Legislation was introduced on Monday that would form an Akron Civil Rights Commission to hear discrimination cases and to extend existing protections to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.The commission would hear complaints brought by residents who believe they have been discriminated against because of their age, sex, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, military status, disability or marital status, as well as for gender identity and sexual orientation. A Special Committee of Council was formed to consider the legislation and make a recommendation to Council.
Council approved the city's application for a $30,000 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. The grant will be used to hire an Akron Youth Violence Facilitator who will research youth violence in the city and develop an intervention plan. Council also passed a resolution Monday evening opposing the transfer of a liquor permit to Game 7 Bar & Grille, citing several recent shootings and many more police responses to violence at the bar.
Neighborhood-based organizations in every ward will again be able to apply for grants from the city this year. Council approved allocating $10,000 to each ward for the "My Neighborhood Our Akron" grant program. Grant amounts can range from $250 to $1,000 for qualifying neighborhood improvements. The Department of Neighborhood Assistance will administer the grant program.
Legislation that will give school crossing guards the same authority as school bus drivers - to implicate motorists who ignore orders and endanger children - was approved unanimously by Council Monday evening. Police will now be able to issue citations based on the eyewitness reports of school crossing guards. Prior to passage of the new law, police had to witness the infraction. The new law was named in honor of Tony Swain, who was killed by a motorists speeding through a school zone at Glover elementary school. Eyewitnesses said he gave his own life while pausing to push his sister away from a vehicle speeding through the school zone.
The 2017 capital and operating budgets were approved by Council during Monday's regular meeting. Council had conducted committee hearings on the city budget for more than a month before approving $375 million for operating and $590 million for capital expenditures. The operating budget is for salaries and services the city provides. The capital budget covers expenses related to city assets including roads, buildings, utilities and parks. During the public comment period, Council heard from citizens supporting a resolution to declare Ohio a sanctuary state and urging cities to be sanctuaries for immigrants. Council took time on the resolution.
The 2017 capital budget continued to hold Council's attention as the administration provided additional details on proposed expenses and some restructuring of city departments. Council also referred new legislation to sell city-owned land until it learns more about Mayor Horrigan's new housing initiative.
A week after passing a resolution commending former President Barack Obama for his dedicated service, Council passed a resolution Monday opposing new President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from seven Middle East countries. Council also passed resolutions promoting racial healing throughout 2017 and urging the Ohio Department of Education to continue funding a grant for an afterschool program that services 20,000 students from low-income families statewide.
A resolution expressing appreciation to former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and a resolution opposing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act were supported unanimously at Monday's City Council meeting. Council also supported legislation seeking grant funds for the downtown Landmark project, a zero percent interest loan for the sewer separation project, and stadium improvements at Canal Park.
During the first meeting of the new year, Akron City Council addressed routine legislation ranging from approving grant applications to unanimously passing a resolution asking Congress to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood. Unrelated to any legislation, Council again heard from citizens about the drug epidemic in Akron during the public comment period. Earlier in the day, an Oriana House executive appeared before a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Health and Social Services Committees to answer questions about drug use inside their rehabilitation facility. Council plans to tour Oriana House later this month.