Tuesday, 14 February 2017 11:30

Akron, Salvation Army Set Community Table

The City of Akron is teaming up with the Salvation Army for another extension of their Community Table. 

Summit Lake will play host to the latest effort to feed more Akron-area individuals and families that need help. 

“This program demonstrates what is possible when we work together,” Mayor Horrigan said in a press release. “The City is investing significant energy and resources into lifting up the Summit Lake neighborhood, and we are happy to open our doors to host a hot lunch every day of the week at our Summit Lake Community Center. We thank the Salvation Army for their contribution to improving the lives of our residents and look forward to expanding this partnership to other community locations." 

The Summit Lake meals will be offered Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In addition, the Salvation Army of the Akron area continues to offer daily meals at their Barberton and downtown locations. 

Anyone looking for more information on the meals or volunteer opportunities can check SalvationArmyAkron.org for details. 

Published in Local
Tuesday, 25 October 2016 05:51

Akron Hikes Retiree Health Costs

As expected, the City of Akron is looking to rein-in it's so-called "legacy costs" -- otherwise known as health care for retirees. It doesn't impact the state-funded main health care but it does impact supplemental health care now provided at no cost for retirees and their benefits. Under proposed changes City Council approved the changes: supplemental costs would go from free to $30 monthly for single, $60 monthly for families. The changes also hit those who have spouses already eligible for health coverage from their own employee with a surcharge if the other coverage is declined.

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(City of Akron) Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and City Council President Marilyn Keith introduced four pieces of legislation in early September aimed at controlling legacy costs related to the City's supplemental retiree health care benefit. While City of Akron retirees' primary health care is provided through OPERS, OP&F and/or Medicare, the City of Akron has for many years provided additional, supplemental health care benefits, at no cost to the retirees or their dependents. However, as health care costs continue to escalate, the City was and is unable continue to provide this supplemental benefit at no cost. The City has investigated this matter and has determined that no other major city in Ohio provides this type of retiree benefit.

The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel identified legacy costs, the majority of which relate to this benefit, to be at $9 million in 2014. This burden on taxpayers was expected to steeply increase in the next several years if changes were not implemented. Panel members recommended that the City reform this supplemental retiree benefit to protect itself and City employees from significant long-term financial risk.

Mayor Horrigan diligently worked with his administration to investigate options for effectively reducing these costs while remaining fair to retirees, and partnered with President Keith to introduce legislation proposing the following changes:

- Determining to provide a supplemental benefit for employees who are hired on or before December 31, 2016;

- Requiring eligible retirees to contribute toward supplemental benefits at the same rate active, full-time, permanent employees contribute toward their health care benefits—$30 per month for singles and $60 per month for families;

- Providing for changes to the supplemental benefit plan that align with changes made to the benefit plan provided to active, full-time, permanent employees; and

- Providing for a spousal surcharge where an eligible retiree whose spouse qualifies for health insurance benefits from his/her own employer and chooses to decline that plan, the City of Akron retiree is required to pay a spousal surcharge to elect to include the spouse on the City's supplemental health care benefits.

After this initial legislation was introduced, Mayor Horrigan listened to feedback from the City's union leadership and responded by introducing alternative legislation, based on a union concept, that would have provided retirees with a stipend in lieu of any supplemental retiree health care benefit. The stipend option, which was withdrawn, would have provided similar financial savings to the City, but would have required retirees to seek out and acquire their own supplemental coverage.

On October 17, City Council passed the first phase of the plan—offering this supplemental benefit to only persons hired on or before December 31, 2016. Tonight, City Council passed the remaining three ordinances to implement Mayor Horrigan and President Keith's original proposal to reign in legacy costs. "This was the most responsible course of action the City could take," Council President Keith said Monday. "Retirees will not be losing any benefits with these changes. Instead, these reasonable cost-saving measures will reduce costs to taxpayers and put retirees on fair footing with current employees. It made perfect sense to me."

