Pencilstorm Interview: Michaela Burriss for UA Council

There are five candidates running for three 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 leading up to the election and reposting all their answers together the last week of October. Answers will be posted in order they're received. Our first candidate, Michaela Burriss, is featured below.

Michaela Burriss

What’s your vision for a potential Community Recreation Center?
I’m very supportive of the goal of a community center in Upper Arlington and will be following the Task Force commissioned by Council to examine the feasibility of a community center very closely.  

Currently while canvassing, I rarely hear from members of our community about specific items within a center that would be desirable. Instead, I often hear about support for a center generally and programming options they would like to see. There are elements that would add value to a potential center (auditorium, indoor pool, meeting spaces, recreational courts, rooms for health screenings, etc.) that I support, and have heard from our neighbors that they support. I’d like to continue to formulate my vision around what residents want and need.  

Community Centers in theory could have anything and everything, but in Upper Arlington we will need to examine space and cost challenges.  We are landlocked. Seeing our city maximizing the land available and going to the public with feedback on land acquisition, private-public partnerships, location, and cost will be necessary if we wish to present a ballot item to voters and hope for its success. I’m eager to do more listening and supporting our Task Force as they work through some of these questions, which must include how to balance these competing interests. 

Upper Arlington has had a record amount of development this year and continues to have increasing development pressure.  How do modernize our city while controlling the traffic and maintaining the community feel that makes us special?
In 2017, I proposed Neighborhood Commissions as a vehicle to consistently have engagement between residents and developers, allowing for more dialogue prior to plan submissions to BZAP. I stand by this or other proposals that will, in a proactive way, strengthen development projects and ensure they align with what UA wants to see within their community. 

The neighbors near Westmont had to hire an attorney, circulate petitions, and threaten ballot action to bring developers to the table. Having done so, they reached an agreement that allows for change and growth while addressing their greatest concerns, which included traffic.  This should have been Council’s role or could be the on going role of a Neighborhood Commission, sparing heartache, money, and time on both sides of the issue, thereby reaching a desirable outcome that grows our economic base. 

The issue of transportation, traffic, and safety was a motivator in my decision to run for office, and an area where my expertise and passion can add value to Council. If you are genuinely listening to our residents, it’s clear when development projects are proposed that this is their main concern (not building density and aesthetics). It’s our job to enhance the quality of life for UA residents. Whether they fear increased fuel and parking costs, carbon emissions, or automobile accidents, we must really listen to our residents when they voice their concerns about the traffic that will accompany growth. 

Fortunately, we are living in the most consequential region in the country when it comes to transportation technology. Central-Ohio’s receipt of the federal Smart Cities grant is bound to quickly change the way we move. Upper Arlington must have a seat at the table. As a Council Member, this will be a top priority for me. 

Mass transit is not just buses. We must partner with our residents’ major regional employers on automated ride sharing, shuttle services, etc. that will decrease traffic and put more money in our neighbors pockets. We must also work with COTA to provide information on routes and ridership interest. 

As community leaders, we have the opportunity to grow the perception of mass transit within UA and create a culture that improves our health and finances while making UA’s small businesses more accessible to a region becoming increasingly less dependent on cars.

When Compuserve was still headquartered in Upper Arlington, local income taxes from that commercial property represented approximately 35% of the City’s income tax revenue stream. Now that the Tree of Life court case is over, what should the city do to maximize that property and significantly boost our income?
Having spent 4 years with Small Business Majority, a national nonprofit small business organization, I’m uniquely qualified and connected to Central Ohio’s entrepreneurial community. 

Because entrepreneurs and new, small businesses present the greatest economic growth potential, leveraging that space for tech (ideally bio) and startups could allow for great partnership opportunities with Ohio State University. Incubators and other entities that are focused on start up growth would be attracted to UA’s educated population and proximity to downtown/OSU. 

Additionally, our residents want more things to do nearby. This includes additional retail/entertainment options. Retail is changing, however. Because of this, and like all other future projects and opportunities, it would be great to first ask residents what they believe would be most sustainable and what they feel they would most likely consume if located there.

It is valuable to note that at this time the use and options for the building ultimately fall to the property owner, so long as they meet our zoning laws. 

If there’s one thing you could fix within our parks and recreation, what would it be?
Upper Arlington is a high achieving community with high expectations. While I’m thankful we have a center for our seniors, it does not meet the high standards our community expects for city facilities and services. “Fixing” the senior center as part of a plan for intergenerational recreation and facilities, while maintaining the great services and programming provided to seniors, would be a priority for me. 

Remembering that Pencilstorm is typically a Rock N Roll blog, we’d like to end with a music question.  What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to and why?
Patrick’s first birthday after we were married, I surprised him at work in the afternoon. All his coworkers were in on my elaborate surprise: taking him to a Hall and Oates concert. They helped convince him to leave, and we went to one of his favorite places downtown (Nada). He was convinced we were going to The Avengers at the Arena Grand. I started worrying he would be upset when he found out otherwise. 

Concertgoers started arriving at the restaurant in black and white Hall and Oates t-shirts. He loved the shirts, and asked if WE were going to the concert. I panicked. Acting fast, I asked one of the t-shirt wearers, “Is there a Hall and Oates concert tonight??” Patrick, who never met a stranger, made conversation and fast friends. Meanwhile, I whispered to others nearby that he was being surprised with tickets. 

They sent birthday margaritas to our table. He was in such a joyful mood. It seemed everyone was in on it but Patrick, and everyone was working together to make sure his birthday was the best. We finished dinner and I asked, “Hey, do you want to see if they’re selling those shirts outside the venue?” He gleefully said, “YES!” 

We walked over, holding hands and laughing. We were at the intersection just before Express Live when I turned and said, “actually, honey, we’re going to the concert.” He was so overwhelmed and laughing so hard. When he finally could get a few words out, all he said was, “awww you’re a rich girl,” in reference to their popular song. 

That surprise concert for my husband’s 30th birthday is one of my fondest memories with him, my best friend. After all the singing and dancing to their hit songs, before heading home for the night, we bought two of those black and white Hall and Oates t-shirts.  We joke that it was more fun than our wedding!

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.