Jan
26

My notes from last night’s meeting

Here are my personal notes from last night’s city council meeting:

Downtown Stow – Council took another step toward Downtown Stow by introducing legislation to create a Community Entertainment District. What is that? It’s a mechanism that allows 15 extra liquor permits in a given area, so long as there will be $50 million in new investment into an area of at least 20 acres. Liquor permits, of course, are critical for the development of restaurants. Also, these permits are 1/10th the cost of a normal permit. This measure will receive 3 readings before council votes on it, but it’s an indispensable step in our progress. … In related news, sometime in February, our consultant will be presenting its report to City Council. You’ll want to be part of that meeting.

Regulation on paintball guns and b.b. guns – The police department proposed an amendment to Stow’s laws to prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing a paintball gun or b.b. gun, unless there is parental supervision. The purpose of the amendment is to stop kids from using these toys with criminal intent. I feel the new law is unnecessary and overbroad. It was held in committee, and unless it is substantially narrowed, it may die there.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights – Last but not least … Council reconsidered its vote to reject my Taxpayer Bill of Rights charter amendment. On Jan. 11, the measure failed because it required 5 votes, and only got 4. But last night, all 3 members who voted “no” on Jan. 11 changed their votes, and it will now appear on the May primary ballot. This is a huge win for taxpayers. Candidly, it’s something that is on my bucket list of things to do before I leave City Council.

As a reminder, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights will:

  • Prevent the city from raising income taxes without a vote of the electorate
  • Prevent the city from decreasing any income tax credit without a vote of the electorate (The most important credit is the resident reciprocity credit, which is of significant importance to Stow residents who work outside of Stow and already pay income taxes to another city. Without the credit, you could find yourself paying 2.5% to Akron and 2% to Stow.)
  • Require 5 votes of City Council before placing a tax increase or credit decrease on the ballot
  • Require any tax increase or credit decrease to be placed only on a November general election ballot

Next meeting – Council will meet next on Feb. 8. Please also consider joining the Stow Community Foundation for Pizza Palooza this Sunday at noon. Great event, and we plan to be a part of it.

Jan
13

My notes from Thursday’s meeting

Here are my notes from Thursday’s city council meeting:

Dispatch consultant – Council voted by a 5-2 tally (Lowdermilk, Adaska) to pay $20,000 toward a consulting fee relating to the feasibility of regional dispatch. As Fire Chief Mark Stone said: “No one in the room has all the answers. So we need a consultant. It’s a safety issue for us. And it’s very important.”

I think there are two opposite errors that people are making. Some folks are convinced that we must enter into a regional dispatch arrangement, no matter what. Some people are refusing to consider regional dispatch, no matter what.

As I have stated in the past, if regional dispatch can: (1) improve service, and (2) be a lower-cost alternative, when compared to continuing to operate our own dispatch center … then I’ll consider it. But we won’t know, and can’t know, the answer to that question, without the aide of an expert, whose conclusions and factual assumptions will certainly be scrutinized.

Community Improvement Corporation – We heard from several members of the Stow CIC, which is a private non-profit corporation that Stow has used to incentivize economic growth. Two months ago, Council de-funded the CIC, because they have been making some questionable decisions.

Namely, (1) the CIC was giving out money after a company had already decided whether to come to Stow (so there was no incentive, just a gift). (2) The CIC opened up Pandora’s box by giving a grant to a coffee shop. If we say “yes” to a coffee shop, we have abandoned the purpose of funding projects that will bring tax revenue and good-paying jobs to town.

If the CIC resolves to fix these two problems, I will re-consider my vote to de-fund it. But that might not be enough, because the de-funding vote was 5-2.

The CIC is comprised of some private-sector businesspeople, whom I respect. But my respect will not allow me to compromise my principles and my desire to avoid the waste of government funds. I believe corporate welfare is waste.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights – My proposal to amend Stow’s charter, so that tax increases must be approved by the voters, failed on Thursday. It required five votes, but it only received four (me, Riehl, D’Antonio and Lowdermilk).

There was some grumbling that the charter amendment would go before voters this May, instead of at a November election. I think that’s a disingenuous criticism for two reasons. (1) If you want it to pass, then putting it before voters in May allows it to go into effect 6 months earlier. If you want it to fail, then just vote “no” and don’t make up false excuses. (2) No one sought to change the proposal’s election date. If you like legislation, but you don’t like one element of it, then you make an amendment. That’s Legislation 101. Neither Pribonic, Adaska nor Costello did that, so I don’t buy the election date excuse.

Years from now, if it turns out that city council votes to raise the income tax (or cut the resident tax credit)–and seeks to do it without voter approval–you can look back on January 2018 and blame the decision by Pribonic, Adaska and Costello to reject this taxpayer-friendly charter amendment.

Next meeting – Council will meet next on January 25.

Meeting Notes

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