|The complete video of the Mayors
speech will be available to Akron customers of Time-Warner Cable beginning March 1 on the
"Local On Demand" Channel #501 for viewers who have a digital box. The speech
will also be replayed in its entirety on Time Warner NEON, Channel 23 on days and times to
(02/25/09) - Thank you, Rick
(Rebadow) for that introduction, and thanks to the Greater Akron Chamber and Megann
Eberhart for your hard work in organizing today's event. This is the largest group ever
assembled for a State of the City presentation.
I also appreciate the support of our other partners in
making this event possible -the Akron Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs who have hosted this
presentation for 23 years, and in recent years have been joined by the Akron Press Club.
My thanks to the members of these organizations who do so
much for the life of the community each and every week of the year.
This annual event gives me the opportunity to celebrate our
accomplishments over the last year, to reflect on the challenges that still face us, to
thank those who have made special contributions to our community, and to think out of the
box a little - as change requires us to prepare for uncertain times.
I'll bet that most of you watched the Oscars on Sunday
night, with all the glitz and glamour and fashion.
Well, there's an Academy Award for cities. It's sponsored
each year by the National Civic League, which has been in business for 115 years.
And this past June, it recognized the fact that Akron is a
remarkable community, with extraordinary talent, disproportionate to our size as a city.
Over 100 cities submitted entries to be named an
All-America City, a coveted award that recognizes achievement and inclusiveness. Only 16
cities were selected as finalists, and invited to appear before a select panel of judges
at the League's annual meeting in Tampa.
We could only submit three projects for their
The collaboration between the City
and Akron Public Schools to build new Community Learning Centers, highlighting our
partnership with the Urban League at Helen Arnold School;
The second was our
Global Business Accelerator, which in 2008 received the National Incubation Innovation
Award in San Antonio, Texas.
The third project was directed toward youth and we chose Perkins Activities Central, supported by
the Knight Foundation, as well as the nationally-recognized Afterschool programs that the
city sponsors in our schools.
Over 60 citizens from Akron
accompanied us to Tampa, and on June 7, Akron was named - - for the third time - - an
In this room are many of the people who accompanied us -
most paid their own way and you should know that we raised private dollars to help
defray the costs. I would like everyone who was on that team to stand and be recognized.
By the way, smaller cities actually brought twice as many
people as we did.
This national award is reflected in a new City Seal which I am
unveiling for the first time today. On your tables are lapel pins that celebrate our
accomplishment. I invite you to wear it with pride. It truly represents our collective
success as a community.
This was an affirmation of all of the things that Akron has
been doing right. We're not perfect -- no one is -- but we are always trying to be better.
The night we were given the award, the Vice President of
the National Civic League Derek Okubo seemed to be talking directly to me as he described
the naysayers - his word - that are always against everything, who have few ideas of their
own, but who are ready to pounce on any new idea that you might advance. He said that it
was the greatest compliment that he could give the finalists, that we didn't give-in to
the naysayers the people who on talk radio and in newspaper blogs, distort the
truth. They undermine our confidence as a community.
I want you to leave here today knowing that nearly every
one of us who works for the city, goes to work each day trying to make life better for our
At your places is a brochure that we put together each
year. It lists our accomplishments for 2008, and it saves time for me not to talk about
them. But make no mistake this booklet (hold up) is really a tribute to the 75 city
managers and 2,200 employees who accomplish great things week-in-and-week-out.
Akron has benefited from a hard-working City Council. Over
my career as Mayor, they have joined me in a vision for the city that is greater than
their individual wards. We are the envy of civic leaders around the country because of our
history of working together, mayor and council.
Please help me acknowledge those who are present today.
Let's applaud them when all are standing: The President of City Council Marco Sommerville,
Jim Hurley, Renee Greene, Ken Jones, Dr. Terry Albanese, Tina Merlitti, Mike Freeman,
Kelli Crawford, our newest member, Dr.Raymond Cox of Ward 8, and council's new clerk, Bob
In 2008, after 36 years of service to the people of Akron, Warren
Woolford retired as Planning Director of the City of Akron. He was invaluable to me, and a
workhorse for you. Warren, thank you for your lifetime of service.
