UH: A year later, relations have improved

December 9th, 2010

University Heights Mayor improves relationship with JCU

University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld is nearing the end of her first year in office.

“It [the first year] has been busy,” said Infeld. “I don’t know that it has been as productive as I would have liked it to be, but I’m still working on that. I think I envisioned coming in and doing a lot all at once, and it takes time to get things accomplished.”

One goal that she has worked on during her first year was improving relations between John Carroll University and the City.

Infeld said, “My experience with John Carroll has been great.”

Dora Pruce, director of government and community relations, said the City-University relationship has improved.

“I think there is a much more open line of communication, especially directly between the mayor’s office and me and the [JCU] president’s office,” said Pruce.

University Heights and JCU have worked together on several issues since Infeld took office last January.

Infeld donated bicycles the City had to the University, which allowed JCU to start the Coburn Bicycle Co-op.

“That [bike program] was a fun, community-building effort, so I was happy to participate in that with the University,” said Infeld.

Additionally, JCU was granted permission by city council last year to hold its annual Relay for Life outside all night for the first time, although it was forced inside by weather.

Also, in the past, JCU had to present to City Council before large, annual day-time events such as the AC Milan Continental Cup and the  Cuyahoga County East-West All-Star Scholarship Football Game. Infeld suggested that the University should not have to seek approval for these events each year and Council agreed.

Pruce said, “A lot of this has been accomplished through the mayor’s leadership.”

Aside from University programs, Infeld has sought to involve JCU in community affairs.

The City is working to create a community garden off of Taylor Road, north of Cedar Road, and has been working with Margaret Finucane, JCU’s director of the Center for Service and Social Action, to accomplish this.

The City is also involving JCU in its current financial issues. The City recently discovered that it owed more than $2 million in tax increment financing (TIF) bonds. Infeld has set up a payment plan to make missed payments the City should have paid from 2003 until 2005.

“They’re [these financial issues] surprising and then you just deal with them,” said Infeld.

Infeld expects the City to have less operational money and is planning to survey residents about which city services are most important. She has enlisted the help of JCU mathematics professor Tom Short to help with the survey results.

“We uncovered a lot of financial issues that were unknown to me. I want the community to weigh in [on] what is important to them, in terms of city services, because if we have to make cuts I don’t want to do that without some input.”

The survey will layout all of the City’s services and residents will be asked to rank them in order of importance.

“I don’t plan on passing this through to the citizens in terms of increased taxes. If anything is felt by the residents, it may be a change in the  level of services offered would be the only effect; I hope that won’t happen. I think if we’re smart about how we allocate the dollars we have, that we can deliver the service in the same way the people have become used to getting them,” said Infeld.

While Infeld hopes that the city services provided to residents will not be dramatically altered, the City will have to hold off on new services and large purchases, such as large equipment and available land.

Overall, Infeld said that she has received positive feedback about her first year and residents are happy with city services.

Infeld said, “I think we’re doing what we need to be doing.”