Quick answers from council candidates – part 2

Published November 3, 2017 by justicewg

Link to part 1

(Edit after the election – the three candidates who responded to my questions received the most votes, and Panzera also was re-elected. Not sure if any positions held by these candidates were deciding factors, as the conventional wisdom goes, working hard on door knocking and answering all questions seemed to be way to gain office.)

Melanie Houston

Neglected issues – Houston makes a good point about the lack of park space in Grandview, we are low in terms of per capita park space, and have no “wild” areas. I don’t know where we can find more space inside the present city boundaries though. Maybe connect the community garden with the McKinley Field Park (the strip in the back by the tracks is already owned by the city). Buying and tearing down the homes south of Goodale has been suggested in the past, but that doesn’t really feel like greenspace when it has trains a few yards away. Increasing park space is a good topic for the council, I would like to see more discussion, maybe it would be part of the community planning process that has been mentioned in the past.

More about money and parks in this 2016 story on Wallace gardens.

Medical marijuana – Houston says she believes medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for our community members, but she got no requests to support dispensaries in Grandview while door knocking. She also has the “but what about the children?” worries, and correctly assumes that some other town in the area will have no problem taking in the taxes that will be generated.

Apparently Grandview council had no issues with allowing the sale of alcohol at the Ox Roast (approved in 2016 by unanimous votes), which somehow didn’t trigger any “but what about the children?” worries. Someday there will be acceptance of the facts about which drug is the real danger, we have a way to go on that issue.

School facilities – There has been a long discussed plan to somehow make a community recreation facility that could be shared by the schools. Houston also likes the idea. Where to find the millions needed to build a indoor pool and track facility has always been the stumbling block. Houston mentions a paid pass system as a possibility, but that still puts the funding problems on the schools.

The logistics of how to share a rec center, while keeping random people away from school kids, has never been explained in the plans I have read. And recreation facilities is not the problem, finding funds to build new schools is the current puzzle for the board.

A funny things that happened on the way to office – someone told Houston she looked better than her campaign literature. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this was a guy who was on the make, or at least well trained in responding to “do I look good in this photo” questions. Still looking for the candidate who can bring the funny.

Full answers after the jump, more Q and A’s will be posted here if the last two guys respond.

Melanie Houston

First, what has NOT been talked about in past questioning and campaign events?

One issue that did not come up much on the campaign trail is the need to set aside more parkland and natural spaces in our community. Through my meeting with the former Parks Director, Sean Robey, I learned that Grandview Heights is low in terms of per capita park space (~43 acres/person parkspace) compared to other cities. We also lack any parks in the 5 to 10 acre range. As the hotel taxes from the Grandview Yard continue to grow and fund our park system, I think we may want to consider adding parkspace in Grandview. Greenspace provides so much value for our community from the economic benefits to the health, recreation and fitness opportunities, especially for our children and senior residents. Natural spaces also provide us with free environmental services like reducing our air pollution burden and reducing the urban heat island effect. As we continue to expand our building and construction footprint in Grandview, I think it is wise for us to thoughtfully plan natural spaces as a retreat for our residents and to continue to improve on our wonderful quality of life here in Grandview Heights.

What are your thoughts on allowing Marijuana dispensaries to set up in Grandview Heights?

I have not been contacted by businesses that are trying to set up medical marijuana dispensaries. There is a city ordinance currently under consideration that would put a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries in Grandview Heights. If elected to council, I would make an effort to talk with residents and solicit feedback about this currenting pending legislation. While this is not an issue that has come up during my time knocking on doors and having conversations with community members, it is my sense that there would not be strong support for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in our community. Generally speaking, it’s not a great fit for the type of commercial development that we already have in our community, and I think residents might be genuinely concerned about the exposure that our youth would have to this type of business. I will say that I do accept medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for our community members who may be battling difficult temporary or chronic health problems. I also will want to make sure that our community members in need of medical marijuana will be able to access it through dispensaries in other parts of the county.

How can the city help the schools? What specific programs or revenue sharing of some sort would be acceptable?

This year, Grandview Schools’ leadership has undertaken and engaged the community in a school facilities planning process. This has resulted in a $45-$50 million proposal to the school board to renovate the elementary and high school and to build a new middle school. The next steps in the process are to figure out how to finance the proposal. I believe that city leaders should make efforts to communicate and work closely with school board members in 2018 and beyond, especially given the high stakes decision-making around facilities financing.

If elected to council, I would advocate for the school facilities finance task force to explore create financing options as well as opportunities for the city and the school to plan for shared community/school spaces. A joint community and school recreation center is just one concept that has been floated to me through my conversations with community members. There is a model for this type of shared facility at Universities and colleges, such as Kenyon College, where community members are allowed to buy passes to use the school’s facility. As city leaders, we should be ready to think outside of the box to most cost-effectively serve our residents and community.

Final question – tell me something funny about things you have seen in the council or administration of the city. Did you have a funny encounter with a resident when you were knocking on doors for your campaign?

One very friendly and well-intentioned resident told me that I was better looking in person than on my campaign literature to which I responded, “darn it, I thought that was a good picture.”

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