City council had another busy Thursday tonight, with meetings of Committee of the Whole, Finance Committee, and Council. My notes are below:
MEMORIAL DAY – Please consider attending the Memorial Day ceremony on Monday at 10:15 a.m. at Stow Cemetery (across from Holy Family). It’s always a nice event, where we remember those who gave their lives to serve us. The date always has extra meaning for me. About 7 years ago, I lost a close friend who served in the Marines. Cpl. Joseph A. Tomci was a 21-year-old was serving in Iraq when he was killed by a roadside bomb. I posted a picture of us together below. Joe’s friends have since started the Cpl. Joseph A. Tomci Memorial Foundation (501(c)(3)) in his honor to help out military families. By the way, if you are a golfer, we would love to have you join us at our fourth annual golf outing, July 27 at Roses Run. Check out our Web site for more details.
TRANSPARENCY AND GREEN SAVINGS — Tonight, council voted unanimously to make city council paperless. It also rejected, by a 4-3 vote, my proposal to cut paper consumption by 2/3rds over the course of the next five years (savings of $25,000 per year).
We had been discussing this legislation for two months. We even had a subcommittee meeting to discuss the proposal. I amended it significantly to suit Mayor Drew’s tastes. But tonight, without the courtesy of a warning, she raised objections about the proposal — calling it “unenforceable.” Even after the law director shot her down on that point, four councilmembers voted “no.” Why? One member cited administrative burden. So maybe that’s it …?
At the same time, these four members are begging for more of the people’s money through an income tax increase. Yet they refuse to analyze where we can trim back in this manner at city hall.
In any event, I’m pleased we were able to pass the most wide-sweeping reform of city council in decades. The Transparency and Green Savings Act will save money, and it will allow residents to have access to the same information that we access on a daily basis. You, then, can better determine if we are doing our jobs properly. More transparency –> more accountability –> better government. Or so my theory goes. The Government Transparency Portal will go live on the Internet no later than January 1, 2014.
I appreciate the help I received in getting this ordinance passed. Next year, perhaps with a different makeup of council, Stow City Council can pass the paper-reduction piece as well.
INCOME TAX LEVY — The majority of the night was spent discussing the income tax proposal, which would raise income taxes by 0.25 percent and be used to hire between nine and 11 police officers. City council is discussing the levy, because a vote of council is required to put it on the ballot
First things first, I will vote to put this on the ballot, but we must first close the loopholes. As I have already stated, with this current proposal, the people may think they are getting more cops, but that is not guaranteed by any means.
The levy, if passed, will provide $1.5 million for police. But it does not protect the current $5.2 million that is being used to fund the police from the general fund. Without ensuring that $5.2 million continues to be given to the police department, voters could be unwittingly giving Mayor Drew an extra $1.5 million to use in the general fund — where it may be spent on any purpose Drew and the future councilmembers so desire.
To close the loophole, we need to amend the charter. I’m working with the law department to come up with language that will accomplish this.
The mayor wanted this to be voted on tonight — after just two of the three required readings, and without closing the loophole. Why such a hurry? The Board of Elections deadline is not an issue. Let’s take our time and do things the right way.
NEXT MEETINGS – Please join Matt Riehl and me for our monthly meetings with residents on Tuesday, June 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the second floor conference room at City Hall. City council will meet next for committees on June 10.