Wednesday, 25 April 2018 09:26

Akron Firefighters Seeing Through Smoke

The City of Akron announced Wednesday the purchase of 10 new thermal imaging units for the Akron Fire Department. 

In a press release, City of Akron Press Secretary Ellen Lander Nischt describes the new devices as "life-saving" equipment that will help the City's fire department "advance its mission to protect the lives, property, and environment of the Akron Community." 

Akron Fire Chief Clarence Tucker is quoted in the press release saying, “Heat-detecting cameras will allow our first responders to locate a victim in an environment with very limited or no visibility. For a firefighter searching for a trapped victim, little is worse than losing your ability to see due to darkness or dense smoke. In a rescue operation where every second counts, these units can make the difference between life and death, by enabling us to find victims faster and increasing their chances of survival.”

Akron City Council unanimously voted to approve the purchase of the equipment at an estimated cost of $50,000 for the ten thermal imaging units. 

The new thermal imaging units were purchased with funds from the passage of Issue 4 last November. 

“Once again, we thank the Akron community for their support of Issue 4, which has made critical safety investments like this possible,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said. “In the months and years to come, will continue to invest these funds in ways that make all our neighborhoods safer and stronger.”

Published in Local

The City of Akron is considering raising the age to legally purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. 

The following is a press release from the City of Akron: 

When Mayor Horrigan appointed Tamiyka Rose as the City of Akron’s first Health Equity Ambassador last Spring, he tasked her with developing and spearheading new strategies to reduce the City’s unacceptable infant mortality rate. “I will never tolerate a scenario where Akron babies are more likely to die before their first birthday than babies born in other communities,” Mayor Horrigan said. “I hired Tamiyka to coordinate our efforts locally, and help turn the tide.”

“In looking at effective strategies to reduce infant mortality, smoking by young, expectant mothers was a key risk factor we needed to target,” Rose said of the initiative. “Looking at the data, it was clear that increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 could meaningfully reduce infant mortality rates and improve lifelong health outcomes for today’s youth.”

More than 290 cities and counties across 19 states have increased the age for tobacco sales to 21, a movement commonly referred to as “Tobacco 21”. Since 2015, 9 other Ohio cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, have passed similar laws.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.  Not only is it costly in terms of human life, it has a tremendous financial toll.  According to health policy research, increasing the national sales age for tobacco to 21 could save society an estimated $212 billion over a 50-year period.

The Tobacco 21 strategy is proven to not just delay, but prevent, tobacco use in young people across their lifetimes.  Military leaders are supportive of raising the tobacco age to 21 due to tobacco’s negative impact on military readiness (more info available here).

“Individuals who have never used tobacco by age 21 are unlikely to ever start smoking.  While it is estimated to reduce retail sales by only 2%, increasing the smoking age to 21 can prevent approximately 90% of new smokers from ever starting the habit, by making it difficult to obtain during the years they are most susceptible to the addiction,” said Cory Kendrick
Summit County Public Health’s Director of Population Health.  

And the link to infant mortality and premature birth is clear. “According to 2014 data, in Summit County, pregnant women under age 21 smoke at a rate that is 70% higher than their older counterparts,” Kendrick continued. “Nearly one in four pregnant women in Summit County age 18 to 21 smoked while pregnant. And pregnant women who smoke are more likely to experience the devastation of infant loss.” 

Akron zip codes 44320, 44307 and 44306 have some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, nearly double the national average. In 2016, 30 Akron babies died before their first birthday.

“If we are serious about giving Akron babies the best possible start to life, we must be willing to challenge structures and institutions that reinforce poor maternal health,” Tamiyka Rose said. “Tobacco use is a clear risk factor, and one we can do something about.”

Akron’s proposed Tobacco-21 legislation, co-sponsored by Councilwoman-at-large Linda Omobien, will be introduced to Akron City Council this afternoon. Representatives from Summit County Public Health, youth ambassadors, and physicians from Summa Health and Akron General/Cleveland Clinic will testify in support of the legislation.

“If you’re not willing to be part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” Rose concluded. “We’re hoping Akron will choose a healthier future for its next generation.”

A fact sheet with more information about the local Tobacco 21 initiative is available here.

Published in Local

With the state licensing process about to get underway for Ohio's medical marijuana facilities, the City of Akron is getting ready to implement rules of its own.

A package of rules unveiled Monday would keep medical marijuana facilities at least 500 feet from any Akron school, park, playground, library, or church. It would also require the facilities to receive approval from City Council to operate and would implement an annual licensing and fee structure.

Ellen Lander Nischt, Assistant Director of Law and spokesperson for the City of Akron, joined Jasen to talk about the proposal and explain that Akron is not trying to regulate the medical marijuana industry out of Akron.

(City of Akron) (Monday), Mayor Horrigan introduced legislation to Akron City Council that would heavily regulate potential medical marijuana facilities in the City of Akron, in anticipation of the State of Ohio’s issuance of licenses to businesses for cultivation, processing, testing, and dispensing of medical marijuana across the State. The proposed regulations would prevent facilities from locating in residential areas, or within 500 feet of a school, church, library, playground, or park, and require Council to issue a special conditional use to a medical marijuana business before it can operate in the City limits. Additionally, the ordinance would implement a multi-step local licensing process and allow the Akron Police to inspect any medical marijuana facility at any time.

In September of 2016, Mayor Horrigan introduced, and Akron City Council passed, a one-year moratorium on the “issuance or processing of any license, building permit, certificate of occupancy, conditional use or other authorization that would enable the cultivation, processing, or dispensing of medical marijuana within the City of Akron.” The moratorium was issued to enable the City to study and review the new Ohio medical marijuana law (H.B. 523) and other applicable zoning, business, and criminal laws and regulations. Today’s ordinance is the result of the City’s careful study of the new Ohio law, and decision to strictly regulate these businesses, should they seek to locate in Akron.

“The Ohio General Assembly established a system to allow Ohio residents to access medical marijuana, with their physician’s recommendation, to treat serious medical conditions like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy,” Mayor Horrigan said. “Recognizing that medical marijuana will now be legal across Ohio, we felt it necessary to enact additional local restrictions that will limit where medical marijuana businesses can locate in Akron and give us greater control over licensing, regulating, and inspecting these facilities to make sure they are being operated in a legal, appropriate, and safe way. The goal of this ordinance is to allow patients to access legal medical treatment while ensuring that these facilities do not have any unwanted impact on our neighborhoods. We will continue to enforce existing criminal laws and will closely monitor the impact of this new law to safeguard the health, safety and vitality of the entire community.”

The City also created a two-page fact sheet outlining the new Ohio law and how it will impact Akron, available at https://goo.gl/Ck0GoJ. A public hearing before City Council regarding the proposed zoning regulation of medical marijuana facilities is scheduled for Monday, May 1, 2017.

Published in Jasen Sokol