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

Primary voters in New Hampshire are just hours away from casting their ballots in the first in the nation presidential primary. On the Republican side, it's believed to be a make-or-break primary for several candidates including Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Lindsay McCoy of WFMJ in Youngstown is following Kasich in the final days of his New Hampshire campaign. She joined Jasen to talk about the Kasich campaign and what it will take for him to stay in the race past Tuesday's primary.

Monday, 08 February 2016 15:35

NEOMED Gets State Cash For Gene Therapy

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Northeast Ohio Medical University will get $50,000 in state cash to help fund its gene therapy project.

The project is working on the ability to target specific cells with hopes of creating better treatment for diseases, including some cancers.

The money for NEOMED comes from the Third Frontier Fund that helps with collaboration between schools and local start-up companies.

A man wanted in the dragging of an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper has turned himself in.

The patrol says Todd A. Davison II turned himself into the Stark County Jail, and was then taken to Portage County Jail.

Davison was charged with felony assault, and failure to comply with the order of an officer.

Sgt. Jeff Greene from the Ravenna patrol post suffered only minor injuries after being dragged by a car Saturday night on State Route 225.

Sgt. Greene pulled over the driver and told him to shut off the ignition. That never happened and he took off with Greene's arm still inside.

He was dragged about 50 feet but got up, hopped back in his cruiser and chased him, sometimes hitting 100 miles per hour.

Sunday, 07 February 2016 17:03

UA Students: "No Confidence" in President Scott Scarborough

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University of Akron students were not so surprised about the Faculty Senate's decisive 50-2 vote indicating "no confidence" in President Scott Scarborough; in fact, they agreed.

"I have no confidence that President Scott Scarborough can lead the university," sophomore physics major Archie Williams said.

"I really don't have a lot of confidence in [President Scarborough]," said junior nursing major Taylor Byers.

Freshman marketing major Andre Williams added: "I'm not too confident. I don't like the situation. I don't like him being president."

Some of the reasons the students agreed with the vote was because of President Scarborough's decisions to cut the university's baseball team, his attempt to raise student fees, while trying to change the name of the university with little input from the student body.

Byers said it was changes that happened way too quickly.

"Part of it's changing everything so much so fast," Byers said. So, getting rid of so many different programs, shutting down the baseball program and everything he did in trying to cut people's jobs and things like that with the IT Department and E.J [Thomas Hall]."

She added, "part of being a figure head for something is that you have to know what everyone else is doing and the fact that we're not getting told what everyone else is doing isn't helping us either."

President Scarborough has taken the brunt of the blame for the school's declining enrollment, cuts in services and the university's financial woes, in which he called a "$60 million budget problem".

"President Scarborough is trying to balance the university's budget on the backs of its most important customers--the students," Archie Williams said.

Senior political science major Jordon Federick said the president should not get all of the blame because he does not act alone. He said the university's Board of Trustees should be responsible too for the current state of the university, but admits fixing these problems does take time.

"Any person that becomes in charge, fixing these problems, same thing with [President Barack] Obama and [Former President George W.] Bush, you know problems can't be fixed quickly--you need support and he has zero support."

Federick thinks Scarborough has lost the student body and the faculty, but still has faith in the president being capable to turn things around.

"I have 75 percent [confidence] in him fixing the problems, but nothing comes overnight," Federick said.

Former Cuyahoga Falls and Stow Chief of Police Louis Dirker Jr., 67, died on Friday, after battling cancer.

"We just admired him. He was an excellent chief, an excellent family man and we're going to miss him," former Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart said.

Dirker started his career with the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department in 1974, retiring as chief in 2001. He then served for two years as deputy director of safety and security with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"The only reason he left the city of Cuyahoga Falls is he had to acquire that PERS retirement and he needed to send some of his kids to school, Robart said. "That's just kind of guy Lou was. Family came first."

He added, "I hated to see him leave because he was an excellent chief and I knew we were going to miss him and we did."