And my thanks to my family - my mother Betty Channel is
here today with her husband Mel, along with the parents of my grandchildren - David
Plusquellic and Michelle and Mike Zupancic; and thanks to my office staff and cabinet, who
support our vision of making Akron the best mid-size city in the United States.
And while they're not family they are very important
people to the successes we've had: County Executive Russ Pry, who has been a real partner
with us in saving Goodyear and Bridgestone; our partner David James, our new
superintendent of schools who is responsible for the success of our new community learning
centers; and Dr. Luis Proenza, who leads the community asset that holds the keys to our
future, the University of Akron. Join me in thanking all of them for their service.
Nothing focuses your attention like your 60th birthday,
which I will hit this July. And looking back, I don't know that I've ever been part of
anything as significant as being in the group that has advised those who have drafted the
economic stimulus package - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - signed into law
by President Obama a week ago.
The Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities
give me credit for helping to save the Community Development Block Grant program that was
on the chopping block 4 years ago, and that was 3.4 Billion dollars.
But this new program is 787 Billion dollars!
Last December 8, I was summoned to Washington by the U.S.
Conference of Mayors, along with a handful of big city mayors to respond to a request from
the Obama Transition Team for input regarding legislation that would jump-start the
Ten days later, we met at their headquarters in Chicago
with Transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett, now Senior Advisor and Assistant to the
President for Intergovernmental Affairs.
On January 8, the President-elect invited a few of us to
hear his presentation at George Mason University, and on January 16 a few days
before the inauguration, Former presidents of the conference, Charleston mayor Joe Riley,
Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer and I met with the new president's economic guru, Larry Sommers.
Their enthusiasm for the ideas we had to offer re-energized
all of us. White House officials engaged us on how to solve our country's problems
for the first time in many years, and they seemed to actually care about solving our
On February 4, we met again at the White House to fine-tune
the cities' role in getting the economy to rebound.
ago, I had the experience of serving on the Homeland Security Task Force, having been
appointed by President Bush. Back then, we advocated for cities to receive directly some
of the funds needed to shore-up security at high-risk targets almost all of them in
major metropolitan areas. But we watched as the funds were squandered really, when
Congress funneled the monies through state bureaucracies - seldom reaching their intended
use, and when they did, years later.
President Bush himself admitted that the funding system for
Homeland Security funds was "broken," and he created the task force.
This time around, cities will receive some of the funds
directly from the federal government in many areas, as well as being part of the states'
programs. As you heard the President tell us last Friday mayors must be careful
stewards of these funds, accountable for every penny spent, creating jobs and supporting
new jobs in the future, and I absolutely agree.
Because of our efforts, our community will get over $14
million directly for transportation projects, and altogether over $40- million directly to
We have placed on your tables a chart showing the
approximately 90 categories of funding, along with forms that you can use to write your
suggestions for the use of these dollars. We will also have on our website, a similar suggestion system. And President Sommerville has
indicated to me that Council will hold hearings soon to also take input.
Keep in mind, the goal is to get construction projects
going quickly, which in most cases means plans must already be started. We'll be looking
mostly at projects that have already been through the capital budget hearings and
possibly, AMATS review to make certain we meet their deadlines.
Some of these monies for highway infrastructure will come
to Akron and other cities through the states, and I commend Governor Strickland for
quickly putting into place an organization that will obligate 50% of these funds within
We will also receive about $2 million through the Energy Block
Grants program to fund the Akron Greenprint, which has been developed over the past 18
months primarily by Keep Akron Beautiful. I want to thank its president Paula Davis and a
committee of city managers for their work.
We will compete with other cities for funds that will be
allocated by the federal government directly to cities, for support of our police
department, including funds to hire officers.
And In 2009, we will receive Over $10 million for
Neighborhood Stabilization. This will permit our new Planning Director John Moore to
acquire, rehabilitate, or demolish foreclosed and abandoned homes. Last year in Akron,
there were about 2,000 such homes. We will continue working with the Summit County
Foreclosure Task Force and Port Authority to develop a pool of funds to help people in
danger of foreclosure, before they're removed from their property.
