Candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council Unexpired Term Robert Koonce
Cleveland Heights Age: 43
Education: BA, Classics, Case Western Reserve Univ.; MAS, Instructional System Design, Embry Riddle Aero. Univ.; MA, Pastoral Theology, St. Joseph College (ME)
Current occupation: Non-profit Executive
Qualifications: I am proudly native to Cleveland Heights having been born and raised here. I am active in my faith community (Communion of Saints) having served in a variety of committee and volunteer roles there over the past decade. I have also had the pleasure of serving on the board and as board chair of both Lake Erie Ink: A Writing Space for Youth and the Home Repair Resource Center. I have also been on the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the City of Cleveland Heights and currently serve on the board of the Coventry Peace Campus helping to ensure that the Coventry School Building thrives as a hub for arts, education, and community engagement.
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.
Our business districts are mixed. We have several key parcels throughout the city where redevelopment is in the works (Top of the Hill and Meadowbrook-Lee) and we need to push those through to completion. We also have other underdeveloped properties that would benefit from equally bold plans like Severance and the former Center Mayfield property. From both city funds and other sources, like the US Department of Transportation’s RAISE program, I would advocate a major infrastructure investment in Taylor Road from Cain Park to Euclid Heights Boulevard and along Noble Road. These improvements would be very similar to those done for the extent of the Cedar Lee Business District and would encourage residential and commercial investment.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
Environmental considerations should be an important part of the city’s policies and actions. Those decisions should focus on actionable policies with the scope of city government. Our primary focus should be on increased population density alongside complete and green streets that emphasize pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit uses. Secondarily, we should ensure that city owned buildings are as energy efficient as possible and that our code is regularly modernized to allow for alternate energy generation on our residential and commercial properties. Additionally, we should increase funding to our forestry department to maintain, replace, and plant new trees to increase our tree canopy to 50%.
How, and in what time frame, should a vacancy on city council be filled?
A vacancy should be filled within 45 days by a council majority and if that fails, then the Mayor can appoint someone within 10 days after that. If the vacancy occurs from 30 - 120 days prior to a regularly scheduled election, then the position should be placed on the upcoming ballot.
What opportunities, if any, do you see for regional collaboration between Cleveland Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
Beyond coordination among fire, EMS, and police that already exists, we should continue to find ways to combine our purchasing power for everything from office supplies to road salt. Additionally, we should constantly explore sharing the costs of certain services like infrastructure inspection and maintenance; human resource training, support and benefits; web design; and IT services. In terms of joint projects, we should continue to collaborate on the Eastside Greenway Project to ensure a complete system of trails connecting the entire county, particularly among the east side neighborhoods and cities. Additionally, I would like to see us partner closely with University Circle Inc. to vastly improve the public transit options with us.
What are your thoughts about the responsiveness of the city’s elected officials and staff to citizens' concerns?
Council should work hard to establish systems of accountability and investment to ensure that when residents connect with City Hall they are not met with any bureaucratic barriers, long wait times, or unreturned calls/emails. Our permitting process should be inexpensive and easy to understand. We can maintain quality housing and building conditions without convoluted rules that add unnecessary expense and delays. A first step would be to increase staffing and training for those who answer phone calls/emails as they come in to City Hall. Residents should call/email and immediately connect with helpful staff who direct their questions or concerns to the right place, right away.