Mayor Cervenik answers questions for candidates
Please provide a brief explanation of who you are, your career accomplishments, how long you have been a resident of Euclid, and any past experience in elective office. My name is Bill Cervenik and I am a lifelong resident of the City of Euclid. I have been married to my wife Mary Kay for over 37 years and we raised our two grown children on East 213th Street, where we still reside. I am also the proud grandparent of a nine year old granddaughter. I attended night school at Cleveland State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a major in accounting. I became a certified public accountant in 1983, and am still a partner in the accounting firm of Gallagher Cervenik & Associates. I served as a member of Euclid City Council for 12 years, the last five as council president, and became the 13th mayor of the city Dec. 1, 2003.
Why are you seeking the position of mayor of Euclid? I have guided this city through some of the most difficult economic times in our country’s history, and have done so without the drastic cuts that so many other communities experienced in their police, fire and emergency medical services, as well as recreation. I presented annual budgets that assured our residents are safe, their children have supervised activities in which to participate, and continue to vigorously fight the effects of the housing crisis in our neighborhoods with innovative programs and strict code enforcement. The 2011 budget I presented to city council was actually $800,000 less than spent in 2008. Having a strong financial background as a CPA has certainly helped in managing our finances.
In a time when many cities have experienced disinvestment and loss of businesses, through our economic development efforts, our city has experienced unprecedented growth. During my two terms as mayor, our Euclid’s industrial corridor has expanded with the job-ready Bluestone site, the East 222nd roadway project and the construction of Lincoln Electric’s 434-foot, 2.5 megawatt wind turbine. We have also assisted many of our smaller businesses, as can be witnessed by the over $15 million dollars of public and private investment, with the promise of more in the near future.
If elected, what three issues or programs would be at the top of your priority list in the first year or two of your term as mayor? he first priority of my new term will be a continuation of my commitment to economic development and the creation of new jobs. Assisting our existing companies in expansion efforts and attracting new companies to the city will expand our tax base and provide new employment opportunities for our residents. During my eight years as mayor, I have created an environment in the business community of cooperation, trust and growth, and this relationship is extremely critical as we continue to redevelop the city.
The second priority has always been keeping our residents, neighborhoods and commercial areas safe by providing strong, well-trained and well-equipped safety forces. Our police, fire and EMS personnel are second to none. I have been told time and again by our residents that safety is of the utmost importance and concern. Another important element of a safe community is strict housing code enforcement. I have re-organized the housing department to be supervised and directed by the Department of Law. Much success has been made. We will continue to rehabilitate houses using Federal Neighborhood Stabilization and County Home dollars. We also expect to demolish 40 additional homes and make the lots available to residents at a reasonable price.
The third priority will be to safeguard each and every taxpayer dollar by presenting budgets to city council that make sense, are conservative, but most importantly allow us the ability to provide the services that enhance the quality of life in Euclid. This includes the advancement of our Lakefront Development plans. As I mentioned earlier, I have led this city through some of the most difficult economic times, and will continue to do so over the next four years.
What do you regard as the primary long-term challenges facing the city of Euclid? How would you deal with those challenges? The primary challenges for Euclid are actually contained in the prior question, but there are a few more I will take a moment to speak to. Our schools are perceived by some as failing to provide a quality education. This feeling is fueled by the results of the state of Ohio report cards. But I can assure you that any child that wants a quality education will receive one at Euclid Public Schools. I meet with Superintendant Dr. Joff Jones on a regular basis, and I am excited about new programs and initiatives being put in place to help our children prosper. Let’s not forget that we will have four new, modern elementary schools that will allow our students to experience education using the latest technology. I will continue to work with the school board and administration to make our schools stronger. Other long-term challenges will be covered in response to subsequent questions such as housing issues.
Do you favor the continuation of support for the Shore Cultural Centre and the programs offered there? If so, why do you believe the center is an important community asset? If you look at the new development in the downtown area, it makes real sense to include Shore Cultural Centre into the equation. It certainly has some major capital needs. Some have been addressed, and the Coral Group’s five year strategic plan addresses many of the remaining challenges of the building. The building’s presence on the point is spectacular and has the potential to be the focal point of the entire downtown. The programs and events that are held at the [Shore] Cultural Centre attract residents and non-residents. This is where economic growth can take place. Coral’s five year strategic plan does not just address the capital needs of the building, but contains a strategic process to truly create a cultural, arts and educational facility, that will become self-supporting. I am satisfied with their performance to date, and strongly support the approval of the five year strategic plan as presented by the Coral Group. This is probably one of my biggest changes of heart over my twenty years of public service, but it demonstrates my ability to compromise and listen to new ideas.
Do you favor extending the contract with the Coral Group to oversee its five-year plan for Shore Cultural Centre? If not, explain why not. Covered in question 5.
In your view, how much emphasis should the city administration be placing on economic development initiatives? Also, as mayor, what steps would you take to strengthen the tax base and enhance the image that the city projects to the wider community? As mentioned previously, it is of the utmost importance to dedicate significant time and energy to economic development initiatives. I mentioned our relationship with the local business community, but we have also formed strong partnerships and relationships with federal, state and county officials, as well as regional organizations such as Team NEO and most recently Cleveland +. A major initiative over the next four years for my administration will be to attract at least one thousand jobs to Bluestone Business Park. We believe that type of growth will lead to good things on the mall property.
Do you have a plan for resolving the issue of depressed property values in the city? If so, what are the key elements of that plan? The economic climate and the effect of home foreclosures and falling home values are also a challenge that did not exist years ago, at least not to the current level. As I am writing this, I am listening to a news program where the analyst stated that after the Great Depression of 1929, housing values took nearly nineteen years to return to pre-1929 values. We must, and will continue our strict code enforcements policies, continue to rehabilitate where possible, demolish where necessary and create new programs, such as our highly successful First Time Homeowner Assistance Program. We have strengthened the regulations and enforcement related to single family rental properties, and diligently search for properties that are unregistered rentals. The nuisance abatement program concerning grass cutting and disheveled property is also a great tool.
How do you rate the performance of the Euclid safety forces? What would you do, as mayor, to improve the ability of the police and fire departments to meet the needs of the citizens of Euclid? Also mentioned earlier, the performance of our safety forces is tremendous. They are professional, well trained and understand the need for our residents. This year, we reinstated the bike patrols with great success. My immediate goal is to increase community policing activities. Although this effort may have some costs, the benefits outweigh expenditures.
If elected, what would be the very first piece of legislation that you would propose to the city council? My first piece of legislation will be the 2012 General Fund Budget that will be balanced but still allows my administration to provide the services and programs that the community deserves and needs.
When prospective voters ask why they ought to vote for you, what do you tell them? I tell them I possess the leadership, experience and knowledge to continue to move the city of Euclid forward. I ask them to take a look around town and see the many improvements that have taken place on my watch. I have carefully and successfully managed the finances of the city. I also acknowledge we have challenges in front of us, but that I have the experience to face these challenges and find solutions. I have made many tough and sometimes unpopular decisions as your mayor, but that comes with the job. I am up to the task.