In spite of our successes, I know people are hurting. And
we are doing everything we can to come up with creative ways to help.
I never planned to be on the national stage. (I actually
never planned to be mayor, either.) I waited 12 years before even considering running for
a seat on the Advisory Board of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. And it was 18 years before
I became its president.
I tell you this because it will amaze some of you - - that
I'm being criticized for spending time and JEDD funds to be part of these national
But by having a place at the table during the debate on
these issues in Washington, even before this month, there have been literally millions of
dollars in projects that have come to Akron because of my role as your mayor in these
Let me remind you Ohio is still a donor state,
meaning that we get back fewer dollars than we send to Washington, so people should want
me fighting for our fair share.
While Goodyear and Bridgestone remain big players
locally...we are less dependent on any single industry and are far more diversified than
in past economic downturns. First Energy for example, opened new offices for 700 employees
at White Pond drive this year, in its new "green" building.
We have had a recent "boom" in Downtown Akron -
with employment doubling to 31,000 in the last 13 years, and with the growth in the income
tax collected in Downtown, 251%, our investments downtown alone are paying the equivalent
of 137 salaries of police officers that we wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.
When the naysayers complain about Downtown, ask them if
they would like 137 fewer police officers on the streets of our neighborhoods.
Because we have invested time and resources to create a
diversified economy, the private sector has created jobs that have added to our tax base.
But this year is challenging for every business, every
non-profit, and every branch of government, and the problems of the economy affecting us
locally are global in nature.
The City of Akron has been successful in managing costs by
gaining new efficiencies with the assistance of our managers and employees, and Akron has
"held its own" compared to other Ohio cities. Because we right-sized our work
force over the last decade, we have been the only large city in Ohio that has not had to
lay-off employees due to financial reasons.
Changes in fiscal conditions are requiring us to take more
drastic actions to maintain the service our residents have come to expect.
Last week, I instructed Managers to eliminate cash payments
for overtime, and to use overtime only in emergency situations and as required by our
union contracts. We have canceled the benefit in 2009 of allowing our employees to
purchase vacation time. I personally review each and every requisition for new and
replacement positions in city departments, and I've eliminated the City Picnic day for
employees. I've asked our unions for their cooperation to extend this cost-saving measure
to their members as well. It's a tradition that long ago lost its original meaning. No one
in the private sector has retained this benefit, and the vast majority of our taxpayers
don't get the luxury of an extra day off.
30 years ago, I said as a young elected official, that we
need to change just to stay the same. And I know - as an older elected official - that's
even more true today.
We can either anticipate the change that will be forced on
us by global economic circumstances and get ready for it, or be steamrolled by change that
we are unable to control.
That's what we are doing with regard to public education in
Akron, and the construction of new community learning centers, one of the biggest changes
in our history in how we offer education to kids and access to these buildings for the
example is our new STEM school on Broadway that is presently under construction. Dr.
Proenza, Dave James and others joined me in breaking ground for the new National Inventors
Hall of Fame Learning Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This is the
kind of change for Akron that bodes well for our future.
The new Community Learning Centers, open or
under construction right now recognize that today, the threshold level to get a good job
may be a technical education or a college degree.
And yet, we have not changed enough.
From my vantage point, everyone WANTS change. But as soon
as I propose change - whether it's a scholarship program for every graduate of an Akron
public high school; or, collaborating with the county to see if we can save resources and
make our streets safer what I hear back is, "Oh, I wasn't talking about ME
People are fine with change as long as it's the OTHER
people who are changing.
As Loretta Lynn said in her country music song,
"everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die."
If we are not smart enough to use the stimulus funds by
making long-term, smart investments, and create new jobs for the future, we will waste
When I was with President Obama last week, he made it clear
that his re-investment package IS such an opportunity. Among the smart investments will be
to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and seek alternative energy sources; and create
"green" jobs that are never outsourced whether we're talking about
insulating homes in our neighborhoods, or building high-tech fuel cells.
