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Akron Council looking for new Ward 8 member

3/10/2011 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Council also receives operating budget, opposes parole

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron City Council members accepted the resignation of, and bid farewell to, their Ward 8 representative, Democrat Sandra Kurt, at the March 7 meeting.

Kurt resigned March 3 after being appointed to a vacant seat on Summit County Council. [For more on that, see related story below.]

“I’m happy for her that she received the appointment,” said Rules Committee Chairwoman Tina Merlitti (D-Ward 7) as she asked for a vote on Kurt’s letter of resignation. “We are sad as a body to lose a very good councilperson.”

Kurt, who was first elected to the seat in the 2009 General Election, was present for the meeting and said she felt very fortunate to have been a part of Akron City Council.

“You all really taught me a lot personally and professionally,” she said to Council members. “I wouldn’t be who I am without the experience I’ve had here with all of you.”

Residents of Ward 8 who are interested in the vacant Council seat may submit a letter and résumé to the Council Clerk at 166 S. High St., Room 301, Akron, OH 44308. Council President Marco Sommerville (D-Ward 3) said the deadline to apply for the open seat is March 16. He appointed Council Vice President Merlitti to chair a committee to interview the applicants and choose the newest Council member.

That person will need to run in this year’s election in order to keep his or her seat. All ward Council members are up for re-election this year.

In other business, Council received with little discussion legislation to approve the city’s $528.8 million operating budget for 2011. Council will vote on the budget in the next couple of weeks, as it is required by city charter to approve the budget by the end of March.

“Unfortunately, this year is going to be another year of doubt ... as we wait to see what happens with the state and federal budgets,” said Merlitti, who also chairs the Budget and Finance Committee.

Last year’s operating budget was $514 million, down about 6 percent from 2009’s $548 million budget.

Also at the meeting, Council unanimously approved a resolution urging denial of parole for Charles Hunt, who was convicted of shooting and killing Akron Police Officer Stephen Ondas in the line of duty in October 1972. Ondas’ partner, Phillip Brady, was severely injured in the same shooting, according to the resolution.

According to the resolution, Hunt received a sentence of 16 years to life in prison for the crimes. He has a parole hearing March 23.

Councilman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) said petitions to sign in opposition of parole for Hunt are available at the Northwest Family, Balch Street, Patterson Park, Kenmore and Ellet community centers. Signatures are due tomorrow, March 11, he said.

Council also heard a report from the Planning Committee that one request for a public hearing is being held and another is being withdrawn due to neighborhood concerns.

Fusco, who chairs the committee, said amendments are in the works for a request for a conditional-use permit to retain a three-unit apartment house in Highland Square. The amendments should be ready in the next couple of weeks, he said.

Planning Director John Moore said a request to rezone a 4-acre parcel of land at the end of Vane Avenue in North Hill from industrial use to apartment house use — which drew 10 residents speaking in opposition at a public hearing — is being withdrawn by the Planning Department, which might revisit the request and come back with a new proposal.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place March 14 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

Kurt appointed to County Council at-large seat

Sandra Kurt, formerly Akron City Council’s Ward 8 representative, is now the newest member of Summit County Council.
Photo: Kathleen Folkerth
NORTH AKRON — The Summit County Democratic Party has chosen Sandra Kurt, of West Akron, to fill the vacant at-large position on Summit County Council.

The seat was vacated by Jon Poda, of Green, who resigned last month after taking a job with the county.

Kurt, an engineer with Goodyear, most recently was the Ward 8 representative to Akron City Council, a position she won in the 2009 General Election.

Megan Moreland, executive director of the Summit County Democratic Party, said five people were interested in the seat: Kurt; Pete Crossland, of West Akron, who was an at-large councilman until he did not win re-election in November; attorney Adam VanHo; attorney John Fickes; and Cuyahoga Falls resident Russ Iona.

A little more than 200 of the 321 precinct committee members gathered March 3 at North High School to vote for the candidates. Voting went through three rounds until a candidate received 50 percent of the vote, Moreland said. The final round results were 109 members in favor of Kurt and 84 in favor of Crossland.

“I knew the competition was going to be challenging,” Kurt said. “I had some good people helping me build support across the county.”

Kurt tendered her resignation from City Council that evening and was sworn in to her new seat by Akron Municipal Court Judge Kathryn Michael.

Kurt said she was interested in the different opportunities a County Council position might afford her, as well as the chance to focus on broader issues.

“I think that being on County Council, especially at large, will allow me the opportunity to dig in deeper,” Kurt said. “That is difficult to do when you’re representing your ward well.”

City Council will appoint a new Ward 8 representative after an application and interview process.

Kurt said she wishes her successor, whomever that might be, much success.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging, because the finances are not going to be an easy situation.”

She added she will make herself available to the new councilperson as well as the citizens of Ward 8 in hopes of a seamless transition. As part of that, she will host a Ward 8 meeting March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Northwest Family Recreation Center, 1730 Shatto Ave., when a representative from the city’s finance department will speak about the city’s budget.

The Ward 8 seat will be up for re-election this year. This is the third time in just more than two years the seat has turned over. Councilman Bob Keith resigned in January 2009 to serve as council clerk; he was replaced by Raymond Cox, who lost in the Democratic Primary later that year to Kurt.

“I really enjoyed my time on City Council and learned so much,” Kurt said.

Per the county charter, Kurt will have to run for election to the seat in the November 2012 General Election if she wishes to serve the entire four-year term.

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