University Heights City Council Candidate Brian J. King
Education: Studied History at University of Toledo
Current occupation: IT Engineer Leads, Progressive Insurance
Qualifications: 20+ years of experience as an Information Technology professional; Board Member of University Settlement (2014-Present); Board Member of Bike Cleveland (2020-Present); Board Member of Heights Bicycle Coalition (2018-2020); Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2018, a program of the Cleveland Leadership Center for mid-career professionals.
What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the Mayor and the members of Council, and what do you consider to be an effective working relationship among members of Council?
Members of Council and the City administration should meet early, often, and in public. Council members chair seven committees, each dedicated to a department: Finance, Safety, Building/Housing, Recreation, Service/Utilities, Community Outreach, and Economic Development. Recently the committees have been meeting less frequently. Committees should meet with the administration to effectively oversee operations and propose legislation. Most matters should be introduced at the committee level where they can be discussed and studied in detail in advance of presentation to the full Council. Additionally, I will personally champion robust advance notice for all public meetings including agendas and for minutes to be posted in a timely manner.
What should be the priorities for the city’s budget?
Budgets are a reflection of values. Safety is top of mind for residents, and that priority is mirrored in the City budget. The largest expenses are our outstanding Fire and Police Departments. The Service Department is vital for removing our rubbish, leaves, and snow. Street resurfacing and maintenance of our roadways is also a priority. Investment in Economic Development is leading to the construction of 30 new townhomes on Taylor Road. Modest spending on rebranding has fostered renewed civic pride and is attracting new residents. Last, but certainly not least, supporting recreation options such as Purvis Pool and programming of Walter Stinson Park bring us together as a community and make University Heights a desirable place to call home.
What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between University Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
Strategic collaboration with our neighbors and the county are vital to controlling costs and quality of services. They allow the City to concentrate on core services such as police, fire, leaf/snow removal, and rubbish collection. A current example is the proposed merger of the Heights Hillcrest Communications Center with Chagrin Valley Dispatch. HHCC provides emergency dispatch for our city and several others, but cannot directly receive 911 calls from mobile phones. Instead mobile calls are routed manually via a County operator. By joining forces with CVD, we will not only save money, but the combined system will qualify for funding to receive mobile 911 calls directly. This will allow first responders to react more quickly.
What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to maintain the quality of its housing?
Some residents know their homes need work. In speaking with them, a couple themes emerged. One was difficulty finding reputable, qualified contractors. The City can play a role by prominently publishing a list of vetted companies like our neighbors Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. Second was affordability of repairs especially for seniors on fixed incomes. Community outreach regarding home repair loans (sometimes forgivable) could help residents maintain and stay in their homes. We must also hold negligent investment property owners, many of whom live out of state, accountable for the condition of their houses. Our new Director of Housing, Geoff Englebrecht, has hit the ground running, and this is a huge step in the right direction.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
I believe there is an overlooked impact of action at the local level. For example, the Zoning Code for the City is in the process of a comprehensive update--the first since 1956--and it has tremendous power to encourage environmentally friendly behavior. Parking space requirements, stormwater management, and alternative energy are target areas for improvement. Additionally, in discussions with residents, I have encountered tremendous enthusiasm for a Sustainable Advisory Committee. Our residents have a wealth of knowledge on environmental issues and green solutions. Their advice will be crucial for the successful implementation of policies to sustainably grow University Heights’ future.