From the desk of Mark Williamson - click for more information


2008 City of Akron NEWS Releases
from the desk of Mark Williamson

handout (383k pdf)

(02/07/08) - Thank you, Dan for that introduction and for our great partnership.

I appreciate the support of the Greater Akron Chamber in scheduling this event as well as the Akron Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs who have been hosts for 22 years, and in recent years, have been joined by the Akron Press Club.

My thanks to these organizations and their members who do so much for the life of the community each and every week of the year.

While we accomplished a great deal last year, it was also a tough year.

I did what I thought was right for the city in the early part of the year, and I paid a price for it in November.

But if any of you came here today thinking you were going to hear a version of my “swan song,” or plans to fold my tent, you may want to step out of the room now.

We have a lot of accomplishments to review, and I hope a lot more to come this year.

I always appreciate the opportunity to thank publicly some people who are really making a difference in our lives.

First, the members of Akron City Council who are with us today. They have the hardest job in politics. With us today are Jim Hurley, Renee Greene, Jim Shealey, Terry Albanese, Tina Merlitti, Bob Keith, Mike Freeman, Kelli Crawford, John Conti, President of Council Marco Sommerville, and council clerk Sherri Prough. Let me ask them to stand as a group and be recognized.

I must thank the members of my staff and cabinet who, with their years of experience, perform great service for the residents of the city every day.

In particular, I want to thank Jeff Fusco for his years of service as Deputy Service Director and my long-time scheduler Gail Fielding, both of whom have retired, although Gail is back assisting our new police auditor Phillip Young. Jeff’s replacement is Ronnie Williamson. My new scheduler is Dan Whitaker. Let me ask these 5 individuals to stand and join me in thanking them for their service.

And my personal thanks to the members of my office staff, my cabinet, and the vast majority of city employees who day in and day out, go to work with one goal — to make life better for the people of Akron. I’m very proud of all of them.

Another special recognition – I had the highest regard for County Executive Jim McCarthy and was disappointed when he announced that he was retiring. But I can tell you that Russ Pry has done a tremendous job in a short time. Without his help, and help from Governor Strickland, and especially Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, we could not alone have saved Goodyear. Our commitment is to work together to continue to make our two levels of government work even more efficiently and effectively here, and I want to thank him for that commitment.

At your places is a brochure (383k pdf) we put together each year that lists many of our accomplishments. It saves time for me not to talk about them and for you from listening to them.

We’ve also highlighted our new initiative to develop a “Greenprint” for Akron. Last August, I asked Keep Akron Beautiful to expand its mission to make our city more environmentally-friendly. The first thing we did is take stock in what we are already doing, and many people, including some from the Sierra Club were surprised at how many things we had already accomplished to help our environment.

For instance, participation in recycling has increased markedly since we automated trash pickup. Forty-eight percent of Akron households now recycle, an improvement of almost 30% in just 12 months.

When I was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2005, I presided over the unanimous endorsement of a Climate Protection Agreement, whereby mayors commit to reduce carbon emissions in their cities to seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

More than 700 mayors are now committed to this goal.

Congress has taken note of the mayors’ leadership on this issue, and approved an Energy and Environment Block Grant program that when funded --- would direct almost $2 million to Akron to reduce energy dependence and promote greater energy efficiency, and Keep Akron Beautiful will help us decide how that money will best be spent.

We can keep Akron moving in the right direction if we have a vision for the future.

Five years ago from this podium, I closed my State of the City speech with a request that you sit down and take 5 minutes to write a note to a friend of ours who was having a tough time –a generous friend, trying to manage the transitions required in this new global economy. And many of you did take time to write Goodyear CEO Bob Keegan.

I’m not saying that’s what persuaded the Board of directors of Goodyear last December 5th, necessarily... but it didn’t hurt. They repaid our confidence by announcing a plan that would keep their global headquarters and North American Tire Division offices in Akron, well into this century.

