CH Green Team meets with mayoral candidates
On three evenings this summer, Cleveland Heights mayoral candidates met individually with a group of residents assembled by the Cleveland Heights Green Team. The meetings were planned as dialogues: candidates Barbara Danforth, Melody Hart and Kahlil Seren would each present their environmental platform. The sustainability professionals and environmental activists present would then ask questions and, hopefully, educate the candidates.
With the climate crisis well underway, the group wanted to hear that sustainability policies and actions would be a top city priority beginning in January 2022, regardless of who takes office. The Green Team advocates applying an “environmental overlay,” incorporating equity considerations, to all proposed policies and actions.
Peggy Spaeth and 37 co-signers described this vision in a recent letter to the editor (“Residents ask candidates to embrace environmental policy platform,” Heights Observer, May 2020): “Each decision affecting the people and lands of our cit[y] should have a documented and transparent review of how this overlay is applied. [It] should include the impact on natural resources, environmental quality, and climate change.” They noted that the mayor and council will inherit responsibility for implementing climate-related actions included in the city’s 2016 master plan.
Each of the three candidates stated that the environment would be an important issue for their administration, though none designated it a “day one” priority. There were both overlaps and differences among their positions.
Danforth would rely heavily on a volunteer task force composed of resident environmental experts. She would seek their recommendations on matters such as (a) how to educate city staff and residents; (b) decisions regarding housing and commercial projects; and (c) outside funding sources (possibly for sustainability staff). She would develop one-year and four-year action plans.
Hart’s platform emphasizes reforestation and alternatives to automobile transportation. She would consider a sustainability committee, and possibly a sustainability director if the budget allowed. For advice, she would turn to a longtime Cleveland environmental activist who has endorsed her campaign. In making decisions, Hart would weigh “the well-being and quality of life for residents, economic viability impacts on the city, and environmental impacts to ensure a sustainable future.”
Seren stated, “Whenever the city seeks to develop land, make capital improvements, make changes to our zoning regulations, or offer incentives for business creation and growth, we should proactively . . . include an environmental analysis in our decision-making process.” He sponsored legislation recently passed by city council approving partnership with Power a Clean Future Ohio and setting a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent before 2030. Seren would create a staff position to oversee and promote sustainability efforts across city departments.
A current issue in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights is the recommendation by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) to remove the failing dam at Horseshoe Lake and restore the two branches of Doan Brook that converge there (www.clevelandheights.com/1439/Horseshoe-Lake-Findings-from-NEORSD). If the cities reject this proposal, they will have to build and maintain a new dam without access to NEORSD ratepayer funds.
Here are the candidates’ views on the sewer district’s plan:
Danforth: Commission a “peer review” to determine if NEORSD’s conclusions are sound. Based on “sentimentality” she favors rebuilding the dam to preserve the lake.
Hart: Needs more information to decide. We should hire our own expert to assess NEORSD’s recommendation.
Seren: NEORSD’s recommendation makes environmental sense. Remove the dam permanently.
Some information above comes from the Voters Guide for the 2021 Cleveland Heights Mayoral Primary, prepared by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, CH-UH Chapter.
Deborah Van Kleef
Deborah Van Kleef is a writer and folksinger who lives in Cleveland Heights.