A great local example of the partnership with the federal
government is the new Metro Intermodal Transit Center. It has the largest array of solar
panels in Ohio. It collects rainwater for re-use. It was made possible by pooling
contributions from 6 different sources: the city contributed the land, and the federal
government - recognizing a national interest in public transit - put up $12-million of the
$18-million project. My thanks to Bob Pfaff and the volunteer Board of METRO for making
this a reality.
Our Biogas facility - one of the first in the nation - is receiving
wide attention for using methane produced in the waste treatment process to produce
electricity. Our composting facility recycles waste for use in landscaping and gardens,
and reduces the amounts we send to landfills.
And by the way, we were doing energy audits of city-owned
buildings before it was cool or green.
One change I tried to make over the past year was to look
at our award-winning sewer system, as an asset that has value to fund college scholarships
for the graduate of every Akron high school.
Shortly after my State of the City speech last year, a top
union official told me that this was such a good idea, that he would have to kill it here,
because mayors all over the country would want to do it.
I have never worked harder to get something passed, with
truly, only one motive - trying to improve the lives of young people. By not just giving
them hope, but real opportunity.
Looking back, I am frustrated with our inability to get the
word out. While we were studying proposals to do the scholarship program right, our
opponents - it took them 2 ½ minutes to decide they were against this - - made-up a story
that sold better than ours. Steve Hoffman referred to it in the Beacon as a "fog of
While the naysayers can take credit for using misleading
statements to kill that idea, I wonder if they'll take the responsibility this Fall when
over a thousand students will be without the opportunity to get a higher education.
When you play quarterback, you're not only responsible for
what you do, but you're responsible for ten other people. And it's the same thing here. I
know that my team did everything they could, and unfortunately it wasn't good enough. I
take responsibility. I apologize to the kids.
It's been my habit to take on unpopular issues, and I
haven't always been right, but looking back, I still believe this was the right thing for
us to do.
Let me say just one more thing - and this is usually where
I get in trouble - For those of you who supported Issue 8, for those of you who worked
your hearts out to tell the truth about what this could mean - Bill Considine, Michael
Douglas, Steve Hoffman, John Blickle, and so many others well, there's a special
place - in heaven - for you.
What keeps me going every day is that in the midst of our
challenges, the good news about Akron keeps on coming:
And then there is our youth. Last week I met with our new
Peacemakers, a group of 80 high schoolers created by Billy Soule to help stop violence in
schools and to learn about government. They presented their "State of the Youth"
report to me, and I couldn't have been more impressed with their sincerity and their
honest look at our community. I committed to these young people that I will work with them
to address issues like school security in the future.
And each summer, I get letters from grateful parents, often single
moms, commending us for the Lock 3 Summer Arts program run by Suzie Graham, that impacts
65 Akron high school kids each year who are "coached" in the arts by
professional mentors. What parents they tell me is that this use of city funds, supported
by the private sector, have changed their children forever.
And then there are events that inspire all of us.
Last April, two Akron police officers attempted to stop a
man for a traffic citation on North Hill. The suspect ran, and the officers chased him on
foot, with the suspect shooting as he ran. With assistance from other officers, they were
eventually able to disarm the man and remove his weapon without anyone being injured.
Police later learned the suspect had a lengthy criminal record and was in the area
intending to rob drug dealers.
Akron police officers
Timothy Wypasek and James Donahue were honored last October by the Ohio Attorney General
with the "Distinguished Law Enforcement Valor Award." Officials said they showed
a "disregard for an obvious danger'' pursuing the suspect as he fired at them.
Tim has been on the force since 2002, and James joined the
department in 1997.
They would be the first to tell you that their training
kicked-in and they did what any officer is expected to do. That's why I've asked them to
be here today and to be recognized by all of you - not just because of what they did, but
because they are representative of most of the brave men and women on the Akron police
force. Please join me in honoring them, and the service of public safety forces today.
I am pleased that someone I consider a friend, Craig Gilbride, after
31 years on the force, and expressing to me personally that he did not really want to be
chief, has stepped into that leadership position and has made strides in his short time on
He sometimes, I think, has been more frustrated than me,
with the unwillingness of some, especially the police union leadership to accept new,
improved, ways of doing things. I want to address this.
