A debrief of CH council candidates identifies city's top issues
There were 13 candidates running for Cleveland Heights City Council in 2021. Because most went door to door, and attended block parties and other civic events, I thought it might be instructive for us to get together and share our experiences in talking with residents. Maybe we could identify common issues/solutions, and share that information with our new mayor and city council.
Seven of the 13 candidates filled out a questionnaire, and five of us spoke via Zoom to expound on what we learned. What follows is a summary of the written and discussion responses from city council candidates Lee Barbee, Craig Cobb, Tony Cuda, Garry Kanter, Robert Koonce, Josie Moore and James Williams.
The top four issues that emerged in the candidates' responses are: housing, taxes (tied for second), crime/traffic violations (tied for second), lack from responsiveness from council and the city.
Housing: There are myriad issues we must address in this neglected sector of our government. First, council must make housing a priority by separating it from the Public Safety and Health Committee. Council should utilize the expertise of our community by empaneling a citizen advisory committee on housing to counsel our elected officials. We also need to overhaul our housing code, hire more housing staff, and complete the Novak Report recommendations. Vacant and abandoned houses must be prioritized! There are also many programs to help homeowners bring their properties up to code. We must connect more residents to these programs.
Taxes: High taxes are a common complaint. We need to expand our population by both building new housing and filling vacant and abandoned properties with new residents. This will stimulate other economic development and ease the tax burden on the rest of us. We also need to educate our taxpayers on how our tax system works; there were many misconceptions. Many residents said they would not mind paying the taxes if city services were better.
Crime: Crime is both a perceived and real problem. Crime is up the past two years, but it is up all over the county and country. Before COVID, crime was down. The city needs to better communicate its successes when crime is down, and/or when crimes are solved. The city must also address speeding and the running of stop signs. This was a common complaint from all over Cleveland Heights. Cameras at intersections, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures were suggested.
Other issues: James Williams said he felt that our city needs broadband to help modernize and bring equity to neglected neighborhoods. Craig Cobb said he believes that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds may be able to be used to bolster our city’s budget shortfall. Lee Barbee and Garry Kanter said the city needs to listen to citizens regarding Cedar-Meadowbrook-Lee and build a park.
There are many issues confronting Cleveland Heights. Prioritizing what to do and when to do it is always a difficult task. Going door to door and listening to what the voters are saying is a great place to start making those decisions. So, I will send this information to our newly elected officials to see if we can work together on the various housing issues, bolstering our tax base, and decreasing crime.
A big thank you to the candidates who participated, and to all of you who took the time to share your concerns with us.
Tony Cuda is a longtime Cleveland Heights resident who was elected to CH City Council on Nov. 2, 2021.