Two candidates will prioritize sustainability and equity
I am writing to express my opinion about the upcoming Cleveland Heights mayoral race, the first in the city’s history. It is a historic moment that the city’s first executive leader will need to face with demonstrative skills, including no small amount of vision and creativity when it comes to governing a small inner-ring suburb with diverse demographics in age, race, and economic standing.
Cleveland Heights has a lot of strengths, as identified by the city’s brand study (trees, beautiful homes, walk- and bike-friendly streets), and “macro” challenges, such as a declining population in a region that has emphasized sprawl development and inequitable distribution of resources from the state to local governments and public schools.
Cleveland Heights has aging infrastructure in need of 21st-century solutions. The Biden administration is sending a signal that should encourage cities like Cleveland Heights to expand their definition of infrastructure to include people and their needs. The Biden infrastructure plan includes serious funding to address the inequities that sprawl and the state have left Cleveland Heights to struggle, on its own, to address.
Removing lead pipes that poison children’s blood and cause developmental disabilities would be fully funded under the Biden plan. Investing in the removal of heat-producing, impervious surfaces that were overbuilt (hello, Severance) would, too. “Green infrastructure” (trees, bioswales, rain gardens) will have a real, fighting chance in the form of billions of dollars coming to local communities thanks to the Biden administration, and that means that Cleveland Heights’ mayor will need a plan (and need to revisit assumptions of the EPA’s consent decree for stormwater conveyance) so that “green” or nature-based solutions will be built throughout the city (especially in areas that lack tree canopy). Even the current Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework prioritizes climate resilience and racial equity.
Climate change and equity are the two lenses through which Cleveland Heights will distinguish itself from the 58 other small suburbs—islands, really—in Cuyahoga County.
Climate resilience and equitable development are essential "infrastructure" that will help Cleveland Heights survive bumpy times and thrive into the unknown of a hotter, wetter, and more equitable future. For that reason, the only two candidates for mayor I’m considering, because of the strength of their work experience and clarity of vision around sustainability and equity, are Kahlil Seren and Josie Moore.
Marc Lefkowitz is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and a sustainability advocate. He has served on the city's Transportation Advisory Committee, on the board of the Home Repair Resource Center, and is currently a member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee. His son attends Heights schools.