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Cleveland Heights Mayor

Term: 4 yearsSalary: $115,000Cleveland Heights voters will be electing a mayor this fall for the first time since residents voted to change their form of government to a mayor-council structure. Of the three candidates who ran in the primary, the top two--Barbara Danforth and Kahil Seren--are running in the Nov. 2 General Election. Danforth is the former CEO of the Greater Cleveland YWCA. Seren, a current City Council member, is a policy advisor to the members of Cuyahoga County Council.

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  • Candidate picture

    Barbara Danforth

  • Candidate picture

    Kahlil Seren

Información Biográfica

What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the elected mayor and members of City Council?

What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between Cleveland Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?

What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to reverse the decline of its aging housing?

What is your vision for the redevelopment of Severance Center, and what city actions would be necessary to facilitate that vision?

What role should environmental considerations play in the city's policies and actions?

Age 72
Education Eastern Michigan University, BS University of Pittsburgh School of Law, JD
Qualifications for office A deep love of Cleveland Heights and all that makes it unique and the desire to bring my education, skills and experience to facilitate improvements and growth in the City. 30 years of executive leadership experience serving in private, public and non-profit sectors in city, county and state governments, including the practice of law, CEO of the YWCA of Cleveland, and CEO of largest charter school in Ohio serving children with learning disabilities with 24 schools, 1,000 staff, budget of $62 M. I developed and led a team, in collaboration with the Board of Directors, that implemented a total structural and cultural transition of the YWCA and built an organizational foundation that has enabled the YWCA to grow and thrive for over a decade. 22-year resident of Cleveland Heights.
Campaign email address bjdanforth69@gmail.com
Campaign Phone (216) 233-4369
Twitter @votedanforth
The Mayor and City Council are equal branches of the government and must work collaboratively to implement the City's goals and objectives. As Mayor, I will understand the priorities of each Council member and engage the City staff to help facilitate their agendas. The Mayor and the Council will need to bring our diverse perspectives together, listen carefully, respectfully, identify common ground, resolve conflicting positions and make decisions that are in the best interests of Cleveland Heights residents. It will be the responsibility of the Mayor to determine from the City staff issues, initiatives and projects that require legislative consideration, provide Council members with relevant data and information, and facilitate the preparation of the legislation. The Mayor is charged with the implementation of legislative mandates and completing projects on time and on budget.
There are many opportunities for collaboration among other local governments, some of which are already in existence. Cleveland Heights is a member of the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium, which is a government-led advocacy organization working to revitalize mature communities. As issues facing mature cities become more complex and challenging, there are greater needs and opportunities to collaborate, and to initiate and support policies and practices that facilitate the redevelopment of these cities. Cleveland Heights can draw upon the experience and best practices utilized in other similar cities. A broad and deep connection to our central city, Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County is important to identify trends, advances, opportunities and resources that may be available to Cleveland Heights. Additionally, collaboration with non-governmental units, such as University Circle, Inc., is important when considering residential, retail, and commercial development.
(1) I recommend a careful review and analysis of the City's Housing Department with a particular focus on whether the existing contract for housing inspections is meeting the needs of the city. There must be a fair, consistent, and timely inspection process with penalties that are enforced for failure to correct violations. (2) Review the Housing Department budget to ensure that it demonstrates the importance of our housing stock and provides adequate resources for inspections and any legal services needed to enforce the City's codes, including those relating to rental and vacant properties. (3) I would facilitate communication, at every relevant opportunity, about programs that are available to residents to maintain their homes. There are loan programs, such as the Housing Enhancement Loan Program (HELP) and services available at the Housing Preservation Office and the Home Repair and Resource Center that can assist those in greatest need to maintain their homes.
For Severance, I envision a town center of the future. It could build on the expansion of MetroHealth's new hospital and include a campus of other health and education related enterprises. It could draw upon the facility needs of the medical advancements in artificial intelligence, research and development, and clean manufacturing of medical devices. It could fully repurpose the former Regal Theater into an arts, culture and entertainment center. It could include a mixture of residential models including small, energy efficient homes and those with first floor master suites. It must include lots of green space for walking, biking and relaxing. This vision should be driven by a view for bringing in growth industries. I will engage our residents to update their ideas, as well as developers, commercial real estate brokers, financial institutions, Future Heights and the City Planning and Development staff. Finally, tough negotiations with the current owner will be necessary.
