2021 Candidate Questionnaire on
Candidate Responses: Melanie Houston
Candidate Responses: Melanie Houston
What would you like Grandview residents to know about your background, as it relates to the environment, climate, and conservation? If applicable, please describe any relevant educational, career, or service experience you have.
I am a progressive and collaborative local leader completing my first term on the Grandview Heights City Council. As a council member, I have chaired the Technology and Communication, Planning and Administration, and Safety committees. I am also an active member of my community, volunteering at many community events and participating in local civic organizations.
Professionally, I have led several climate, water and public health campaigns for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) over the last decade. During my tenure at the OEC, I have helped achieve significant victories which have improved the health and well-being of Ohioans. These victories include securing a landmark bill to better protect Ohio’s drinking water from lead contamination and helping to achieve and defend the first-ever federal level methane standards. I currently serve as the Ohio Environmental Council’s Drinking Water Director, working to secure safe and affordable drinking water for all Ohioans.
I graduated with honors from Denison University and earned a Master of Science from The Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.
- Priorities, Values, and Philosophy
To what extent do environmental concerns drive your priorities as a citizen and candidate for City Council? Please share your philosophy and values as they relate to the environment and sustainability.
I have an environmental ethic that is central to my values. Taking care of the earth and leaving it better for the next generation is something that was instilled in me from a young age. My mother was always an avid gardener and recycler, and my grandfather, who helped raise me, planted thousands of trees on our family property over his lifetime. In high school, I decided I wanted to channel this interest and passion toward a career in the environment.
Given this, environmental and public health concerns drive many of my priorities on council. I am running for re-election because there is still more work to do in this space. I look forward to continuing to partner with Sustainable Grandview to help advance priorities related to climate, clean water, tree canopy and greenspace in my next term on city council.
Describe the importance of our community’s parks, greenspace, and tree canopy to you. As a City Council member, what steps would you take, if any, to preserve and/or expand these local assets?
Tree canopy, parks and greenspace are vitality important to our community. Not only do they reduce heat island effects and add to the beauty of our community, but they also help serve as carbon sinks helping us fight the climate change crisis. As I understand, Grandview Heights is comparatively low in per capita park space and, also, in terms of tree canopy.
During my first term on council, I supported economic development projects which resulted in the cleanup of polluted land (i.e., brownfields). I have also consistently supported and advocated for expanding our parks and tree canopy throughout our community. One example of this is my support of the Fairview Avenue reconnection project, which will result in the creation of a new city park facing First Avenue. This is a tremendous opportunity to expand our park system while creating a more campus-like feel for the new middle school and the renovated high school. Additionally, I have met several times with the administration to discuss and brainstorm ways in which we can grow our tree canopy including incentivizing tree planting and tree preservation on private property and the city right of way.
Describe your views and/or policy positions on transportation in Grandview. What should the City’s priorities be in this domain? Please share any specific ideas or proposals related to pedestrian and bicycle routes, public transit, and/or electric vehicle infrastructure.
I am an advocate for multi-modal and alternative forms of transportation as well as electric vehicle adoption. We are very fortunate in Grandview to be a walkable and largely pedestrian-friendly community. Still, there is more we can do to make walking and biking in our community safer, and to promote electric vehicles and alternative forms of transportation.
In 2020, I helped secure a state grant award of $150,000 for a future walking and biking trail in the South of Goodale Grandview Yard expansion. This new trail will better connect our community to the regional trail network.
In 2019, I successfully advocated for the administration to contract with Clean Fuels Ohio to begin planning to shift our city fleet to Electric Vehicles, and more recently, I helped shepherd through legislation to make golf carts street legal in Grandview. Finally, I have and will continue to advocate for placement of electric vehicle charging stations at the new municipal building as well as other locations throughout our community.
- Solid Waste
What are your positions on trash, food waste, recycling, litter, and single-use plastics? What, if anything, can Grandview do better in these domains, and what specific policies or programs would you pursue as a member of Council?
I am interested in finding ways for the city to lead on solid waste reduction and diversion. Early on in my first term, I joined a few of my council colleagues in touring a composting facility in central Ohio. Several of us advocated for our city services to include composting, and thanks to the current administration, we now have a drop-off compost service in partnership with Kids that Compost. Compost poses some unique challenges; however, my hope is that it could be incorporated into our city’s trash and recycling pick-up at some point in the future.
Related to single-use plastics such as grocery bags and plastic straws, we know that these are some of the most harmful trash products for the environment and especially for wildlife. I would be very interested in leading a local ordinance to ban these products if it were not for the state-level legislation preempting such local bans. I am; however, very interested in discussing other potential opportunities to discourage single-use plastics and to reduce waste in our community.
- Renewable Resources
Renewable electricity is now cost-competitive with traditional sources of electricity – and it continues to trend downward in price. Do you support joining other leading Central Ohio cities – including Columbus, Bexley and Grove City – in giving Grandview residents and businesses the choice of cost-competitive, 100% renewable electricity?
I fully support joining other Central Ohio cities in giving Grandview residents and businesses the choice of cost-competitive, 100% renewable energy. Our council body has the full authority to put this choice to our voters through a ballot initiative on Community Choice Aggregation. If we can build a majority of support on our council, my goal is to sponsor such legislation.
During my first term, I co-sponsored Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (RPACE) legislation. This legislation was an important first step to make it easier for our residents to add solar panels or energy efficiency updates to their homes through financing such projects on their property tax assessment.
We also have a tremendous opportunity in Grandview Heights to address the climate crisis by moving toward Electric vehicles (EV) and EV infrastructure; by making our new city administration building carbon neutral, and by committing to carbon reduction targets in other areas.
- Environmental Toxins
Environmental toxins, such as lead and coal tar, pose significant threats to human health. What should Grandview’s role be in mitigating the presence of these toxins in our air, homes, businesses, and waterways?
Two of the most pressing water quality-related and public health issues in our community are toxic coal-tar-based sealants used on driveways and parking lots and toxic lead in our drinking water infrastructure. I am currently tackling both of these issues head on.
This past summer, I authored and submitted a request to the administration to allocate $105,000 of our American Rescue Plan Act funds to inventory and begin replacing our lead service lines. With the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, we will have additional resources coming to our city for this critical work to remove and replace lead lines. As a part of this infrastructure work, it is very important that both the private and the public side of the line be replaced at the same time.
I also partnered with Sustainable Grandview this past year to research the use of coal-tar-based sealants in our community. Coal-tar-sealants are a serious public health risk, especially for children. They are known to be carcinogenic and linked to fish kills. Using data from our community and a review of other communities' ordinances, I co-wrote a policy memo setting the stage for the reduction and eventual elimination of these toxic driveway and parking lot sealants. I am currently building support for this policy among my council colleagues and plan to educate and build support with other local elected officials across the Central Ohio region as well.