This will be the biggest single development project Akron has ever seen.

When the Goodyear campus is finished, when the old Goodyear buildings are taken over and filled with new business by Stu Lichter, and when the new Eastgate lifestyle center with new retail, new commerce, and new housing is completed — the investment public and private will approach 1 billion dollars. Stu Lichter is a modern day alchemist who turns old buildings into gold. He did it at BF Goodrich and Lockheed Martin. We believe he can do it again.

I wished I could have told you about the Goodyear proposal when I stood here a year ago. But as often is the case...we were sworn to secrecy at that time. Maybe it would have helped if we could have told the people of Akron that this is how we use tax dollars to invest in new jobs. In this case, we’re not only keeping 3,000 jobs at Goodyear, but adding thousands more along East Market Street in the re-development.

One of the things I learned last year is that we haven’t done a good job of marketing the services that we are doing for the citizens of Akron. We can do a better job of letting people know about our investments to attract jobs and our success with large and small businesses. Many of you have complimented us on the CITY magazine that we publish three times each year. We’re going to use a special issue that will provide details about what we have done to attract new business and keep the jobs we already have.

Cities have been on the losing end of Washington’s tax-cutting plans that have eliminated much of the federal government’s role as a partner in development. Akron lost over $51 million in the last 10 years –money that we once received, that we now are not getting. We have kept down costs by reducing the city workforce by over 400 employees in the last 10 years. Our total general fund expenditures grew an average of less than 2% over the last 5 years, and we have kept police and fire at or nearly as possible at their budgeted strength. And I can say again, that we have not raised taxes for the operation of city government in 27 years.

But, we are increasingly challenged to make do with what we have.

In this era of rapid, unforgiving change — if the federal and state governments continue to squeeze us out of their budgets, we need to find new sources of revenue or lose the battle for jobs that is truly global in nature.

I promise you that in the coming months, we will do a better job of informing our residents how important it is that we participate in these development projects to retain the jobs we have and attract new jobs.

For many years, Bridgestone-Firestone has realized that they need the same kind of modern campus environment to attract high quality talent from around the world to work at their Akron Technical Center.

Last year, Bridgestone USA President Mark Emkes told me that they were going to build a new technical center. Either in Akron, North Carolina, or central Tennessee. The newspapers in Nashville and Murfreesboro are salivating at the possibility of adding 600 highly-paid technical jobs to their communities.

Over the last several months, Deputy Mayor Bob Bowman has been meeting with Bridgestone/ Firestone to review preliminary concepts that would address their needs. As we receive more details on the project, we will place before the company a response that will be competitive and will be in the best interests of the people of Akron.

Once again, we are working closely with Russ Pry and Governor Strickland and Lee Fisher, and we will do everything we can to keep those 600 jobs at the Technical Center in Akron.

And let me say, that unlike the 1970's when my predecessors received phone calls the morning that Goodrich, Firestone, and General announced they were moving out — I appreciate that in the cases of both Goodyear and Bridgestone Firestone, that we have been given an opportunity to assemble proposals that would retain these jobs in Akron.

During 2007, I probably spoke to almost 100 groups in Akron of one sort or another during the various campaigns, and I heard from thousands of people. They reinforced for me what I already knew — that while jobs are important, most residents are happiest when their street is in good repair, the snow is plowed, the trash is picked-up on time, clear water comes out of the tap, and when they dial 9-1-1, they get a quick and satisfactory response.

Let me assure you that service to Akron neighborhoods remains a top priority of everyone at City hall. But what’s also true, is that when we do the “ordinary” things right every day, it is seldom the subject of the news. For example, I’m especially proud of these extraordinary achievements by City employees:

Our 3-1-1 call center handled 200,000 calls for service last year, and we cleared 95% of them within a standard time.