Supporting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint seems like an overwhelming challenge and yet we know that urgent action is needed. As Mayor, one of the first things I will do is create an Environmental Task Force. Members will have expertise in clean water, renewable energy, solar energy, recycling, climate change, our tree canopy and green spaces. They will educate the City staff and residents about simple, cost effective, environmentally-friendly strategies to implement. They will recommend specific policies and actions that can be adopted for immediate and long-term reduction of our carbon footprint. Most importantly, members of the Task Force will be at the decision-making table for residential, commercial and other relevant projects to provide advice and recommendations. An example of a possible idea is the construction of an all-electric home with energy supplied by roof-top solar panels. Environmentally-friendly strategies must be a priority for the City.
Age 42
Education Master of Science in Urban Studies (Law and Public Policy Specialization), Graduate Certificate in Urban Economic Development - Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University; Bachelor of Arts, Psychology/Political Science - Cleveland State University; Professional Development: Economic Development Finance Professional Certification; Lean Six Sigma Certification; Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizens Academy; Levin College Leadership Academy XXII
Qualifications for office Policy Advisor (6/2011 – Present), Cuyahoga County Council; City Council Member (2/2015 – Present), City of Cleveland Heights; Council Vice President (1/2020 – Present), City of Cleveland Heights; Communications Coordinator (3/2007 – 6/2011), Policy Matters Ohio
Campaign email address info@SerenForMayor.com
Campaign Phone (216) 307-7090
Twitter @kahlilseren
The working relationship between the elected mayor and members of council must be based in mutual respect (both for the roles and for the people holding the positions), shared information, and a healthy friction between branches of government. To facilitate that respect and ensure that healthy friction doesn’t devolve into dysfunction, the mayor will need deep, functional knowledge of the powers and responsibilities of both branches and a dedication to not overstepping the executive role. As an experienced legislator, I’ve learned that the exchange of information between branches is vital to an effective relationship and informed decision-making. As the first mayor I will not attempt to steer the council by artificially restricting critical information. That being said, there will be times when the council and the mayor are not aligned; reliance on a shared understanding of the separation of powers and open debate on the issues will help to turn that friction into effective compromise.
In order to more efficiently provide quality services to our residents, local governments will have to pursue collaborative opportunities. As mayor, I will be an active participant in our existing collaborative structures like the First Suburbs Consortium, the Ohio Municipal League, and the National League of Cities. Opportunities for collaboration with our neighboring communities include: shared facilities and fleet maintenance with University Hts., CH-UH Schools, and Heights Libraries, regionalizing our Building Dept., shared animal control and mental health emergency response in partnership with the County, proactive violence interruption, non-violent resolution services, road and bridge repair planning and implementation, economic development planning and incentives in business districts at our northern and eastern borders, capital equipment sharing, and shared bond issuance. This list is not exhaustive but illustrates that there are ample opportunities for regional collaboration.
Protecting and enhancing housing in the city requires a dual focus on progress and preservation. As mayor I will make targeted housing code enforcement on investment properties a priority, while identifying and providing access to technical and financial resources to homeowners who are experiencing difficulty maintaining their homes. A complementary strategy I will pursue is an aggressive marketing and engagement campaign aimed at housing developers to update and diversify the age and quality of the housing we have available in Cleveland Heights. Part of this holistic strategy is a focus on city support for public improvements in coordination with residential development, neighborhood amenities (both public and business district-based) and neighborhood programming to increase community cohesion and resident buy-in, specifically in areas of our city that need more public support. All of these activities will strengthen our housing submarkets and improve quality of life.
The scale of the site can accommodate a combination of a new residential neighborhood (single family and/or higher density), new office use, and additional commercial. Working with residents, the city must create a rough outline of the preferred uses for the property. My vision includes new office development to further diversify our tax base, using proximity to University Circle as a draw (15 min. from highway access, 20 min. from downtown). Once the city understands community priorities, we can begin energetically courting developers who have the capacity to develop all or part of the site. On a parallel track, the city must respond to the current owner’s business model and level of investment. The lack of investment is dependent on a lack of aggressive enforcement of city code. We must create new regulatory tools to disincentivize stagnation. If the city makes the current model less attractive as a low-cost investment, we can increase the likelihood of successful redevelopment.
Environmental considerations should play a major role in all of our city’s policies and actions. I recently introduced, and Council passed, a resolution approving a partnership with Power a Clean Future Ohio and setting a goal to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. The mayor is tasked with coordinating our city’s progress toward that goal, using the technical expertise made available through our PCFO partner and recruiting the expertise in our own community. Whenever the city seeks to develop land, make capital improvements, make changes to our zoning regulations, or offer incentives for business creation and growth, we should proactively and intentionally include an environmental analysis in our decision-making process. That analysis should not just consist of an examination of the expected environmental impact of the proposal, but alternatives that minimize negative environmental impact or maximize positive environmental impact (e.g. reforestation at Severance).