Susan Infeld candidate for University Heights Mayor

Biographical information

What neighborhood or area of the city do you live in? Fairmount Circle

How long have you lived in University Heights? What brought you here?

I have lived in the CH-UH area for 23 years. My husband and I moved here from Chicago with our newborn daughter so that he could do advanced medical training at University Hospitals. We rented a house in CH for 3 years (Denison Park neighborhood) before buying our home on Tyndall Road in University Heights 20 years ago.

Tell us about yourself.

I am married (Michael) and have 3 children (Maggie, Emily, Lucy). I grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in Finance. I like to run and have run 8 marathons. I also like to read and am currently in a book group. For fun, I am always looking for the perfect brownie recipe. I have been involved with many community activities and boards over the years: Chairman, Citizens Committee for a New Purvis Park and Pool, First Suburbs Consortium Executive Committee and Governing Board, Shaker Heights Senior Task Force, Eastside Bicycle Route Task Force, Meals on Wheels trustee, American Red Cross Eastside Advisory Committee, Committee of Schools Together for Our Children Founding Member, Beaumont School Board of Trustees, Gesu Parish Finance Council, Childrens Museum of Cleveland Parent-Teacher Advisory Committee, Community Services coach (t-ball), Brownie Troop leader, and Heights Community Congress.

If elected, how would you encourage citizens to participate in decision making?

I would re-invigorate the current citizen advisory committees to see if all topics studied continue to be useful and relevant and if there needs to be new topics studied. I would also hold at least one community-wide town hall meeting a year to hear and address residents’ concerns.

Describe one innovative idea that would transform the city.

I want to market UH as a community with a small-town feel and a nationally-recognized university, capitalizing on the charming quality that UH has as a small town and drawing in the University to reposition our reputation regionally. I see the University as a huge untapped resource that gives our city a unique cachet. I have already spoken to the university about giving adult learners in UH the opportunity to fill open classroom slots at the university at a discounted rate. This would be a unique program offered only to UH residents and would benefit all involved.

Who are the community stakeholders in University Heights? What ideas do you have for how these stakeholders can work together toward common goals?

The stakeholders are residents, business, non-profit institutions, John Carroll University, and the city government. I think it is important to draw the University into the community in a way that would benefit both the University and UH residents. This could happen with the program I addressed in the previous question, which would involve the University opening its available classroom slots to UH adult learners at a discounted rate. Additionally, I have talked to the University about aggressively assisting them with locating nearby available space that they could use to fulfill recreational needs for attracting and retaining students. I want to alleviate the concerns of residents of the surrounding neighborhood about University sprawl and specifically would like to utilize empty retail space for this purpose. Providing assistance to benefit the University, its students and UH residents will benefit businesses, the non-profit institutions and the city government by making UH a destination city to live in northeast Ohio.

What is your plan to develop the local economy?

I would like the UH city government to capitalize on a very unique asset it has, the University, and position  UH as a very attractive place to live because of that asset. Combining that with our small town charm and marketing our community with these strengths will increase our desirability as a place to live.

What are the best qualities of University Heights and what would you do to sustain them?

UH is a tremendous place to live with a wonderfully diverse and educated population, traditional and affordable beautiful homes, and a university in its midst. My plan is to nurture all of these assets, to draw upon them in order to make UH more desirable as a place to live, and to market this to the greater region. In order to do that  I would: tap into the intellectual and professional expertise of residents through citizen advisory committees; ensure that the building department is more helpful to residents, offering transparency in expectations and consistency in the application of rules; bring the intellectual firepower of the University into the community and establish unique University programming for UH adult learners at a special rate; continue to seek out economic development opportunities to build the city’s tax base.

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 University Heights?

UH has not had residential development projects. Recent commercial developments were vetted through the architectural review board, the zoning & planning committees, and at public meetings. They have allowed additional shopping opportunities for residents and for people passing through UH. It would be terrific if a hospital system would locate offices or a clinic in UH. As mayor, I would seek out all avenues for economic development opportunities to build the city’s tax base.