Our automated sanitation trucks are getting good reviews in every neighborhood,

We paved dozens of streets this year, picked up tons of trash, and responded to thousands of 9-1-1 calls for service, and in surveys, our customers have indicated their satisfaction with the City response.

But I know we can do better.

Today I am announcing a new initiative that will improve our delivery of services to each and every neighborhood.

Service Director Rick Merolla will oversee a new program of Neighborhood Nuisance Patrols, that will divide the city into four sections, each with its own chief nuisance officer. The things that often bring neighborhoods down quickly are the house with a junk car in front, the yard with high weeds, or loose trash, or the zoning violations that irritate responsible homeowners to no end. We respond quickly to these complaints when citizens call them in to our 3-1-1 call center. Now, our goal is to be out in front and head them off before they get to the point of irritation. Part of this initiative will be to instruct each and every city employee who works in our neighborhoods on a regular basis to watch for nuisances and to report them. It’s the sanitation drivers who notices a pothole, or the police patrolman who sees a house in bad condition also taking responsibility. We’ll measure the time it takes us to respond, and those leading our nuisance patrols will be accountable for the condition of their area of the city.

And to be sure those residents have access to me directly to register their opinions; our CITY magazine will have a reply card addressed directly to me to collect opinions of our people.

Safety is always a top priority, and I’m happy to report that once again, Akron is the safest big city in Ohio.

We brought the police force to its full authorized strength earlier this year, and we will once again hire additional firefighters in the next several months.

I’ve announced a new policy on how often we schedule new classes for police officers so that we don’t have to go for a year under-strength while we “catch-up.”

I put into place a Police Auditor to handle public concerns about law enforcement. Phillip Young, a former Ohio State Highway patrolman has already been working to build an understanding with residents and police officials.

Crime does not recognize the city’s boundaries. That’s why more and more, I am encouraged to see collaborative initiatives between our police department and the Summit County sheriff. I have had numerous discussions with Sheriff Alexander, and his new chief assistant Garry Moneypenney, on how we can work together even more closely. You’ll hear more about that later this year.

With U.S. Marshall Pete Elliot, we had a successful Fugitive safe-surrender at an Akron church.

The Gun buy-back program was another example of how we work with faith-based organizations to provide for safer neighborhoods.

We are using grants of more than $1 million to go after gang and drug activities in collaboration with the Sheriff and other law enforcement agencies. Homicides were down last year, but half of all murders last year were related in some way to gangs. The University of Akron is assisting police in creating a system for Intelligence-Led-Policing. And we will fortify programs at the East Akron Phoenix School aimed at gang intervention and prevention while we expand the targeted sweeps of “hot spots” this year.

A second grant will enable Akron police to continue its work with other agencies and jurisdictions to support the city's successful strategy to target will help rid the city of meth labs.

But when we talk about our neighborhoods, the condition of our housing stock and safety, there is another blighting influence that cannot be ignored. And that is the “hit” that every city has taken in the last year or so as Wall Street greed overcame good sense, and driven homeowners who were sub-prime borrowers into foreclosures. It is a national crisis.

This is an area that the state has pre-empted local communities from regulating this business. I’ve joined with other mayors to measures to urge Congress to put some teeth into their regulations of the mortgage industry.

I’m pleased to tell you that there are some creative local solutions, and I am announcing today that Akron has reached agreement with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America to establish an office in Akron to provide immediate relief for oppressed homeowners facing the potential loss of their homes. NACA is helping thousands of homeowners who faced foreclosure by re-negotiating their mortgages, with payments they can afford over the long term. NACA offers real solutions that give real hope.

I learned about the outstanding work being done by NACA and its founder Bruce Marks through my association with the Conference of Mayors.

He persuaded the nation's biggest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, to let NACA restructure Countrywide's bad sub-prime loans. And now other big-name banks appear poised to follow Countrywide's lead, including Chase and Wells-Fargo.

