A few weeks ago, Ward 4 councilman Russ Neal created a proposal for the city of Akron to distance themselves from Columbus Day. This news came around the time when Oberlin dropped Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, though not everyone in Akron was as gun-ho about a potential change.

In fact, in the city council chambers, the topic and corresponding votes were divided among racial lines, with all of the black council members voting ‘yes’ to drop Columbus Day.

Though he understands Neal’s concerns, Ward 2 councilman Bruce Kilby voted ‘no’ on the measure. Kilby spoke on the Ray Horner Morning Show of the “contentious” atmosphere in the chambers, and how the measure appeared to be more divisive than helpful and progressive. Kilby says he does not mind instilling an Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but is not in favor of ditching Columbus Day, either.

Kilby also said he was glad they voted on the measure when they did so they can “put [the issue] to bed.” He feels racial lines in the Akron area have been “pretty good” when compared to other major cities, especially in recent memory.

Councilman Neal also joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to recap the meeting and vote. Neal believes the decision to retain Columbus Day in Akron is “disheartening,” but claims the discussion will continue.

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It was announced Thursday the city of Akron has plans for an income tax increase from 2.25 to 2.5 percent. If approved by City Council, the tax proposal will go on the ballots in November.

Mayor Dan Horrigan spoke in-depth on this proposal on the Ray Horner Morning Show. Horrigan says the quarter-percent tax increase will raise $15 million for the city, and the money will go into the police and fire departments and the streets.

The proposal will be presented to council on Monday, and once approved, Horrigan and other council members will hold town halls to discuss exactly where the residents’ tax dollars are going.

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Reaction came fast Thursday to Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan's proposal to raise the city income tax from 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. Akron City Council President Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8), Budget Committe Chairman Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9), and Councilwoman Tara Mosley Samples (D-Ward 5) joined Jasen to give their thoughts on the plan and respond to concerns raised by the listeners.

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Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, during a speech at Akron's Fire Station #2 Thursday morning, announced that he is proposing a quarter-percent income tax increase to be put on the November ballot. 

Mayor Horrigan cited several reasons for the "necessary increase," including deteriorating roads and Akron Police Department and Fire Department needs. "The City of Akron continues to lose about $15 Million every year from the elimination of fair tax sharing in the state of Ohio," the Mayor said. Since the Recession of 2008, Horrigan added, the city has lost a total of $80 Million in unrealized income tax revenue. 

If approved by City Council, the issue would be placed on the November ballot for Akron residents to vote on. The proposed increase would raise the current income tax rate of 2.25% to 2.5%. 

The City of Akron hasn't had a general income tax increase (see next paragraph) since 1981 for "essential city services", Horrigan said in a prepared release. He says the city desperately needs this proposed increase for new, updated police cruisers and fire trucks; to support the APD body camera database; and to improve roughly 45 miles worth of Akron roadways, just to name a few things.

Akron voters approved a boost in the municipal income tax by .25 percent in 2003 dedicated to fund an $800 million dollar, 15 year plan to rebuild local schools as Community Learning Centers by the Akron Public School district. That project has been underway but has been scaled back with the loss of student enrollment across the district. State funds are used as well as local funding generated by the Akron income tax percentage taken for the school rebuilding project.

Mayor Horrigan touted his adminstration's efforts to continually do "more with less," but says the increase is necessary to maintain safety efforts and keep up with regular road maintenance and repaving efforts. Akron Police Chief James Nice and Fire Chief Clarence Tucker were on hand for the Mayor's announcement Thursday, and they both expressed their full support for the tax increase.  

The Mayor will officially present his proposal to Akron City Council this coming Monday, June 26th. 

Below is the press release from the Mayor's office regarding the proposed increase: 

Akron, Ohio, June 22, 2017– Today, Mayor Horrigan announced his proposal for a ¼% earned income tax increase to fund capital and operating needs for police, fire/EMS, public service and roads in the City of Akron. The income tax proposal, if passed by City Council, would be placed on the November 7, 2017 ballot for approval by Akron voters.

“Over the last several years, the City of Akron has continued to do more with less. We have made cuts across the board, reduced personnel, and consolidated services to reflect the City’s revenue challenges. However, we simply cannot cut our way to prosperity,” Mayor Horrigan said of the proposal. “It has been 36 years since our last income tax increase for essential city services, and as we seek to grow our population and revitalize our neighborhoods, our city needs and deserves this funding. The time is now.”

On average, the funds would be spent between police (1/3), fire/EMS (1/3), and streets (1/3). “It is essential that we provide our police and fire/EMS personnel with the equipment and facilities they need to protect our neighborhoods and keep us safe. And, we simply cannot allow our roads to deteriorate further if we expect our neighborhoods and business districts to thrive,” Mayor Horrigan said.

