John Rach, candidate for University Heights City Council At Large
JOHN P. RACH
Cleveland Heights Age: 35
Education: Kent State University: Master of Architecture and Environmental Design; Master of Business Administration; Bachelor of Science in Architecture
Current Occupation: Architect, Operations Manager - LDA architects; City Councilperson - University Heights
Qualifications for Office: 2016-Present - City Council; 2019-Present - Planning Commission Member; 2015-2016 - City Master Plan Steering Committee Member; 2014-2015 - NOACA Planning Steering Committee Member; 2014 - New Zoning Code Committee Member; 2012-2016 - Board of Zoning Appeals Member
QUESTIONS and RESPONSES:
1. Top issues: Development – UH is poised to be a prime real estate redevelopment area. With our latest passage of tax abatement on residential improvements and new construction, as well as the formation of the Community Improvement Corporation, the door is now open for redevelopment at four major areas of our city: Cedar/Taylor, University Square, Wiley Campus and the City Hall Campus. As an architect, I am prepared to rezone and evaluate smart development. Investment in Our Community – Our strong budget was focused on the reinvestment into our community. With revenues steady, but expenses increasing, we must be more creative in our budgeting to prevent any shortfall. I would like to focus on how to improve our tax base. By investing money back into the community, I believe we can attract people and businesses to move to our city and thus enhance our tax base. Safety – As Chairperson of the Safety Committee, I have been committed to keeping safety a top priority. This past year we have seen the creation of the Office of Community Policing, which has helped reduce crime in the city, as well as the re-implementation of the Fire Prevention Bureau, which is helping to make our homes and businesses safer. I would like to focus on continuing our improvements of our public safety by maintaining a healthy staff level, providing training, and securing the most robust equipment and vehicles. When seconds count, I want to ensure our safety forces have access to the best training and equipment.
2. City budget: While this administration has had some hurdles in the beginning of their new term, I believe we are on solid footing with our budgeting. As a member of the Finance Committee, we have made prudent budgeting decisions so that we are conservative with your tax dollars. We closed last year with a surplus and are operating on budget in this fiscal year. The City Administration handles the day-to-day operations of our finances, but the City Council has the fiduciary oversight. Simply put, we are the keepers of the purse. It is this oversight, in tandem with our energetic collaboration with the administration, that we can negotiate our finances and approve appropriations.
3. New residential and commercial development: Hiring an Economic Development Director has afforded our city the opportunity to seek out new businesses and development opportunities. Most recently, we were approached by a developer who is interested in transforming a portion of the Cedar/Taylor district for luxury townhomes. As a member of the Building Committee and a Board Member of the City’s Planning Commission, we swiftly swung into action to ensure this is a good fit for our community, worked with the landholders to promote this project, and ultimately rezoned these parcels. With Wiley Middle School no longer functioning as an educational building, this 12-acre site may one day become available for redevelopment. This could lend itself to new housing, commercial, government, or mixed-use development. The City Hall campus is another probable development opportunity. Our building is outdated, and no longer accessible for public meetings. The jail is no longer operating in University Heights since the building is out of code. When searching for a new ladder truck for the Fire Department, we had very few options as our fire station was not large enough to house today’s larger equipment. I support a mixed-use redevelopment of the City Hall Campus and adjacent properties that could offer government operations on the first floor, offices on the second, and apartments on the third floor.
4. Regionalization efforts: In general, I support cooperative regionalization efforts. University Heights has the most success in regional cooperation. We share a school system and a library system with Cleveland Heights. Our jail operations are in Solon. We have joint projects with our neighboring cities, such as street striping/painting and salt storage. While on Council, we approved a joint dispatch with Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and Richmond Heights. Our Fire and EMT provides mutual aid to our neighboring communities as well. Most importantly, our major commercial districts all share a border with a neighboring city. It is very important that we continue to collaborate with our neighbors while maintaining our individual identity.
5. Rental properties: A topic not unique to University Heights, rentals versus home ownership have increased regionally as younger individuals and families are choosing to rent over purchasing their first home. With over 900 rental units in University Heights, it’s probable that there are tenants living in single- and two-family households on your street as well as mine. Although the tenants come and go, they are our neighbors! Whether a home is an owner-occupied or a rental property, our housing stock must be maintained and kept up to code. Our city has recently considered this issue head on by splitting up the Building Department to form a new Housing and Community Development Department. While Building is now focused on commercial properties, the Housing Department now focuses on solely on housing. Splitting this department has allowed the City to have more attention on rental permits, inspections, home repairs, and vacant home registrations. Our job on council is to review or consider new ordinances. I believe rental homes should be inspected more frequently and that the interior inspections are carried to a higher standard than owner-occupied homes since the life safety aspect of the home is dependent on a person or business that may not even live in the city. The rental fees should reflect the more rigorous inspections. Additionally, I believe more should be done to reward good landlords, while being more aggressive with absentee landlords.
League of Women Voters
The 2019 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. 5, 2019. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.