Doug asks for a tax hike


tumblr_nfcwofvYgw1spj0ojo2_1280Mayor Doug Franklin is asking City Council to take action to allow an initiative to be placed on the November 16, 2016 general election ballot, to increase the Warren city income tax by 1/2%. For this to happen, Council must pass two ordinances and get them to the Board of Elections no later than August 9th, according to SSD Enzo Cantamalesa.

Normally, an ordinance must go through three readings before passage, which would take six weeks, since Council meets every other week. However, Council does not meet in August at all, so these bills will either have to be passed as “emergencies” at the next Council meeting in less than 48 hours, or Council will have add two “special sessions” before August 9th to pass them in time. It was not clear at the end of today’s Finance Committee meeting which of these options is going to be operative. Council will meet in its regular session this Wednesday evening.

I sometimes try to keep a neutral tone here to avoid being the constant “scold,” but the idiocy of this evening was just too much to bear. Everyone on Council and in city government has known this day was coming for months, but Doug and Enzo waited until two weeks before the filing deadline to bring it to Council. Either this was incredibly poor planning, or a purposeful strong-arm tactic to put the pressure on Council.

And when they make their ask they are unable to answer the most basic questions about the tax. For example, Councilman Eugene Mach (D-7) asked, “How much will this increase raise?” The reply came for our new Auditor Vince Flask:I don’t know. We’ll have to get back to you on that.” Doug and Enzo did not chime in. Clearly, they have no idea.

Doug’s opening statement for why this increase is necessary was a long, rambling discourse on how he’s “done everything possible to save money” and “has considered every possible alternative” before asking for a tax increase. And yet he doesn’t know how much the tax will raise, nor did he have a list of how the funds will be spent. This is planning Doug & Enzo Style.

Dan Sferra (D-at-large) stated that it would not be possible to even consider voting on this until they were given basic information like “how much will this raise and for what will you use it?” Doug and Enzo did not respond.

John Brown (D-3) spoke at length to challenge Doug’s assertion that he’s “tried everything.” Brown asked why this was so last minute and “How can you say you tried everything when we haven’t had a single meeting all year to discuss what options we might consider. Why aren’t we selling the vacant house we own on Mahoning, or the South Main Building. Maybe we should reconsider selling the golf course since the new renters aren’t paying the rent anyway.”

Brown cited the consolidation of Warren’s emergency call center with Trumbull County as an example of other tactics we should consider for city departments as well — starting with the dog catcher.

Doug assured Brown he was wrong on all counts and Enzo chimed in that the Council members and the Neighborhood Associations should be putting spending/cutting lists together and submitting them to him. I assume that would be easier than doing the tough work of budget consolidation that is his job.

So we have a budget crisis, an Auditor with no financial experience, a Safety Service Director who wants Council and the Neighborhood Associations to do his job and a Mayor who proclaimed during the debates last fall that the only problem with the budget was that “my opponent” didn’t understand it. “Everything is fine,” Doug told us.

Well, everything will always be fine as long as he can stick you with the bill.

I’ll try to write more, and more dispassionately, about this tomorrow. Right now I’m just too mad to say more.

[Addendum 9:09 pm: The correct date of the election is November 8 and the correct date of the B of E deadline is August 10. Enzo was quoted correctly. He had the dates wrong.]


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Polivka (the Younger) wins 5th Ward


Danielle Polivka, aged 18, won the election to serve out the remainder of the current term as 5th Ward Councilwoman tonight. Ms. Polivka is the daughter of Trumbull County Commissioner and Trumbull County Democratic Party head, Dan Polivka.

The election was held among six of the seven eligible Democratic Party Precinct Committee persons. Ms. Polivka won on the first ballot, 4-2. Former Warren City Councilman Bill Dolan received the other 2 votes.

I do not know any of the four candidates personally, but after listening to each of their 2-3 minute speeches to the  approximately 20 others in the room, I was shocked by the outcome. Ms. Polivka gave a poised, intelligent presentation to the group, but given her age and lack of eduction or experience she did not seem — to me at least — to be among the top two most qualified candidates. But maybe she will make up for it with grit and determination.

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Filling the 5th Ward vacancy


The Democratic party committeepersons will vote tomorrow for someone to fill the remainder of Vince Flask’s unexpired term as 5th Ward Councilman, following his election by the party to complete A.J. Natale’s term as Auditor. The candidates are: John Mosko, Ken McPherson,  Bill Dolan, Lisa Mamula and Danielle Polivka.

There are only seven 5th Ward committee persons, so it will take no more than 4 votes to claim the seat — fewer than that if not all 7 show up to vote. It’s a pretty simple and inexpensive way to get into office. Just find four supporters — no door knocking, no yard signs, no friend-to-friend cards.

The vote is scheduled for 5:30 Thursday at Democratic party HQ — 3200 Ridge Road.


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Future stars


DSCN1292DSCN1297I stopped by the Garden District for a few minutes this afternoon and was happy to see that, as usual, the newest addition to the GD was getting a good work out. Thanks to Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership’sLots to Love” program, there is now a half court basketball set up with a nice level cement pad and a good quality basket. You’ll see young people from the neighborhood playing there any time of day, including these fellows, who assured me they were all future NBA stars.

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Last night in Council

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Nothing happened. At just under 20 minutes it was the shortest meeting I can remember. It only went that long because of the hearty congratulations given to Vince Flask for winning the Auditor’s job with 15 votes from the Democratic party Committeemen.

I chose this photo because the most noteworthy thing last night was the reordering of the dais where the city leaders sit during meetings. Are you old enough to remember when the only way to tell who was leading the Soviet Union was to check the order they stood in on top of Lenin’s tomb for the May Day Parade?

It was kind of like that. As long as anyone could remember, the order in Council has always been (left to right) Greg Hicks, the auditor (Vince for the first time last night), Brenda Smith (Council clerk), Jim Graham, Doug, Enzo and John Homlitis. But for some reason Hicks switched seats with Homlitis last night. Why? Is there tension among the city fathers? Does someone not like someone else enough to sit next to them for an hour every other week?

[correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the number of votes Mr. Flask received.]

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