Akron has gone nearly three full decades with the same mayor, and this weekend caps off Don Plusquellic's 28-year run in office. Marco Sommerville, planning director in the city of Akron, called into the Ray Horner Morning Show to remember Plusquellic's tenure, saying he put Akron in a much better place now than it was in 1987. Because he is calling from China, Sommerville says Akron doing "very well" in the international scene.
The past two weeks have painted Akron City Hall more Hatfield and McCoys rather than your normal political fight. For nearly two months, controversy over the decision to disinvite a member of Akron City Council from Mayor Don Plusuqellic's annual State of the City address turned into surprise, shock, embarrassment and even derision as the story played out. It culminated a week ago into a political climax few expected: not only did Plusquellic decide he would not seek re-election for a record eighth term, he opted to skip entirely the last seven months of his term and resign in order to retire from public service.
Amidst the charges of media bias, political theater and personal character attacks both sides were actively engaged in presenting their versions of the story to local media, in particular the Akron Beacon Journal and 1590 WAKR. More complete discussions of the role by this station and the newspaper played are available at the Beacon Journal's website www.Ohio.com and also in prior stories on this website, notably interviews conducted by Jasen Sokol with Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer and the editor of the Beacon Journal editorial page, Michael Douglas.
Interviews for this program were conducted by Chris Keppler both before and after the mayor announced he was stepping down, effective the end of May. They were conducted in our newsroom.
Akron Matters discussion for the month of February with Marco Sommerville: Director of Planning and Urban Development for City of Akron, Russ Pry: Summit County Executive, and Dan Colantone: Greater Akron Chamber's President and CEO. Today's hot topic is Rolling Acres Mall. Pictures have surfaced online of the once popular site and they aren't pretty.
Listen as Ray discusses what can be done with this land with Akron's very own.
Planning Director for the City of Akron Marco Sommerville spoke with WAKR's Ray Horner about the EACH program, the building, and still keeping the programs alive.
Akron will soon be getting a new hotel on the site of the former Goodyear headquarters site.
Appearing on the 1590 WAKR Ray Horner Morning Show, City Planning Director Marco Sommerville said the highly anticipated project will help the city tremendously.
"We're really excited about the hotel," said Sommerville.
"This will be placed off East Market Street, and that will be able to help Goodyear when they have guests from around the world come in to see that first-class facility."
Sommerville says the new hotel will be a Hilton Garden Inn. Groundbreaking is scheduled for this summer.
Sommerville says the new hotel will be the catalyst for redevelopment in the East Akron area.
"We hope the hotel will be the beginning stages of redevelopment and improving the neighborhood," Sommerville explained.
In addition to the hotel, developers will look to add offices, residential, and retail space to encompass the former Goodyear campus.
Sommerville says the city hasn't lost sight of trying to attract hotel chains to put lodging in downtown Akron, something that has been on the table for some time.
The five-story Hilton Garden Inn is expected to open in the summer of 2014.
Previous Story: New Hotel Slated For Ex-Goodyear Site
There will be a couple of proposed charter changes on the November ballot impacting Akron politics. City council will consider a proposal from the administration that would combine council elections rather than hold at-large elections separately; another issue would limit raises for the Mayor and Council members to averages in the private sector.
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(Mayor Don Plusquellic - news release) Mayor Don Plusquellic and Council President Marco Sommerville will ask council today to authorize the submission to the electors a proposal to amend Akron’s Charter to eliminate the cost of an extra election by holding all Council member elections at the same time, and to limit raises for members of Council and the Mayor. If approved by council, the Charter Amendment will be voted upon at the next regular citywide election on November 6, 2012.
The purpose of the proposed Charter Amendment is to eliminate the need for an extra election for Council members, and the high costs associated with such an election, and to limit the raises afforded to City elected officials.
“We have looked at every possible way to save tax dollars by making City Government more efficient. We saved over $950,000 by combining the Akron Health Department with the Summit County Health Department,” said Mayor Don Plusquellic. “Even though our Akron Health Department was providing excellent service before, we now benefit from the savings while our residents receive the same quality service. The election process is an important part of City government, but with the limited resources we have, we must look at savings in every area. Residents will still vote on their ward and at-large council members, and with everyone being elected at the same time, it will cut costs significantly.”
“Certainly with the costs of elections being as high as they are, we can consolidate the election cycles of the council members to save the taxpayers’ money,” said Council President Marco Sommerville. “In addition, this Charter Amendment would limit raises for the Mayor and Council Members to an amount not to exceed the amount a private industry worker receives, on a calendar year basis. If the people who pay their taxes aren’t getting raises, then the Mayor and Council members in the future should
The City of Akron will be receiving federal funds to hire 12 recently-returned military veterans as new law enforcement officers.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic says this grant provides the city an opportunity to hire qualified individuals when numbers are down.