It's absolutely false for people to believe that I have a
feud with the police department. Everywhere I go, I tell our residents and others how
proud I am of the vast majority of the members of the police department. How good it makes
me feel to know that we have one of the cleanest departments, because they are the first
to root-out wrongdoing among officers and take corrective action.
But every organization in our society has had to keep up
with new technology, new methods, and improved procedures, just to compete and provide
Many of you wouldn't have reason to know this, but
especially when I was a councilman, I rode constantly with police on patrol, to provide
them info about neighborhood problems, and to learn more. I heard from neighborhood cops
about their difficulties and frustrations on the job.
I also more recently attend meetings where nationally
recognized top police officials, including police chiefs talk about the best practices
that have worked in their departments, and I have asked our department to see if it could
Too often, there has been a reluctance to accept practices
that improve the service levels, kept high-law accountable and maintained connections with
past, the Akron Police Department had a reputation for being at the forefront of police
techniques. After all, the first motorized police patrol wagon in the world came to Akron
in 1899. Interestingly, in this day of the Prius, the first Akron police wagon was an
electric car that included a cage for prisoners, and could reach speeds of 18mph. It would
revolutionize police work in the 20th century.
Yet, I'm sure there were those officers on the sidelines
who said, "get a horse," that these new-fangled motorized vehicles would only
cause them trouble and besides, it was a change, and they were against change.
As part of Imagine.Akron we formed a crime commission
almost ten years ago. Over 140 residents, block club presidents and the like, came in
not to look over the shoulders of police officers, but to be a voice for safety in
the neighborhoods, and in turn over their insights to the department.
My Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Larry Givens tells me
that when he was a new cop, one of his mentors told him to "make a friend today
you may need them tomorrow." It is still good advice, and will help eliminate
the suspicions that can arise from a simple lack of communication.
I'm announcing today that Chief Gilbride, working with
Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander has come up with a plan that we will soon implement,
to recognize the fact that drug dealers do not respect jurisdictional boundaries.
The personnel currently assigned to the Akron Police
Narcotics Bureau will be transferred to the Summit County Drug Unit, which is already a
multi-jurisdictional unit comprised of local, state and federal officers.
The consolidation of these units would make the expanded
unit one of the largest Drug Task Forces in the State of Ohio, approximately forty
Some of the benefits that will be derived from joining
- Safety for officers
- Police Zone Commanders will be able to respond quicker to
complaints of drug trafficking activity
- Allow for expanded hours of operation
- Improve efficiency and eliminate waste
- Improved coordination
- Increase opportunities for Education/Enforcement Grants
The additional resources would greatly expand the
capabilities of our officers, and undoubtedly make our communities safer.
Making government more efficient has been a continuing
theme of my state of the city speeches.
In 2008, with the help of Russ Pry, we merged our Building
Inspection Departments and combined forces to better provide copy and office supply
services together. It has saved the citizens of Akron over 200-thousand dollars.
Russ and I have also discussed assembling a joint task
force that will looking at how we provide services through our respective Health
Departments to the residents of Akron, Barberton, and Summit County. It will include
representatives of the health care community who will complete a study and make
recommendations on how we can be more efficient and cost-effective.
I hope you agree that it is a good idea for us to
constantly look at how governmental units can cooperate to avoid duplication of services
and be more cost effective.
If that is a good idea for government, I have to think it
is also a good idea for our two adult health care systems in Greater Akron. They have
found many ways to collaborate for the betterment of the community - - by assisting the
working poor, by keeping medical education alive in our community, and most recently
assisting us with the creation of the Biomedical Corridor and BioInnovation Institute.
For those of us who rely on Akron General or Summa for our
health care, we are proud of their accomplishments, and proud that we still have two
systems that are governed locally.
But it is clear that health care is under siege nationally,
and if we are to avoid the fate of other communities and surrender our health care to
out-of-town mega-systems, I have to ask the question, is this the right time for the
leaders of Akron General and Summa to get together and start talking?
Shouldn't we ask how our community could benefit from a
merger of their interests, if not a merger of the two systems?
In the meantime, I will join City Council in sponsoring an
ordinance to provide at least $75,000 to one of their collaborative efforts - the Access
to Care program to assure that more of our working poor can get the health care they badly
need. We will work with Russ Pry and the County, and the hospitals, to continue this along
with the dental program into the future.
