Three more candidates toss hats into Cleveland Heights mayoral ring – cleveland.com

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Three more hopefuls have announced their candidacy to become the city’s first elected mayor.

Former CEO of the Greater Cleveland YWCA Barbara Danforth, current City Councilwoman Melody Joy Hart and Josie Moore, a small business owner specializing in communications, have all made their aspirations official.

They join City Council Vice President Kahlil Seren in the race. Voters can expect a primary election on Sept. 14 if at least three candidates have their petitions certified by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

There remains plenty of time for more mayoral bids to be announced. Candidates may begin collecting petition signatures on March 18. Completed petitions must be filed with the county election board no later than June 16.

In the likely event of a primary, the two candidates with the most votes in the nonpartisan September runoff will then face one another in the Nov. 2 General Election for the new $115,000-a-year post.

Cleveland Hts. mayoral candidate Barbara Danforth

Cleveland Heights mayoral candidate Barbara Danforth (Photo Courtesy of Barbara Danforth)Courtesy of Barbara Danforth for Cleveland Heights Mayor

Barbara Danforth

Running on a platform of “Competence and Experience — Not Politics,” Danforth said she entered the race “because I love living in the Heights and I want to make a difference, which is the same philosophy that has guided me over my entire career.”

In addition to the YWCA, the 16-year resident of the Forest Hills neighborhood and attorney has served as assistant attorney general for the State of Iowa, chief legal counsel for the Cuyahoga Department of Children’s Services and as chief prosecutor for the City of Cleveland.

Citing a need to capture the synergy between University Circle — the largest employment center in Cuyahoga County — and Cleveland Heights, Danforth believes they should be further “joined at the hip.”

She said she will work to bring “a new and focused energy to economic development, the rehabilitation of our housing and the attraction of new businesses.”

Danforth has three other areas of major concern: redevelopment of Severance Town Center, the creation of homes with first-floor master bedrooms in order to keep seniors and empty-nesters in town, and issues of equity and inclusion.

“All three are monumental tasks that will require citywide efforts involving our residents and, as I’m campaigning for votes, I will also be listening and asking residents to help create a better Cleveland Heights,” Danforth noted in a press release.

She would also like to build on the city’s reputation for welcoming everyone and positively influencing their decision to stay in the Heights.

“People are leaving larger cities with high rents and mortgages,” noted Danforth, who is married to retired TV newsman Obie Shelton. “They want a city like ours, with a diversity of people, an eclectic mix of affordable housing styles, shops and restaurants.

“We have to find those people and tell our story.”

Her list of volunteer activities includes the Forest Hill Homeowners Association, United Way, In Counsel With Women, the City Club of Cleveland and, most recently, the Cleveland Heights Racial Justice Task Force, to which she was appointed by Councilwoman Davida Russell as one of its first members.

Danforth believes the first term for the new mayor will be critically important — beyond efficient delivery of city services, economic development and “brick-and-mortar” issues.

“It will set the foundation for a new way for residents, council members and city staff to interact and cooperate,” Danforth said in the press release.

“I hope the voters of Cleveland Heights make the decision to elect a mayor who has demonstrable experience running big operations, making payrolls and working by consensus.”

Cleveland Hts. councilwoman Melody Joy Hart

Cleveland Heights Councilwoman Melody Joy Hart (Photo Courtesy of Melody Joy Hart)Courtesy of Melody Joy Hart for Cleveland Heights Mayor

Melody Joy Hart

Although she has only served one year on City Council, Hart garnered the most votes in November 2019 — when the charter amendment to start electing a mayor for the first time in the city’s 100-year history was decisively approved, as well.

Prior to her election, she also attended weekly council meetings for four years.

A certified public accountant and financial planner, Hart noted in her press release that she has broken glass ceilings in Fortune 1000 companies, serving as vice president and treasurer of a major multinational corporation.