The City of Akron has lost $15 million per year in fair tax-sharing from the State of Ohio and lost an estimated $80 million in unrealized income tax revenue since 2008, as a result of the recession. Without replacement funding, the City would be forced to make difficult budgeting decisions that would impact City services across the board.

“As promised, I’ve listened closely to the Akron community over the past two years, and the feedback I’ve received is clear—we must invest in the long-term vitality of our neighborhoods. This fair and reasonable increase will allow us to significantly improve streets across the city by paving an average of 43 more miles of roadway each year. It will provide the funding needed to maintain current public safety staffing levels and replace deteriorating equipment and facilities for our Police and Fire Departments.”

Police Chief James Nice and Fire Chief Clarence Tucker joined Mayor Horrigan to express their full support for the proposal and detail the dire needs of their departments—including the need to launch a body-worn camera data storage program, replace two aging fire stations, at least one pumper truck, and 63 police cruisers in poor condition.

The additional ¼% income tax only applies to income earned at a job and will not affect retirement/pension income, social security, or other government benefits. Two-thirds of the funding raised through income tax collection is paid by commuters who work in Akron but live in other communities. If successful, this proposal would raise Akron’s income tax to 2.5% – consistent with cities like Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. The cost of the additional ¼% tax is $1.68/week, for a resident earning Akron’s median income of $35,000.

Council President Marilyn Keith joined the Mayor in making today’s announcement. “I am proud to stand with Mayor Horrigan in support of this reasonable and much-needed income tax proposal,” President Keith said. “These funds will support the core services we provide as a City, and address the issues most important to our residents – public safety, the quality of our roads and neighborhoods.”

The Mayor concluded by renewing his commitment to continue to control spending. “Even with an income tax increase, we must continue to explore ways to spend smarter, and prioritize funds where they’re needed most.” The legislation authorizing the ¼% income tax increase will be introduced to City Council on Monday, June 26th .

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Akron City Council voted unanimously Monday night to lift the moratorium on medical marijuana implemented by Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan last September, shortly after it was passed statewide. 

Akron City Councilman Jeff Fusco said in addition to lifting the moratorium, council approved licensing, distribution, processing and even testing of medical marijuana. Fusco adds that the law specifically outlines who will be able to apply for licenses to distribute medical marijuana; state qualified and registered physicians. 

In addition to state laws, those looking to grow or distribute medical marijuana would need a license through Akron City Council. 

Fusco anticipates requests to grow and/or distribute will be coming in within the next few weeks, but doesn't expect the entire operation to be fully functional until September 2018. 

He adds that despite the legalization of medical marijuana in the state, recreational use is still a no-no, and those who break that law are still subject to the same rules that were already in place. 

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On Monday, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan proposed legislation that would regulate any potential medical marijuana facilities, including dispensaries or grow houses, within the city limits.

The move is ahead the State of Ohio issuing licenses to businesses for cultivation, processing, testing, and despensing of medical marijuana. 

In his proposed regulations, Mayor Horrigan outlines guidelines that restrict any medical marijuana facility operating within 500 feet of a school, church, library, playground, or park, and requires City Council to issue a special conditional use of medical marijuana business before it can operate in the city. The ordinance also implements a melti-step local licensing process and give cart blanche to Akron Police to inspect any medical marijuana facility at any time. 

Back in September of 2016, one month after the State of Ohio passed medical marijuana statewide, Mayor Horrigan placed 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." 

A public hearing before Akron City Council regarding the proposed zoning regulation of medical marijuana factilities is scheduled for Monday, May 1. 

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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.

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Ohio's Attorney General Mike DeWine is considering filing criminal charges against Akron City Councilman Bob Hoch in connection to an ethics complaint filed back in 2015. 

The complaint references Hoch's voting on certain legislation that benefitted his two sons who are both Akron firefighters. It was filed by a former city administration that had been involved in a public dispute with Hoch regarding his outspokenness on issues that directly related to the city fire department. 

After an investigation by the Ohio Ethics Committee, the case has been turned over to the Attorney General's Office and a spokesperson says their prosecutors are involved. 

Hoch, who has been on the Akron City Council since 2012, denied that there was any conflict of interest on his part. 

Published in Local
Tuesday, 13 September 2016 09:13

Akron Puts Hold On Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana passed as state law and officially went effective on September 8th of this year. While the state still has a lot of work to do as far as securing approval for licenses to prescribe marijuana as medication and permits for dispensaries, the city of Akron says it needs more time to get the law straight. 

