How Warren Works

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due-dateOn Wednesday this week Doug and Enzo announced a deal to buy four surveillance cameras, and related services, at a cost of $30,702.74. The cameras are to be placed in strategic locations around Warren to help prosecute or prevent illegal dumping. This is the culmination of a two year running request from Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, whose 6th ward has been particularly hard hit by the dumping of tires, contractor refuse, furniture, and other waste in certain locations.

The administration’s decision to finally make this purchase two years after the CDBG dollars were originally allocated has to make you wonder if politics might have entered into the decision.

Doug and Enzo’s decision to select VEC Inc. of Girard as the vendor, a company represented in the discussions by 4th Ward City Council candidate Jimmy Bluedorn (D), two weeks before his name is to appear on primary ballots, is brazen cronyism at its worst. Mr. Bluedorn is Doug and Enzo’s hand-picked candidate, and he was given an open floor at council caucus ten days before the election, where he explained the contract and also added that he would personally donate a camera to the city for one month. This donation was re-framed in a social media post by Mr. Bluedorn that same day as being “for the residents of the 4th Ward”, the same post in which he asked those residents for their vote.

Members of the council caucus, heard the announcement from Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa. I spoke to seven people who were in the room; three said that Enzo said no other vendors were considered; four said they could not recall one way or the other.

Either way, the members of council in attendence asked no questions about the contract; perhaps they were happy enough to finally get the cameras after a two year struggle.

As bad as the politics of this deal smells, the possibility that this was a “no bid” contract issue is more troubling. This has become so typical of the way Doug and Enzo roll when it comes to spending the city’s money. Lawyer Enzo may have found some legal justification which allowed them to spend over $30,000 of taxpayer money without getting competing bids.

But being legal doesn’t make it right.

There is at least one Warren company that sells these same products and services; they have employees here, who pay taxes in Warren, and they were not even given the opportunity to bid for the business. That is just wrong.

And how do we know that we got the best price on these products and services? According to VEC’s invoice, they are charging the city $4685 per camera. A quick Google search discovered the same camera model being offered at $2879, or 38.5% less than what the city is paying. It is possible that this is not an exact apples to apples comparison (there are some bolts and brackets involved), but the city has not offered competitive prices for public viewing.

I received no response to an email sent to Enzo and his administrative assistant early today, asking if there had been competing bids.

No bid contracts have become a favorite tool for Doug and Enzo; they’ve used them to select management for Packard Music Hall and WRAP, for example. Unfortunately, this appears to be another example of the lack of effort being made by them to spend taxpayer money wisely.

Several city employees have told me recently that since Lisa Mazzocci, who formerly monitored purchasing, retired recently, they are rarely required to get multiple prices before making a purchase, and there is little oversight from City Hall. “I could buy a helicopter and nobody in City Hall would notice,” said one department head.

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It’s me birthday

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b&wstraight onOh no, did you forget to order that fruit basket you were planning to send this year? Didn’t get around to booking a table for lunch at Enzo’s today feating the occasion? No worries. Cash is always a perfectly appropriate alternative; especially this year. If you pop something in the mail today I can have it by Saturday, when I’ll still be celebrating.

Just make your check payable to Dennis Blank for Mayor and mail it to P.O. Box 803 Warren, OH 44482. I promise you it will get put to very good use. And to be honest with you, I’m not that comfortable eating at Enzo’s these days anyway.

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The real deal

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DSCN1147“We may be in hard times here but that equals opportunity. We have the land, the water, the skilled labor force and it’s all relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of the country. We just have to do a better job of marketing our town.”

“I love the Amp, our parks are big and beautiful, and they have character. There’s nothing wrong with chains but they can’t touch our local restaurants — whether it’s the BV, the HDS, the Mocha House — everyone has their favorite, but they are all the real deal.”

“Let clean it up. I’m a runner and you can get killed on our sidewalks. They are dangerous — cracks, holes, gravel and roots. I believe in the ‘broken window’ theory. Fix the small things and stop blight in its tracks. Both business and private citizens need to take better care of their property. A cleaner city would improve everyone’s attitude.”

[Interviewed by Dennis Blank, Independent candidate for Mayor]

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If I were Mayor

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DSCN1150The Pit Stop Food Mart on Youngstown Road was on the front page of the Tribune again this morning. A search of the Trib database about this combo gas station/food mart at the corner of 422 and Kenilworth SW, finds 79 articles, and a quick scan of those headlines tells you nothing much good is happening there. A man was shot there last night around 11:20, and he was far from the first. The Pit Stop has been a regular staging ground for crime and mayhem.

If I were the mayor today, I would be leaning very hard on the owners of this business to be more proactive about improving the situation and the safety of the neighborhood. I would demand they install additional security cameras covering the entire property. I would push to have them hire off duty Warren policemen as security at night.

But I do know the difference between a mayor and an emperor, and so therefore I would also be working with the chief to increase police presence, and with the law director to explore legal options for applying pressure on the Pit Stop owners to take these steps. And if, after a few months, we found that these steps were not enough, I’d move to have it shut down as a public danger; several bars in Warren have been shut down for less.

Some will argue that the criminals and the gunplay will just go someplace else, but if we consistently push back hard enough some of it may just leave the city limits altogether.

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It’s officially Spring

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DSCN1134I feel like it is really, officially Spring now that Ken and Marty announced the schedule for this year’s River Rock at the Amp today at the venue. There will be a nice mix of old favorites along with some new groups. You can see the full schedule at their website. The first show is Saturday May 30th featuring 7 Bridges — the ultimate Eagles experience. There will be 12 shows altogether, including one Friday evening performance — July 3rd — staring Fins to the Left and their Jimmy Buffett tribute.

This is the 7th year for River Rock and something the whole community can enjoy and the Amphitheater itself is a city treasure. I really don’t know where else you can have such a good time for seven bucks.

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