“I bring a strong financial background and management skills to City Hall, together with progressive values,” Hart stated in last week’s mayoral announcement. “I will run an effective, transparent and responsive city government. We are all neighbors!”

She and her husband, attorney Gary Benjamin, are also known nationally for their efforts in getting Haitian refugee, asylum seeker and then house guest Ansly Damus freed from the Geauga County Jail after two years of incarceration through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Hart has also been involved in housing initiatives through her work with the Greater Cleveland Congregations organization. Much of that focus has been on Noble, as well as the enactment of the city’s requirement for foreclosure bonds on vacant homes.

While on council, Hart has since worked to fine-tune the foreclosure bond legislation “to make sure banks and landlords keep their properties up to code,” as well as put the money up to assure compliance. She also spearheaded changes to shore up the “out-of-county” ownership ordinance.

If elected mayor, Hart said she would focus on housing stock preservation, racial equity, police reform, economic development and more transparency in local government.

As chair of council’s Finance Committee, she has held open meetings and has called for more public discussion on the appointment to the vacancy created nearly a year ago when Councilwoman Melissa Yasinow stepped down. Hart says it is incumbent upon the legislative body to work through any impasse in appointing a new council member.

She worked with fellow council members to attain a unanimous vote for financing on the Top of the Hill project, negotiating with the developer by increasing the number of jobs paid by “prevailing wage” and getting commitments to hire locally.

Hart also established a system to refer citizen complaints to the appropriate department and asking that department to report to council about progress made.

As mayor, she said she would implement a single number for citizens to contact for all complaints, as well as a software system to track citizen complaints, and requiring a prompt response from City Hall.

Josie Moore

Moving to Cleveland Heights four years ago to be closer to family, Moore said she made her decision to run after considering what she wanted to see in a mayoral candidate, as she explained in her announcement posted in the Heights Observer.

“I knew I wanted someone with progressive values and a vision for our city that is forward-thinking while also doable,” Moore stated. “But the more I thought about the challenges we are grappling with, the more I saw poor communication and coordination at the root of many of our issues.

“Our mayor needs to also be a community organizer and a strong communicator.”

The wife and mother of three also advocates forming a Cleveland Heights “Neighborhood Council” to promote citizen participation and government responsiveness, give structure and a stronger voice to residents, and open up dialogue to better understand the diverse challenges different Cleveland Heights communities face.

That’s one of the platform planks that the former Bernie Sanders delegate and community organizer from Schenectady, N.Y., has outlined on her mayoral campaign website.

And, as Moore put it more succinctly in a recent tweet: “The best way to attract new people is not with clever advertising campaigns. You just need to treat the people who are already here with care and dignity, providing opportunity and building equity. It’s not that hard.”

She also favors the development of “outcome budgeting,” which she describes as a “transition of our budget-creation process to one that is designed to build the future we map out for ourselves, rather than perpetuating the city’s budgeting habits of the past, so we can become more resilient and adaptable to economic fluctuations and crises.”

In working toward further local environmental reforms, Moore said she wants to “develop and implement a Sustainability Plan that will strengthen our area’s habitat, prepare us to adapt to coming climate impacts, build a green economy and put us on a path to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 (if not sooner).”

Under “public safety and well-being,” Moore notes that while the Cleveland Heights Police Department holds higher standards for hiring officers than elsewhere around the country, “many calls fall outside the scope of their academy training.”

With that in mind, Moore would work with local officials from other cities who share the Heights-Hillcrest Regional Dispatch Center to “begin an ongoing discussion of how we can coordinate to expand and improve services to help people when they are in distress.”

She would also promote a plan to strengthen the “landlord-tenant community — with about 45 percent of our households renting, it is in our community’s interest to provide tenants with quality residences owned by accountable landlords, and to provide those landlords with responsible tenants” through various proposals and initiatives.

For more information on the Moore campaign, visit her website at https://josiemooreforclevelandheights.com/about/.

(Note: A photo of Moore was not immediately available for publication.)

Read more from the Sun Press.

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