Mark Tumeo candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council
What neighborhood or area of the city do you live in? I live in the Coventry Neighborhood.
How long have you lived in Cleveland Heights? What brought you here?
I have lived in Cleveland Heights for almost 13 years. I moved here from Alaska to be closer to my family and to take a position at Cleveland State University.
Tell us about yourself.
I am Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cleveland State University. I received a B.S. in Biology and a B.S. of Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of California Davis. I also hold a J.D. from Cleveland State University. I have been with my partner, Jeff Stark, for 6 years and anxiously await the day we can be legally married in Ohio.
I am proud of my long and distinguished record of public involvement and service. In 1984, I was elected to the California Democratic Central Committee, and served as the Chair of the Environmental Caucus for the California Democratic Party from 1986-1988. In 1990, I was appointed by Alaska's Governor Cowper as one of four Alaskans representing the State on the Pacific Northwest Hazardous Waste Council. In 1993, I was appointed by the Director of the National Science Foundation to serve on the United States Interagency Task Force on Pollution in Antarctica, and later that year I was selected by the American Society for the Advancement of Science for a one-year Fellowship on Capital Hill. I served as a Fellow in the Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski.
In 1994, I was selected by Alaska Governor-elect, Tony Knowles, to serve on his Transition Team and in 1996, I became the first openly Gay elected delegate from Alaska to the Democratic National Convention. In 1997, I was selected as one of three individuals nationally to work with the newly formed Office of Risk Assessment and Cost Benefit Analysis, in the USDA. In 2002, I was elected to the rank of “Fellow” in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). I was appointed to Ohio’s Onsite Sewage Systems Technical Advisory Committee as the original academic member in 2005 by the Director of Public Health and was reappointed to another 3-year term by Governor Strickland in 2008. Also in 2005, I was elected to a four-year term of the Cleveland Heights City Council and I am standing for re-election this year.
If elected, how would you encourage citizens to participate in decision making?
Citizens are encouraged to participate in decision-making when the processes of government are open and transparent. I believe one of the most important roles a Councilperson can play is to be open, direct and honest about the decisions and processes of the City. Cleveland Heights is well known for its numerous public meetings and involved citizenry. However, open, transparent processes and citizen involvement in public meetings can only promote involvement if the end result of the processes and meeting is a result in which the public's input is valued and has impact. Council members are public servants first and foremost, and should make the needs and concerns of residents a priority. I am proud that the residents of Cleveland Heights feel confident they can bring their issues to my attention, with the knowledge that I will respond quickly and treat them with respect. If re-elected I would continue to perform my duties in the open, transparent and most importantly, responsive way that I have served in the last four years.
Describe one innovative idea that would transform the city.
I believe one of the most transformational things we could do as a City is to seriously consider the idea of merging with surrounding cities to form one, larger and more economically strong jurisdiction. Like the County, Cleveland Heights and its neighbors have steadily been loosing population over the past 20 years. At the same time, the cost of providing basic services and maintaining the quality of life that Cleveland Heights residents deserve and expect has increased. The result is clear to understand. As costs go up and population goes down, the price per person to maintain the quality of life increases. By merging jurisdictions, we can deliver services more efficiently (lower cost per person) while still maintaining high quality. Of course, merger is not the only way to achieve this, and it is politically more feasible to combine services such as Fire or public services (e.g. garbage collection, snow plowing). However, true transformation requires us to explore ideas that may not be politically easy.
Who are the community stakeholders in Cleveland Heights? What ideas do you have for how these stakeholders can work together toward common goals?
"Stakeholders" is a broad and extremely inclusive term. Fundamentally, I define “stakeholder” as any person or group that has an interest in and is affected by the activity in question. First and foremost, the “community stakeholders” in Cleveland Heights are all its citizens. Of course, numerous others have an interest in, and are affected by, the activities in Cleveland Heights. Property owners who do not live in the City, businesses and their employees who may not reside in the City, and the residents of neighboring cities who are impacted by the success or failure of Cleveland heights. I believe that bringing interested parties together to discuss ideas and common interests is the first step to achieving a consensus on common goals. It is important to realize, however, that diversity, which is one of our greatest assets, means that consensus is often difficult to obtain.
What is your plan to develop the local economy?
I believe that the City needs to increase efforts to sustain local businesses as well as attract new businesses and jobs. I firmly believe that we are in a unique position to leverage the economic growth of University Circle. The biomedical industry has continued t grow even through the recent economic downturn. Cleveland Heights should develop policies and programs to promote small businesses that are already in Cleveland Heights, and to attract new start-up companies, especially those related to the biotech focus of the Clinic and university Hospitals. As an example, the City Council supported the use of Federal block-grant funds for an innovative loan program that resulted in the establishment of Neurowave, a new high-tech company in Cleveland Heights. I have also proposed the development of a new biotech incubator for start-up businesses located in the Northeast sector of the City. I am currently working with local, state and federal funding sources to assemble funding to finance the facility, in conjunction with BioEnterprise, a local non-profit organization that provides seed money to new biotech start-ups.
What are the best qualities of Cleveland Heights and what would you do to sustain them?
I believe that the best qualities of Cleveland Heights are embodied in our diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. It is in these neighborhoods that we live and feel truly “at home.” Maintaining these neighborhoods involves ensuring that the infrastructure remains in excellent condition (e.g. streets, water, and sewer) and that City services are consistently delivered (e.g. police, fire, garbage removal), that housing is maintained and improved, and most importantly, that neighbors respect and honor those with whom they live. These three areas – infrastructure and city services, maintenance of the housing stock, and maintenance of peace and security represent the highest order of business for City government. I believe that maintaining these assets requires first that the City operate efficiently and with strong fiscal management. Only then will we be able to shepherd our limited resources to provide the quality of life that forms the basis of our neighborhoods and is the heart of Cleveland Heights.
