Twinsburg Council declares racism a public health crisis

KEN LAHMERS
Correspondent
Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates addresses the crowd at a Black Lives Matter rally on Town Square in early June.

TWINSBURG — Addressing the issue of racism in America, City Council took action at its June 23 meeting by adopting a resolution declaring it a public health crisis and establishing a special review committee to determine how best to promote racial equity in the city.

“Still now, racism — not race — causes disproportionately high rates of homelessness, incarceration, poor and unequal education, negative health outcomes and economic hardship for people of color,” the resolution states.

It points out on any given day 70 to 80% of children in the Summit County Detention Center are those of color, and minority children are 60% more likely to be detained by law enforcement compared to white youths.

It further states the rate of poverty for Black residents is more than three times that of white residents, and the median income of white residents is more than twice that of Black residents, plus the life expectancy of Black residents in the county is nearly six years lower than that of their white neighbors.

“This Council recognizes that racism is a public health crisis that affects all members of our society, both on a local level and nationwide, and deserves action from all levels of government and civil society,” the resolution continues.

The special review committee will consist of up to three members of Council, the mayor, law director, two members of the police department and up to seven residents appointed jointly by the mayor and Council. It will do the following:

- Seek solutions to reshape the public discourse and actively engage all citizens, city employees and public officials in racial justice work.

- Work to build alliances with organizations that are confronting racism and encourage partners to recognize racism as a public health crisis.

- Promote racially equitable economic and workforce development in Twinsburg.

- Continue to promote racially equitable hiring and promotion of all positions of employment within the city’s workforce.

- Review existing city policies and recommend changes designed to promote racial equality.

Other Business

In the only other action taken June 23, Council OK’d an agreement with Twinsburg Local 3630 of the International Association of Firefighters on behalf of three fire captains. The term is Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2022. The agreement is one of several OK’d by Council in recent weeks with police and fire unions, and includes 2.5% annual pay hikes.

A handful of measures were moved to future readings, including a resolution for the city to receive its share of money dispersed by Summit County from the coronavirus payroll support grant program. The total is expected to be $542,945.

Council previously OK’d accepting its COVID-19 state allocation from Amended House Bill 481, which is expected to total $271,313. Both amounts must go toward expenditures brought on by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Also going to future readings are a 2020 budget decrease of $702,000 in personnel expenses because of COVID-19-related furloughs and pay reductions, the 2021 tax budget and a 4.9-mill increase in charter/inside property millage to boost city revenue.

Resident Kathy Turle Waldron urged Council to “step back” and discuss other means to solve the revenue crisis, such as possibly an income tax credit reduction for residents who work out of town. “Is an unvoted tax hike wise?” she asked, and called for Council to conduct surveys and public forums to get input from residents.

“We’ve talked about this for a long time and have done our due diligence,” said Councilman Bill Furey. “This real estate tax increase would be less of a burden on homeowners than a 50% income tax credit reduction for our residents who, say, work in Solon.”

He added the new revenue would not go toward Gleneagles Golf Course as some residents believe, but to the safety and service departments. He also noted the city is expected to have a $9.6 million general fund balance at the end of 2020.

Finance Director Sarah Buccigross reported income tax revenue for June was $1.6 million, compared to $2.7 million in June 2019. In the first six months of 2020, income tax revenue was $11.4 million, compared to last year’s $12.4 million.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ted Yates announced restrooms at city parks are open, as are basketball courts. He reported Hannah August recently was sworn in as a new firefighter.

Director of Planning and Community Development Larry Finch reported the city has $53,719 available from Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council grants. It will be used to replace windows and doors at the main fire station and upgrade lighting at the community center.

Finch said motorists have received 258 charges at the city’s four new electric car charging stations since installation late last year. “The one on Church Street is the most used so far,” he noted.

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