"We're trying to make the best of this situation and get more officers out on the street and less of them sitting in the offices," Plusquellic stated.
"We'll do everything we can to make this grant work for us and hire officers as best we can despite the budget restrictions we have."
The U.S Department of Justice awarded the city $1.5 million to hire the would-be officers.
City Council President Marco Sommerville says the money will put more officers on the street to help combat the violence that has been plaguing Akron in recent months.
Both President Sommerville and Mayor Plusquellic thanked US. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) for his efforts in securing the grant to keep Akron's streets safer.
"We're trying to increase the number of policemen and women on the street and this is the first wave of doing that."
Sommerville says that whenever you hire a veteran, you will be getting someone who is accountable and prepared for all types of situations.
"These are individuals that will be ready to serve as police officers," Sommerville stated.
"They already have knowledge of firearms, conflict control and these are the types of people you need in your police department, and so we're very excited about this happening."
Through the "Vets to COPS" program, requires that new officers hired under the grant must be veterans that served in active duty for at least 180 days, any part of which occurred on or after September 11, 2001.
Plusquellic said hiring veterans was a plus for the APD.
"I'm happy that we have an opportunity to give at least 12 people the recognition and the opportunity to have a full-time career here."
The newly-aquired funds will provide 75 percent of the funding for salaries and benefits for three years for newly-hired, full-time sworn officer positions, or for rehired officers who have been laid off, or are scheduled to be laid off in the future.
The Summit County Board of Elections is at odds over how to proceed with investigating a newspaper ad placed by Akron City Council last year.
It was designed to look like actual news coverage, titled Akron City Council News. The problem, according to Elections Board Member Alex Arshinkoff, is that governments can't tell people how to vote.
"If the Akron City Council can campaign against Issue 2, then what's to stop the state government or some township or anyone else from telling people to vote for Issue 2," said Arshinkoff.
The material urged defeat of Issue 2 and passage of some other issues. It also featured certain, but not all, candidates for Akron City Council.
The elections board previously voted to hold a public hearing that would determine if the matter was referred to the prosecutor and the sheriff for further investigation. Today, the board recorded a tie-vote on whether to rescind the previous vote.
Not only did the Republican board members want to move forward, they also wanted to expand the amount of material that could be obtained through a public records request of the city of Akron. That came up because Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville was quoted in the Beacon Journal as saying that a similar approach has been used for years. That comment prompted a discussion on whether to ask for previous copies of Akron City News for the last six years.
There was disagreement and lengthy discussions about the scope of information to be sought as well as the authority of the board. At one point, Arshinkoff wanted to hear the motion that ended in a tie to make sure everyone understood the exact wording. The recording device used required that the file be downloaded to a computer system on a different floor before the it could be heard. The process took more than 30 minutes.
Board Chairman Tim Gorbach said he was concerned about abusing the board's power to subpoena.
Democrats stood firm, so the tie-vote will have to be broken by the secretary of state.
Elected and community leaders say they'll spend the new year working on ways to reduce the amount of violence that plagued the city last year.
Akron NAACP President Ophelia Averitt, who is also a national NAACP board member, says a key component involves neighbors working together to form new neighborhood block clubs or strengthen existing ones.
"Block clubs know what is going on in their communities," says Averitt.
The biggest hurdle: Getting people to commit is never easy. Averitt says people will be more willing now more than before because they're fed up that people are getting shot in the streets.
Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville also mentions block club establishment as he listed the problem as a top priority for the council this year.
Sommerville says starting a dialog is only the beginning.
"We have to do more than that," said Sommerville. "If we don't include people who have been left out, then we're going to see more and more of this type of activity."
Sommerville says finding ways to keep kids in school and young adults in college or trade school would help significantly.
The Summit County Board of Elections wants to know what's up with a 2-page spread that ran in Saturday's edition of the Akron Beacon Journal.
It's called "City Council News" and features items that mainly tout the accomplishments of the current city council and administration, but stops short of telling people who deserves their vote.
The advertisement does encourage people to vote a certain way on certain issues.
The problem, according to the Summit County Board of Elections, is transparency.
Although the layout looks nothing like that of the Beacon Journal, some people can't tell if it's an advertisement or news. More importantly, the board wants to know who authorized the whole things and who is paying for it.
"Then we can have this information and make a decision on what to do," said Republican Board Member Alex Arshinkoff.
The "information" he's seeking is any documentation that answers the questions.
Arshinkoff made the motion to subpoena records from various city employees. It was seconded by Democrat Wayne Jones and passed unanimously.
"We need to make sure that it was in accordance with what the current rules are and so far as how it was paid for," said Democrat Tim Gorbach.
There is an area at the bottom of the spread that resembles a masthead and it says City Council News is published by Akron City Council and produced by Highland PR.