ensure that our investment in the property will be beneficial for us for the long term, our city needs to engage in deep community outreach to find out what our residents want and need most. Through collective brainstorming, collaboration and problem-solving, and quality analyses of different options’ wider and long-lasting impacts, we can move forward with a focused RFP, confident that we are setting out to develop this space in a way that will be a productive investment and vital community space for generations to come.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
By 2050—when today’s children will be in their 30s and 40s—the climate crisis will be felt every day, in varying forms. What its impacts will look like for us depend upon how—and to what extent—we adapt everything we do, starting now. While we need large-scale systemic changes from the top-down, localities need to act as well. Local initiatives can be nimble, serve as opportunities for innovation that can be scaled, and drive climate action from the ground up. And we need to begin adapting for what’s coming—and this must be done locally, as impacts will vary widely across the U.S. How we currently live—how we commute, work, eat, consume, and so on—is unsustainable. We need to change in both macro and micro ways. We cannot continue to measure environmental responsibility against fiscal ledger sheets, especially when so many costs don’t get factored in. We need to build an economy and way of life centered on the health of our environment and the well-being of our people.
All candidate information has been submitted by the candidates themselves.
League of Women Voters
The 2021 Voters Guide to Cleveland Heights Mayoral Candidates is published as a public service by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, FutureHeights and the Heights Observer. 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 and publisher of the Observer. Primary Election Day is Sept. 14, 2021. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.