We want healthy residents and healthy neighborhoods. Last
year I told you that we would help the good citizens in our neighborhoods by cracking down
on nuisances - the house with a junk car in front, the yard with high weeds or loose
trash, or the zoning violations that irritate responsible homeowners. In 2008, complaints
about litter, high grass, or junk cars were resolved within 7 days of receiving a report.
We enacted new penalties for the 3rd offense for such property offenses. We
established a new cooperative program with Health Department inspectors, who were visiting
the same properties our nuisance inspectors were responding to, only at different times.
Our Nuisance Patrol Program logged 8,900 complaints, improved 5,000
neglected properties, inspected more than 400 reported zoning violations and responded to
more than 5,500 animal complaints
And thanks to Deputy service directors Ron Williamson and
John Valle and their staffs, in 2009, we will collect a significant amount in assessments
from irresponsible property owners, so the law-abiding taxpayers get help and the
And soon, using our Community Service crews who work at no
cost to us, we will be deploying a special business assistance unit in cooperation with
the police department. Every day, this unit will be available to clean up broken glass,
cure the effects of vandalism and graffiti, to any business in the city at no cost to the
Thanks to our partnerships with Russ Pry and the County,
Governor Strickland Lee Fisher, our congressional delegation and the Chamber, I can report
another year that we have been able to retain jobs and create new jobs in large and small
among our accomplishments this year was the announcement by Bridgestone that they would
build a new Technical Center on South Main Street on the property that presently includes
their research center.
This means that over 1,000 jobs - many of them highly-paid
technical positions - will remain in Akron. I also want to single-out the excellent
partnership at Bridgestone, led by Vice President Bob Handlos, who is here today. Thank
you, Bob for keeping the "Firestone" brand alive in Akron.
I was grateful for the recognition from the International
Economic Development Council that Rick mentioned in his introduction, but it is also
important to note that Akron itself was honored during that conference.
The IEDC honored Akron by calling us a "clear
standout," among cities over 200,000 population because of the December 2007
announcement by Goodyear to keep its Headquarters in Akron.
While the sluggish credit markets have delayed the project, Goodyear
has re-asserted its commitment to Akron, and nothing in its announcement last week about
cutbacks causes us to slow down our work at making the public improvements needed.
Both the Bridgestone and Goodyear projects will include our
re-building the neighborhoods around each new facility.
These improvements will begin to show-up as soon as this
year, some of them starting within months.
But some of what we are engaged in may take years to bear
That's true of the announcement made by the Knight
Foundation in October, that it would help fund a new BioInnovation Institute in Akron with
a grant of 20 million dollars. The State of Ohio will contribute another 8 ½ million
dollars, and First Energy has pledged $10 million toward the project. The partners in the
project - Children's, Summa, Akron General, the University, and NEOUCOM will each add $4
million, towards a pool of $80 million that will exploit Akron's expertise in areas such
as orthopedic medicine and materials science. Within a decade, this project could generate
thousands of new jobs and become as well known internationally for biomaterials and
orthopedics as the Cleveland Clinic is today for heart surgery.
In 2006, when I asked Dr. Proenza and the chairmen of our
three hospital boards to join me in announcing the creation of our first Innovation
District, it was based to a large degree on geography the boundaries formed by the
three hospitals. After just two years, we are positioned to attract innovative technology
companies who can combine materials research with the perfect test-market for their
I want to recognize Vivian Neal, who is here today representing the
Knight Foundation. Not only has Knight funded the BioInnovation Institute, the University
Park Alliance, been the largest single donor to the Akron Art Museum, and played a
hands-on role at Perkins Activities Central, but one more project that will be unveiled
this Summer also holds great promise.
The Knight Center of Digital Excellence,
located in the United building at Main and Market is the new national center for community
broadband projects, and will be funded with $25 million in grants by Knight.
They are also joining the city and the university in
funding the Akron Wireless project, which is in the active design stage right now, and
within 6 months or so, will offer free wireless internet service to the central part of
the city. This is a demonstration project that within the next year, will build out
11-square miles of the city, and touch 8 of our 10 wards.
