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Cleveland Heights residents to vote in primary election for city's first-ever mayor

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Posted at 7:14 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 09:55:26-04

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — It's primary election day and in Cleveland Heights, the election is especially historical this year. Voters there will choose the city's first elected mayor in 100 years.

In 2019, voters decided to eliminate their city manager form of government and instead elect a mayor. Someone who reports directly to the community, rather than city council.

News 5 interviewed two of the three candidates about why that change was needed before today's historic election.

"They wanted more transparency in their government. they wanted more accountability from their leaders," said candidate Barbara Danforth. "They wanted more responsiveness to their issues and their questions."

Danforth, the former CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cleveland, is one of three candidates. She said whoever is elected has a lot of work ahead of them.

"The work of the new mayor is going to be very hard because in that first term, the new mayor is literally going to have to restructure in the very form of our government and to transition our culture," she said.

Danforth said her work with the YWCA has prepared her to take on the role of mayor.

"When I was at the YWCA we really had to transition the culture and develop a laser focus on our mission then of eliminating racism and empowering women. So I've done this transition work. It is hard. Sometimes it's messy and it's hard."

News 5 also spoke to candidate Melody Joy Hart. Hart is currently a councilwoman within Cleveland Heights and has a background in finance.

"This is all about accountability and that's what I think we're going to get is accountability, because if I'm mayor, you know, I report to all the voters," she said.

Both Hart and Danfroth said housing issues will be a priority for them.

"75% of the residents complain about some of the housing services, so there's inconsistency with the inspections. There are absentee landlords, there are vacant properties," said Danforth. "I'll develop a comprehensive plan, set deadlines and make it happen."

"I've been about housing all along," said Hart. "I've been involved with Greater Cleveland Congregations, Cleveland Heights Housing Committee and since its inception over six years ago we walked the streets. We identify properties that are investor owned or vacant or foreclosed and are in need of work and we identify those and bring them with the research to the city for further follow up."

Danforth is also gunning to develop the city economically.

"One, we need to be supporting our existing businesses and really help them recover from this pandemic. And then we need to be more intentional, innovative and aggressive about attracting new businesses to our business districts," she said. "In addition to that, we need to because our taxes are high here in Cleveland Heights and that has caused some people to leave the city. And for others, particularly younger families, they can't afford to move in here. So when we do commercial development, that begins to stabilize our tax burden on our individuals."

And Hart said for the amount of taxes residents pay, she wants to make sure everyone feels safe and is getting appropriate services.

"We need to make sure everyone feels that they're getting equal service across the city, north and south," Hart said.

News 5 reached out to the third candidate, Kahlil Seren, but his team did not respond to our interview request.

Voters who cast a ballot in this primary election will see a fourth name on the ballot, however, Josephine Moore, suspended her campaign last month.

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