Last night in Council

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I skipped the regular City Council meeting last night, but went to the caucus prior to the meeting to listen to Mr. Herb Washington ask Council for a resolution supporting his application to run a licensed marijuana dispensary in Warren. Mr. Washington is a very polished speaker, and a successful businessman who owns 26 McDonalds restaurants. He is applying for licenses to grow, process, and dispense marijuana products through a separate business entity, Quest Wellness LLC. Each of these three steps in the product distribution chain requires a difference license, and Washington feels confident that he will win at least one, in part because of set asides for minority owned businesses; 15% of dispensary licenses will go to minority or woman owned firms.

He told the room that Ohio is going to approve 60 dispensaries for the state, and that two will be in Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull County. He expects a dispensary to empty about 50 permanent employees. His son Terrell, who was also there last night will run Quest. Terrell has been working in the family’s food business.

Washington said he plans to “give back” up to 5% of his profits to “the community.” He also estimated that once the business is up a running that it would pay an average of about $1.3 million per year in state and local taxes. This would imply that the business would be netting in excess of $20 million per year. Council passed the resolution.

All of the statements of fact in this post are quotes from Mr. Washington; I’ve made no attempt to verify them independently. Also, Washington is semi-famous; you can read about him on his Wikipedia page.

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The Fund for Warren’s Future

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Here is the full text of the press release announcing the Fund for Warren’s Future. I will be writing about this in much more detail soon.

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WARREN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE

Prominent local businessmen and City Government form the Fund for Warren’s Future

(October 17, 2017)

Two prominent Warren businessmen, Sam Covelli, C.E.O. of Covelli Enterprises, and Anthony Payiavlas, President and C.E.O. of AVI Foodsystems Inc., are joining forces with Mayor Doug Franklin and the City of Warren, to create the Fund for Warren’s Future (FWF or “the Fund”). The purpose of the Fund will be to initiate, promote and support economic development in the city of Warren, Ohio. The goals of the Fund are:

  • To encourage direct purchase of, or investment in, industrial, commercial and residential properties in the city of Warren
  • To encourage people to visit Warren in order to build on its position as the entertainment and dining capital of Trumbull County
  • To promote and support the growth of entrepreneurial activity in Warren through educational programs and infrastructure development
  • To create a proactive culture in Warren which understands that growth is critical to our future

The funds will be on deposit with, and managed by, the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. Projects will be selected by a Board comprised of Mr. Covelli, Mr. Payiavlas and Mayor Franklin. Dennis Blank, a Warren resident and the Publisher of Warren Expressed, will serve as the Board’s administrator. Board members and Blank will serve as unpaid volunteers.

The FWF will not invest in individual businesses. All funds will be distributed through non-profit organizations recognized as such by the IRS.

Capitalization of the Fund will be a two-step matching process; step-one will raise $100,000. $50,000 will be invested by the City of Warren; Messrs. Payiavlas and Covelli have agreed to match the City’s investment with a $50,000 investment of private capital.

City funds have already been appropriated and are on deposit in a City “Economic Development” account. The Fund for Warren’s Future, and the City’s financial participation, were supported by a unanimous resolution passed by Warren City Council on July 26, 2017 (#4624/17).

In step-two, Messrs. Payiavlas and Covelli will jointly invest up to an additional $50,000 of  matching funds, equal to contributions raised from other individuals, businesses or institutions. If this incremental fund-raising effort is successful, the fund will have total capitalization of at least $200,000.

The Board has identified nearly twenty projects that meet the FWF’s objectives, however, the Board will host community outreach meetings in order to receive input directly from Warren citizens.

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Update on tax increase

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As promised, we will continue to update you on the results of the 1/2% city tax increase implemented this year. I recently attended a City Council Finance Committee meeting, and later met with the key players from the Citizens Committee which has been advising the administration on use of those funds.

I’m happy to report that all is going well. The generally financial condition of the City is the best it has been in more than a few years, and, in the view of the Citizens Committee, all promises related to use of the funds are being kept. Specifically:

  • The Fire Department is up to full strength and funds are being set aside for the date when the federal subsidies expire
  • Police hiring is lagging due to a shortage of qualified candidates; however, a new Civil Service test will be held shortly and the effort to bring the WPD up to authorized strength continues
  • The city is on target to spend at least a half million dollars on street repairs in 2017, as planned
  • An effort to initiate an economic development program for the city is also underway, and concrete results of that effort should be announced within 30 days
  • Through August, the city budget has operated in the black for the year and we currently have a cash balance of over $1.5 million.

 

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Important article

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800x-1Normally, if there is a good article someplace worth reading, we just post a link on Facebook, but I came across something yesterday that deserves it’s own post. Bloomberg posted “There is Something the Matter with Ohio Too” that we should all read.

Sadly, our Buckeye homeland is lagging the nation in too many ways that are holding us back from growth. Ohio is steadily slipping into the ranks of lessor states, and the reasons go beyond the shrinking of rust belt industries. We lag in education, we lag in immigration and diversity, and we lag in technology. The one place in Ohio that doesn’t lag in these respects — Columbus — is thriving.

We can’t move forward if we don’t understand why we are where we are, which makes this worth reading.

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Another secret

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Its-a-Secret-300x300The overarching rule of local government is that everything is a secret unless you can pry it out of them. I called Trumbull County Assistant Prosecuting  Attorney William Danso today, to follow up on TC Engineer Randy Smith’s request to be freed from the burden of assisting the TC Planning Commission in their efforts to spend taxpayer’s money efficiently. Smith had copied Danso on his letter to the County Commissioners announcing his intended session from the rest of Trumbull County government.

Mr. Danso was very pleasant, but informed me that he could not tell me what his response was to Mr. Smith, siting “attorney-client privilege.”

I was surprised at this response and asked if his response wasn’t public business that any citizen has the right to know. Danso suggested that I ask Mr. Smith, which I suspect would not be my most productive course of action. He also stated that legal ethics were of a “higher standard” than government business, which led me to remember a host of lawyer jokes.

Later I spoke to another elected official about Danso’s position, who said this was, at most, a short term set back, and that the information is certain to become public very soon. We’ll see. I’ll keep trying.

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