On Monday night, Akron City Council approved a year-long moratorium on the state Medical Marijuana law. Councilman Jeff Fusco says the timetable is flexible, but the council believes more time is needed to see how Akron will take part in the statewide law. Fusco says the moratorium will give the city a chance to figure out "what's best for Akron in terms of the grow operations, processing, (and) dispensing of medical marijuana" within the city. 

Hear the entire interview from the Ray Horner Morning Show by clicking the player below: 

 

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A 10-3 vote in Akron city council approved the construction of a new cell phone tower on the west side of downtown. It was not the most popular decision among those in council, but it passed nonetheless.

Councilman Rich Swirsky was very vocal about the approval, and he voiced his displeasure on the Ray Horner Morning Show. Swirsky wasn't opposed to alternative sites for the cell tower, or even a different structure, but he feels it will become an "eyesore" over on West Market Street, across from the Akron Family Restaurant.

Swirsky also believes most in council were not in favor of the move, but voted for the measure so as to not get caught up in a legal battle down the road.

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The man who served as Ellet's city council member for over 30 years has passed away.

City of Akron officials says they're lowering city flags at half staff in honor of Bob Otterman, who finished his 41 years of public servant as a state representative until retiring in 2011.

Mayor Dan Horrigan says that Otterman's "dedicated life of public service" is a model for all to follow.

Council member at large Jeff Fusco tells WAKR.net that all of Akron and beyond knew Otterman for his service to the community.

Otterman passed away Friday at the age of 84.

(City of Akron news release) Former Akron Councilman Robert J. Otterman passed away this afternoon. He was 84.

Mayor Dan Horrigan is requesting flags bearing the City of Akron Seal be lowered to half-staff immediately in memory of the longtime public servant. Otterman retired five years ago in 2011 after a 41-year career in public service. He served as a teacher, counselor, councilman and state representative.

"Bob's legacy will continue to live on in the lives of those he served, taught and motivated to enter politics and help their communities," said Mayor Horrigan.

"His dedicated life of public service is a model for all of us to follow. Bob will be missed," added the Mayor.

"I served with Bob on City Council for years. When I first joined Council, Bob was a Council-at-Large; member. He was a champion for the schools, youth, and active adults. He was there for everyone...Bob was a true servant and gave his all," added John Valle, Director of the Department of Neighborhood Assistance.

Council-at-Large member Jeff Fusco, shared his thoughts, "Bob helped the new people on Council learn the landscape. He showed us the importance of knowing the city, state and schools inside and out, it was amazing to me how much he knew. Bob epitomized what a councilman should be – working with his colleagues on council, working with the community and the administration to get things done. He was
beloved by the community."

It has been locally documented that Otterman ran for City Council Ward 6 seat in 1969 at the encouragement of students enrolled in his U.S. government class at Ellet High School. He won the seat and went on to serve the residents of Ellet for more than 30 years. Otterman served the 45th District of the Ohio House of Representatives from 2008 to 2011.

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A threat of possible legal action brought Akron City Council to a special meeting on Monday, over the constitutionality of the city's pandhandling laws.

City council member at large Jeff Fusco would only say the city will look at the issue, brought up in a letter to the city by the ACLU of Ohio...

"It's gonna take a little bit of time obviously to review that," Fusco tells WAKR.net, "and to go out and seek what's best in terms of the city of Akron moving forward."

Attorney Joseph Mead in Akron wrote the letter for the ACLU of Ohio, which says the city's had time to review it already.

"We sent them a letter outlining all of the legal cases that I could find for years and years back in January," Mead tells WAKR.net, "and so, they've had a while to look at this, and I think they need to move quickly or we're going to ask a court to decide."

Mead says a number of courts have struck down similar pandhandling laws elsewhere on first amendment grounds.

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Longtime Akron City Councilman Mike Williams attended his final meeting Monday night after serving 28-years on city council.

Williams had to choose between running for mayor and running for re-election for his at-large seat.

But he wouldn't change a thing -- including his decision to run for mayor.

"The only regrets you have in life are the things you didn't try and that you didn't go for," said Williams. "It was very important to me. It's something that I always wanted to do.

Williams said he's still not sure what's in store for the future, but he plans to stay active in the community.

"This community has been wonderful to my family and it our obligation to give back, and it's the same thing I've taught my children."

The other members leaving council this year include Jack Hefner, DeAndre Forney and Jim Hurley who lost his seat in the primary.

 

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Ray Horner talks to outgoing councilman Mike Williams about the ending of his 28 year career. Williams tells Ray about the outstanding support he has recieved and how he has made it through 28 years as a councilman. 

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