Melody Joy Hart, candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council At Large
MELODY JOY HART
Cleveland Heights Age: 67
Facebook: hart for city council
Education: MBA, Accounting/Finance
Current occupation: Financial Consultant for Fortune 1000 corporations
Qualifications for office: I have attended 3.5 years of council and committee of the whole meetings, so am well aware of the issues. I have worked on city housing issues with Greater Cleveland Congregations Cleveland Heights housing committee and have pushed with GCC successfully to get the foreclosure bond passed, to partner with a CDC, and to hire a forensic inspector. I am a CPA, am certified in financial planning and analysis and am certified in Treasury. I have been in elected office before in Illinois. I am committed to our city and to keeping it vibrant.
QUESTIONS and RESPONSES:
1. Top issues: Housing stability and economic development - especially Severence, Noble, and Taylor - are key to maintaining and increasing our tax base in order to maintain city services without overburdening the taxpaying residents. The most pressing issue is maintaining housing stock thus raising property values. This is key as we were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and there is still an overhang of that crisis in the city. We have absentee investors buying properties site unseen without getting point of sale inspections. They then resell via the same method or they rent the property without repairing it. This only deteriorates the area. I will research to find cities who have found ways to address these issues, either by legislation or other methods, and push forward solutions. Making our housing people's first choice is another effort. We need to ensure we are marketed well and are on the lists for housing at Cleveland Clinic and other major employers. Economic development will also help us grow our tax base and increase our vibrancy. Focusing on the areas least served to incent new businesses to open in that area needs to be a focus. The Noble corridor project is a good step in making the area more desirable, but we need good businesses to locate there. And Severance is an eyesore that must be redeveloped. I would work to find ways to bring the owner to the table to ensure redevelopment or alternatively would investigate all other options.
2. Position on form of city government ballot issue: I have lived in many cities as I have relocated with corporations. I have seen both types of government succeed and not succeed. It all depends on the people and the issues. However, in my experience, it has been evident to me that the cities that are most successfully run by a city manager are cities with growing tax bases, no issues, and a rather economically homogenous community. A city manager caretaker government works well for them. It has also been my experience that cities, such as ours, which are economically diverse, have issues to resolve, need a leader with vision who is vested in the community and therefore, work best with an elected mayor accountable to the voters, along with a professional city administrator. I plan to vote for an elected mayor. That being said, I have one vote on that just as everyone else has one vote on that. So, my view let's you know my vote, but ultimately the people of Cleveland Heights will decide as a whole. In terms of my service to the city as a council member, if elected, I will do my job to serve the people whether there is an elected mayor government or a city manager government.
3. New residential and commercial development: The city has put in place a CRA for both residential and commercial development. This is a good step. The CDC will be helpful in working on in-fill housing and rehab housing with the city's assistance. Working with the CDC locally, plus other CDC's to quickly make a difference on in-fill housing. There is a desperate need in this city for senior friendly housing as well This does not mean just apartments as some seniors prefer a house. It means a selection of housing for seniors. In regard to commercial development, the city has a reputation among developers that said CH is harder to work with than other cities in the area that have elected mayors. We need to correct this so that we encourage businesses to locate here. So talking to developers and finding out what the bottlenecks and pain points are is critical in developing a process that works.
4. Privatization of city services: I view being a council person as a fiduciary responsibility in that you must make the most efficient use of resources while providing good services. Some things should never be considered for outsourcing (ie. fire, police, housing inspectors, etc). Others could be candidates for greater efficiency/cost effectiveness. However, privatization should not be done for privatization's sake. That being said there is more than one way to skin a cat. The primary reason outsourcing is done is to spread the cost across a larger population. So, for instance, outsourcing garbage to a large waste company spreads the cost of their fixed investments (trucks,etc) across more people, lowering the cost. However, with that other issues regarding service can arise. Regionalization allows the same spreading of fixed costs (trucks, etc.) across a larger population which also lowers cost, but maintains control over the service quality. Efforts should be made to partner with other cities, as we have on dispatch, to increase our efficiency and lower our cost through cooperative efforts of regionalization.
5. Regionalization efforts: Regionalization is a way of cooperating with other cities in order to spread fixed costs over a broader population, reducing the burden on taxpaying residents. It is key, however, that the agreements be carefully negotiated in order to maintain service standards. (See privatization section above)
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.