Cleveland Heights City Council Candidate Davida Russell
Facebook: Councilwoman Davida Russell
Education: Cleveland State Labor-Management Relations Center Program; Leadership Cleveland Class 2004; George Meany National Labor College, double major
Current Occupation: School Bus Driver and Substitute Teacher, current City Council member
Qualifications: State President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, a Vice President of the Ohio AFL-CIO, State Executive Board Member and President of the Northeast Ohio District of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees OAPSE/AFSCME Local 4/AFL-CIO, Executive Secretary/Treasurer of the North Coast Area Labor Federation, Trustee of the Cleveland North Shore Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, Commission Member of the Cuyahoga County Charter Review Commission, and Board Member for Cleveland’s Gateway Economic Development Corporation. In these positions, represents more than 180,000 members across Ohio and 11,000 just in Northeast Ohio.
Do you think our business districts are healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that? Please discuss specific districts, such as Noble and Severance.
I see Cleveland Heights as divided between the “upper part” basically along Cedar Road and south and the “lower part” basically north of Cedar Road. “Upper” Cleveland Heights is affluent. Business districts in areas such as Cedar-Fairmount and Taylor Fairmount are healthy. The city has favored these districts with resources (grants, favorable loans, investments). Lower Cleveland Heights, which is much more diverse, is less affluent. Business districts in areas along the Noble and Taylor corridors are struggling and many are in distress. These areas have not received much in the way of city resources in some 40 years. Furthering the disparity, the city has used these distressed properties as dumping grounds for city activities.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
Current city policies and actions should be evaluated with respect to environmental impact. This involves looking at things such as water policy, trash management, public transport, and land use. A strategic environmental assessment should be undertaken in the planning stages of all new development and redevelopment. We should strive for a healthy balance between social and economic needs and environmental and resource use. “Green legislation” could help beautify landscaping in business districts, enhance our parks, and redevelop deteriorated and vacant properties.
How, and in what time frame, should a vacancy on city council be filled?
This question comes after Council just concluded its amendment to our Charter and passed its provisions. A new provision provides that when a council seat becomes vacant, Council will have 45 days to fill the seat. If Council fails to make the appointment within that time frame, the mayor will make the appointment within 10 days. While I support a process that shortens the time to fill a council vacancy, I believe that council alone should be responsible for the appointment. This allows for the separation of powers between the legislative branch and administrative branch of city government. Further, I believe in democracy, for the people by the people. That said, I believe vacancies should be filled by elections. But cost is a factor!
What opportunities, if any, do you see for regional collaboration between Cleveland Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
There are some benefits to regionalization that I support, especially where there are service efficiencies and cost savings. Examples include the dispatch communications center for fire and police and the mutual aid among our five neighboring communities: Shaker Heights, University Heights, South Euclid, and Richmond Heights. We should always be ready to explore regional collaboration and, when beneficial, to be a participant in the development and implementation of regional strategic plans.
What are your thoughts about the responsiveness of the city’s elected officials and staff to citizens' concerns?
The issue of the responsiveness of our city’s elected officials and staff to citizens’ concerns was a major factor in my deciding to run for city council. I received many, many complaints from residents from all parts of our community that our city government wasn’t listening to them, addressing their complaints, or operating with transparency. As a councilwoman, I walk the streets and talk to my constituents, listen and learn from them, and encourage their engagement in the solutions to our issues. I created a “You Talk, I Listen” forum to give residents a voice. I do all that I can to keep people informed and to get them to participate in council meetings.