I am hopeful that because the Stimulus package includes $7
billion for broadband, that our foothold in this area will allow us to be first in line
for grants to build-out the rest of the city, making Akron as modern as any city in the
Last year, I announced a new center within our Economic
Development Department with a coordinator dedicated to just small business. Over the last
year, we have fielded dozens of calls and been able to make referrals for sources of
capital, and advice. On your tables is a list of the over 400 small businesses that we
have helped over the last 10 years or so.
Also keep in mind that when we recruit businesses from all
over the world, we are not just looking for high-tech, but also manufacturing operations.
This plays to our region's strength as a center of Advanced Manufacturing.
What gives me great
confidence in our future is this map, prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland,
which shows where new patents come from. And it stands out that Akron - among all of
Ohio's metro areas is #1 in new patents.
In part, it's due to the presence of two major
universities, and in part due to the type of innovation underway at the Global Business
Accelerator. This is really the seed corn for our future.
So, the year ahead will be challenging for all of us, since
no one is likely to be spared by the economic downturn of the past few months. But I
approach 2009 with great hope.
We have an administration in Washington that understands
that American cities are the engines of growth and commerce for the whole country.
This year will be the 10th anniversary of our creating
"Imagine.Akron:2025." It's time for us to review where we are as a community,
how well we've done with the goals we set, and if we need to make a course correction
because of events over the last decade.
I look forward to September 19 and the opening of the new
Infocision Stadium and Summa Field at the University of Akron.
I also look forward to this July, when Downtown Akron will
host the wonderful Italian-American Festival for the first time.
I would like to tell you that 2009 will be the year that
Highland Square will get a grocery store. I can't guarantee that. But I want everyone to
know that not a week goes by that we are not actively searching for the right design and
an operator to keep our commitment to the neighborhood. We have the same challenge - the
site is too small. But I want to share a new idea with you, and I just came up with this -
how about a store on the Market Street level, with parking on the roof, coming in from the
north, where the street is 4-5 feet higher?
Finally, I want to give you a test, one that kids see all
the time on Sesame Street. Which word does not belong?
Apple, pear, banana, bicycle.
Library books, Encyclopedia Britannica, Webster's
I know, it's pretty simple.
But here's one I may be asking all the voters in Akron
later this year:
All-America City, balanced budget, top job-producing public
official, 23 years scandal-free, recall election.
Because of a loophole in the City Charter, an attorney
obsessed with getting power has discovered that he needs signatures from less than 2% of
the adult population to overrule the majority decision of the last election.
We may very well have to bear the expense of a special
election - $175,000 and maybe more.
It would be easy for you to take this lightly. But this is
Even though every respected outside organization -
including bond rating firms and the prestigious Brookings Institution have given us high
marks and recognize the progress we've made compared to any other city in our region
there's a group of negative people, the Naysayers who want to overturn the last
election. They are led by a man labeled by the Beacon Journal as a person of "puny
accomplishment." He is so obsessed with getting power or becoming Mayor that he will
say anything - including misleading and untrue accusations; do anything - including dirty
tricks; and bring in to his fold people who lack ethics, and even some convicted criminals
that he has used in the past.
Now that's pretty strong... but soon, I may be in for the
fight of my life.
If 3,100 registered Akron voters ask for a Recall, there
will be a special election.
If it is about electing the "perfect" man as
Mayor, I can't win that test.
If it is about finding someone who will tell you whatever
he thinks you want to hear, even if it's not true, then I'm not your man.
If it's about not facing the realities of our situation but
playing on our fears, emotions, and desire for expediency...then I'm not your man
But if it is about respecting a record of achievement over
23 years that has allowed Akron to rise to the top in almost every outside objective
measure of accomplishment...
If it is about having as your Mayor someone who wakes up
every day, passionate about his city, always looking for new ways to keep us in the
forefront of American cities...
With the incredible partnerships we have formed,
With the broad support most of you have given me,
With the quality people who serve with me at City Hall,
Well then, I look forward to working with you as your Mayor
in the future.
Achievements of 2008 Flyer (543k pdf)