How do you view recent residential and commercial developments in terms of overall planning, architecture, functionality and sense of place? What types of new development do you think are appropriate and realistic for Cleveland Heights?
Over the past several years there has been over $300 million invested in residential and commercial development in Cleveland Heights. I believe the planning and zoning process has, for the most part, ensured that both the residential and commercial developments were consistent with the areas in which they were constructed, were architecturally appropriate and helped the City’s property values remain stronger than any of our surrounding neighbors. It is also important to realize that the investment for development and construction is not from the City, but from the private sector. Hence, the market drives most of the decisions that investors (not the City) make with regard to type and location of any given development. The City’s responsibility is to attract development that is both appropriate for the place and goals of the citizens as well as being economically viable enough to attract the individuals with the money to bring those developments to reality. I feel Cleveland heights is well situated to both promote development that is consistent with our rich heritage and architectural traditions, and appropriate for the small commercial districts integrated residential neighborhoods, while still being cutting –edge, modern and forward looking in both design and function.
Describe one way that you think the city could realistically work cooperatively with other local governments to reduce costs and/or improve services.
As I indicated in question 6, I think a truly transformational approach to regional collaboration is through merger as opposed to shared services. However, I realize that sharing services is probably more politically realistic at this time. I believe the simplest shared service at this point is probably a joint Fire and EMS Department between Cleveland Heights, University Heights and Shaker Heights. We may also be able to include South Euclid and/or East Cleveland depending on the analysis of the equipment and training in those communities. It is my understanding that Shaker, university and Cleveland Heights have already developed uniform training procedures and have purchased compatible equipment. The Fire Chiefs in these three communities have met and discussed how such a joint district would operate to maximize protection and minimize response times in case of an emergency. In addition, we already have joint dispatch for Fire, so the merging of the departments is mostly a matter of determining how to hire and direct one Fire Chief when three Councils and cities are involved.
What would you tell a current resident of the City of Cleveland Heights who was thinking of leaving town?
I assume from the question the issues are more related to concerns about the City and not to personal issues such as family or employment. I would explain to the individual that all cities, everywhere in this country, are experiencing difficulties and frustration with our problems is a valid concern. However, if one compares Cleveland Heights on several important metrics, one will see we are one of the strongest, most diverse and safest cities in the State. Crime statistics have consistently shown that we have one of the lowest serious crime rates for a City of around 50,000 in the State. We have strong schools that are getting stronger. We have a magnificent housing stock priced very reasonably and we have a quality of life in our neighborhoods and nearby commercial districts that is mimicked by “lifestyle centers” such as Legacy Village. We are within walking distance of the fastest growing medical and biotechnology research center in the Country and have ready access to culture and arts that are second-to-none. Further, one can get to anything in Cleveland easily and with little to no commute time, saving gas and energy.
How would you market the City of Cleveland Heights to a prospective resident?
I think we should aggressively market our city to the new professionals moving here to take jobs at our nearby hospitals, research institutions and Universities. This marketing must be in print, and more importantly, on the Web. I am proud of my work over the last four years to improve the City’s web presence. Our marketing material should discuss highlight the exact same items that are in question 12. The things that I believe make Cleveland Heights a great city to stay in are the exact same attributes that should attract new residents. Young families should appreciate the diverse, welcoming environment. We truly have a “small town” feel while enjoying all the cultural and commercial benefits of a large city. In addition, if the new residents work at the Clinic, university Hospitals or anywhere in downtown Cleveland, we are only a short commute away without the congestion of a major highway. This saves time and money, especially as gas prices rise. Even in economic bad times, the property values have fallen less in Cleveland Heights than any of our neighboring cities, making our city a good investment.
Please give one concrete example of how you propose to address one of the following real or perceived quality of life issues: crime, litter, vacant storefronts, disengaged youth, foreclosures/vacant houses, population decline, public school performance, high taxes.
One of the more difficult and disturbing problems facing Cleveland Heights is an increase in anti-social behavior among our City’s youth; this ranges from lack of civility through disruptive behavior, to significant acts of vandalism and crime. While our police diligently enforce the law, the County’s juvenile justice is overwhelmed and seemingly ineffective in resolving this issue. Though much of the situation is outside the purview of the City, one way I believe this we can be addressed is through strong neighborhood organization. When people know their neighbors and watch for one another, it is much harder for troublemakers to gain a foothold. I have worked with several neighborhood groups to develop strong cooperation with our police, housing and community relations offices, and we have helped those communities to take back their neighborhoods. I am extremely proud of the “Community Liaison Program” I helped develop, and in my second term, I commit to working to expand it to other neighborhoods across the City.
How would you work together with the CH-UH City School District to address the issue you identified above? Please restate the issue you are addressing.
I believe the City must engage and work more closely with our school district to address the issues of behavior and disengaged youth. I believe that working with the City, the Schools could develop volunteer service programs that could help re-engage our youth. Mr. Ken Hadden proposed that a technical training program be instituted that would teach students construction trades through renovation of foreclosed homes. The City has such homes under our HUD $1 Home and NSP Programs. Such a cooperative venture should be seriously explored. The auto technician program at Heights High currently assists seniors, and should be promoted more widely. We also need to work with the schools to address behavior issues and address ways the City and Schools can work more closely to ensure behavior problems outside school property are addressed. Over the past two years, the City has made great strides in cooperating with the schools on issues of security. I am committed to developing even stronger collaboration with the School Board so that we can work together to meet the needs of our youth, while maintaining the type of behavior and civil order we value in Cleveland Heights.
To learn more about this candidate visit http://www.tumeoforcouncil.org/.
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