Campaign 2019: Drew Reilly
Staff Interview, 09-04-2019

Drew Reilly is the incumbent councilman for the city's 1st Ward.
Provided by Drew Reilly
The Falls Free Press team has worked up a series of questions that we are sending to city council candidates on this year's ballot. We are sending the same questions to all candidates with some subtle differences—if a candidate is an incumbent, the questions are phrased a little differently. For instance, if we are asking an incumbent why they voted a certain way on a vote before council, we will ask the challenger how they would have voted had they been on council for that vote. We have already solicited responses from candidates in Wards 1-4, and we will send the questions to the remaining candidates soon.

For our first in this series, we are publishing the responses we received from Councilman Drew Reilly of Ward 1. Reilly was elected to the Ward 1 council seat in 2017, when the incumbent, Vincent Rubino, decided not to seek reelection after serving on council for 10 years. Reilly was fresh out of law school and working to pass the bar exam when he won the Ward 1 seat on council with 62% of the vote. Now seeking reelection, Reilly is a few weeks into his first run at fatherhood, with son Jameson having been born August 5th. We reached the councilman via email on August 27th.

We have decided to publish the answers we receive from all candidates separately, so if we receive answers from Reilly's challenger, we will publish them in short order, but in the meantime, we present Councilman Reilly's response below.

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FFP: What do you bring to Cuyahoga Falls as a member of city council that was lacking from that body or other areas of leadership before your election, and how have your plans or ideas bettered every citizen?

REILLY: For one, I am the youngest member of Council. I bring a younger experience and worldview to our Council that I believe is important to have. Our City must attract younger residents in order to continue to grow, and I am able to tap into that demographic. Further, I am an attorney who has spent his entire professional career at various levels of public government. This helps maintain a professional network that can assist the City. For example, if the City is having a hard time working with members of the County government, I am able to utilize some of my past contacts to help ease the problems. I have actually turned these experiences into tangible changes through bringing First Tee of Greater Akron to our schools, creating the program that provides free childcare to all City council attendees, and though bringing our development department into a working relationship with the Summit County Landbank.

FFP: How have you been active in the community, and how have you improved communication to keep Cuyahoga Falls residents informed about their city and seek their input in the decision-making process?

REILLY: I am active in many civic organizations, on the political and non-political side. However, the most important way to increase communication between the City government and the citizens is by being there. Whether that means having a responsive social media presence, always answering emails, returning phone-calls, or going door-to-door, we need representatives who are available to the citizens. I provide my personal cell phone number to every resident and make it a point to go door-to-door to increase my communication with all residents.

FFP: What are your thoughts on the successes or lack thereof as far as Portage Crossing and the Downtown Transformation? What have you done to increase the success of these projects?

REILLY: I think both projects have been great successes that are helping further the excitement around the City of Cuyahoga Falls. There is always more work that can be done, but I believe that we are on the correct path to actualize the potential of both areas. Personally, I have attended numerous meetings about Front Street. I also serve on the planning committee for the Master Art Plan for the City that will also be able to help influence the success of the two projects. On a personal level, I am a close friend and talk constantly with Abby Poeske, the new director of Downtown Cuyahoga Falls Partnership.

FFP: If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

REILLY: For starters, I would increase the amount of money that goes into our street repaving program. We have already done a fantastic job of increasing the amount of repavement we do every year, but one of the main concerns I hear from our residents is that we need to do better. I would also like to see a revolving loan fund that would assist residents with fixing the approaches/driveways and sidewalks. Although the City currently has a program that helps residents with those small construction projects, the projects are still cost-prohibitive for most of our residents. I would also like to see more programming in our Parks. Cuyahoga Falls has an amazing parks program (Ward 1 is home to 3 parks and Brookledge Golf Course and Downview Sports), but we can always be doing more. Finally, stormwater is a major concern, so if we are able to use some funding to create a program that assists individual residents with residential flooding mitigation through new downspouts or sump pumps, I think we could help mitigate some of those concerns.

FFP: Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?

REILLY: My wife and I love to spend time on Front Street. We frequent Crave Cantina, Hibachi Japan, and the Cashmere Cricket on a regular basis. I have also been a big fan of Vincent's Bakery since the time I was a young kid. We are also lucky enough to have an amazing and affordable golf course in Brookledge. Apart from that, Sam (my wife), Jameson (my son), and our two dogs (Barley and Murphy) can be found walking our neighborhood almost every night.

FFP: How did you vote on the Sycamore development rezoning amendment, Tobacco 21 initiative, and/or other legislation when it came to a vote, and why did you vote that way?

REILLY: I voted against the Sycamore Valley zoning change, but voted for the residential development. Zoning is an issue of community concern. There were numerous residents of that area that voiced their concerns and objections to that zoning change, hence the reason I voted against the zoning change. However, once the zoning was changed, the issue changed. At that point, my job as a councilperson was to make sure that the development met the criteria required by our zoning code. While I understand that the residents were still opposed to the project, I did not feel that I had any legal bearing to vote against the change. Further, I represent Ward 1. If I would have voted against the development, and the development failed, the developer would have every legal right to sue the City (and it is my legal opinion that they would have won said lawsuit). If this occurred, Ward 1 residents would have been forced to pay the damages for the lawsuit that only effected Ward 8 residents. I felt it was my duty to vote for the development, but against the zoning change.

I also voted against the Tobacco 21 legislation, but because I believe that the best way to combat the plague of underage smoking is at the state level (which has come to fruition). Ward 1 sits on the border of Munroe Falls, Tallmadge and Akron. As of the vote, Akron was the only community that touches Ward 1 that passed T21. This means that my residents could have crossed the border to Tallmadge and Munroe Falls and still bought their tobacco products. To me, the T21 legislation did not do enough at local level to effect any real positive change. On a side note, several businesses in Ward 1 (Sheetz and Giant Eagle) have already changed their corporate policy to institute the policy changes that T21 would have passed.

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The Falls Free Press wishes to thank Councilman Reilly for his responses, and we look forward to hearing from the other candidates on this year's ballot.

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