Councilman Polensek's answers
What do you believe the role of councilperson is in the City of Cleveland?
The role of the Councilperson is to represent the people of the 8th Ward and all citizens of Cleveland; and, to interact with residents, businesses and individuals who impact city services, public safety, education, recreation, job creation and economic development. As a public official I will put my legislative, voting and attendance record against anyone who has ever served in City Council. I come to work every day to represent our community and the families who live here. The Charter says I am a legislator; however, my biggest role is being an advocate for our community. Remember, whoever is elected this November will once again preside over the ward redistricting in City Council which is critical to our ward 8 and the entire northeast side of the City.
What are the top three things you’d like to accomplish in this role?
As the incumbent in this upcoming term I would like to complete several projects and initiatives which are in the pipeline: first, the complete rebuilding of the Mark Tromba Pool and Playground, which legislation has passed Council already; second, the reconstruction of the historic Euclid Beach pier ; and, third, the streetscape project for East 185th Street and St Clair Avenue. In addition, I want to work more closely with CMSD on a comprehensive gameplan for both Collinwood and Glenville High Schools. Furthermore, I want to work at getting more neighborhood residents and businesses involved in both of our local development corporations, which have gone through major changes recently and need more community engagement and participation.
What prior career or personal experience correlates to this position?
Obviously, being a full-time councilman and heavily engaged in this community, has given me a great perspective on not only our challenges and needs but our assets and strengths. Ward 8 is a very unique community. It is racially, ethnically and culturally diverse and that is something we must continue to nurture and be very proud of. I know how city hall operates and I know how to get things done – as difficult as that may be at times. It is about building working relationships with people, institutions and organizations. My record in public office speaks for itself.
How long have you been a Cleveland resident and what is one thing you are proud of about our community?
I have lived here all my life. I was born in Glenville on East 120 Street and have lived in Collinwood on Darley off East 140th Street, Clearaire Road, East 169 Street, East 187th Street and now on Brian Avenue, off of Nottingham Road. I own my home. I attended Nottingham and Hannah Gibbons elementary schools and I am a proud graduate of Collinwood High School and a member of their Hall of Fame. I also raised five children in Collinwood. The thing I am most proud of our community is that the fact that we don’t give up. Look at the challenges and issues we have confronted over the years and yet it has only made us stronger and more committed to making our community the best it can be. We, as a community don’t give up and I, for sure, don’t.
Give an example of when you had to manage conflict?
You are asking me that question? I deal with conflict in various levels everyday whether it is amongst neighbors, young people, businesses and/or individuals who disrespect our community. I have always attempted to be up front and call it as I see it. Sometimes, people cannot accept that, especially if they think they are justified in what they have done or said. It all comes down to basic respect and obeying the law. Some people think they can do whatever they want regardless of how it impacts the community or their respective neighbors. Respect, decency and common courtesy toward one another is the glue that holds us together. I attempt to personally interact with all parties involved in conflicts or seek outside assistance who are professionally trained to help.
If you were a Ward 8 tour guide, where would you show off?
I am a tour guide for our community and I have several sites I always showcase. The lakefront is the most obvious. I also like to showcase sites that have been transformational such as the historic Collinwood Rail yard which became an abandoned industrial wasteland and which has been redeemed into a shining example of commercial and industrial redevelopment. How about the Collinwood Recreational Center, the first Gold LEED certified building in the city, where we took an abandoned big box store and turned it into an award winning facility? I like to show off many of our schools such as Ginn Academy, where I am a Board Member and where young men at risk are given a second chance to excel in life and to “Be somebody.” What about our residential neighborhoods and our historic churches and other landmarks? Ward 8 is home to many wonderful institutions and organizations. I enjoy being a cheerleader for our neighborhood. Lolley the Trolley knows me well.
If elected, to what topic do you think the residents would like you to give most of your attention?
Based on phone calls and emails into my office daily, the two highest priorities are housing code enforcement, ie. demolition and/or rehabilitation of abandoned properties et cetera, and issues pertaining to public safety such as basic police patrol, community policing and response time. These, along with other “quality of life” issues are critical areas that I will continue to focus on because they affect neighborhood growth and stability.
If you could have dinner and an evening of conversation with any person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt the Good Lord himself, however, I actually pray to him each evening before bed; outside of him, probably my great grandparents. I always wondered what motivated them to come to America with virtually nothing except a dream. Besides them, my list would be very long to include historic leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pres. John F. Kennedy, Mother Theresa, and most world leaders and scientists. One can only imagine the conversation to be had and knowledge that could be learned about human nature.
What book are you currently reading?
Jokingly, when do I have time to read besides the Collinwood Observer? Between emails and phone calls, I am lucky to read my personal mail. However, I just picked up the autobiography of my dear late friend, The Honorable Louis Stokes, called The Gentleman from Ohio. It looks to be good reading.
Resident of neighborhood since 1956. Worked on East 185th street since 1970.