Two candidates for Mayfield Heights City Council's vacant seat had 20 minutes apiece Monday to make an impression on the current members who will soon choose one of six candidates.
Both council's questions and the responses they yielded from Marty Kelbel and Benjamin Stocum varied, touching on housing, sign variances, beer and wine sales and how to increase revenues. Each member of council took turns asking questions and follow-ups when needed.
Kelbel has unsuccessfully run for council three times over the years and once for mayor in 2005. Stocum currently sits on the city's Board of Zoning Appeals and ran for council in 2011. Council will appoint one of six candidates by March 11. Both men were asked if they would run for seat during the Nov. 5 election — Kelbel said yes, while Stocum said he has not made a decision.
Council will interview its final two candidates — Wayne Farinacci and Jeff Likover — on Wednesday.
Here is a sample of the questions and answers from Monday's session:
Councilwoman Gayle Teresi: I read in your cover letter about your feeling that many of the council people live on the east side of the community, that you feel that, possibly, the residents on the west side are not well-represented. What would you do to bring the west side residents closer and more into the community? Do you feel our city should have wards?
Kelbel: "Yes I do, but it's hard to implement in this city because of all of the apartments. Most of the apartment are sort of cluttered on one end, so that would make it difficult to do that. I don't want any of our council members to get booted out because they happen to live there. Some of you guys have lived there a very long time, and that's just the way it is. What I would do is have group meetings ... I'd have those on a regular basis with all of council and all of the residents to make sure that they can go to somebody. That's the downside, though of having all at-large because there's nobody in their particular area. Sometimes they feel, 'well, who do I call? Or do I call all of you?'"
Teresi: You've seen the corner of Cedar and Lander. A while ago, there was a beautiful golf course there. Today, you'll find retention basins that are full of water and trees that are cut down along Cedar Road. You'll find weeds instead of flowers. What ideas would you have to make that corner beautiful? That's the entrance to our city.
Kelbel: "Right now, we just have to make sure to keep it clean and make it look somewhat attractive and not a jungle. Sometimes, I think we move a little quick. If you go across the street, just before you get to Landerbrook, someone came and cut the trees down. Sometimes we move a little quick in doing things like that, and then that project didn't move forward. I think we lost a lot of valuable greenspace there. We need to slow down a little before we bust in and tear something up and hoping that some project will come up."
Councilman Paul Sciria: An issue that comes up often is the issue of beer and wine sales in the park. What's your feeling on that issue ... how about at the Bocce Tournament?
Stocum: "One way or another, I don't really care. I don't think that having beer and wine being served at events, if you have the appropriate security, I don't think that's a problem. I've seen that in many cities growing up and as an adult. So, I don't really care one way or another. I'd just like to see consistent application of rule across the board ... Whatever the city decides, I would be fine with, as long as the security is appropriate at the event."
Councilman Joe Mercurio: Can you bring any ideas to the table on how the city can either increase revenue or help reduce expenses?
Stocum: "The most recent audited statements were for calendar year 2011, and it looks like in 2011, the city brought in $22.6 million in revenue, and they spent about $22.7 million, which is fiscally responsible, in my opinion, based on what's going on in the city. One of the things that stood out to me is property tax revenue. Between 2006 and 2011, we have lost to pretty close $700,000 in property tax revenue. I know some of that is out of our control ... But I do know that there's other cities that have been proactive about trying to reduce the downside in the way that their city's real estate home values go down and encouraging ways to elevate their home property values.
"Obviously, a focus on schools, all the quality services the schools provide ... A huge missed opportunity is what's going on in the Mayland Plaza. It is a huge, huge missed opportunity. It is approximately 17 acres of commercial and retail property that under-utilized to I don't even know what percent. It is 60 to 70 percent vacant right now. That piece of property, it is totally under-utilized. That is a huge revenue-generating opportunity for the city ... I've got to assume, just based on the acreage, that you could get close to $1 million in income tax revneue just by getting that piece of property being utilized."