Campaign 2019: Jerry James
Staff Interview, 09-20-2019

Councilman Jerry James (D-7) is seeking his ninth term on the Cuyahoga Falls city council.
Image Provided by Jerry James
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 now solicited responses from all council candidates in this year’s election.

For our third interview in this series, we are publishing the responses we received from Ward 7 Councilman Jerry James. James was first elected to city council in 2001, serving the ward for nearly eight terms. He is now seeking his ninth term. We reached the councilman via email on September 19th.

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

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?

JAMES: I bring stability and consistency in representation to the residents of ward seven. Every resident is represented fairly and equally. I factor empathy and compassion into every decision to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and keep them safe, strong, and vibrant. I have served on council for nine terms and was former Council President and current Pro Tem, Sargent at Arms. Experience and seniority have equaled results for our ward. I am respected and trusted by my peers on council because they know that they can count on my honesty and integrity while conducting city business matters. The great residents in ward seven know that I am dependable and proactive in addressing their concerns about our neighborhoods and city services. I also take great pride in the fiscal strength of the entire city. I currently serve as Chair of the Industrial and Public Improvements Committee and Vice Chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee. I take the responsibility of managing our public funds seriously and make sure that we invest our money wisely in development projects and fundamental maintenance.

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?

JAMES: I have been a home owner in ward seven for 39 years and raised two sons with my beautiful wife Linda. I am a proud Black Tiger and graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High School and earned my degree in Business Management from the University of Akron. I have coached numerous youth sports leagues and am an active member of our church. I thoroughly enjoy talking to people in our community and meeting new residents. I have taken the time to respond to the needs of our citizens and hear their concerns through neighborhood walks, phone calls, and social media. I encourage people to attend City Council meetings and be engaged in community service groups. There is not a better city than Cuyahoga Falls to raise a family and call home.

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?

JAMES: There can be no doubt in the success of the Portage Crossings and Front Street development projects and I will continue to support the revitalization efforts for the economic growth of the city. The re-opening of Front Street brought back our Main Street USA. Front Street now has restaurants and small businesses and with that brings job opportunities and new tax revenue. It’s truly a wonderful experience to see children playing on the splash pad, couples having dinner on one of the sidewalk patios, or families stopping for an ice cream. I am confident that Front Street businesses will continue to grow and develop and Cuyahoga Falls will benefit tremendously for years to come from both those development projects.

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?

JAMES: I would chose a project that had a city-wide impact and benefited future generations of residents. The greatest asset and most unique feature of our town is the mighty Cuyahoga River that runs through everyone’s backyard. I would focus on continued river restoration and water quality improvements. The environmental and economic impact of a healthy river system is invaluable to our town. Once we can finally remove the Gorge Dam and expose the original Cuyahoga Falls, that has been under water for one-hundred years, we be able to view the natural feature that is our namesake. We will all benefit from the recreational opportunities and tourism that will dramatically increase our property values. “A restored Cuyahoga River Gorge will be an economic generator for all of Northeast Ohio for generations to come. It will be a central hub of water and land based recreation for the region. It will proudly stand as a testament to the foresight and determination of the people of the watershed. And it will be a great victory for the Cuyahoga River and its water quality” (Friends of the Crooked River).

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

JAMES: I will always have fond memories of growing up in Cuyahoga Falls and living in River Estates. I was fortunate to grow up in a vibrant community and able to walk to Water Works Park. I got to spend my youth playing baseball on the fields and swimming with all my friends. Water Works Park is still one of my favorite places to go in the city. Linda and I frequently walk our dog, Bella, around Water Works and let her run in the new dog park. I love seeing all the people kayaking and tubing in the river and enjoying its natural beauty. We are truly blessed to have so many neighborhood parks and we must maintain them so that this generation of children can have those same memories growing up here in Cuyahoga Falls.

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?

JAMES: I voted in favor of both the Sycamore development and the Tobacco 21 initiative. The zoning code of the Sycamore area had been changed through a thorough and lengthy process. The developer had satisfied the requirements and had the approval of the planning commission. I had a legal obligation as a council member to vote in favor of the project since the developer had met all the standards of the planning commission. Voting against the project could’ve risked legal recourse in the courts and been detrimental to the city. I voted in favor of the Tobacco 21 initiative, regardless of the inherent faults of the legislation, because it was the right thing to do. We are facing an epidemic crisis with youth tobacco use and vaping. Community health issues need community solutions. I weigh all the options before voting on any issue. My duty as a council member is to represent ward seven to the best of my abilities and uphold the laws set forth by the Charter of Cuyahoga Falls and its ordinances, and the Constitution of the United States of America.

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

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