Akron City Council opened the first the first meeting of the 2010-2011 session Monday night with the naming of new committees.
Several newly elected representatives got their wishes for committee placements – with some even placed in chairmanship roles on key committees.
Council President Marco Sommerville is satisfied that the committee placements capitalize on each Council member’s strengths and experience to yield the best results for the city – especially in this challenging economic climate.
“My hopes are we can reach out to attract new business and job opportunities, that we can negotiate contracts with the bargaining units and balance the books,” Sommerville (W-3) said. “We want to keep the ship steady. If we can do that, we’ve done a lot.”
New At Large Councilwoman Linda Omobien will chair the Economic Development and Job Creation Committee, under which much of the critical legislation responsible for the Goodyear and Firestone development deals were introduced.
She said she hopes to use her connections with Akron Public Schools to incorporate its career education programs into city of Akron job creation initiatives.
“Job creation is upper most in all of our minds,” said Omobien, past president of the Akron School Board. “I’d like to take advantage of opportunities I’m aware of and work with my fellow Council members to see what we can do to grow our economy locally.”
New members Robert Otterman (W-6) will head Health and Social Service, Russel C. Neal Jr. (W-4) will head Parks and Recreation and Jeff Fusco (At Large) will head Planning.
Ward 10 Councilwoman Kelli Crawford has parlayed her work mobilizing residents into crime watch groups throughout the ward to head Council’s Public Safety Committee. As committee chairwoman, she said she would like to continue the kind of collaborative relationships formed between police and neighborhood crime watch groups throughout the city.
Her first priorities are improving communication between Akron’s various public safety department heads and Council and Akron residents, as well as keeping an eye out for financial opportunities to strengthen the city’s safety forces – especially its fire department.
The city is awaiting word on a $6 million grant application Council authorized it to submit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of rehiring laid off safety personnel. If awarded to Akron, the money will be used to rehire the 38 firefighters who were laid off during massive budget cuts the city enacted last summer and fall.
“I want to make sure we’re doing everything possible to get these firefighters hired back,” Crawford said. “No one wants to see any safety forces lose jobs, but unfortunately last year it had come to that.
“If that grant money doesn’t come through we’ll be looking at other alternatives to hire them back.”
Whether the issue is alternative funding for public safety or crime prevention, Crawford emphasized that above all else, communication is key.
“My main goal is to work on open communication between safety forces and the citizens of Akron,” Crawford said. “At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.”
Ward 7 Councilwoman Tina Merlitti retains her seat as head of the Budget and Finance Committee, and will also chair the Rules Committee. Mike Freeman (W-9), James P. Hurley III (W-1) and Kenneth L. Jones (W-5) all retain leadership positions on the Housing, Public Service and Public Utilities Committees, respectively.
Click here for a full description of all Council committees.