Describe one way that you think the city could realistically work cooperatively with other local governments to reduce costs and/or improve services.

UH collaborates extensively with other governmental agencies in cost-saving efforts on city purchases (e.g. road asphalt, road salt, gasoline for city vehicles, auto parts.) As mayor, I would explore additional options for savings and for programs that would provide increased and better services to residents. Recreation offerings have been improved with the city’s partnership with SELREC. Before I left city council, I was part of a group of elected officials who formed the Hillcrest Heights Area Recreation Council, a council of governments (South Euclid, Richmond Heights, University Heights, South Euclid-Lyndhurst schools) working to build a jointly owned regional recreation facility. As mayor, I would continue to explore the regional recreation facility with the intention of making it a reality.

What would you tell a current resident of University Heights who was thinking of leaving town?

I would wish him well but I would tell him that he was leaving as our renaissance is beginning. I plan to continue the city’s policy of surveying residents as they move in, and as they leave, to find out what brought them here, what they like, etc. This is a valuable tool that allows the city to continuously tweak the services it offers.

How would you market the City of University Heights to a prospective resident?

I would market UH as a charming community with a small-town feel that has a nationally-recognized university in its midst. I would point out the charming amenities of UH : 1) a state-of-the-art pool with a 30-foot high water slide, a high dive, unique programs like separate swim sessions for men and women and early morning lap swimming for adults; 2) a park program that offers free art & crafts for kids twice a week, an afternoon story hour in the park, tennis lessons and tennis leagues; 3) a community of diversity with 39 different languages spoken; 4) beautiful, affordable, traditional-style homes; 5) a variety of educational options for families with children, all within walking distance; 6) a walkable community nestled between I-271 to the east and University Circle and downtown to the west; 7) wonderful community programming, such as the Memorial Day parade, which is approaching its half-century mark, and the free summertime band concerts with free ice cream.

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.

UH residents pay high taxes. It is imperative that the city government delivers additional services to residents at no additional cost. Residents need to see a return on the high taxes they pay. I want City Hall to be more accessible to residents, having late hours once or twice a week. This would accommodate residents who do not fit the current 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. hours, allowing them to do business at city hall at their convenience. The website must be completely interactive, allowing residents the ability to do business (including fee payment) with city hall online. The city can use its clout to negotiate volume discounts directly with contractors on typical home improvement projects like sidewalk block replacement. This will save residents time in getting estimates and will be a bigger discount than a homeowner could negotiate. I want to reinvigorate the citizen advisory committees to engage residents in topics of interest, such as a “green committee” studying sustainability issues; output from these committees can be used to redesign or offer additional services to residents. I want to implement programming with JCU whereby adult learners in UH get a discounted rate on classes that have openings.

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.

High taxes are an issue with UH residents. Four times the State Supreme Court has ruled that the current method of funding schools, relying so heavily on local property taxes, is unconstitutional. Four times the State Supreme Court has told the Ohio Legislature that they need to address the method of funding schools but it hasn’t been addressed. As mayor, I would work with the CH-UH Superintendent to address this issue with the Legislature in Columbus, and also with the legislators from our district.

How would you work together with John Carroll University to balance its needs with those of residents?

University Heights can help the University best by supporting their goals in balance with the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods. I have talked with the University about helping them with their need for additional recreational facilities in unused space currently in the city at University Square. Their need for recreational space will have to be addressed innovatively so as not to make nearby residents feel they are giving up their quality of life.

Do you support the proposed changes to the University Heights Charter as approved by University Heights City Council? Please explain your position.

No, I do not support the recommendation of the charter review commission, which is to add the position of city administrator to the city government structure. The administrator would be hired by the city council and answerable to the city council. My opinion is that adding another level of administration, through a city administrator, is expensive and unnecessary in a city of our size. It removes accountability to the residents and removes the checks and balances found in our current form of government. As a mayoral candidate, I will respect the vote of the residents as they determine the type of city government we will have in future. I am willing to serve as mayor in whichever capacity the voters decide for that office on Nov. 3rd.

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Volume 2, Issue 10, Posted 1:59 PM, 09.22.2009