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.
City Council President Marco Sommerville and Mayor Don Plusquellic by Akron NewsNow
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.
As police in Akron continue to look for leads to help solve last Friday's shooting death of Kenmore High School junior Willie Brewer III, others continue to ask for any witnesses to contact police.
Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville says it's not realistic to sit back and watch police try to solve a crime when nobody is offering information the need to do so.
"This is just craziness," said Sommerville. "It's up to the community. It's not so much up the police. The police are going to do what they do. But do you know something? Somebody knows about this. Somebody has information and they need to talk about it and tell us so we can get these people off the street."
Sommerville says holding back information only gives criminals more power to commit more crimes because they know it's more difficult to get caught.
Sommerville's funeral home is working with the Brewer family on final arrangements for the Kenmore High School junior. He says it's almost too much to take.
And just to have them go through what they went through, and the agony and the pain and the tears. It was just something that, even as a funeral director - and I've been at this a long time, I just can't get used to," said Sommerville.
Funeral arrangements for Brewer have not yet been announced.
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.
Addressing Akron Violence by Akron NewsNow
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.
As the new year is fast approaching, Akron City Council will be taking a new shape as four new members were introduced Monday night.
Donnie Kammer (Ward 7), Marilyn Keith (Ward 8), Bob Hoch (Ward 6), and Garry Moneypenny (Ward 10) will be representing Akron in 2012.
In addition, incumbents Jim Hurley III, Bruce Kilby, Russel Neal Jr, Ken Jones, Mike Freeman and Marco Sommerville were all sworn in as Council Members by Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer.
New Ward 7 representative Donnie Kammer says he plans on focusing on the crime issues within the city.
"Personally, the last few years I've been very vocal on crime prevention, and I want to expand that," he explained.
"I want all of the Council members to branch out, besides going to their monthly ward meetings, create block watches, etc."
Kammer, who has a law enforcement background says that it's important not only for the council members, but the public to get involved when it comes to keeping their cities safe.
Bob Hoch, who will be serving Ward 6, says it will be a team effort to keep Akron going during these tough economic times.
"There's a lot of quality people that work for the city of Akron and by pooling our resources together we can work as best as we possibly can to make this city as efficient as possible."
Hoch said his focus was to make sure the police and fire departments were adequately funded and had the access to state-of-the art equipment to do their job the best they can.
Ward 10 Councilman Garry Moneypenny, who's making his return to Council Chambers says the number 1 priority is bringing jobs to Akron.
"I want to assist in the economic development by bringing jobs to Akron, and helping out our unemployed base locally."
As for Ward 8's Marilyn Keith, she says her approach to Council will be a simple one.
"I'm going to show up fully, I'm going to pay attention, I'm going to tell the truth, and let God have the outcome."
Also, I want to help us keep our heads above water compared to a lot of the other cities around us such as the Youngstowns, the Detroits, the Pittsburghs around us."
Marco Sommerville, who was sworn in as President, said that 2012 will bring some challenges to the new Council body, but says that it's a challenge that they will all embrace.
"We have to work with some tough issues," he says.
"The budget restraints, funding police and fire, crime prevention, and the other things we are facing will be some of the biggest challenges in the history of this city, but I feel we have the right people in place to do what's best in moving the city forward."
Ward 9's Mike Freeman was elected Vice President of City Council, along with At-large councilman Jeff Fusco elected as President Pro-Tem.
The new council's term starts Jan 1 and their first meeting will be held Jan 9, 2012.
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.
If you look on any street corner in Akron, you will see memorials of loved ones near the site of a car accident or act of violence. Some residents have expressed concerns as to how the memorials affect neighborhoods.
Ward 4 Councilman Russel Neal,Jr. tells AkronNewsNow.com what he plans to do.
"What I will be doing is meeting with Veronica Brown-Sims who has some suggestions and then we will merge that with some other ideas and present those to the Council President and to the public," he said.
Individuals in the Hillwood/Fernwood neighborhood in West Akron had met with Council President Marco Sommerville to address their concerns with the street memorials they've seen in the area.
Neal says he was going to present the information sooner but says he was "sidetracked" and will speak with President Sommerville and the Law Department before presenting a proposal for legislation so that the community can honor the deceased and not draw negative attention to a neighborhood.
Neal says that by talking to the Planning Committee and by speaking to the public, the City can come up with a plan that everyone can be happy with.
"We want to do something that shows our condolences to the family of the loved one, but also communicates what the city's policy is."
Neal says he sees these makeshift memorials whenever he travels through the city.
"It's something that has become a part of modern day
Council president Marco Sommerville says that he's heard from residents that some memorials have stayed up too long.
"I'm going to suggest that before we move forward with this, that we hold some public hearings to see what people have to say about this delicate issue."
Sommerville acknowledged that some of these sites are therapeutic for those who have experienced great loss.
There is no timetable on a proposed legislation to regulate how long a street memorial can stay up, or how much material one can put up.
Akron City Council will be infused with some new blood after last week's Democratic primary election.
City Council President Marco Sommerville tells AkronNewsNow.com that the changes will be welcome.
"We look forward to having them and and of course it will change the chemistry of the council, but I look at that as a good thing," he said.
In Ward 6, Bill Hoch defeated Bob Otterman, and in Ward 7, Donnie Kammer defeated Council Vice President Tina Merlitti in a close race, and Marilyn Keith, wife of Clerk of Council and former Ward 8 Councilman Bob Keith won the Ward 8 race.
Current Ward 8 Councilman Phil Montgomery did not run for re-election and Ward 2's Bruce Kilby retained his seat.
Sommerville says that while he hasn't spoken to the three newest members, he says getting to know them and their ideas will be essential.
"I've reached out to them and made some calls and while I haven't heard from them, I look forward to speaking with them and having an idea of what they're all about."
With these three new members set to represent Akron's citizens in January of 2012, new opinions and ideas will be brought to the table. When asked about the chemistry of the new group, Council President Marco Sommerville had this to say.
"I don't have a crystal ball, I have no idea how it's going be, but all I can say is that I'm willing to work with anybody who wants to move this city forward and I feel the majority of Council feels the same way."
The next step for these three individuals will be to run against Republican challengers in the general election in November.
In addition to the new blood at Council, Akron City Council is looking at changing the boundary lines of each ward in the Rubber City.
Council President Marco Sommerville says that he will look to put together a committee to re-align the wards and says that he looks to put this committee together quickly.
"After every census according to the charter we have to realign the wards in the city of Akron," he said.
There will most likely be 5 members of the committee and the city will look to hire an outside consultant to help put it together.
Sommerville says he looks to have everything in place by the end of the year.
The city of Akron is planning to offer leaf pick-up for homeowners once autumn begins.
Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville says there is enough funding in the Treasury to cover the cost of the program this year.
But, Sommerville says there are questions about the future of the leaf program for 2012 and beyond. Sommerville says that's because of a cutback in funding from state and federal sources.
Sommerville says the city has to constantly look at ways to trim the budget or look at ways to increase revenues. Sommerville says the leaf program is just one of many programs operated by the city of Akron that are constantly under the microscope.
No date has been set for when the 2011 Leaf Program in the city of Akron will begin.
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