For the first time in 32 years, University Heights has elected a new mayor.
Former Councilwoman Susan Infeld beat Councilman Frank Consolo and former Councilman Steven Bennett in the mayoral contest during the Nov. 3 elections.
The change in leadership creates an opportunity to mend the seemingly polarized relationship between University Heights and John Carroll University.
“I look at the University as being our industry in this city,” said Infeld. “Anything we can do to help sell the product would benefit the city.”
Dora Pruce, director of government and community relations at JCU, said Infeld called the President’s Office the morning after the election to schedule a meeting with university president, The Rev. Father Niehoff, which was viewed as a positive sign by the administration.
“In general, we’re hopeful,” said Pruce. “Her [Infeld] demeanor and approach will be different. It’s a different personality in the mayor’s chair.”
Infeld, who will take office at the beginning of next year, said one of her top priorities is to change the operating hours of City Hall, which is currently open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, to accommodate residents, many of whom work during those hours.
She also plans to update the City’s Web site in a way that will allow residents to pay bills and access forms online, as well as, meeting with JCU administrators to determine the University’s needs.
JCU has three major needs to meet: additional parking, play fields and apartment-style housing.
Pruce said that the main issue is play fields – not only the need for additional space, but a time extension from the City on the use of Shula Stadium.
Restrictions were placed on the use of Shula Stadium during construction to account for neighbors’ concerns about light and noise disturbances. The conditions limit nighttime football games to one per season, two if the Mt. Union-John Carroll game is played at JCU.
Another condition requires that stadium lights be turned off by 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and no speaker system may be used for intramural games.
Such restrictions, among others, strictly limit the use of the stadium. More lenient time restrictions would be a quick way to fix some of JCU’s play field problems, according to Pruce.
“I am in favor of the University being able to use the stadium to maximize its benefit to the University, and I do think that extending hours is definitely something that could be looked at,” said Infeld. “I do believe that could happen.”
City Council must vote to approve any changes to the conditions on the stadium use. Infeld said she is in favor of an extension on the time JCU could use the stadium to 9:30 p.m. during early fall and late spring and is open to discussing more of an extension with input from neighbors.
According to Infeld, the space that is currently unused in University Heights, including a space in University Square, could fulfill the recreational needs of the University. She suggested that, if JCU was interested, she would personally negotiate for the space, which could house a rock-climbing wall or Whirly-ball facility.
“I would like to address [apartment-style housing] in a coordinating fashion, even if that means bringing in Shaker Heights,” Infeld said.
Another of Infeld’s ideas is to offer any open spots in JCU classes to members of the community at a reduced cost. She said this would be an opportunity for both the residents of University Heights to attend classes at a reduced cost and for JCU to market advanced degree programs.
Infeld said she hopes to better the relationship between University Heights and JCU by increasing communication between the two entities, a need echoed by Pruce, who suggested that quarterly coffees between the mayor and members of the administration could be a step in the right direction.
“Right now we are in wait-and-see mode,” said Pruce.
Infeld will meet with Father Niehoff sometime in December.