University Heights Mayor Candidate Michael Dylan Brennan
Education: Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, J.D.; Bowling Green State University, B.A., Political Science
Current occupation: Mayor of University Heights
Qualifications: Approaching four years as mayor, and over 20 years legal experience, including managing a law practice. Prior community experience: FutureHeights Inc., Board of Directors, Executive Cmte (Corporate Secretary), Planning & Development Cmte, Heights Music Hop Cmte; Citizens for Saybrook Park (aka Walter Stinson Community Park). Prior political and government experience: Polling Location Coordinator, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections; Voter Protection Team, Obama for America; Judicial Staff Attorney, Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula, Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas; Law Intern, U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division; Congressional Intern for Rep. Eric D. Fingerhut.
What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the mayor and the members of Council?
The vision for the community is a collaborative process. It is the role of the mayor as the only full time elected official in the city to set forth the vision for the community. The councilmembers contribute to the vision, which they then share and work on together. This includes appropriating the funding to enact the changes needed to implement programs and reforms, and fulfill the vision for the community. While council members are part time, they must nevertheless be engaged, open, and energetic. They must work in good faith. They must resume meeting in committee regularly, for that is where the work gets done. The public’s work is to be done in public, out in the open.
What are your priorities in developing a budget for the city?
I fulfilled my promise to restore the Fire Department, which began day one with a new fire chief. We were prepared as well as anyone for the pandemic. I fulfilled my promise to start the city’s first economic development department. We now engage with our businesses, recruit new business, and work with developers. Keeping those gains, we now focus on infrastructure and sustainability: sewer upgrades and road improvements for all modes of transport. As we explore new municipal facilities to better serve the residents, we will go green while doing it. Good finance is the lifeblood of any organization, and it is key to providing the high quality services the residents expect and deserve.
What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between University Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
My administration is working with the CH-UH School Board to explore shared uses for the former Wiley property. In addition to a new bus depot, it could be the home for a new city service yard, and potentially more. We all share constituents, and we are working together to serve the public better. As chair of the HHCC regional dispatch center, I have worked towards the merger of our dispatch center into Chagrin Valley Dispatch. Not only will this save money, it will improve service and save lives, as we will then become eligible for handling mobile 911 calls directly, instead of having them go downtown first. All while keeping the current call center at Severance Circle.
What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to maintain the quality of its housing?
Everybody loves to live by well-kept homes, and no one likes receiving a code violation notice. As mayor, I started an income-based program to assist homeowners with a 90-10 grant up to $2,500 to resolve a code violation. Council declined to fund the program this year. I will seek to restore it. Four years ago I ran on tax abatements for homeowners who improve their properties, and fulfilled that promise by getting state approval and implementing a city-wide Community Reinvestment Area. I support continuing the CRA program. We reformed the exterior maintenance program, and are on year two of a five year process. There was once a time when this City was uneven in code enforcement, and treated different parts of town differently. This was unfair. We now seek to hold all property owners to the same high standards. The separation of the Housing and Community Development Department from the Building Department has allowed us to take on more housing issues while improving service.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
The old saying still applies: think globally, act locally. We bought the city’s first hybrid cars, obtained funding for an EV charging station, and no longer use herbicides on city property. We built the first two miles of bike lanes. Any new municipal construction will be green. We commissioned a solid waste study. Our suburb has the third most expensive pickup, with the third worst recycling results. Key is our outdated method of blue bag pickup, instead of loose pickup for recycling. We pay 50% more to process our recycling because of the bags. We need leaders with vision and values to reform recycling, rather than voting to end it. We should be implementing the study to improve recycling while controlling costs.