Dirker later became Chief of the Stow Police Department, retiring again in 2014.

Funeral arrangments will be announced at a later date. 

Saturday, 06 February 2016 12:40

Akron Shooting Sparks Human Trafficking Investigation

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When police responded to a shooting in the 700 block of Stadelman Avenue in Akron on Jan. 19th, one of the crimes not expected at the home was human trafficking, involving a 16-year-old girl. 

Cleveland.com reports when three gunmen fired multiple shots last month at a 20-year-old man who was at the home on Stadelman, an investigator with Cuyahoga County's Human Trafficking Unit also tracked the 16-year-old girl's cellphone to the same home. She's believed to be a victim of human trafficking.

Investigators also found a backpage.com advertisement where the girl is listed as an escort, the newspaper reports. The 20-year-old man told police he visited the girl at the home five times, including the night of the shooting.

The incident led to Akron police searching the home on Jan. 29. Police say the girl, who's been missing since Oct. 20th, was unharmed.

The newspaper also reports investigators subpoenaed the phones' records of cellphones seized at the home to see if there is any evidence of human trafficking.

No arrests have been made in the shooting or the human trafficking investigation.

 

Saturday, 06 February 2016 10:11

AMBER Child Found Unharmed

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Three people have been arrested in connection with a Stark County AMBER Alert.  Stark County Sheriff's deputies say one woman took another woman's child and left without permission after a fight at a residence on Oak Avenue NW.

Police recovered the child with three adults about 90 minutes later; she's unharmed and back with her mother.  Police found the child in a vehicle on 14th Street NW in Canton.

27-year old Raina Becker faces Abduction and Domestic Violence charges; both 27 year old Brandon Ramsey and 37 year old Jason Ramsey also face Abduction charges. All three are being held in the Stark County Jail.

More news coming out of Dallas on Johnny Manziel.

WFAA-TV reports that a judge finds there is enough evidence to issue a protective order for Manziel's ex-girlfriend.

The Dallas station reports a judge signed the order mandating the Browns QB to stay away from his ex-girlfriend for the next two years and pay 12,000 dollars in legal fees.

In light of the legal issues this week, WFAA also reports a high ranking source with the Dallas Cowboys is saying the team will not pursue Manziel when he becomes available next month.

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On the Web: WFAA-TV Dallas, www.wfaa.com/

 

Friday, 05 February 2016 18:06

Man Found Guilty In Chapel Hill Area Stabbing Death

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A Summit County jury has found an Akron man guilty in a stabbing death outside of Chapel Hill Mall.

Deandre Baskerville was found guilty of two murder counts, along with felonious assault, in the death of Terrence Rogers in August 2015.

Baskerville and Rogers got into an argument. That fight moved outside where Baskerville stabbed Rogers...who eventually collapsed and died in front of a mall store.

Baskerville was captured a month later by U.S. Marshals on a bus in West Virginia.

Baskerville will be sentenced on February 16th.

(Summit County Prosecutor's Office, news release) Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh announced today that a Summit County jury found Deandre Baskerville, 29, of Mineola Street in Akron, guilty of stabbing Terrance Rogers to death outside Akron's Chapel Hill Mall.

Jurors found Baskerville guilty of the following charges:

2 counts of Murder – special felonies
Felonious Assault – a felony of the 2nd degree
Carrying a Concealed Weapon – a misdemeanor of the 1st degree

On August 19, 2015, 35-year-old Terrance Rogers was shopping at Chapel Hill Mall with his fiancé and their two children. Rogers and Baskerville got into an argument inside the mall. The two men continued arguing outside where Baskerville stabbed Rogers in the neck. Rogers stumbled back inside the mall where he eventually died. Baskerville escaped, and was captured by U.S. Marshals on September 23, 2015 in West Virginia.

Baskerville is scheduled to be sentenced on February 16, 2016 at 9am.

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