Pencilstorm Interview: Michaela Burriss for UA Council

There are eight candidates running for four seats on Upper Arlington City Council.  Pencilstorm asked each of the candidates five specific questions centered around issues that impacted Upper Arlington residents and questions that were being raised by fellow voters.  Pencilstorm will be posting their complete and unedited answers individually throughout October and reposting all their answers together in the first week of November. Answers will be posted in order they're received. Our fifth candidate, Michaela Burriss, is featured below.

Michaela Burriss

If the election were today, would you vote for or against the school levy and why?
Absolutely yes. The strength of the UA Schools was the difference between our family choosing this community over other inner-ring suburbs like Grandview or Bexley. UA's location and school system continue to be our main attractors. As first time homeowners, we want our investment to be protected. The value of our home is interwoven with the strength of the schools.

As a UAHS Volunteer Asst. Coach, I spend quite a bit of time in our school facilities. They're inadequate. In fact, I've even experienced triggering responses around the leaking roofs and flooded basements. It reminded me of my low-income and adverse childhood. There shouldn't be any question about the need to mend our buildings.

There is, however, a valuable conversation to have about how we got here and how we maintain quality facilities moving forward. Additionally, the cost of the levy is significant enough that we will all feel it, but most especially within our retiree community who is on fixed incomes. We have to be sensitive of tax increases and how they may force empty nesters out of UA. For City Council, this means being even more fiscally responsible and efficient with dollars, something I intend to do.

What qualifies you to be on Upper Arlington City Council?
Obtaining a BA in Political Science Pre-Law helped prepare me for a career I've now spent, in it's entirety, within or intersecting with government. As a Constituent Services Liaison for the U.S. Senate, I helped Ohioans troubleshoot bureaucracy with federal agencies, while intaking opinions on issues of top importance. Prior to that, I externed with the Ohio Senate and Columbus City Attorney's office.

Currently I am an attorney working for a non-profit that helps small business owners with free education on resources to start and grow a business. I have the expertise and excitement for the next era of economic and residential development. One that will help seniors age in place, and attract the next wave of homeowners. Ensuring our infrastructure is not only up to date, but innovative.

Locally, I serve on the Leadership UA Board of Directors and as a volunteer UAHS coach. I have the passion, patience and experience needed for a community with high expectations and genuine interest in weighing-in on the future of Upper Arlington.

If you had a magic wand and an unlimited budget, what infrastructure project you would implement?
Ironically, budget wouldn't be the major constraint in implementation of this "magic wand" concept. While canvassing for this race, I have been completely shocked by the frequency in which people mention wanting a community center here in UA. This isn't exclusive to one generation with young families. I've heard it in every neighborhood from every demographic. It would be disingenuous of me to ignore the hundreds of residents that have brought this to my attention. With support from the community, I would love to update the Senior Center and explore how a community center could be brought to UA. The major challenge quite frankly would be physical space.

In that same vein, universal sidewalks and bike lanes would make me so happy! If UA could play a role in a regional mass transit or light rail plan, I would also be delighted. With the increasing population and congestion of cars, our proximity to downtown and OSU where many residents work is losing its convenience. 5-10 minute drives have quickly become 20.  Walkable communities and mass transit are more affordable, decrease congestion/traffic, while helping the environment and encouraging public health. There are so many economic, environmental, and health reasons to invest in alternative transportation and walkability.

Looking around Central Ohio, give an example of a community you think is doing it right and one that’s doing it wrong. What could Upper Arlington could learn from both? 
Bexley, like many other communities in Central Ohio, allows for public comment on non-agenda issues during Council meetings. Having an opportunity to speak on topics that are important to you as a resident, opposed to guided by the City/Council, can go a long way toward increasingly accessibility. More importantly, because it is during an official meeting, it becomes a part of the public record. This too can go a long way in holding Council accountable for inaction. As a candidate for Upper Arlington City Council, I've proposed amending our agenda to bring this to our residents. It's a great tool that allows our residents to drive ideas and help our community continue to prosper.

Columbus has seen a lot of change lately. Columbus/Central Ohio has grown to the 14th largest city in the country and 2nd largest in the Midwest.  MORPC anticipates the regional population will increase by 500,000 in the next 35 years. Developers are quickly changing the look and feel of downtown, gentrifying long time residents and driving up living costs. As Upper Arlington grows and considers who we want to be in the next 50 years, we should preserve what makes us unique and special: a suburban lifestyle close to downtown. I'm a proponent of smart residential and commercial development that protects our character. I'll welcome change that doesn't unnecessarily put us in an "arms race" with the rest of the region that is changing very hastily.

At Pencilstorm, we all have a love of music. In that vein, what's your favorite album and why?
No way I could ever pick a favorite album. I'm such a fan of music! The most recent one I downloaded was Ke$ha Rainbow. I listen to a ton of EDM/Dance music. DJ's dont necessarily produce a ton of original content but rather mix songs

Pencilstorm would like to thank Michaela Burriss for taking the time to answer our questions.  Learn more about Michaela at her website: Look for responses from future candidates in the coming days. Pencilstorm is an independent news source and does not endorse any individual candidate.

Local UA Politics coverage provided by Wal Ozello. You can email him at or try to catch him at Colin's Coffee. 

Check out coverage of all the candidates we've received responses from by clicking here.