Hannah Lebovits candidate for University Heights City Council
University Heights Age: 25
Education: PhD, Urban Public Policy, 2020;MPA, Organizational and Public Management;BA, Political Science
Occupation: PhD student, Urban Public Policy; Researcher; Grassroots Activist
Qualifications: Experience in local government, extensive public administration education.
QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES:
1. Unique qualities: Cities are my passion. I’ve worked in local government, earned an MPA degree and am currently a PhD student studying local government structure. I believe there should be a value to your place of residence, beyond your personal assets. A well-governed city is focused on more than private value and elected officials can create public value- if they are trained to do so. My work and experience has been focused on collaborative governance; understanding the various roles and expectations within a system and ensuring that they work together to resolve issues. This perspective would be valuable to Council and our residents. I am also a part of a cohort not currently represented in council: young families, the fastest growing demographic in our city. We need a council that reflects this growth and is aware of the concerns of young people such as social services, job networks and housing resources- as many people are first time home owners still in the beginning stages of their careers.
2. Top issues: University Heights needs to be more than a great place to live- it should be a great place to thrive. I believe that we need a paradigm shift in our local government and a stronger focus in three areas: Accessibility- Current engagement opportunities do not stem from the community. Council members should host regular forums, consistently send out e-newsletters and use social media tools to engage with, not just inform, citizens. Participation (outward/inward)- Our city needs to be more active in county/state activities, especially those that concern housing, health and human services- a growing need in our community. We also need to embrace our status as a university town and invite JCU to participate in city discussions. Opportunity- The city should provide resources for entrepreneurs, graduating students and seniors. We must also bring urban planners, developers and businesses together to make the commercial district a destination for work, play and recreational activities.
3. Community concerns: We must concentrate our efforts on the underlying cause of these issues: a lack of coordinated investments in neighborhood/community development. Most of the criminal activity in UH occurs in the under-developed commercial areas and infrastructure/housing issues are resolved in a disjointed, piece-meal method. Instead, elected officials should devote more resources to community development activities like foreclosure/rental housing services and a locally-informed plan for University Square. Additionally, council must invest in the city’s natural resources with more sustainable practices- such as community gardens and accessible public transportation.These changes build community and spur investments in property and the city. Lastly, Council should support the UHPD initiative to incorporate a community policing program into the force as it will increase citizen engagement/communication between the city and its residents.
4. Financial issues: The loss of the Estate Tax, state cuts to the local government fund and a slash in federal HUD and HHS dollars directly impact local government finances. If we want to prosper as a city, we need to rethink our spending and prioritize our dollars. A majority of our revenue comes from income taxation which fluctuates, depending on the salaries of residents. We have an estimated budget but with retirement on the rise, degrading infrastructure and the loss of Heights High, our dollars are stretched. However, business incentives must be foresighted- the city is still paying for the TIF agreement for the University Square parking lot and 15 years later, the area is significantly under-developed. Council must also find innovative ways to create more public value with fewer dollars- such as providing more resource referral services and using block grants for senior support and public health initiatives.
5. UH schools: No child is more deserving of a quality educational experience than another and a healthy and productive educational environment should be universally accessible. No one can predict which school system will be best for their needs so it is important that we have high-performing public and non-public options. Council does not have the authority to direct or divert school funds. The role of a city councilperson is to serve both institutions through equitable legislation and citizen engagement. There are a few ways council can do this: 1) Invest in all children- Create a Youth Council to cultivate citizenship from a young age and spark conversation between the city and its youth; build bus shelters for children in several hot-spot locations utilized by both private and public buses. 2) Intergovernmental cooperation- Attend BOE meeting and events, advocate for greater UH representation in the school board and see what other similar cities have done to provide complimentary resources.
League of Women Voters
The 2017 Voters Guide to Candidates and Issues is published as a public service by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, CH-UH and FutureHeights. The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to encourage the informed participation by citizens in government. FutureHeights is a nonprofit community development organization. Election Day is Nov. 7, 2017. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.