I have offered NACA the office space and computers it will need in one of our neighborhood centers, so that they can be up and running as quickly as possible. Russ Pry and I have discussed how we can work together with Summit County’s Consumer Affairs Department as part of this initiative to preserve home ownership countywide.

We are also hopeful about the new housing opportunities that we are helping to create: The Hope VI project on Vernon Odom Boulevard is replacing the old Edgewood home projects. AMHA has demolished the old structures, and will completely rebuild 200 new homes, including subsidized rentals and single family market rate homes. 17 homes should be ready this Spring.

We’ve seen the success at the old Elizabeth Park where the new Cascade Village has risen in its place, thanks to the determination of Tony O’Leary at AMHA. We also have new housing coming on Howard Street at Northside, and Phil Maynard has broken ground for his Spicer Village condominiums, now under construction in University Park.

Our neighborhoods will be better if the people who live there feel more of a bond with their neighbors. I became aware of a program called “Neighbors Day,” celebrated in France,. Germany, England and other countries each May.

I asked our staff to put this program together, and thousands of Akron residents answered my call to get to know their neighbors during the first Neighbors Day celebration held last Memorial Day weekend.

Residents throughout Akron invited people on their block to share ideas and safety concerns while enjoying games, food and refreshment. In many neighborhoods, small groups of neighbors chatted in front yards and on driveways. Most used the opportunity to discuss neighborhood issues. Food was a part of most celebrations.

Our second annual Neighbors Day will be Saturday, May 24. It can be as simple as a walk next door or across the street to invite neighbors to join you for a cup of coffee — and learn their names and what concerns they share. And being the eyes and ears of the police in our neighborhoods.

We can keep Akron moving in the right direction if we have a vision for the future and strengthen our neighborhoods.

Eighteen months ago, I identified 500-plus acres of land partially surrounding Downtown as The Akron Biomedical Corridor.

Inside the boomerang-shaped boundaries are the Hospitals that are our most promising engine for economic development. The three hospitals employ over 11,000 people including some 1,000 physicians. Combined, the three hospital systems attract more than 1.5 million outpatient visits each year and almost 80,000 patient admissions. This places Akron’s combined total ahead of the Cleveland Clinic.

We are now poised to see major development in the corridor. A principal reason is the strong partnership of the University of Akron and possibly, NEOUCOM --the Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine.

We hope to establish an Orthopaedic Research Institute that will do exactly what we had hoped –bring together our hospital strengths - in this case, musculoskeletal biology – with our expertise in polymers and bio-materials, to create a new research center and ultimately, new jobs.

This Spring or Summer, a new medical facility, a long-term acute care hospital that is jointly supported by Akron General and Summa will open on East Market Street, offering 60 patient beds. I commend them both for working together in the best interests of our citizens, and will be encouraging them to join together in future projects as well.

And this helps nurture two other initiatives that I have told you about in recent years.

Last year, our Israeli-based partnership the Targetech Innovation Center accepted five new projects. 144 applied. We now have 7 Israeli companies in our portfolio, many of which are biomedical-related.

My thanks to Joe Kanfer of GoJo, who is on the board and is one of the founders of this project.

The expanded Akron Global Business Accelerator located in the old Building 5 of the B.F. Goodrich Tire & Rubber Company complex is home to 35 companies and 142 employees. Twelve new high-tech early stage firms entered the Accelerator within the last year. Importantly, we have entered into an agreement with Akron General medical Center to foster medical innovation at the Accelerator. They are looking at creating a center of excellence in advanced wound care.

Accelerator companies have attracted over $16 million in new investment capital this past year. There are seven companies working on biomedical projects including Spine Matrix, which does advanced imaging to diagnose back pain; a healthcare software company, a firm that designs and manufactures medical equipment; plus others including Therics, which develops and manufactures synthetic bones.

I’m proud of the work that Mike LeHere has done there over 20+ years, graduating 64 companies who have moved out of the incubator/accelerator and now employ almost 800 people in the region.