"It is one of our greatest responsibilities as City leaders to ensure that our City will be on solid financial footing, now and into the future," Mayor Horrigan said. "I deeply value the service of our current and retired employees and weigh that against the needs and costs placed on all City residents. Based on the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel and the data provided by our consultants, I knew that doing nothing was not an option. I'm pleased that the members of City Council appreciated the reasonableness and necessity of these changes, and investigated and implemented them with due diligence. As we move forward, I will continue to find responsible, resourceful, and efficient ways to update our policies and practices in order to safeguard taxpayer dollars while ensuring the ongoing financial health and welfare of our City for this and future generations."

City retirees should look for detailed communication from the City's Human Resources Department in the coming weeks with additional information on the how these changes will be implemented, and should contact the Employee Benefits Office of the Human Resources Department at (330) 375-2700 with any questions.

Published in Local
Friday, 02 September 2016 16:13

Retired Akron Fire Chief To Be Interim Chief

A retired former Akron fire chief will fill in as chief again, after the retirement of Chief Ed Hiltbrand.

Larry Bunner retired in 2011, after being promoted to chief in 2007.

He'll be interim chief through the end of this year.

Akron mayor Dan Horrigan and city officials will begin the process of hiring a new fire chief.

(City of Akron, news release) Mayor Dan Horrigan announced today the appointment of Larry Bunner as interim Fire Chief of the Akron Fire Department (AFD) effective Tuesday, Sept. 6. Bunner replaces retiring Chief Ed Hiltbrand whose last day is Sept. 3.

Bunner retired from the Akron Fire Department January 7, 2011 after 38 ½ years of
distinguished service to the citizens of Akron. He joined AFD in June 1972 as a firefighter. Six years later he was promoted to lieutenant, then to captain in 1986, district chief in 1991 and deputy fire chief, January 1996. Bunner was promoted to chief in March 2007.

"Larry brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position," said Mayor Horrigan. "I am grateful he has agreed to serve as our interim chief through the end of the year as we carefully work through a progressive process beginning with an internal search for the right candidate."

Bunner will be sworn-in as interim fire chief on Tuesday, September 6. The Mayor will work closely with Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Charles Brown and Human Resources Director Don Rice and to identify, interview and select the next fire chief.

Published in Local

As the city begins to ready itself for the celebration of LeBron James bringing a title to Northeast Ohio,  there's plenty of excitement in the air.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan came on the Sam Bourquin Show Thursday to talk about how people can be a part of the celebration down at Lock 3 in Downtown Akron.

Mayor Horrigan says it'll be a historic event for the people of Akron and beyond to celebrate not only a championship, but a champion.

"There's been a lot of planning the last few days to get this event together," Mayor Horrigan said. "It's going to be a chance for people to celebrate with our hometown hero."

 

The event including parking is free. For live coverage of the event, listen to 1590 WAKR, WAKR.net, and check our Facebook and Twitter pages as well.

Published in Sam and Brad

The city of Akron's Blue Ribbon panel report has gotten a lot of reaction since it landed on the desk of Akron mayor Dan Horrigan.

Most of the feedback has been positive, but one group has concerns about one recommendation, about possible privatization of the city's utilities.

Greg Coleridge, director of the Northeast Ohio Friends Service Committee, says Akron voters earlier rejected selling the city's sewer system, which was part of former mayor Don Plusquellic's "Sewers for Scholarships" plan.

He says the city would lose control and input with private utility companies based in other states or even countries...particularly water companies headquartered in other countries.

Overall, Coleridge agrees with other recommendations by the Blue Ribbon panel.

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(Northeast Ohio Friends Servce Committee) Open Letter to Mayor Dan Horrigan and Akron City Council Regarding Blue Ribbon Task Force Report

February 8, 2016

Greetings!

We write in response to the February 1, 2016 Blue Ribbon Task Force report.

We understand and commend the desire and need to have an outside ad hoc group assess
the current conditions of the city and the present structure and policies of the city
government, as well as offer recommendations for improvement.

