Melody Joy Hart
Melody Joy Hart
Cleveland Heights Age: 68
Campaign address: 2976 Monmouth Road
Campaign phone: (248) 214-2375
Current occupation: Retired Finance Executive
Education: Masters of Business Administration - Accounting, Keller Graduate School of Management, Chicago; Bachelor of Science, Bradley University, Peoria, Ill.
Qualifications: Managerial skills: 30+ year career in finance, including in senior management as a Treasurer, managing departments, budgets, people. Have gone into companies and assessed the finance structure in terms of capital structure, personnel, policies, controls, systems, and procedures and have recommended and implemented changes. Long history of civic engagement and knowledge of city: Current city councilwoman; attended council and committee of the whole meetings for over four years prior to that. Strong knowledge of housing. Financial: Certified Public Accountant (Ill.), Certified Treasury Professional, Financial Planning & Analysis Certification. People skills: While I am directive when the situation warrants that approach, I also am collaborative when the situation warrants that approach.
Volunteer activities: Greater Cleveland Congregations, 10 years, social justice issues, including the diversion center, halting over-charging Greater Cleveland Congregations; Cleveland Heights Housing Committee, 6 years, walking the Noble neighborhood and noting bad investor properties, researching and raising the city for enforcement. CH Democratic Club, Treasurer (in club for about 15 years and Treasurer for about 2-3 years). Precinct Committee Woman (about 7-8 years). Member, Executive Committee, Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Stonewall Democrats, Cuyahoga Democratic Women’s Caucus, The Matriots, Heights Friends of Immigrants--Formed 501c3 with Gary Benjamin called Americans Making Immigrants Safe, Sponsored a Haitian Asylum Seeker, Ansley Damus; Member of Trinity Cathedral, Member of Finance and Investment Committee of Trinity Cathedral, Former Vestry member of Trinity Cathedral, Volunteer on Obama Campaign, Volunteer on Hillary Campaign, Sponsor on Future Heights events, Sponsor on Cedar-Fairmount SID event, Treasurer and Finance Chair for Mercado Global, a fair trade NFP formed by a former CH high graduate, on the board of the Cedar-Fairmount SID
What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the elected mayor and members of City Council?
The Mayor is the Executive and Council is Legislative, but it is key that they work together collaboratively. The Mayor develops strategy and runs the city, but also must provide transparent reporting of their staff key performance indicators so that the council (and the public) have a solid knowledge of where all departmental initiatives and efforts stand as well the financial condition of the city. The Mayor must keep the council apprised of issues that may need Council’s consideration and legislation. The Mayor brings forth routine legislation and may bring forth non-routine legislation for council consideration. The Council may also bring forth legislation. The relationship with the President of Council is important as the Mayor will want to discuss non-routine legislative efforts and budget priorities first with the President of Council, then with the Council. It is important that the Mayor develop relationships with all council members since collaboration is key.
What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between Cleveland Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
Building Codes are state codes, therefore, regionalizing a building department would be cost effective. There is also difficulty in hiring these individuals, so banding together to create a solution that works for multiple cities would be smart. Housing compliance codes can differ from city to city, so that is a harder one to combine until the cities standardize their codes together. Garbage could be done in conjunction with other neighboring cities as well. We have new garbage trucks that are automated. If another city has an aging garbage fleet, we could allow them to pay us for our handling their refuse. This could be cheaper for them and for us. However, it is possible it might require additional staff and trucks depending on the city involved, so a cost benefit analysis would be required. But it would likely be feasible. There may be other services that can be combined as well.
What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to reverse the decline of its aging housing?
Implement strategy to strengthen our housing department, focusing efforts on absentee landlords and investor owned properties that are not maintained. Use a collaborative approach with homeowners to provide guidance and assist them. Review and update code. Fully staff for a higher level of compliance. Provide day-to-day legal counsel on housing. Employ pro-active legal strategies to forestall abandonment by responsible owners, investors, lenders. Increase code officials’ capacity to protect neighborhoods from neglect, abandonment and abusive predatory practices. Utilize all tools available (i.e., receivership, legal intervention, etc.). Have staff obtain state certification as housing inspectors if needed. Upgrade IT tools and data management capacity, increasing departmental coordination and ability to see trends and respond early, as well as providing dashboards for reporting. Replace punitive oriented criminal misdemeanor enforcement with civil administrative and judicial proceeding.
What is your vision for the redevelopment of Severance Center, and what city actions would be necessary to facilitate that vision?
My vision for redevelopment is expanding health care facilities at Severance, adding mixed use development with housing, specifically houses for the aging population and houses to accommodate the needs of the orthodox community, all readily walkable with green space. However, we do not have site control of the property. We need to find a willing developer and a way to encourage the owner to sell. This will take a tremendous effort to accomplish, but is highly important. I would have staff research what properties they own that they have sold and what encouraged the sale. I will make as many trips to meet with the owner as needed, to determine what his plans are and what would make him sell. I will start applying pressure: Giving him frequent violations and fines, forming an alliance with other property owners there to help pressure them. The city has control of rights of way and zoning and owns some other property there, which can be utilized to pressure the owner as well.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city's policies and actions?
It is important that sustainability be a consideration in the city’s policy and actions. Sustainability needs to be ingrained in the culture of the government. As a policy, for decisions, the city should look at the relationship of the well-being and quality of life for residents, economic viability impacts on the city, and environmental impacts to ensure a sustainable future. The city has three of the city buildings heated and cooled by solar power. Our Community Reinvestment Areas have incentives for green buildings. We need to continue these efforts to improve processes and pass legislations that impact our sustainability. In dealing with developers, we need to ensure up front that they understand our values, which includes sustainability so they can design for that. Implementing a regular pruning program for city trees will help to lengthen the life and health of our trees, even as we plant new trees. Sustainability is part of our values and is a wholistic and long-term process.
All candidate information has been submitted by the candidates themselves.
League of Women Voters
The 2021 Voters Guide to Cleveland Heights Mayoral Candidates is published as a public service by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, FutureHeights and the Heights Observer. 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 and publisher of the Observer. Primary Election Day is Sept. 14, 2021. Polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.