Thursday, October 24, 2013

Richmond Heights mayor's race shows candidates in stark relief

By their words and deeds ye shall know them

The four mayoral candidates at the LWV forum in Richmond Heights last week offered voters three starkly different visions of the city's condition and future.

One candidate seemed to think everything was hunky dory, the future was bright, the citizenry was content and might even wish to consider erecting a new municipal building on public land across from City Hall. He said repeatedly the city was solvent, “not broke”.

That candidate was Dan Ursu, the city's six-term incumbent who seems blissfully unaware of the economic and demographic challenges his city has encountered since he became mayor in 1989. He cited his biggest accomplishment as leading the successful fight to keep the city’s hospital open when the Cleveland Clinic acquired it several years ago and planned to close it. His plans for the city’s future include
encouraging development along Curtiss Wright Blvd. Understandably, he was the only candidate who said he was opposed to term limits.

A second vision, that the city is heading straight to hell in a hand basket, was energetically trumpeted by longtime resident Dave Ali, who is in his first try for public office.  The former owner of several businesses in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood, Ali sounded like an apprentice carpenter with one tool. He argued that the answer to every problem the city had was financial and could be solved only by was a full-time mayor with a forthright business approach. On several occasions, he added, “If it don’t make dollars it don’t make sense.”

Among these problems, according to Ali, are high property taxes, municipal insolvency, inadequate police protection, poor snow removal, an alienated citizenry and a declining school system. He cited his rebuilding of an entire block on St. Clair Avenue in Glenville and said he wanted to do the same for Richmond Heights.

A third approach was presented by first-term councilperson at large Miesha Headen. She was in general agreement with Ali on many of the city’s problems, especially relating to the city’s fiscal condition and lack of city services, but she also identified municipal assets on which to build. She touted the city’s fire department as one of the county’s finest, saying that all of its employees were trained paramedics and that the chief was expert. She suggested that Richmond Heights could take the lead in joint efforts with other cities in collaborating around this asset.

Headen, an accountant by training, was elected in 2009 on a platform of accountability, efficiency, and transparency in government services, attracting more commercial business and revenue to the city, environmental stewardship and investing in the municipal services needed to retain families. She said that she had uncovered the city’s clandestine purchase of 39 properties and forced the Ursu administration to publicize these properties on the city website.

The fourth candidate turned in an odd performance. Eloise Henry is an intelligent and capable councilwoman who can be insightful in discussing her city. She was the first to declare in this year’s mayoral campaign but the last to file, submitting her petitions at deadline. But on this night she appeared disinterested, unprepared, and more than once lost her train of thought when answering a question. She said her biggest accomplishment in public life was securing the county assistance in eliminating the flooding of residents’ homes.

NOTE: The Real Deal has extended an offer to candidates to share their vision for Richmond Heights directly to the voters via a short unedited video. Two candidates have agreed to participate so far.


Anonymous said...

We are new to your blog, Richard, and appreciate your deft and honest reporting of the Candidates Forum on 10-16-13.

This is more than we can say for the Plain Dealer.

The moderator for the Forum was very hard to hear and understand, so this report does help explain what really happened there.

It is very telling that the Mayor and Eloise Henry, whom both gave a combination of mumbled, jumbled and back-break speed answers that no one in the audience could understand, are the two candidates who chose not explain their platforms via your video.

Please keep your reporting coming for the upcoming last weeks of this Election and forward from there.

We need a fresh start here in the City and someone, like yourself, who can bring the information forward. You are the real deal!

Richard said...

Thanks for your kind words. It is always a pleasure to greet new readers and new commenters.

We have posted several pieces on Richmond Heights in the past few days and trust that you have found them equally accurate, fair, and informative.

Come back often and feel free to weigh in whenever the inclination strikes.