(Plain Press, November 2017) The Plain Press sent out candidate questionnaires to both mayoral candidates as well as City Council candidates in Ward 3, Ward 11, Ward 12, Ward 14 and Ward 15. Only two candidates responded – Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey and Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana. Below are the questions and the candidates’ responses.
Plain Press Candidate Questionnaire for Cleveland City Council and Mayoral Candidates
Cleveland has the second highest child poverty rate among big cities in the United States. Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said Cleveland students could achieve district wide success if they no longer faced the barriers that come with poverty. What strategies would you propose in the City of Cleveland to aid the school district in removing these barriers?
Ward 3 City Council candidate Logan E. Fahey: There’s no one answer to removing barriers for students in poverty but it starts with making Cleveland families economically self-reliant. We must continue to create training programs and internships that equip Cleveland residents with the skills and resources to be successful in the marketplace. Innovative solutions like Bloom Bakery and EDWINS have proven that when you give families an opportunity to gain foundational work experience, many of the barriers of poverty are alleviated. Replicating these successful programs throughout the City is a start and a proven method for eliminating barriers and allowing residents to be economically self-reliant.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: Vocational training, more afterschool programming, ensure subsidized meals, build more parental involvement with easier access to meetings, more mentorship and literacy programs.
What city programs do you support that help low income families and senior citizens?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: I support City programs that effectively help our youth and seniors. Some specific programs that I believe are effective include; senior homeowner assistance grant, Cleveland water affordability program, repair-a-home loans, historic perseveration loans and housing enhancement loans.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: The SHAP program needs to be streamlined and expedited for Seniors and Disabled to maintain their homes in a more timely fashion.
What role should the city of Cleveland play in creating jobs that pay a living wage and jobs for youth?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: The City of Cleveland’s role in creating living wage jobs should be through economic development and not regulation (i.e. minimum wage increases). Creating a strong economy where businesses are flourishing is proven to produce higher paying jobs. This starts with recruiting new businesses and industries to the Cleveland market while also working with current businesses to ensure they are successful. In regard to youth, we must create stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors to spur additional internships and youth training programs.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: We need to have vocational schools across the city and our high schools need to offer more vocational training in each school. We need a strong summer youth employment program, even if we have to create one exclusively for Ward 14.
Describe a path to neighborhood development that is inclusive and does not push out existing low income residents.
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: Inclusive development or responsible development starts with ensuring current residents are protected from drastic real-estate tax increases. In addition, development should be transparent and accessible to all residents, protecting the character of our neighborhoods. It should be noted that the only way for a City Councilman to be able to represent the residents of the Ward, is not to be tied to the developers. From day one our campaign we have been committed to not accepting developer contributions in Ohio City and Tremont because we believe that limits the Councilman’s ability to represent the interest of the residents.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: We need to include low income families in home ownership programs, especially with the availability of existing vacant housing. This will help with creating neighborhood stabilization and building investment in our community. Right now, there are so many restrictions and hurdles for low income families to obtain home ownership. Development fees collected from development can be used to create programs to help low income families become home owners. In addition, we need to consider other potential home owner’s, single women who no longer have children at home but are looking for housing security and home ownership should be permitted to partake of any home ownership programs.
The community has to be involved in any decision making on investments in the ward, this should not continue to be top down, but bottom up involvement.
Do you have a plan to assure there is enough affordable housing for Cleveland’s low income residents?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: For Ward 3, the only way to ensure availability of affordable housing is to control over development of the neighborhoods.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: See above, plus, any new development plans in Ward 14 need to include affordable housing to ensure that residents can stay in the community. Rentals are going up and many people who want to stay here are finding quality living space difficult to find.
How can the City of Cleveland improve its services to small businesses?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: First and foremost, the City should overhaul the entire permitting/inspection process for new business, the current process is bureaucratic and often results in months of delays. Secondly, the City should re-vamp their small business programs/incentives to be more accessible and reduce the barriers to access these services. Finally, we must focus on retaining small business not just recruiting, this starts with creating programs and support to help our small businesses survive and expand.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: My office will have a staff member dedicated to meeting with small business owners to assess their needs. We will also meet bi-monthly with business owners to discuss strategies for improving business and offerings within the community.
