University Heights Mayor Candidate Ken Simmons
Facebook: Ken Simmons for Mayor
Education: Master of Public Administration, Cleveland State University; B.S., Aviation, The Ohio State University
Current occupation: Airport Security Coordinator, Cleveland Department of Port Control
Qualifications: As a recent graduate of the Master of Public Administration program through the Maxine Goodman Levin College at Cleveland State University (CSU), my passion for good government was ignited. Affirmed through this program is my conviction that serving the public must focus on: efficiency, equity, effectiveness, and economy. In the office of Mayor, I intend to take these tenets to work for the residents of University Heights. In addition to schooling, Ken would bring over two decades of experience in municipal government to the position of Mayor.
What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the mayor and the members of Council?
As equal branches of government, the executive and legislative branches must be cooperative within the constraints of our system of checks and balances. The Mayor and Council members should fully understand the requirements and limitations of their roles as detailed in the City Charter and the Constitution of the State of Ohio. Of course, a measure of competition between the branches can bring about win-win solutions to complex problems but the relationship must be mutually respectful. All individuals involved must have the best interests of the residents of University Heights first and foremost in their deliberations. As Mayor, I will model that behavior to the best of my ability.
What are your priorities in developing a budget for the city?
Written in the preamble to the City Charter the purpose of our government is to “to promote our common peace, safety and welfare.” Funding these primary duties of the government to provide policing, fire protection, emergency medical services, infrastructure maintenance, and building code enforcement must be balanced against the revenue the city generates through the collection of taxes on income, real property, sales, fees for service, etc. In other words, the operating expense budget must be balanced with respect to operating revenues. There may be tough decisions ahead, but they must be informed by thorough data-driven analysis freely available to the residents.
What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between University Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
A few years ago, the city was in talks to merge fire departments with those of nearby communities. I suggest this notion be re-visited. Building and housing could also be combined with other local governments. For example, if our housing court is in Shaker Heights, it seems to make sense that the same rules apply across those jurisdictions. The efficiencies that would be gained by contractors not having to deal with different licensing and permit requirements is enough reason to explore opportunities to combine these functions. Additionally, discussions could be had with Metroparks to assume operation of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Finally, refuse collection and other Service Department activities should be examined.
What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to maintain the quality of its housing?
As I walked door-to-door collecting petition signatures, I noticed several residences that needed minor repairs. Some of those residences were apartment buildings. As a commercial enterprise, a landlord must make every effort to comply with the building code. However, some to these residences were owner-occupied. I don’t think it is a matter of the expense of making those repairs, it’s more a matter of residents lacking the time or skills to make those repairs. Instead of the city inspectors issuing violations, this force could be more helpful if they would issue warnings that provide general advice or other resources to help correct the problem. An example could be a partnership with home improvement retailers and hardware stores that could offer workshops. After three warnings are ignored, then it would be appropriate to take enforcement action.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
We must manage our solid waste stream better. The engineer in me leans toward reduce, reuse, then recycle. The city administration should follow that recommendation. This common refrain is easy to say but extraordinarily hard to do. An informed citizenry is crucial to addressing this problem. We must know what really happens to the glass we put in the recycling container. As a nation we have done this, seen specifically during World War II. A wartime economy is what made recycling economically feasible. We should think about solid waste management as a similar struggle. However, the city can promote education programs that will help residents make more environmentally sound decisions about what they buy, consume, and recycle.