As part of the Biomedical District, I am today proposing that we begin planning for another incubator – a biomedical incubator – to provide jobs at new companies growing out of the research and development efforts within the Biomedical Corridor.

Last year, I was able to tell you at this speech that Sterling Jewelers would keep its headquarters here along with its 2,200 employees. I wasn’t able to tell you then that First Energy will move out of their Ghent Rd. building so that Sterling can move in. I’m grateful for Tony Alexander’s willingness to sell his building to allow for Sterling’s expansion and for his commitment to build a new $30 million campus on White Pond Drive. 700 jobs will be located in what will be the highest performance “green” building in the area when completed.

Our work with these major employers is usually well-publicized. Less well-known however is the work we do regularly with small businesses, which make up the bulk of our city’s employment, and is the source of most new job growth. Over the last six years or so, the City has assisted some 420 small businesses - everything from family-owned restaurants to manufacturers with 30 or 40 employees to large service businesses. But just like all the work we do in neighborhoods, we haven’t marketed what we do very well.

So to that end, and to make sure we are serving the needs of small business, I am instituting the “Mayors Small Business Center” with a direct phone number to a member of our staff who will be assigned to coordinate calls of small businesses. I am naming economic development specialist Brent Hendren to this job of coordinating small business calls.

Questions may be about how to get access to capital. Or how to improve or expand the real estate that you presently occupy. We can direct entrepreneurs to our network of business development specialists. And we can provide information about government assistance.

Beginning next week, the Mayor’s Small Business Center will be reachable at 330.375. 2200.

We can keep Akron moving in the right direction if we have a vision for the future, strengthen our neighborhoods, and we compete for the jobs of the next century.

If we are to retain companies, we have to have an educated job force, and young people who want to live here.

We have no more important asset to keep our young professionals happy than our link to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Rebecca Ryan told us to describe Akron as a “city within the park.”

Our towpath bike and hike trail now extends from just south of Cleveland right up to West Market street. By this summer. I’m hoping that the tunnel under Market street and the bridge over Route 59 will be open, linking the trail to Downtown.

We think that the new developments downtown will continue to attract young people and new families as well as many older residents. And keep in mind - - the additional incremental income tax from the added jobs in downtown pays the equivalent of 100 extra police officers in our entire city.

The Roadunner Akron Marathon placed in the nation’s top marathons. The downtown Library and the Akron Zoo, are breaking attendance records. Last October on Main Street, we hosted firefighters from around the country in the Firefighters Combat Challenge. I’m pleased to announce that the LeBron James Bikeathon will be held this year on June 21st .

Last year, the city took over management of Lock 3 and set new attendance records. Over 100,000 attended our free or low-cost concerts, the Hamburger Festival, the Farmers Markets on Saturday mornings; and over 70,000 visitors from all over the country attended the most authentic European Christmas Market in the U.S. –our Chriskindl Market at Lock 3.

Just to the north, at Lock 4, behind the Civic Theatre, we demolished the old Landmark parking deck creating a spectacular view of the canal which will be part of a new development called “The Bowery.” The buildings between the Civic and the Landmark will start to see work this year as home to new shops, restaurants, and 70 apartments. Work starts this Spring.

Saving our built legacy for the future is another way Rebecca Ryan told us we can attract young professionals. Last month, we saw the adaptive re-use of the old post office, The Charles Mayer Building, as home to Summa’s Information systems. In December, the Bar Association moved in to old Fire Station #1 on Broadway. The lock 4 project will preserve seven historic buildings along South Main, and of course, we are all proud of what is now the internationally-acclaimed work of architecture, the Akron Art Museum .

I thank all of the individuals responsible for all of those successful projects.

Supporting the arts is one way we support the retention and attraction of skilled workers to our community. We sponsored more than 70 performing arts concerts last year, 50 of them in our neighborhoods.

The Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival allowed over 8,000 people the pleasure of free, outdoor ballet in our parks over 4 weekends.

The Lock 3 Summer Arts Experience—in its 5th year, brought another 60 Akron high-schoolers into a unique experience with professional artist mentors.

And Chrissie Hynde made it official. The composer of the rock and roll anthem, My City is Gone, announced that her city - Akron - was back.

A prominent block of downtown real estate will become the city's newest address for residential living. Richland Communities will build an apartment community in downtown Akron to house 450 students attending the University of Akron on Main street between Exchange and Cedar. To do this project, we are relocating the Richard Howe House just a few blocks away to the banks of the Canal at Exchange and Water streets. It will become the new headquarters to the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.

We can keep Akron moving in the right direction if we have a vision for the future, strengthen our neighborhoods, we compete for the jobs of the next century, and we make Akron livable.    None of our partnerships is more important than the continuing one we have with the University of Akron. In addition to playing a crucial role in the development of the Biomedical Corridor - We have joined with Dr. Luis Proenza and the University Park Alliance to re-build the 40-block area around the campus.

The Knight foundation has already committed $10 million to University Park improvements, and I’ve committed the city to matching that grant.

We’re well on our way with the construction underway at Spicer Village and the expanded studios and galleries that Don Drumm and his family are building.

Clearly, the University’s plans for the Infocision Stadium and Summa Field will bring collegiate sports right into the central city next year, if all goes according to schedule.

The University has moved into downtown with its well-used Polsky building and now the purchase of Quaker Square.

Luis and I continue to discuss projects that will add energy and life to the city.

As important as the University is now and will be to our future, and more about thast in a moment, we know that our competitiveness in the future is directly linked to K-12 education.     Soon, every child in the Akron public schools will soon be learning their ABC’s, mathematics, and computer skills in brand-new Community learning Centers with advanced technology.

I’m proud of the fact that Akron was the first city in Ohio to obtain matching funds for new school construction through the use of a special income tax. You might call it the “Akron Plan,” since we others are looking at our idea as a model.

Already, Resnick, Voris, David Hill, Helen Arnold Betty Jane, Jennings, and Mason have been completed. Construction is underway for Crouse, Forest Hill, Robinson, and Sam Salem. A new center of excellence for math and science twill be housed inside the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

I want to acknowledge the dedicated work of Superintendent Sylvester Small. We do have differences from time to time, but there has never been a moment when I did not think that he is motivated solely out of what he thinks is best for the children of Akron. And he understands that is what motivates me as well. I wish him well in his retirement.

We are also using city tax dollars to help kids at other levels. Our city-sponsored after- school programs directed by Desiree Bolden have been highly successful. More than 1500 students are enrolled in the city-sponsored after school program. We operate almost 500 enrichment classes each week. In the hand-out on your table, you will see that students in the 3rd 4th and 5th grades who attend after school are getting better scores and greater gains than kids who do not attend.

The Butch Reynolds Care for Kids program is part of that, but it focuses on African-American boys in grades 3 to 5, who often join the program because of behavior issues. At Helen Arnold CLC, the 36 boys in the program have not had a single disciplinary problem since being in the program. The school’s suspension rate decreased by 65%. The principal wrote to me to say that the boys look forward to staying after school. One mother wrote that her young son gained two father figures in the men who run the Butch Reynolds program.

And I’m proud to report to you today that the City of Akron After School was just chosen by the Ohio Department of Education to be used as a statewide case model for after school study.

Help me acknowledge the work of Desiree Bolden and her staff (applause)

Another “Akron Plan,” you might say —but again, it’s nothing really new to us.

The original “Akron Plan” for Education was the subject of a magazine article that we’ve placed at your table. It was a radical idea in 1840 to use public tax dollars to pay for an elementary education. When two of our pioneers - Ansel Miller and Rev.Isaac Jennings came up with the idea of electing a school board that hires a superintendent, collects a property tax, builds schools, and sets standards —this was revolutionary at the time. When the Ohio Legislature enacted this into law statewide in 1847, they were called the Akron School Laws, and imitated around the country.