What steps can be taken to encourage Cleveland businesses to hire Cleveland residents?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: For one, the City can use incentives such as forgivable loans or grants to encourage small businesses to hire from within the neighborhoods. But more importantly, it’s about connecting businesses to resources such Ohio Means Jobs, Towards Employment, Luther Metropolitan Ministries, etc.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: Not only will my office feature a job board, but we will work directly with businesses to see what their hiring needs are and to help promote residents to fill those positions.
We need to work on job skills and training, especially with Re-entry programs here in the area. Having Max Hayes at the edge of the ward, it is my hope to partner with them to create programs designed to help the under skilled in the ward.
Some argue that tax abatements and Tax Increment Financing are necessary for large commercial developments. Others say such handouts are unfair because they shift the tax burden to existing residents and deprive the schools, libraries, county and city of much needed resources. Where do you stand on this issue? Why?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: Tax abatements and tax financing are absolutely, necessary for some development projects. The worst thing Cleveland could do is take away solutions/incentives to encouraging new development and growth, especially when it results in the development of new jobs.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: Residents who are buying $200, 300, 400, 500 thousand dollar homes can well afford the taxes on those residences. The residents still receive the same city services as other residents and should pay their fair share.
Cleveland has been offering 15-year residential tax abatements for new and substantially rehabbed housing for many years. Is it time to re-examine this policy? Please explain the policy you would pursue, and why.
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: I am a proponent of re-writing the policy to limit the neighborhoods where the tax abatements are available. Neighborhoods such as Ohio City and Tremont have become financially viable for development without tax abatements, the program has served its purpose in these neighborhoods and should now be shifted to only focus on areas where development isn’t yet financially viable without the abatement.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: The tax abatement system has been abused in our city. We need to change the focus from residential development in areas that no longer need the incentive and use this program strategically for areas that need to be incentivized. Why would a developer want to go to an area that is depressed when they can go somewhere like Ohio City, Tremont or Detroit Shoreway and get the same corporate welfare if they went where we really need to develop?
Since 2013, the City of Cleveland has been tacking onto property owners water bill, a $8.75 per month fee for waste collection. Garbage collection used to be paid for from the general fund –from property and payroll taxes. For a low-income family making less than $10,000 a year, this represents 1% of their annual income. It is a regressive tax. Is it fair to be charging this fee to low income households when the city is offering 15-year tax abatements to homeowners purchasing $750,000 homes? Why, or why not?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: I am a proponent of a fee waiver program for families that would qualify under a poverty guideline.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: Everybody should pay or there should be no tax.
The original plan for the West Shoreway called for traffic lights and crosswalks requiring a 35mph speed limit. Now that pedestrians will instead use tunnels at W. 65th or W. 76, or an extended W. 73rd Street to get to Edgewater Park, should the speed limit remain at 35 mph? Why?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: Given the access to safe pedestrian tunnels, an increased speed limit would be acceptable.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: There is nothing wrong with the 35-mph speed limit, and hopefully someday the vision of a true boulevard will come to pass.
What is your plan to improve safety and security in Cleveland’s neighborhoods?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: Increased safety and security for our neighborhoods starts with better communication and better relations between the community and police. I believe this starts with more community policing (i.e. more police officers on foot, bicycles, golf carts, etc.) and increasing the number of police officers within the department. However, it should also be noted that we cannot police our way to safer neighborhoods, increasing safety needs to be looked at in as holistic approach including access to jobs, community resources, recreational activities, etc.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: I would like to see the return of mini stations, more foot, bike and horse patrols. We also need to encourage more residents and businesses to install security cameras and increase block watch programs.
If elected, over the next four years, how do you plan to communicate with and receive input from residents about their concerns? What is your plan to assure residents receive better services from the City of Cleveland?
Ward 3 City Council Candidate Logan E. Fahey: Being a City Councilman is about being responsive and active in your neighborhoods. Through community meetings in each neighborhood to having direct access to my office, my number one priority is to be responsive to ALL our residents, not just when its election time.
Ward 14 City Council Candidate Jasmin Santana: I will have a mobile office that goes out into the community on a regular basis bringing city department representatives and non-profit partners with me right to the community and address issues then and there.
There will be monthly community meetings. We will have a ticket system for residents to be able to follow the progress on an issue or concern they have reported. Plus, all phone calls or emails will be returned within 24 hours.