An incumbent and a former 15-year council veteran are vying for the Ward 3 seat in the Nov. 5 general election.
Councilman Jeremy A. Zelwin, 37, will face John T. Scott, 74. This is not the first time they have been up against one another for the position on the dais.
A 42-year city resident, Mr. Scott was appointed to fill the seat of former Ward 3 councilman Jeffrey Pedicino who resigned in the summer of 2017, before losing in the election to Mr. Zelwin, who challenged him that year.
A 2000 graduate of Solon High School who works as senior manager of internal audit for Covia Holdings Corp, Mr. Zelwin said he is seeking re-election to continue his ongoing communication with residents and to keep them informed.
“I ran so that residents of Ward 3 are well-informed,” said Mr. Zelwin, who holds a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Cleveland State University. “I have openly communicated with the residents since the day I was elected.” He said prior to him taking over the seat, there had not been regular communication or correspondence.
Mr. Scott, who ran unsuccessfully twice for mayor, said that he would represent an independent voice on council.
“We are at a point where you kind of have a schism on council where four vote one way and three vote another way,” Mr. Scott said. “In my 15 years (on council), I have been very independent. I don’t subscribe to one group or another.
“I do an analysis on whatever the issue is, and vote whichever way is best for Ward 3,” Mr. Scott said.
Mr. Scott said he is calling for residents to vote “No” on Issue 65, which would rezone the Liberty Ford property, and revisit the issue at the ballot next May.
“I would like to be very involved and perhaps get something else on the ballot for Liberty Ford in May, something with less of a residential component,” he said. Mr. Scott said he does not believe enough research has been done on what the residential component needs to be. He gave an example of Pinecrest, which is a large complex with fewer than 100 apartments.
Mr. Zelwin said he is in favor of the ballot issue and noted that what he is reminding residents while on the campaign trail is that they are not voting on a site plan with Issue 65, but on a rezoning of a group of parcels.
“It’s an economic development tool,” Mr. Zelwin said. He said that before this zoning was brought forth, there were no offers on the Liberty Ford property. Then when the mixed-use zoning was introduced, Industrial Commercial Properties, the Solon-based developer, stepped up.
“Issue 65 is really a tool to redevelop that portion of Solon that is completely blighted,” Mr. Zelwin said. “People need to understand that the city still has a lot of authority and say what goes into the property.”
Mr. Scott also opposes the proposed Rails to Trails project and said he will fight to preserve the privacy and safety of homeowners and the integrity of their property. This project has drawn backlash from several constituents of Ward 3, many of whose homes abut the 2-mile trail.
Mr. Zelwin said there is still information that needs to be had before a vote can be cast on the trail. Such questions surround the actual costs and whether or not the Cleveland Metroparks will be involved, among others.
“I support getting those questions answered,” Mr. Zelwin said. “There are people who live on the trail that support it and I know a vocal amount that live on it do not.
“We have to support all Ward 3 residents and get the answers to the questions before you can make the decision,” he added.
Mr. Scott, who is employed at Gardiner in Solon in the energy segment of the business in sales, said if elected, he will pursue a policy be put in place where contractor’s feet are “held to the fire” when it comes to damage to motorist’s vehicles as a result of road construction.
“I think especially with our residents, we have to not turn our back on them,” he said, and build those types of costs into the project as a contingency. As far as the finances of the city, Mr. Scott said Solon does not have an endless amount of money and it is important to have transparency when it comes to spending.
Mr. Zelwin agreed that the city needs financial transparency. “We need to continue to educate our residents on the state of the budget and bring further transparency there,” he said. It is also important to engage the residents, young and old, to see how the city can improve and provide better services to them.
Mr. Scott said it is important to have a leader who consistently attends meetings, citing some of the various meetings Mr. Zelwin missed.
“While I have missed meetings, I’m not denying that,” but the statements are not within the proper context, Mr. Zelwin said.
“He (Mr. Scott) is making it seem I’m irresponsible, which is not the case,” Mr. Zelwin said.
He said of his absences that when he has had to miss, he has consulted with the necessary departments both before and after the meeting and let the committee know of his stance.
“I do my homework, even prior to the meeting,” Mr. Zelwin said.
“He missed more meetings than I did in 15 years (on council),” Mr. Scott said. “If you are going to make the commitment, you have to make the commitment and be involved.”
Mr. Scott said if elected he will sit down with the mayor to see his agenda and work to come to an agreement for the betterment of Solon.
“I have no problem supporting his agenda,” Mr. Scott said. “I’m not on there to be an anti-Kraus guy. He is mayor of the city and it’s our duty, if elected, to be supportive of him because he is the leader of the community.”
Mr. Zelwin, who sits on the Safety and Public Properties and Finance committees, said he is a team player who is able to articulate his stance and feelings. He also brings financial expertise to City Council due to his background and education.
“I bring communication and the ability to communicate to residents,” Mr. Zelwin said. He also brings a unique perspective to the dais in that he has children in the Solon school system.
Also running on the ballot is Ward 7 Councilman William I. Russo, who is unopposed in his bid for a fourth term in office. A city resident for the past 27 years, Mr. Russo, 65, works as a financial advisor with Peak Wealth Solutions based in Pepper Pike.
He originally ran for the seat to ensure the city activated a deer culling program, noting that there was a direct correlation to the number of deer-vehicle accidents and deer in Solon.
“We did get that passed via council and at the ballot by a two-thirds majority vote to keep it,” he said. “I want to make sure that stays in place. We are at a level where we are in maintenance mode.”
While on council, Mr. Russo said he has tried to be supportive of projects that move Solon forward, not backwards. He is in favor of Issue 65.
“If we do not do this rezoning, we will just get more of the same,” Mr. Russo said. He said he knows some have concerns about the apartments, “but anytime someone is not spending their own money trying to tell a developer what they should and shouldn’t do, I take issue with that.
“A developer is not going to sink money in a project unless they feel confident what they are proposing will generate revenue,” he added.
“There are a number of people in Solon who do not want to see any progress or any change in Solon, and those are the people pushing against this,” he added. “I would feel a little differently if schools hadn’t been consulted, but they were and said they could live with 200. The bottom line is, even if this does get passed, plans will be before council.”
Mr. Russo said he enjoys making sure that his constituents are taken care of, but he refuses to be dishonest with residents, he said.
“If a resident asks for something that will not get support (on the committee level), I’m going to be very realistic with people and that is exceptionally important,” he said. “I’m running to represent the ward and to help to continue to move the city forward.”