When Akron’s old stone schoolhouse was opened in 1835, readin’ and writin’ were enough to get a man a good job.

In 1890, only half of Akron’s children made it to the 8th grade.

When my dad came here to work in the tire factories, a high school diploma was an achievement.

For most of us here today, a college degree was the threshold requirement for the job we presently hold.

Now what? How do we prepare students today for the jobs that we are already brining here that require a higher level of education?

If we are going to truly have a vision for our community that extends well into the 21st century, then getting our children through high school is simply not enough.

Around the country, a few cities and some states have found a way. And have in the process, turned the trend that for whatever reasons — people have chosen to move out of the city and into the suburbs for public school.

These cities and a few states made a promise to their children —that if they completed public high school as a resident of the city, a tuition-paid college education would be available to them.

I’ve been working on this for a number of years; ever since I proposed selling the old landfill property and using the $10 million we would have received, to set up what some said would have been the largest public scholarship fund in the country. But for a variety of reasons, that didn’t materialize.

But then I heard about the Kalamazoo Promise. High school graduates in the city get their college tuition and mandatory fees paid at a public college, from a trust fund set up by anonymous philanthropists and local businesses.

New homes started springing up in Kalamazoo, and property values increased. People started moving back to Kalamazoo to help their children succeed.

I’ve decided that it’s time for Akron to enact a scholarship program that will attract families to live in the city. A New “Akron Plan”.

Imagine the results of a program that provides every child who graduates from an Akron public high school with the opportunity for a college degree at the University of Akron or a technical certificate from an advanced trade school in Akron.

This would be the kind of transformation that can re-shape Akron for the rest of this century. We’ve invested in our school buildings. I say let’s invest in our students.

The return on that investment to our city will be dividends far into the future.

Obviously, there are lots of issues to be resolved when offering free college tuition. The program would require students to apply for all available aid first. Our community should not lose the federal funds that deserving students are entitled to receive. Some will be eligible for Pell grants and other scholarships. Many do that now, only to discover that even with such aid, they fall short. The Akron program would pick-up where other scholarships leave off and will provide the “last dollar” needed for tuition and mandatory fees.

I want to thank Dr. Judy Hummel of the Summit Education Initiative for bringing this to my attention.

Those of you with calculators in your brain are already asking where the money will come from to fund such a program.

I’ve been watching cities around America re-invest in their infrastructure through the sale of publicly-owned assets to private concerns. For decades, taxpayers have made investments in infrastructure that have significant value. Upon sale, the cash realized from the transaction is “securitized,” or reinvested for a higher purpose.

One available asset for sale is the city’s sewer system, conservatively valued at about $250 million.

Within the next 30 days, I will call together a group of community leaders to examine how we might create a plan for securitizing a city asset by re-investing the funds into a public trust, and developing a plan to provide a publicly-funded education beyond high school.

What higher purpose can there be than investing in our children?

I know this sounds ambitious, and there are those with all of the best intentions who tell me that I should take it easy. That I don’t need to be controversial and constantly trying to change things. (You know the old saying, “It all pays the same.”) I appreciate that some of my friends are looking out for me personally.

But I have learned how short a time we have on this earth and I am more convinced that in this highly competitive world we need to embrace change as our ally - use it to our competitive advantage and constantly try to improve, even if there are some people who never “get” it.

I still get up every morning thinking about how to improve the city.

In case you had any doubts, I’m just as enthusiastic today as I was 34 years ago as a 24 year old councilman.

And I’m just as committed and just as determined (maybe more so) as I was 22 years ago when I became Mayor.

I want us to work together and I want to provide the leadership necessary to make Akron even greater.

And I invite all of you to join me in that effort. Thank You.

handout (383k pdf)

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