There is much in the report with which we agree. Many of the challenges Akron faces
are, as the report states, due to external political and economic conditions that are shared
by other cities — namely deindustrialization, federal and state budget cuts, and the recent
economic Recession.

We would point out that each of these realities has been caused in no small degree by the
growing power and rights of business corporations and the super wealthy few. They've
exerted political and economic influence over public policies and the economy in support
of tax cuts, subsidies, perks, contracts and reductions of regulations which have further
consolidated their power and rights and increased their fortunes. The losers, of course,
have been programs, policies and people in urban, rural and suburban areas, including
Akron — specifically the poor, elderly, persons of color, working class and differently
abled.

Not all of Akron's current problems are due, however, to external factors. Some have
been self-inflicted. The past decision by the Administration to fight the EPA over the
city's combined sewer overflow resulted in substantial federal dollars left on the table
that now must come out of the pockets of Akron water and sewer customers.

The Task Force report asserts that, "[t]he single largest challenge facing the City is its
financial condition." We agree. It's appropriate, therefore, that many of its
recommendations address ways to reduce costs or increase income.

Prior to listing any specific recommendations, the report wisely declares, "some of them
will require further study; others will require additional resources (human and capital);
and still others just may not work at this time."

We respectfully offer that one of the recommendations in the later category, that "just
may not work at this time," that we believe should not work out ANY time, is selling,
leasing or transferring the city's water and sewer system – a suggestion referenced on
page 17.

Public utilities should remain public by the mere fact that to be more effective and
efficient there should be one provider. Akron voters overwhelmingly approved in 2008 to
keep the city's public sewer system public – under the control of We the People. Voters
understood that to privatize/corporatize public utilities more often than not increases
costs, reduces services, and results in the lay off of public employees. And in every single
case, turning over a public asset to a for-profit corporation, especially if headquartered
outside the community, state, if not country, significantly reduces public control – i.e.
democracy.

We believe former Mayor Tom Johnson, promoter of the public Cleveland electric power
system, said it best more than a century ago:
"I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies...for if you do not
own them they will, in time, own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your
institutions, and finally destroy your liberties."

First Energy Corporation is a classic example of the perils of a private corporation
controlling what should be public provision of our electrical energy --ruling our state
politics via their lobbying and campaign contributions/investments and adversely
influencing (if not corrupting) the institution of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
(PUCO) – with the result of high rates to pay for antiquated and environmentally
destructive fossil fuel plants while opposing the movement toward renewable energy.

While ostensibly a public official, the Emergency Manager appointed by the Michigan
Governor to run the public water system in Flint, MI was unaccountable and unelected.
Running the public water system like a business is what led to the tragic poisoning of the
residents of that city.

Our concluding message is simple, as reinforced by over 60% of Akron voters in 2008:
Keep Public Utilities Public.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

John Fuller
Clerk, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee

Greg Coleridge
Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee

Published in Local

The City of Akron Blue Ribbon panel report is now being studied by Mayor Dan Horrigan.

The panel spent the last three months studying the city's government to make suggestions for where Horrigan should start as mayor.

Tim Ochsenhirt was chairman of the Blue Ribbon Panel. He says it all starts with the city's financial picture when trying to determine what can be done next.

"To recognize the position we're in now, and to try to determine how they can best, absent a tax increase, that's always an easy way," Ochsenhirt tells WAKR's Jasen Sokol, "how we might accomplish better financial management of our funds and assets and resources right now."

Ochsenhirt says to fund suggested improvements, it takes money. But a tax increase is not on the table.

"There are) ways to try to increase revenue by closing a few doors that are open, and taking some new ideas, maybe having less subsidies on behalf of the city of Akron," Ochsenhirt says.

Council member at large Linda Omobien was the only city council member on the panel. She talks about the city's financial challenges.

"The financial staff have done a pretty good job of managing our financial situation," Omobien tells WAKR's Jasen Sokol, "but we really need to look at ways to start saving revenue, using our assets to try to find more revenue to come into the city."

Omobien also says a tax increase is not the answer. 

Published in Local